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Masterpiece or Paint By Numbers

October 24, 2012 1 comment

By:  Bob Carroll – Executive Vice President @ Permanent Solutions Labor Consultants

(Our Success at PSLabor Lies in Our Inside Edge!)

If you are like most people, you are sick and tired of watching the political ads that consume our TV in the days leading up to the election.  As if the ads are not an annoyance, trying to decipher the truth behind the ads can be a quagmire of wasted cranial energy.

As a former union fire fighter, I have watched an ad here in Michigan where a firefighter is dressed from head to toe in his turnout gear speaking in a sullen voice and talking about how firefighters will not be able to perform their jobs safely without the passage of Proposal 2.  Proposal 2 would embed language into the State of Michigan Constitution guaranteeing workers in both public and private sectors the right to Collective Bargaining.  A few things started jumping out of my television screen to run around my mind after the commercial ended.  My first thought was that I was provided with the best equipment in the fire service without a “constitutional right” to bargain collectively.  Then I remembered that public and private workers in Michigan do have the right to bargain collectively under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and Michigan’s Public Employee Relations Act (PERA).  I also remember a group called the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) that recommends minimum standards for equipment, staffing and training to even work on a fire scene.  Every fire department I know of follows NFPA standards. So I began to dig deeper.  What is this proposal really about?

Then, right before the next installment of The Voice came to my screen, I saw a serious looking policeman standing in front of me on my “idiot box”.  With a stern look, he looked right at me through the TV and said something about how voting Yes to Proposal 2 would lead to sexual predators walking around in my kids school.  I thought to myself, “What do sexual predators have to do with collective bargaining?” You see, I could not figure out how the passage of this proposal could lead to deviant sexual predators in my daughter’s school.

With my mind spinning looking for answers I decided the next best thing to do would be to hit up the Internet and find the answer to my latest quest for knowledge.  I really wanted to know where I personally stood with Proposal 2.  So, I Googled Proposal 2.  I found page after page with seemingly meaningless opinions from individuals and groups stating how good or how bad the proposal is for the “working families” in Michigan.  I thought, “How can so many people be so vocal about this thing?”  I thought in jest, “Michigan is a union friendly state so surely this is a good thing for union brothers and sisters”.  But then I thought a bit more clearly and developed my own conclusion in regards to this “Protect Working Families” proposal after a little more research.

The Mackinac Center on Public Policy has estimated that this proposal can cost taxpayers up to 1.6 billion dollars.  If they are even close to correct, this would effect union workers and non-union workers alike.  Union workers would be hit with a double whammy because they have to pay union dues on top of added costs of living that trickle down from added burdens on municipalities.  Where will those costs come from?  I’m not an economics expert or expert on public policy by any means, but it is very easy to see that a few things are likely to happen if this proposal is added to the Constitution.  First of all, Michigan unions will be protected from the State becoming a Right to Work state like Indiana.  Second of all, the union friendly fire will be stoked and an increase in organizing workers will occur in the State of Michigan.  Thirdly, municipalities will not have the benefit (and yes I say benefit) of State intervention under the Emergency Manager law where union contracts can be suspended in cases where the municipality simply cannot pay for them.   In other words, the unions will get the blood from a stone.  And finally, businesses that wish to maintain their union free status will not move operations to the State.

Looking deeper into this proposal, I found that the unions themselves were instrumental in leading the charge in collecting the signatures needed to bring this to ballot.  Heck, they gloated about this on their websites. The ones in power in the unions carefully planned this out.  I am confident that a regular union firefighter, cop or teacher did not sit down one day and mastermind this plan.  They are busy doing what they do – saving lives, protecting citizens and teaching our children.  This took time and resources to accomplish.  This was something that was calculated and well planned.  This proposal is simply, in my opinion, a show of power by union leaders to grasp onto what little membership they have in the State in an attempt to rebuild an institution that has seen it’s heyday.

Back to the absurdity of the ads.  One claimed to threaten the safety of our firefighters and the other threatened the safety of the children in the classroom. In reality firefighters will get their safety gear.  In reality, sexual predators will not freely roam my daughter’s school.  The biggest reality to remember is that everyone has a choice to make on Election Day.  It is up to each and every person voting to do your homework.   Know what each question on the ballot is about.  Know your proposals and know your candidates.  If you simply go by what you see on TV you could be voting for the opposite of your own ideologies and what you truly intended on voting on.  Michigan is not the only state to have battling ads laced with hyped up claims.  This is a nationwide concern.  When people say the government is messing up America, they are half correct.  It is the people we put into government that affect us all.  It is the proposals that we vote for that they act on.  If we do not truly know who were are putting in office or what proposals we are passing then we, as citizens have no legitimate reason to complain.  When you are watching these ads on TV it is like looking at a beautiful piece of art hanging in someone’s garage.  It looks like a masterpiece on the surface but under the first layer of paint lies a paint by numbers portrait of a clown done with finger paints.

Inside Edge – The Future of the Democratic Party and Big Labor

October 12, 2012 Leave a comment

The Future of the Democratic Party and Big Labor
By: Ricardo Torres (President & CEO, Permanent Solutions Labor Consultants)

The current political dynamics and economic climate are transforming the relationship between the modern-day labor movement and the Democratic Party, which has historically been the union’s party of choice. Understanding this process will provide insight into the future of Labor Unions and their agenda.

Political support – whether from union political action committee (PAC) monies, grass-root support groups, support action committees, election mobilization actions or any of the vast array of methods unions use to support politicians – has always been a contentious endeavor. While I served as a union lobbyist in Washington, D.C. and worked with union legislative departments, there were endless debates on how to achieve balance. Balance was key. We had to ensure that the right politicians were selected: those who would support the union movement but not take us for granted once they entered office. Despite all of our efforts, there were many politicians who refused to fulfill their promises to the unions after they were elected. Another roadblock to union control was the infighting, which led to many stopgap solutions that were never brought to conclusion and fractured the union movement with the creation of the Change to Win federation.

A big part of today’s problem is that the unions’ interests have outgrown the interests of their members. Unions are now finding themselves expanding into foreign markets in order to keep pace with large conglomerates. This not only means that they have to negotiate organizing alliances with international federations but, more importantly, are forced to merge with foreign unions. Interactions with foreign federations and mergers with foreign unions have put American unions in a “political pickle”, as politicians of both parties have been pushing for trade deals to expand U.S. exports, while unions have been fighting against these measures for years. A perfect example of this is the recent trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, which created union outcry when it passed in 2011.

Most rank-and-file union members don’t understand the international expansion that unions have embarked upon or how their dues are being used to finance this effort. Millions of dollars are being spent to fight labor law changes in Latin America and Asia. Colombia in particular has become a hotbed of union intervention. I happened to be in Colombia back in 2000 with the United Steelworkers (USW), meeting with some of the country’s union federations Central Unitaria de Trabajadores & Unión de Trabajadores Colombianos and interviewing workers at multinational companies like Coca-Cola to document alleged abuses, threats and murders. It was like a witch-hunt and was the early stage of where the unions are now in their efforts to globalize to survive. These campaigns are done to build trust and find common ground around the globe with foreign labor federations that know all too well that American unions have an ultimate goal of putting a stop to the outsourcing of jobs into markets that are desparate to have them.

The latest political quagmire is evident in some of the long-term choices unions have been making this election season.

In 2008, unions collectively contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure that key Democrats (including President Obama) were elected. They did so with an understanding that significant changes would be made in labor law, which would make it easier for them to operate and organize new members. To date, they have not seen all of the changes they expected. When the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) came to vote, it did not have enough support to pass. Richard Trumka, President of the AFL/CIO, laid the blame on President Obama and said it was caused by Mr. Obama’s lack of direction and support.

Due to these “failures”, today’s union leaders have uniformly expressed a lack of enthusiasm about spending more money to elect politicians in national elections. They have clearly indicated that the money should be spent at the local level, as they feel it would better serve their agendas. In May of 2011, Trumka declared labor’s independence and vowed to put money that was earmarked for national political support into organizing efforts to obtain new members.

The Democratic Party, at the national level, has made choices that further reinforce the unions’ decision to distance themselves. There was little support from President Obama towards the recall efforts against the Republican Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker. Unions also felt a slap in the face when the Democratic National Convention was held in Charlotte, NC, which is a state with very strong anti-union laws for public employees.

These are just a few of the reasons that the AFL/CIO and other unions have decided to put an end to funding candidates at the national level.

Unions are desparately trying to escape the corner they have painted themselves into, but as Republicans push toward reforming collective bargaining in the public sector, unions find themselves right back in the arms of the Democratic party. A perfect example of this is California’s Proposition 32, on this November’s ballot. If pased, Prop 32 would prohibit unions and corporations from making political contributions. The wording of Prop 32 regarding corporate provisions is far weaker than the wording for union contributions; it even prevents unions from using automatic payroll deductions to raise money for political campaigns.

Democrats at the state level have been doing their best to try to bring union support their way. An example of this can be found inProposal 2 in my home state of Michigan. Prop 2 would add language to the State Constitution guaranteeing the right to organize and bargain collectively for public and private employees. According to F. Vincent Vernuccio, Director of Labor Policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Prop 2 would make it virtually impossible for Michigan to become a Right to Work state without further amending the State Constitution. Members of the current State Senate support Michigan becoming a Right to Work State, even though Republican Governor Rick Snyder has publicly urged them not to pursue it.

The unions are using Prop 2 as a back-door way to repeal the Emergency Manager Law in Michigan, which gives the Governor the right to appoint an Emergency Manager to municipalities in fiscal disarray to try to prevent them from entering bankrupcty. One of the rights given to the Emergency Manager is to suspend all union contracts to bring the municipality out of the red. According to Governor Synder, this amendment would “actually override that, and could leave us in a spot where communities might only have bankruptcy as an option and that’s a very bad answer.” The Democrats are fighting tooth and nail for the passage of Prop 2, which has been dubbed the “Protect Our Jobs Amendment” and the “Protect Working Families Amendment”, creative names for a change in the State Constitution that would protect the power currently enjoyed by union leadership at the taxpayers’ expense (including dues-paying union members). According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the passage of Prop 2 could cost taxpayers 1.6 billion dollars.

Where does this leave the unions and the Democratic Party? Very little will change in the foreseeable future. While it is true that unions have been trying to wean themselves from Democrats at the national level who have been unreliable to the union agenda, unions have no choice at this moment but to reluctantly maintain their alliances. Unions are certainly looking for options for change. I predict that the AFL/CIO will take steps to reunite over the next two years.

There are rumblings in Washington that the NLRB’s “quickie elections” will be implemented after the elections. Unions are hoping for truth to the D.C. rumblings because, as their membership grows (which it certainly will with “quickie elections”, unless employers are proactive and prepared), so will their consolidation of power on a national level. This will, in turn, further their ability to exert influence more and more on a state and local level.

Categories: Uncategorized

JCC of Rochester Employees Vote NO against SEIU 200 United

October 12, 2012 Leave a comment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – (Rochester, New York) By an overwhelming majority, teachers and aides of the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Greater Rochester, New York, voted no against union representation by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 200 United preserving their valued union free advantages. The involved staff is employed by the Wolk Children’s Center, an early childhood campus located within the JCC.  The election was held by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) through a secret ballot election. Final tally was conducted on Friday, October 5th, at the JCC’s main campus and was facilitated by the NLRB Regional Director.

Of the nearly 50 involved employees, 48 ballots were counted; the final tally was 27 (NO) against 17 (YES) in favor of remaining union free. In addition, 5 ballots were challenged, however considered “undeterminative” to the outcome by the NLRB Regional Director.

Campaign communications on behalf of the JCC were orchestrated under the advisement of retained counsel, Nixon Peabody, and through the direction of Permanent Solutions Labor Consultants (PSLC) who specializes in labor concerns.

With this matter behind us, “I am relieved to say everyone is back to work and ready to move on by working together to solve the issues that resulted in this situation” states Leslie Berkowitz, Executive Director of the HCC of Greater Rochester. “We are looking forward to working with the teachers and creating a happy and productive work environment for all”.

Ricardo Torres, President of PSLC says, ” When you step into the JCC, you encounter remarkable people, dedicated volunteers and a wide-array of year-round programs, activities and special events. The JCC is clearly committed to enriching the lives of their members and the community. Most importantly, the JCC of Rochester is dedicated to its loyal employees who seamlessly work in concert to maintain the JCC’s proud traditional experience.”

Dan Block, PSLC VP of Client Relations adds, “The Wolk [Children’s Center] employees demonstrated their individual choice on this matter which is exactly how the system should work. As the government’s own publication states, ‘Long experience has taught us that when parties fully understand their rights and obligations [pertaining to labor relations] they are more ready and able to adjust their differences voluntarily’ without the need of a third party. (citing the Basic Guide to the National Labor Relations Act, prepared in the office of the NLRB General Counsel).

Torres goes on to say, “Again, the SEIU tried every trick in the book to win this election including intimation and harassment through corporate campaign-style tactics against the JCC.  The SEIU attempted to rally around local politicians who think more about union assistance and money [PAC contributions] in their quest to stay in office than they do for the working class.  The employees saw past the smoke and mirrors and realized that the best way proceed was to work with management in an effort to rebuild trust and move forward towards a goal of positive employee relations and a work environment both employees and management can be proud of.”

Torres adds, “We are extremely pleased with the result of this election. We feel optimistic about the opportunity granted to our client in that this experience has opened the eyes and hearts of all involved. Truly, a stronger, more trusting, relationship will develop as outcome from this campaign and the JCC of Greater Rochester will solidify its success by insulating their vulnerabilities to union attacks in the future.”

About Permanent Solutions:  Permanent Solutions Labor Consultants, Inc. (pslabor.com) is a global Labor Relations and Human Resource consulting firm specializing in both healthcare and non-healthcare environments. Permanent Solutions consultants are former Union organizers and former Human Resource executives with extensive union campaign experience who have made it their personal missions to promote positive employee relations in a union-free environment. For more information about this subject or to learn more about Permanent Solutions Labor Consultants, please call 313-914-2017 (corp office) or via email rtorres@pslabor.com.

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Categories: Uncategorized