Friday, March 23, 2018

President of SEIU Local Union: “Whoops!”

Maine Gov. Paul LePage

Here’s the latest chapter in a story Tasty covered in an earlier post.

Remember when an SEIU union in Maine voluntarily agreed to eliminate “agency fees” requirements from its labor contract during negotiations with right-wing Gov. Paul LePage?

This provision required state employees who chose not to join the union to instead pay a fee to help cover the costs of the union’s collective bargaining and representation services that benefit them. These cost-sharing fees are called “agency fees.”

What did SEIU Local 1989 (aka Maine State Employees Union) get in exchange for giving up the “agency fees” requirement?

Two annual pay increases of only 3% per year for its members (roughly 9,000 state workers).

What’s happened since then?

Four months after inking this horrible deal, the president of SEIU Local 1989 told the Portland Press Herald that “it is losing 'hundreds of thousands of dollars' under the new provision.” (Betty Adams, “Public-sector union sheds jobs after contract drops mandatory dues,” Portland Press Herald, January 9, 2018.)

Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Ramona Welton, president of the MSEA, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union, as well as a unit member, did not have the exact amount of the drop in income but estimated it was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It’s a big number,” she said Tuesday, adding that the loss directly affects the local unit itself and indirectly affects its affiliate organizations.

How much financial support does the union stand to lose?

In 2016, more than a quarter of Local 1989’s possible members opted to be agency fee-payers, according to figures from the US Department of Labor.

Due to Local 1989's bad deal, these 2,500 workers and others can now stop making any financial contributions whatsoever to the union... even though the union and all of its stewards are still required to represent them and bargain for them.

This is the scheme that right-wing governors and Republican-appointed judges are trying to impose on workers across the nation. Their goal is to weaken unions so they can drive down workers’ wages, benefits, and working conditions... and boost corporate profits.

Who would have thought that an SEIU union would help them with their plan?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Big Tech’s Purple Cheerleaders

SEIU’s Andy Stern and David “Mini Me” Rolf are facing more criticism for partnering with Uber executives.

Jay Youngdahl -- a civil rights attorney and journalist -- says Rolf and Stern have become “cheerleaders” and “circus barkers” for Uber and other tech firms pushing poverty jobs on millions of US workers. 

The companies, says Youngdahl, use “an 18th-century business model dressed up for the 21st century.” (Jay Youngdahl, “Poverty's 'Progressive' Cheerleaders,” East Bay Express, March 14, 2018.)

Even as Rolf and Stern appear to be hypnotized by the glare of their iPhones and the tech companies’ vast wealth, Youngdahl reminds us of the story of drivers like Douglas Schifter.

Last month, Schifter -- who worked for 30 years as a livery driver in New York -- shot himself to death in front of New York City Hall to protest the economic ruin brought on by Uber, Lyft and other companies. According to the New York Times, Schifter…
was now sometimes forced to work more than 100 hours a week to survive… He had lost his health insurance and accrued credit card debt… preferring, he said, to die in hope that his sacrifice would draw attention to what drivers, too often unable to feed their families now, were enduring.

(Ginia Bellafante, “A Driver’s Suicide Reveals the Dark Side of the Gig Economy,” New York Times, February 6, 2018.)

Here’s a recent segment from Democracy Now about Schifter and the impact of Uber and Lyft on drivers.

Youngdahl writes:
[H]onest analyses show that profits for gig economy companies come from not paying for employee health care, pension, and paid leave, as well as foregoing outlay for governmental safety net benefits such as social security, workers' compensation, and unemployment insurance.
To protect their cash flow and flawed business model, these new economy capitalists have assembled a group of "progressive" circus barkers to shape public opinion so the companies can continue, as one driver leader recently wrote, an 18th-century business model dressed up for the 21st century.
Schifter's post on Facebook at the end of his life
Led by former Obama and Clinton strategists, think tanks desperate for operating revenue, foundation-financed nonprofits, and a few past and present Service Employee International Union officials with wealthy benefactors, these companies have constructed a marketing campaign that puts Mad Men to shame. The cast of characters, preaching a rosy "Future of Work," appear in media outlets throughout the land. They have been described as a progressive "Brain Trust," by New Yorker writer Nathan Heller.
Apparently terrified of worker power and solidarity, they oppose traditional unionization and extol company-controlled worker organizations. They promise pie-in-the-sky future benefits and "freedom" and "flexibility." But they're unwilling to face what life is like today for these workers. The "freedom" they're extolling is, as Janis Joplin sang, "just another word for nothin' left to lose."

At least one official inside SEIU is critical of Rolf’s and Stern’s handiwork in support of Uber, the $48 billion startup. In additional comments, Hector Figueroa, the President of SEIU 32BJ in New York, told BuzzFeed:
This isn't just a matter of Washington state. Washington is opening the door for something we believe is harmful for workers. So we’re going to oppose it, even though a sister union is actively involved.

(Caroline O'Donovan, “Uber’s Latest Concession to Drivers Could Spell Trouble for Gig Workers,” BuzzFeed News, January 26, 2018.)

One day after Rolf recently co-signed a letter with Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and a venture capitalist, Figueroa posted a statement on his union’s website that says in part:
“We… we don’t support the plans being pushed by Uber and other companies to classify workers as independent just to avoid the responsibilities that employers have to their employees under labor law. All workers, whether they are considered employees or self-employed, should have meaningful health and retirement benefits, paid leave and sick days and enough income to support themselves and their families. They should also have the right to bargain collectively with their employers... We are deeply suspect of Uber’s intentions given their track record of misclassifying, underpaying, harassing and exploiting workers and opposing worker organization and we will judge them and others by their actions, not their words.”

Figueroa and Rolf both serve on SEIU’s International Executive Board.

Friday, March 9, 2018

SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan Stashes $50M While Boosting Dues on Workers

Should Dave Regan quit his job at SEIU-UHW and apply for work at Citibank?

It sure seems like it’d be a better fit.

Regan -- instead of helping workers build power at their worksites -- has stockpiled more than $50 million in cash, poured $20-$30 million into ballot initiatives, and paid sky-high salaries to himself and other union staffers.

Workers at one California hospital recently got a reminder of Regan’s “innovative” vision for the labor movement. 

Regan sent a letter to their homes (see below) detailing SEIU-UHW’s maximum dues rate:  $164 a month!

Does Regan really need more money?

At the end of 2016, SEIU-UHW had stockpiled $52.4 million in cash, according to SEIU-UHW’s annual report to the US Department Labor (DOL Form LM-2). 

And that’s after SEIU-UHW spent $20-$30 million on a boodle of failed ballot initiatives.

Meanwhile, SEIU-UHW members frequently complain they can’t find union staffers to deal with basic on-the-job problems.

Looks like Dave is more interested in “cash bundle” than “class struggle.”

Here’s a copy of SEIU-UHW’s letter, which describes the union’s $164 per month maximum dues rate in the second paragraph.

Friday, March 2, 2018

33,000 Teachers and School Staff Wage Wildcat Strike in W.Va.: “We're not gonna take it anymore!”

In case you’re not following it, check out the inspiring wildcat strike by 33,000 teachers and support staff in West Virginia. It’s one of the biggest strikes in the US in recent years.

The strike -- which began with walkouts in seven counties -- soon covered all of the state’s 55 counties. And it’s now in its seventh day.

Earlier this week, educators refused to go back to work after union leaders reached a “deal” with Gov. James Justice to boost their pay and establish a “task force” to look into their health insurance.

Even though union leaders told them to go back to work, teachers said “No way” …and remain on strike. They’ll go back to work once their health insurance is fixed, say teachers. For years, state officials have been piling more and more costs -- and an intrusive wellness program -- onto their backs.

Check out this interesting interview with a rank-and-file leader who describes how teachers are organizing themselves in each school and county. And how they won support from students, parents and communities across the state.

(Eric Blanc, “The Strike Is On: And Interview with Jay O’Neal,” Jacobin Magazine, Marsh 1, 2018.)
Gov. James Justice
Their strike has featured a rally of 10,000 people in front of the state capitol, takeovers of the state capitol, rallies across the state, and lots of public support for the strikers.

After Governor Justice called the teachers “Dumb bunnies,” educators began sporting bunny ears.

“We come from an area that is known for standing up for what they believe in,” said Katie Endicott, a high school English teacher from Gilbert, WV, in an interview with the New York Times. “The union wars, they originated in the south in Mingo County. We believe we are following in their footsteps. We believe the movement was started years ago through the mine workers. We’re just reviving the movement that was started years ago.

Here’s an article in Jacobin Magazine that gives more background. (Cathy Kunkel, “Saving West Virginia,” Jacobin Magazine, February 27, 2018.) 

And here's a quick video from inside the state capitol: "We'nore not gonna take it anymore!"