OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST
President Biden in April signed an executive order creating a task force to examine existing policies regarding labor unions and issue a series of recommendations within 180 days on how they can be leveraged to promote worker organizing and collective bargaining in the federal government and recommend what new policies should be created.
After receiving billions of dollars in rescue money from the government, United Airlines is now considering outsourcing jobs from its unionized catering workers to non-union caterers at its hubs in Cleveland, Newark, Denver, Houston, and Honolulu. According to the Huffington Post, these workers who deliver food for the company’s passengers, voted overwhelmingly in 2018 for Unite Here to represent them in collective bargaining. However, they still not have secured a contract and United is contemplating outsourcing to non-union shop.
After decades of the drop in membership of organized labor and the difficulty involved in bargaining in each individual plant and enterprise, some people are recommending the role model be changed. They advocate bargaining on an industry wide level as some of their European counterparts do. The European model has resulted in greater success since their unions have not been decimated the way American unions have and continue to exert considerable clout even through conservative government administrations.
Since taking office, President Biden’s nominees for the National Labor Relations Board have signaled good news for labor. Breaking with a trend over the past decades for Republicans stuffing the board with people who sided with management over labor, Biden’s choices seem more likely to commit to the NLRB’s original purpose – to protect the rights of workers to organize into unions.
His latest nominee, Gwynne Wilcox to fill a seat on the board that has been vacant for two years, has for years represented unions and union members in proceedings before administrative agencies, many before the NLRB itself. She has been a member of the Board of Directors of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee. In August, a Democratic pro-labor majority of 3-to-2 was achieved when the term of Republican member William Emanuel expired and Biden was able to appoint a new member.
The nomination of Wilcox comes after Biden replaced Republican NLRB General Counsel Peter B. Robb with Jennifer Abruzzo, a Special Counsel of the Communication Workers of America and designated the only current Democratic member, Lauren McFerran, to head the board, replacing Republican John Ring. While the nominations still must be approved by the Senate, no senator in the thin Democratic majority in that body has voiced objections to any of them.
— Carolina Schwalbach in JD/Supra (5/28/21)
For many years, nurses at the Maine Medical Center had been trying to get union representation. The Center, which operates three hospitals in the state had fought tooth-and-nail against their efforts to organize. But just a few weeks ago, the nurses, buy a vote of 57-43percent, voted to join the Maine State Nurses Association, an affiliate of National Nurses United a union representing 170,000 nurses nationwide. The Maine affiliate will represent about 2,000 nurses at the three facilities, the largest one, Maine Med, in the city of Portland.
The vote represents the biggest win for a private sector this year. It came after a typical anti-union campaign waged by management, that included the hiring of professional “consultants” from out-of-state to get the nurses to reject the union. The President of the Maine State Nurses Association, Cokie Giles, hailed the vote as a win “for their patients and their community.”
Workers throughout the country had $50 billion stolen from them in wage theft, according to a report in on Labor, an online labor news service. This is particularly true in the construction industry where many firms employ undocumented workers who are unlikely to know that there are laws that mandate higher wages than they have been getting and are less likely to report it even if they did know.
In companies that have union contracts, this is not a big problem but many companies are non-union. Construction workers on publicly funded projects are not likely to know that there is a law called the Davis-Bacon Act that mandates the payment of local prevailing wages, based upon Department of Labor statistics, on construction projects funded by the federal government and that many states have similar laws for state funded projects. Related Acts that have become part of Davis-Bacon, mandate that local prevailing wages also be paid to workers on projects that get grants, loans, loan guarantees, and insurance from the federal government. In places where a general contractor hires sub-contractors, the law holds the general contractor as well as the sub-contractor liable, so legal responsibility cannot be passed off down the line.
In those places where workers do not have the protection of a union to enforce the law, particularly in conservative states which have been hostile to union organizing, legal and professional services like the Workers Defense Fund have been the vehicle for bringing legal challenges on behalf of victims of wage theft, regaining hundreds of thousands of dollars for them.