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Meet SHRM – The HR Association Lobbying and Suing To Roll Back Workers Rights

This article was republished with permission from Political Research Associates. The original article can be found here. 


“If it happens that you don’t agree with one of SHRM’s positions, we ask that if you disagree you please refrain from that discussion.” –Kathleen Coulombe, SHRM Senior Associate for Government Relations, speaking to dues-paying SHRM members at its recent legal and legislative conference on how to lobby members of Congress

 


By Mariya Strauss for Political Research Associates

Human Resources doesn’t usually conjure up images of adversarial political activism. Yet contrary to its politically neutral image, the innocuously-named Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM, pronounced “sherm”) campaigns for public policies and mounts legal efforts to block workers’ rights. The group, which claims to have grown from 130,000 members in 2000 to now having 275,000 members globally, purports to represent individual human resources professionals across all industries. And indeed, it produces HR resources such as tip sheets and reports on how to comply with the law, workshops and trainings to earn professional certification, a trade magazine, and statistical analyses about the HR industry and the job market.

But lobbying to change the regulatory climate for business is one of its major unspoken goals.

Back in 2000, union-busting lawyer and then chair of SHRM Michael Lotito (from whom we will hear again later), said “If we had a market penetration—let’s say SHRM had 500,000 members, and 250,000 of them were in grassroots networks—we would be heard not because we shouted, but because we threatened to whisper.”  SHRM has quietly and steadily grown its lobbying operation to include a half-dozen staffers, a nationwide member lobbying network, a major legal and legislative conference, and even a satellite office in Sacramento, whose sole purpose appears to be lobbying at the California statehouse.

Though its stated mission is to “serve the needs of HR professionals and advance the professional practice of human resource management,” SHRM’s legislative agenda is instead aligned with that of big corporations such as McDonalds, and major GOP donors such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce. Openly working in concert with dark-money business lobbying groups such as the International Franchise Association, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business, SHRM has been speaking out in the press, filing lawsuits, and pushing state and national bills. These efforts are aimed at blocking the rights of workers to do everything from forming unions, to having guaranteed paid sick days, to getting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

UNDERCOVER AT SHRM’S LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE

So how does SHRM speak to its own members about the need to block workers’ rights? I went undercover for Political Research Associates to SHRM’s annual gathering, the Legal and Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. March 22-24 to find out. More than 650 people attended the conference from all 50 states and D.C., each having paid between $1200 and $1500 for the ticket.

“We’re not going to see successful efforts to mandate paid leave at the federal level,” Mike Aitken, SHRM’s Vice President for Government Affairs, told the assembled members at the conference.  Aitken briefly outlined a sophisticated, multi-state strategy for fighting paid leave and higher wages, and not only defunding the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) – but suing in court to block its decisions. Aitken also alluded to SHRM’s use of member focus groups and questionnaires to form its policy positions. Though we were unable to locate any focus group or questionnaire results regarding policy positions, SHRM did this past week publish the results of a survey of its state legislative directors with questions about how engaged they are with SHRM. However, no actual SHRM members we spoke with said they have ever been contacted for their input on actual policy—and Aitken acknowledged that  “our Board is what shapes our policy positions.”1

Mike Aitken, SHRM VP for Government Affairs.

Other presenters at the conference included employer-side labor lawyers and HR consultants, each delivering a message of “we’re not an anti-union organization, but…” with confidence and uniform consistency. Unlike organizations such as the US Chamber of Commerce and the International Franchise Association(IFA) who co-sign and help to push SHRM’s anti-workers’ rights positions (who explicitly exist only to represent business interests), SHRM brings a grassroots base of HR professionals—people who are used to being peacemakers and finding compromises. In their regular professional practice, they are charged with complying with the law, rather than changing it to restrict the rights of employees. But SHRM tells members that it is also their job to pressure members of Congress and federal agencies to change the regulatory regime in favor of the largest employers.

THE CHICKEN LITTLE APPROACH TO “GRASSROOTS” ANTI-WORKER LOBBYING

How is SHRM selling its members the case for blocking employees’ rights, such as the right to earn paid sick leave and the right to choose a union? By telling them the sky is falling.

Lotito is now a shareholder in the employer-side labor law firm Littler Mendelson.  He gave a session at the conference entitled “The NLRB: New Relevance and New Challenges.”  During the session, his voice rising from a conspiratorial whisper to a roar of outrage, sermonizing on how a recent decision from the NLRB’s general counsel to treat McDonald’s franchisees as jointly liable with the headquarters could damage other businesses. He suggested that the joint-liability decision threatens the business-to-business relationships many companies have with their cleaning services, gardeners, and so forth, suggesting that any company could be viewed as somehow liable for the treatment of its subcontractors’ employees.

But the NLRB general counsel’s decision on joint liability narrowly applies only to cases brought by McDonald’s employees against the hamburger chain. As Steven Greenhouse recently reported in TheNew York Times, “’The Golden Arches is an employer, plain and simple,’ said Micah Wissinger, a lawyer who filed complaints on behalf of several McDonald’s employees in New York. ‘The reality is that McDonald’s requires franchisees to adhere to such regimented rules and regulations that there’s no doubt who’s really in charge.’”

Lotito, who co-chairs his law firm’s “Workplace Policy” subdivision, also criticized the NLRB’s recent decision to significantly shorten the 25-day window of time between when a union files for an election and when the election takes place. The new rule, which SHRM (echoing a US Chamber of Commerce talking point) dubs the “Ambush elections rule” in its printed policy statements and Powerpoint slides throughout the conference, goes into effect April 14.

Lotito’s old firm, Jackson Lewis, has made a lot of money advising employers on how to run an anti-union campaign during the existing 25 day window. As journalist David Bacon wrote in an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle back in 2008:

“Campaign tactics include: In the weeks before these tainted elections, 51 percent of employers threaten to close if the union wins; and 91 percent force employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with supervisors. This conduct is effectively unpunishable, making a mockery of free elections. Signing cards is a safer, calmer process that workers control themselves, and workers keep the option of using either the cards or the election – their choice, not their employer’s.”

SHRM is one of a handful of business lobby groups that is suing in federal court to block the rule’s implementation.2

Lotito explained that his firm also provided members of Congress with questions to use in a House Appropriations committee hearing the following day, March 24, on the NLRB’s budget. (You can watch that hearing here. Though we don’t know specifically which questions were provided by Littler, SHRM VP Mike Aitken told those at the conference that SHRM may attempt to fight the NLRB by adding a “rider to defund them through the appropriations process.” )

Having framed SHRM’s participation in the assault on workers’ rights as a matter of defending employers from onerous government regulations, Lotito was ready to unveil the Goliath that he says HR professionals should fear: unions. (He conveniently omitted the fact that unions now only represent just over 6% of the private sector workforce.) Again referring to the McDonald’s joint employer finding, Lotito explicitly named the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) as the enemy:

“What I think is going to happen, what I would do if I were the SEIU, is on April 14th I would file 100 petitions in 20 different states against a whole bunch of franchisees alleging that there is a joint employment relationship between those franchisees and McDonald’s. I will win at least 50 percent of those elections and then I will demand… all kinds of information from McDonald’s Corp with respect to the underlying economics because they are the ones who are really controlling the purse strings with respect to the franchisee, so in order to have meaningful collective bargaining in theory I gotta have the franchisor with me, and I would use that as additional attack points. Or if I was really really really really tricky, on April 11th or 12th I’d go to McDonalds and say that on April 14th I’m going to file for elections, and as a result of that I’m going to bring your organization to a standstill. I’ve got an out for you though. I can be your best friend. I can tell everybody how great you are. All you have to do is agree to neutrality and card check…This is all about increasing union market share.”

Despite its studiously politically neutral and “we’re not anti-union” claims, SHRM has entered the public policy ring unmistakably on the side of big business and against workers’ rights. Whether its members accept its characterization of who the enemy is—and how many of them will unquestioningly sally forth to help block workers’ rights in the ongoing state and federal policy battles—remains to be seen.


Mariya Strauss is PRA’s economic justice researcher and a former guest editor for The Public Eye magazine. A Maryland-based freelance writer, her investigative journalism and commentary have been published in The Nation, at the GlobalComment blog, and The Public Eye magazine, among others. You can follow her on Twitter at @mariyastrauss. 


END NOTES

[1] SHRM’s website explains its process for determining policy positions thusly: “SHRM’s Government Affairs team partners with our Research Department to develop survey questions to take the pulse of the membership on what it feels about the issue.  Our Research Department may utilize the full SHRM Survey Report or a shorter Question of the Week format to obtain input from our members. In addition, Government Affairs staff gathers information by convening a series of public policy focus groups at the various SHRM national conferences, regional conferences and chapter meetings.

Once this input is gathered, staff develops a proposed public policy statement that is then subject to review by several SHRM Special Expertise panels who have jurisdiction over the subject area for their comment and review. The proposed public policy statement is then presented to the Board of Directors for its review and approval.”http://www.shrm.org/advocacy/publicpolicystatusreports/federal/pages/default.aspx#sthash.rXJAGapV.dpuf

[2] As economist Ross Eisenbrey noted in the Economic Policy Institute’s blog earlier this month, “The NLRB’s rule does away with an automatic 25-day delay between when employees file an election petition and the election occurs. The National Labor Relations Act does not mandate any such delay, but the anti-union lawyers treated it as a God-given right and claimed its elimination was ‘blowing up the election process’ and a denial of employer free speech rights. You’d think they were kidding, but they at least pretended to be serious.” In actual practice, the old rule has given employers enough time to harass, intimidate, and illegally fire workers involved in a unionization campaign, effectively lowering the number of union elections in US workplaces to 1453 in FY 2014– approximately two one-hundredths of a percent of all US workplaces.

Congress Votes To Block New Rules Mandated By The NLRB

Yesterday, Congressional Republicans continued their all out assault on working families by passing a law that would limit workers rights to organize and block new rules from the National Labor Relations Board that would allow for faster union elections, slated to take effect in April.

The NLRB said in a December statement that the new rules would allow unions to use electronic means to file for an election and would allow unions to hold elections just 14 days after filing.

“I am heartened that the Board has chosen to enact amendments that will modernize the representation case process and fulfill the promise of the National Labor Relations Act. Simplifying and streamlining the process will result in improvements for all parties. With these changes, the Board strives to ensure that its representation process remains a model of fairness and efficiency for all,” said NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Peirce.

Congressman Frank Guinta receiving an award from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)

Congressman Frank Guinta receiving an award from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)

The bill passed 232-186, almost straight down party lines. The bill was opposed by all of the House Democrats (thank you Congresswoman Annie Kuster [NH-02]) and three lone Republicans. Congressman Frank Guinta, the Republican representing the first district in New Hampshire, was among the Republican majority who voted to pass the bill.

“Today’s vote by House Republicans against the NLRB’s common-sense modernization of its election rules is a direct attack on workers and their right to be heard in the workplace,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Working men and women want an agenda from their Congressional leaders that raises wages and grows our middle class. Instead, they have gotten Republican policies that roll back progress and silence workers while protecting their biggest donors.”

Listening to the debate on the House floor shows exactly how much the Republicans really care about workers and their rights.   These Republicans are putting corporations above working men and women.

“Today, Congress voted to stop an unelected board of bureaucrats from trampling on the rights of America’s workers and job creators,” said Congressman John Kline (R-MN) in a written statement after the vote. “The board’s ambush election rule will stifle employer free speech, cripple worker free choice, and jeopardize the privacy of workers and their families.

Rep. Kline’s statement is nearly identical to the statement released by the US Chamber of Commerce who has worked tirelessly to oppose unionizing efforts and push anti-worker legislation in dozens of states.

“The Chamber applauds Congress for passing legislation to stop the ‘ambush election’ rule issued by the NLRB,” stated U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits Randel K. Johnson. “This rule infringes upon an employer’s free speech right by virtually eliminating an employer’s opportunity to communicate his or her views regarding unionization with employees.

What they should have said was that this vote stifles a workers right to organize and gives more time for employers to hire union busting firms and lie to their employees about how unions operate.

President Obama has already said he will veto this totally partisan bill. This would be Obama’s fourth veto, and second in the last two months.

“President Obama is right in his commitment to vetoing this harmful legislation, and Congressional Republicans should focus their efforts on lifting workers up instead of shutting them out,” said Trumka.

Whether you support unions or not should not matter, that is why we hold elections. If workers freely choose to support a union, the union will win the election. If workers freely choose to reject the union, the union will lose. That is freedom and the choice that workers are guaranteed under the National Labor Relation Act.

Organizing and holding a union election is hard enough, and Republicans in Washington want to block workers from organizing. Working families need to understand that these Republicans are not looking out for them and are only looking out for the wealthy businesses and groups like the US Chamber of Commerce that fund their campaigns.

 

 

Click here for more information about the NLRB’s rule changes

 

BREAKING NEWS: Judge Finds T-Mobile US Guilty of Maintaining Illegal Corporate Policies Against Workers Across the Country 

Judge Orders Policies Rescinded; T-Mobile US Must Advise Employees that the Company Has Violated Federal Labor Law

Washington, D.C. — A judge at the National Labor Relations Board has found T-Mobile US guilty of engaging in nationwide labor law violations against workers. The unprecedented ruling comes following a rare move by the NLRB consolidating multiple complaints against T-Mobile US for illegal actions and policies in Albuquerque, N.M.; Wichita, Kans.; Charleston, S.C., and New York City.  

At issue were illegal corporate nationwide policies that block workers from organizing or even talking to each other about problems at work. Workers throughout the T-Mobile US system were subjected to and effectively silenced by these illegal policies; the judge’s order to rescind them covers 40,000 workers. 

Coming on the heels of repeated complaints issued by the NLRB against T-Mobile US and its labor practices, the ruling shines a light on how management’s efforts to suppress workers’ organizing activity has been supported by wide-ranging, unlawful corporate policies issued from the highest levels of the company.  Even while this trial was underway, additional complaints against the company have issued from the NLRB.  Another NLRB trial will begin in June in Charleston, South Carolina, to hear yet more cases of T-Mobile US’s unlawful suppression of workers’ rights, and other charges and complaints continue to pile up. 

The decision by Judge Christine Dibble focused on T-Mobile US’s illegal employment policies and restrictions that prohibited workers from discussing wages with each other or criticizing working conditions or seeking out assistance to blow the whistle on unlawful behavior.   

Over and over again, the decision finds that the corporate policies “would chill employees in the exercise of their…rights” or would be construed “as restricting [an employee’s] rights to engage in protected concerted activities, including unionizing efforts.”  Judge Dibble found that T-Mobile US’s Wage and Hour Complaint Procedure, for example, “tends to inhibit employees from banding together.”  She writes that the corporate procedure’s requirement that an employee notify management of a wage issue first, “in combination with the threat of discipline for failing to adhere to the rule, would ‘reasonably tend to inhibit employees from bringing wage-related complaints to, and seeking redress from, entities other than the Respondent, and restrains the employees’ …rights to engage in concerted activities for collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”  

According to the ruling, T-Mobile US’s email policy and various confidentiality policies violate the law by restricting employees’ ability to disclose or discuss basic workplace issues, such as their wages.  Similarly, Judge Dibble has ruled that the company’s policy restricting employees’ communications with the media is illegal, as it prohibits employees from speaking out on inquiries about wages or other conditions of employment.  In all, Judge Dibble found that 11 of the 13 corporate policies or provisions at issue in the case are illegal.

CWA President Larry Cohen said, “This decision exposes the deliberate campaign by T-Mobile US management to break the law systematically and on a nationwide scale, blocking workers from exercising their right to organize and bargain collectively. This behavior can only be changed by a nationwide remedy to restore workers’ rights.   Deutsche Telekom, the principal owner of T-Mobile US, has claimed that its U.S. subsidiary follows the law. Now we have the official word: T-Mobile US is a lawbreaker. Bonn, the headquarters of DT, no longer can hide behind the false statements made by T-Mobile US executives. These behaviors would be almost unimaginable in Germany or any other democracy in the world.”

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), a union member, small business owner and a champion of working families, said, “T-Mobile employees have come to Capitol Hill to share their stories of fear and intimidation and efforts to block workers from organizing. These workers have had to put up with an outright hostile environment in violation of their basic constitutional rights. Today’s decision is a huge win for every hardworking American who is fighting for their right to organize and demand better wages and more job security.”

The ruling was preceded by years of federal complaints against T-Mobile US for unlawful labor practices around the country.  Those complaints, which have covered all manner of violations, from firing union supporters to illegally restricting employees’ ability to communicate with one another, were often brought to the cusp of trial and then settled by T-Mobile US, which has paid tens of thousands of dollars to avoid a judge’s guilty finding.   Today’s merit finding marks a turning point in efforts to effectively enforce US labor law at T-Mobile US.  

Judge Dibble’s decision addresses written policies that T-Mobile US disseminated to employees and managers nationwide – policies that invariably reinforced a management culture, reflected in complaint after complaint, of shutting down workers who attempted to speak out for fairness on the job.

“We are happy and relieved,” said Carolina Figueroa, T-Mobile US call center worker from Albuquerque. “We are finally being heard. My coworkers and I at T-Mobile US will have the right to speak out against unfair treatment and should not be muzzled or retaliated against – and with today’s decision, the company has to declare this to all of its employees nationwide.”

Adrian Dominguez works at the Metro PCS-T-Mobile US retail store in New York City. “Now that we have a union we aren’t scared to talk about our working conditions at work. I am hopeful that my colleagues across the country will realize that the law protects their rights to discuss the benefits of joining together into a union, now that the judge has found T-Mobile US guilty of preventing workers from talking about their working conditions.”

Josh Coleman was a top-achieving customer service representative in Wichita when he was fired by T-Mobile US for mobilizing his co-workers for union representation.  “Through repeated team meetings and written policy, T-Mobile US unlawfully silenced employees and created a culture of fear to stifle communication. I hope that now thousands of my T-Mobile US co-workers will know they can come out of the shadows and build the union that so many of us want.”  

T-Mobile US workers and their colleagues at T-Mobile in Germany together have built TU, an organization that represents them. Thousands of German workers, members of the 2 million member union ver.di, have formed city-to-city partnerships with T-Mobile US workers, and together are pushing Deutsche Telekom to ensure that U.S. workers can bargain collectively, just as telecom workers in Germany do.

Senate Democrats Need To Move Quickly To Approve A New Member To The NLRB

Well the elections are over and the now, just ten days after all the votes were counted, it is obvious that we are headed for another two years of monumental gridlock.

The Republicans in the Senate used their minority power to filibuster major Presidential nominees forcing Harry Reid to take the “nuclear option,” changing the rules of the filibuster to a simple majority vote. This rule change means if all the Senate Democrats voted together, they would be able to approve any and all of the President’s nominees.

The Democrats only have a few weeks left in charge of the Senate and they should be using it to appoint dozens on nominees including a new board member to the National Labor Relation Board (NLRB).

President Obama’s NLRB appointments came under fire by Senate Republicans when President Obama forced his appointments through while the Senate was in recess. Although the Supreme Court ruled that recess appointments are legal, they also found that President Obama violated those rules when he appointed Sharon Block to the NLRB.

After the Supreme Court ruled that the Senate would need to approve of the nomination, President Obama once again submitted Sharon Block to the NLRB. Unfortunately her nomination was a poison pill to the Republicans and they blocked her nomination.

It was announced yesterday that President Obama has withdrawn his nomination of Sharon Block and in turn nominated “Lauren McFerran, who has served as chief labor counsel for the Senate Health Committee since 2005.”

“Sharon Block is a thoughtful, smart and committed public servant with a proven track record serving on the both the National Labor Relations Board and at the U.S. Department of Labor,” said Mary Kay Henry, President of the SEIU. “Today, once again, obstruction by the far right has stripped the American people of a qualified nominee with stellar credentials who would have served our nation’s working families ably and justly. It is disappointing for America’s hardworking men and women that such a capable candidate would fall prey to an extreme and crassly political agenda.”

Senate Democrats now have a choice to make, and they only have a few days to make it. Do they push through the nomination of Lauren McFerran to the NLRB before December 16th when Nancy Schiffer’s term expires, leaving two Republican and two Democratic appointees on the board?

“Congress must prioritize filling all of the seats on the NLRB and confirm the Obama Administration’s new nominee, Lauren McFerran, immediately,” stated Henry. “The rights of our 2 million members — and tens of millions of working people in every sector and vocation — are protected by labor laws that are best regulated by a fully functional NLRB. Lauren McFerran, is also an impressive candidate with a robust background in labor relations law and an excellent reputation for her professional work on the Hill. It is imperative to the security of our working families that Congress confirm McFerran swiftly.”​

The Senate Democrats need to grab the bull by the horns and push through some of these nominees before the Republicans, and their opposition to everything Obama, begins their two-year reign of terror in the Senate.

Manchester Newspaper Guild to Hold Informational Picket at Debates

MANCHESTER TNGMANCHESTER — Unionized workers at the New Hampshire Union Leader are standing up and fighting back Wednesday and Thursday by walking an informational picket line at the Union Leader-sponsored Granite State Debates.

Members of the Manchester Newspaper Guild, which represents about 75 employees in the editorial, advertising, circulation, IT and janitorial departments at the statewide newspaper and website, have been living under what they consider an unlawfully imposed 18% pay cut since March in their ongoing fight to secure a new contract. Bargaining began more than a year ago. The contract between the employees and publisher expired Dec. 31, 2013.

Guild members, their families and supporters will picket and leaflet from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday outside The New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College, prior to debates between the candidates for Governor and Senate.

“The Union Leader wants its union workers to continue to bear the brunt of repeated rollbacks in pay and benefits over the past several years,” the Guild’s bargaining team said. “The workers will not buckle to the company’s unreasonable demands.”

The company initially sought to gut workers’ job security to allow it to lay off workers with impunity and outsource their work. It later sought an 18 percent retroactive wage cut before imposing conditions that include the 18 percent wage cut and a huge hike in health-care deductibles while continuing to attack workers’ job security. Combined, the pay cut and insurance hike amount to an approximate 28 percent cut in pay and benefits for an average union member’s family.

Since 2009, and in addition to the currently imposed cuts, Guild members have agreed to additional pay cuts totaling about 14 percent, as well as higher insurance deductibles and a longer work week. Management and non-union employees have not shared in many of those cutbacks.

The Union has seven Unfair Labor Practice charges against the company pending with the National Labor Relations Board. Since the imposition of the huge cutbacks, approximately 20% of the union’s employees have given their notice and left the company.

While bargaining with the company since September 2013, the Manchester Guild, a local of The Newspaper Guild-Communication Workers of America, has engaged in numerous job actions and community outreach efforts. Guild leaders have vowed that if the Union Leader sponsors, co-sponsors, or is involved in an event, Guild members will be there in force to protest the company’s unfair treatment of its workers.

Local leaders have made clear the Union has no dispute with anyone other than The New Hampshire Union Leader, and is not asking anyone to cease performing work or to refuse to do business.

Statement By Richard Trumka On American Airlines And US Airways Unionization Vote

Richard Trumka (The Nation / AP-Photo)

Richard Trumka (The Nation / AP-Photo)

“Today, thousands of workers embraced a union future. The hardworking men and women of American Airlines and US Airways voted for union representation and a legally binding contract. Their collective skill has built successful airlines, and their collective voice will build successful workplaces.

“It should not be lost on the pundits that most of the nearly 14,500 new union members work in southern states. The right to a voice at work doesn’t have a geographic predisposition, and this victory will energize ongoing organizing efforts in the South.

“I want to thank all parties involved, including elected officials, for enabling workers to have a free and fair election. And I especially want to congratulate CWA and the Teamsters on helping give these workers a voice.

“Clearly, one of the largest labor organizing victories in the South in decades is a historic day. But it also shows that the future of the U.S. labor movement is alive, as these workers can be found at airports, call centers, even working from home. The right to collectively bargain will always be what our working family fights for.”

Rep Annie Kuster Lays Out Her Agenda For Working Americans (VIDEO)

Annie KusterRecently she spoke at the NH AFL-CIO Labor Day breakfast where Congresswoman Annie Kuster laid out her agenda for rebuilding the middle class and helping all working families.

You can see her full 5 minute speech just below, but I will give you a couple of highlights.

  • Raising the federal minimum wage.
  • Protecting workers rights, including attacks against the National Labor Relations Board.
  • Protecting collective bargaining rights.
  • Fought against federal Right to Work for less legislation.
  • Ensuring access to healthcare for all Americans.
  • Increasing funding for schools, and community & technical colleges.
  • Increasing manufacturing right here at home.

We need more people like Annie in Washington who are working to get things done, not just create more gridlock.

NLRB Lays Down The Law On McDonalds Franchisees

Mcdonalds Who’s the Boss? McDonald’s is, Feds Determine 

Contrary to Company’s Repeated Claims, Move by NLRB Shows Fast-Food Giant is An Employer

Labor Board says McDonald’s plays critical role in employment decisions at its restaurants; Company can’t hide behind franchisees any longer

New York, NY—Despite McDonald’s repeated assertions that it does not control employment decisions at its franchised restaurants, the federal government Tuesday said that the $5.6 billion company is indeed an employer that exerts substantial power over its employees’ working conditions.

In a determination that carries widespread implications for the fast-food industry, the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel found that McDonald’s wields such extensive influence over the business operations of its franchisees that individual franchise operators have little autonomy in setting or controlling workplace conditions. McDonald’s, for all intents and purposes, is the employer.

The general counsel’s office Tuesday informed regional directors of the NLRB in offices around the country that McDonald’s should be treated as an employer. There are dozens of charges alleging illegal conduct by the fast-food giant pending in at least 17 cities that could now be adjudicated using the government’s new directive.

“McDonald’s can try to hide behind its franchisees, but today’s determination by the NLRB shows there’s no two ways about it: The Golden Arches is an employer, plain and simple,” said Micah Wissinger, an attorney at Levy Ratner who brought the case on behalf of McDonald’s workers in New York City. “The reality is that McDonald’s requires franchisees to adhere to such regimented rules and regulations that there’s no doubt who’s really in charge.”

For nearly two years, McDonald’s and other fast-food workers across the country have been joining together and going on strike, calling for $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation. But time and time again, the company and other industry players have tried to sidestep workers’ calls, inventing a make-believe world in which responsibility for wages and working conditions falls squarely on the shoulder of franchisees.

“Now that the government has recognized what us workers have always known— that McDonald’s is the boss—maybe the company will stop making excuses for why we’re treated so poorly and pay us a wage we can live on,” said Richard Eiker, who has worked for the same Kansas City McDonald’s franchisee for 18 years.

“As the federal governments determination shows, McDonald’s clearly uses its vast powers to control franchisees in just about every way possible,” said Kendall Fells, organizing director of Fast Food Forward. “It’s time the company put those same powers to work to do something about the fact that its workers are living in poverty.”

The government’s determination is the latest challenge to the fast-food industry’s low-wage business model, in which franchisors reap rewards of a profitable industry, while forcing franchisees to shoulder all the risk. In March, McDonald’s workers in three states filed class-action lawsuits against the company, alleging widespread wage theft. The New York Times wrote that the suits, “argue that both the corporate parent and the independently owned franchises where many of the plaintiffs work are jointly responsible for illegal pay practices carried out by the franchises…That strikes at the heart of the low-wage fast-food business model.”

The SCOTUS Rules On “Recess Appointments” To The NLRB

Yesterday the news broke that the Supreme Court of the United States had issued a ruling on whether or not the President could make “recess appointments.” A recess appointment is when the Senate is officially in “recess,” and the President nominates someone to an official Executive Branch position, like the National Labor Relations Board.

“Today’s ruling clears up the legal landscape on a question both Democratic and Republican presidents have faced for decades – the circumstances under which the United States Constitution allows them to make temporary recess appointments to executive branch positions,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

“President Obama made the recess appointments to the NLRB because obstructionism by Republican senators was about to make the National Labor Relations Board inoperable due to a lack of NLRB members,” continued Trumka. “The President did the right thing and acted on solid legal authority in making these appointments. Had he not acted, millions of workers would have been deprived of their rights under our labor laws.”

This ruling did clear up a few things:

1) The President can make a recess appointment if the recess is longer than ten (10) days.

2) They ruled that the parliamentary trick of holding “pro-forma” session – a session where nothing gets done but technically there is a session – would be enough to break to officially keep the Senate “in session”, and would reset the clock on the any recess timetables. The effectively means that if the Senate held a “pro-forma” session every nine days during long breaks, the President would not make any recess appointments.

3) They ruled that President Obama appointments to the NLRB were unconstitutional. This means all the cases where these NLRB appointees issued a ruling (before they were fully confirmed by the Senate), are now invalid.

Trumka pointed to the filibuster rule change that is allowing appointments to move through better than they were before. “Fortunately Senate leaders successfully changed Senate rules so that Executive Branch nominees can now be confirmed by a majority of the Senate and cannot be blocked by a minority of senators.”

“While today we have a fully functioning National Labor Relations Board to act on behalf of workers, this ruling invalidates countless other NLRB rulings that must now be decided again,” stated Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “This not only puts an additional burden on the NLRB, it creates uncertainty and additional pain for those workers who believed they had found justice. We are confident the NLRB will act swiftly on these cases”

Weingarten was very critical of the real people who were inhibiting the appointments to the NLRB.

“Let’s be clear—this case was the result of Republicans’ relentless obstructionism and their efforts to interfere with President Obama’s ability to make our government work and ensure the NLRB functions on behalf of working people,” continued Weingarten. “While the Senate reached a temporary compromise on presidential appointments, this ruling could embolden a minority of senators to take action in the future to prevent the president from making the appointments needed to ensure our democracy can function fully on behalf of the American people.”

The Communication Workers of America have been working diligently over the past few years to bring awareness to the problems with the antiquated filibuster rule that is allowing the minority to block important pieces of legislation and major appointments. They used their massive network of members to start a national conversation to “Fix the Senate” and pushed to “Give Us Five” referring to a full five member NLRB.

CWA released the following statement

Today’s Supreme decision is a sharp reminder that the U.S. Senate functions under archaic procedures that must change. That’s especially true of the rule requiring a super-majority, or 60 votes, for the Senate to recess.

The Senate rules are at the heart of this decision and the Constitution is clear that the Senate has the right to set its own rules.

In every other democratic meeting, from the local city council to any major parliamentary body, proceedings are recessed by a majority vote. Only the U.S. Senate requires a super-majority to proceed to debate on most motions, legislation and including the motion to recess.

We have seen the consequences of this rule. It’s been a key tactic used by the Senate minority to block confirmation of the president’s executive and judicial nominations. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made his party’s intentions clear when he said his goal was to make President Obama a one-term president. When that didn’t succeed, the Senate minority stepped up a campaign of delay and obstruction, of appointments and any progressive legislative advances. The minority’s strategy of refusing to proceed to a vote for any recess has made a mockery of the Senate’s role in government.

The Senate’s constitutional duty is to review the president’s nominees through “advice and consent” – not use parliamentary tricks to impede his policy agenda.

For thousands of workers, this decision has real-life consequences. Some 120 decisions made by the National Labor Relations Board in the period contested by the Noel Canning lawsuit may be challenged and justice for thousands of workers will be delayed, and in practice, denied.

The need for real Senate rules reform has never been clearer, or more urgent. CWA and our allies, working together in the Democracy Initiative, are keeping up the fight for Senate rules changes. Critical is an end to the super-majority vote requirement that blocks debate and discussion of nearly all Senate business, even the motion to recess.

We need a functioning government if we are to ever recover from this economic slump, and the bitter partisanship that is crippling Washington. It just may be time to go “nuclear” on the filibuster rule, so we can make some real progress.

UAW Withdraws Volkswagen Election Objections, Ending The NLRB Review

NLRB 1CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The UAW announced today it is withdrawing objections filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding February’s vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, effectively terminating the NLRB review process.

UAW President Bob King said the decision was made in the best interests of Volkswagen employees, the automaker, and economic development in Chattanooga. King said the UAW based its decision on the belief that the NLRB’s historically dysfunctional and complex process potentially could drag on for months or even years. Additionally, the UAW cited refusals by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker to participate in a transparent legal discovery process, which undermines public trust and confidence.

“The unprecedented political interference by Gov. Haslam, Sen. Corker and others was a distraction for Volkswagen employees and a detour from achieving Tennessee’s economic priorities,” King said. “The UAW is ready to put February’s tainted election in the rearview mirror and instead focus on advocating for new jobs and economic investment in Chattanooga.”

UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel, who directs the union’s Southern region, echoed that the UAW’s focus is advocating for Volkswagen to create more jobs in Tennessee by adding a new SUV line at the Chattanooga plant. The Haslam administration in August offered nearly $300 million in incentives to bring the new SUV to Chattanooga, but attempted to make the investment contingent on whether the Chattanooga plant is organized. The Haslam administration’s contingency is contrary to Volkswagen’s successful business model, which is premised on worker representation.

“The UAW wants to help create quality jobs and build world-class products for American consumers,” Casteel said. “With this in mind, we urge Gov. Haslam to immediately extend the incentives that previously were offered to Volkswagen for this new SUV line, and do so unconditionally.”

King said the UAW has accomplished a major goal with its election objections. “The UAW’s objections informed the public about the unprecedented interference by anti-labor politicians and third parties who want to prevent workers from exercising their democratic right to choose union representation,” he said.

King also said that outdated federal laws governing the NLRB never contemplated the level of extreme intimidation and interference that occurred in Chattanooga. Even if the NLRB ordered a new election — the board’s only available remedy under current law — nothing would stop politicians and anti-union organizations from again interfering.

Looking ahead, the UAW believes the congressional inquiry into the Haslam administration’s incentives threat to Volkswagen provides the best opportunity for additional scrutiny. The UAW will ask Congress to examine the use of federal funds in the state’s incentives threat, in order to protect Tennessee jobs and workers in the future.

“Frankly, Congress is a more effective venue for publicly examining the now well-documented threat,” King said. “We commend Congressmen George Miller and John Tierney for their leadership on this matter, and look forward to seeing the results of their inquiry.”

United Automobile Workers (UAW) has more than 390,000 members and more than 750 local unions across America. Since its founding in 1935, the UAW has developed partnerships with employers and supported industry-leading wages and benefits for its members. (FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Michele Martin, mmartin@uaw.net, (313) 926-5291 or    (313) 510-4269, or visit www.uaw.org/uawvw)

Following is a statement by the Communications Workers of America on the UAW withdrawing objections to the Volkswagen Election:

Washington, D.C. — The Communications Workers of America (CWA) stands with the United Auto Workers (UAW) as that union drops its objections to the NLRB representation election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Now the focus will shift to the congressional investigation into the third party anti-union campaign by elected officials, Grover Norquist and other outside groups.  Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and John Tierney (D-MA), the ranking Democrats on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions subcommittee, are investigating the interference and the shortcomings of our outdated federal labor laws.

In our increasingly globalized world, large foreign multinational corporations are investing in facilities in the U.S.   Some, like Volkswagen, have been greeted by hostile outside campaigns to undermine workers’ right to collective bargaining, usually with cooperation by US management.  In many cases US management embraces anti-union tactics they shun at home, where unions often have recognition and respect. This case was unique in that VW management in Germany and at least officially in the US adopted extensive neutrality provisions which only inflamed outside agitators like Norquist even more.  In a similar case, CWA and the large German services union ver.di have been supporting T-Mobile employees’ struggle to organize for more than 10 years.  Unfortunately the principal owner Deutsche Telekom and US management are anything but neutral.

For all of us the issue remains: What are the rights of employees in a global economy?  Will the U.S. continue to operate at the low end on workers’ rights, accepting the fantasy land of Tennessee elected officials like Governor Haslam and U.S. Senator Corker that markets alone provide a fair outcome?  Or will we build a movement and a consensus that Corker, Haslam and Norquist are way out of bounds and that if we don’t stop them, there will continue to be growing inequality and a falling living standard for most of us in the U.S.?

 

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