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July 2010, Volume 16, Number 3

UFW, NLRB, Unions

UFW. The UFW reported $6.4 million in revenue and $5.7 million in expenses in 2009, about the same as in 2008 ( The 5,325 members at the end of 2008 included 863 retirees and were served by over 60 UFW employees and eight officers. About $3 million or 47 percent of the UFW's revenue came from dues and fees (UFW dues are three percent of gross earnings), and $3 million in expenditures were for representational activities.

The UFW's $3 million in dues income suggest that UFW members had gross earnings of $100 million in 2009. At $20,000 per member, there would be 5,000 dues-paying members.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 5 was decertified at the Pinheiro Dairy in Strathmore, California. Workers employed by the Hess Collection Winery in Napa are reportedly trying to decertify the UFCW, but a decertification election cannot be held until pending ULP charges are resolved.

ALRB. SB 1474, a bill that would allow farm worker unions in California to use card checks rather than secret-ballot elections to win recognition as the bargaining agent for farm workers, was approved by the California Senate. The Legislature approved a card-check bill in 2007, 2008, and 2009, but each bill was vetoed by the governor.

LSC. The Legal Services Corp, established in 1974 to provide legal services to poor people, received $420 million from the federal government to distribute to 136 legal aid programs in FY09. President Obama proposed in increase in LSC funding to $435 million in FY10; a House bill would increase LSC funding to $750 million.

NLRB. Unions won two-thirds of the 1,300 elections supervised by the National Labor Relations Board in 2009, but the number of elections finalized in 2009, about 900, was at its lowest level in decades. In 1985, the NLRB supervised 4,000 union-representation elections.

The NLRB operated with only two of its five members for 27 months between 2008 and 2010 because of disputes over Senate confirmation of Presidential appointees. In a 5-4 decision in June 2010, the US Supreme Court said it was unlawful for the NLRB to issue decisions with only two members, casting 600 cases in doubt. The two-member board did not rule on 60 cases in which they disagreed, and set aside another 60 that they thought might set precedents.

SEIU. Andrew Stern, ex-president of the 2.2 million member-Service Employees International Union, believes that unions have been slow to realize that a third of US workers have part-time or contingent status and that most workers will have many employers during their working lives. Stern increased the SEIU's spending to over $300 million a year, in part to deal with dissident union leaders in California. The SEIU added 50,000 members in 2009, down from 115,000 in 2008.

The SEIU withdrew from the AFL-CIO in 2005 to join the Change to Win federation of unions. Stern defended dividing the "House of Labor" with the assertion that union strategies needed to change quickly with the economy and labor market.

The SEIU organizes workers employed in health care, public services and property services. Stern was criticized within the SEIU for "going easy" in wage negotiations with employers who agreed not to oppose organizing drives.

Stern is being replaced by Mary Kay Henry, who pledged to add 150,000 members a year to the SEIU, bringing its membership to over three million by 2020; Henry noted that 2.2 million nurses and four million other hospital workers are not union members. Henry favors corporate campaigns, or enlisting churches and politicians to put pressure on target employers to remain neutral during organizing drives.

Henry promised to end the struggle with Unite Here, a 300,000-member merged union that is breaking up. Most former UNITE members left the union, forming Workers United and affiliating with SEIU. With UNITE HERE made up mostly of former HERE members, UNITE HERE left Change to Win and rejoined the AFL-CIO.

The United Auto Workers has shrunk from 700,000 members in 2000 to 355,000 in 2010. One reason is the declining share of US-produced autos sold in the US; the share of US-sold autos from the Big 3 dropped from 80 to 60 percent in a decade.

Berman. Richard Berman has created several nonprofits to which his for-profit Berman and Company provides services. According to a New York Times article on June 18, 2010, the Employment Policies Institute, which opposes higher minimum wages, paid 42 percent of the $2.6 million it received in 2008 to Berman and Company, and the Center for Union Facts paid 22 percent of its $4.6 million to Berman and Company.

EFCA. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) in May 2010 said that the Employee Free Choice Act (S 560, HR 1409) will not pass as written. The EFCA has three key elements: card-check recognition, stiffer penalties for employers who commit unfair labor practices (ULPs), and binding arbitration for first contracts if the parties cannot agree.

The EFCA would allow unions to be recognized as the bargaining agent for the workers in a workplace without secret ballot elections if more than 50 percent of the workers signed union-authorization cards, require the NLRB to give top priority to ULP charges filed during pre-election campaigning, and allow workers who are fired unlawfully to receive triple back pay. The third element is binding arbitration, which could be invoked if the parties failed to reach agreement on a first contract after 90 days of bargaining, which could result in a Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service arbitrator imposing a first contract.

The most vociferous opposition to the EFCA involved the "card-check" procedure that would allow unions to bypass secret ballot elections to determine if workers wanted to be represented by unions. Card check may be dropped to secure passage of the EFCA, but the enhanced penalties for employer ULPs and binding arbitration for contracts are likely to remain.

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