Category “Unions”

7th Circuit Court of Appeals Uphold Act 10

So unions, you want to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court?

Deal­ing unions their lat­est loss in court, a fed­eral appeals court Fri­day upheld Gov. Scott Walker’s tight lim­its on col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing for most pub­lic employees.

The rul­ing by the three-judge panel upheld a Sep­tem­ber deci­sion by U.S. Dis­trict Judge William Con­ley in Madi­son that the law known as Act 10 does not infringe on the rights of gov­ern­ment workers.

Act 10 does not vio­late the First or Four­teenth Amend­ments to the United States Con­sti­tu­tion. We there­fore affirm the dis­trict court’s judg­ment in favor of the state,” the rul­ing reads.

The law stip­u­lates that gov­ern­ment employee unions can nego­ti­ate over wages but noth­ing else, and that any pay increases can be no higher than the rate of infla­tion, except where vot­ers approve them by ref­er­en­dum. The law also dic­tates that unions can­not be rec­og­nized by the state or local gov­ern­ments unless 51% of all poten­tial mem­bers — not just those vot­ing — sup­port the union in annual elections.

Two unions rep­re­sent­ing local employ­ees through­out Dane County sued in July 2011 in fed­eral court in Madi­son con­tend­ing the law vio­lates their rights to free­dom of asso­ci­a­tion and equal pro­tec­tion under the law.

This dif­fer­ence is likely of no com­fort to plain­tiffs, but the First Amend­ment does not require an affir­ma­tive response from gov­ern­men­tal enti­ties; it sim­ply requires the absence of a neg­a­tive restric­tion,” Con­ley wrote in his own deci­sion last year. “Under Act 10, gen­eral employ­ees remain free to asso­ciate and rep­re­sent employ­ees and their unions remain free to speak; munic­i­pal employ­ers are sim­ply not allowed to listen.”

Act 10 is still before the Wis­con­sin State Supreme Court, with a rul­ing expected in the next cou­ple of months.

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Cartoon of the Day

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Cartoon of the Day

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H-1B Visa Reform Would Have At Least Made Sense

Let me pref­ace this post by say­ing: “I’m not for amnesty, just san­ity.”

While largely dead for the rest of the 2013–14 con­gres­sional cal­en­dar, there were some things I per­son­ally would have liked to have seen touched in an immi­gra­tion pack­age or sep­a­rate bill.  (You know, that piece­meal approach talked about, but appar­ently not going to be tried.)

At the top of that list is “H-1B Visa Reform.”

H-1B” is, like most visas issued by the State Depart­ment, one of a vari­ety of work visas granted to immi­grants who are tem­po­rary work­ers inside the United States.  H-1B’s are a spe­cialty type of visa which only are avail­able to the fol­low­ing qualifications:

  1. You must be a for­eign national.
  2. You must have already earned a col­lege degree.
  3. Said degree must be in a career related to what are called “STEM” (Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, Engi­neer­ing & Math) fields.

The visas last for three years and can be renewed for another three for a total of six years; and with their employ­ers spon­sor­ship, they can gain cit­ize That stay can be up to ten years, only if you are work­ing for a defense con­trac­tor.  They are highly-coveted by tech­nol­ogy firms in Sil­i­con Val­ley such as Google, IBM, Face­book and Oracle.

Annu­ally, 65,000 new H-1Bs are issued, with an addi­tional 20,000 to eli­gi­ble immi­grants already in the coun­try who get­ting their col­lege degrees. Esti­ma­tions are that since the pro­gram began around 2,000, over 850,000 H-1Bs have been issued.

So why reform them and what to do?  The com­mon answer — accepted on both sides — has been to lift the annual quota.  Why? Because the world is a com­pet­i­tive work­place, and despite con­stant inter­est in com­puter sci­ences and IT, Amer­ica isn’t gen­er­at­ing enough of them fast enough.  Also, other nations also have sub­stan­tial tech­nol­ogy sec­tors them­selves and will grab up these wouldbe employees.

In the most recent pod­cast episode for the center-right web­site Ric­o­chet, renowned polit­i­cal ana­lyst Michael Barone told a story of how a Cana­dian diplo­mat prayed that Amer­ica didn’t change its immi­gra­tion pol­icy towards high-skilled work­ers (the ones sought through the H-1B pro­gram) because then all these folks could come to Van­cou­ver, Cal­gary and Toronto.  British Colum­bia is well-known to be the high-tech hub match­ing its neigh­bors south of the bor­der in Wash­ing­ton State and Sil­i­con Valley.

It is this exact thing which makes the immi­gra­tion debate as a whole so frus­trat­ing.  While we’re fight­ing over what is clearly a hor­rific Sen­ate bill, both sides need to take a moment, fig­ure out where there is actual con­sen­sus on immi­gra­tion — like visa reform, which has noth­ing to do with amnesty much if at all — and craft a bill.

Any­one who still demands a full, “com­pre­hen­sive approach” (Chuck Schumer, I’m look­ing at you.) should be barred from the room.  Ham­mer out some­thing that works, not just for those get­ting the H-1Bs’, but for the U.S. econ­omy as well.

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Not One Actual Fast Food Employee Protested in Green Bay

The hilar­ity of this, and the fact that numer­ous Green Bay-area media even reported this (I first saw it myself on the local ABC affil­i­ate, WBAY’s online cov­er­age) is a kudos to their jour­nal­is­tic integrity.

About a dozen peo­ple stood out­side the McDonald’s on Main Street in Green Bay Thurs­day chant­ing for higher wages and unionization.

It is a sol­i­dar­ity action in sup­port of work­ers on strike in Mil­wau­kee, Madi­son and Wausau,” said Nicole Collazo-Santiago, project orga­nizer for the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of State, County and Munic­i­pal Employ­ees in Mil­wau­kee. None of the pro­test­ers were McDonald’s employees.

Empha­sis added by me.

How pathetic and sad must the state of the Amer­i­can labor move­ment be that its come to this: Try­ing to recruit the most tran­sient of work­ers — fast food and gro­cery store employ­ees (i.e. Walmart)?

What, no one’s thought of going after pizza deliv­ery dri­vers yet?

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Meanwhile…in Illinois

Just pass­ing this along.

Leg­is­la­tors passed an over­haul of the state public-employee retire­ment sys­tem Tues­day, cut­ting ben­e­fits for work­ers and retirees in a move that sets up a likely court bat­tle with orga­nized labor.

Sup­port­ers say the Illi­nois pen­sion leg­is­la­tion is expected to save $160 bil­lion and will fully fund the retire­ment sys­tem over 30 years.

We’re here today because the cost of our present state sys­tems are sim­ply too rich for the resources avail­able,” said House Speaker Michael Madi­gan, a Democrat.

Gov. Pat Quinn, a Demo­c­rat, is expected to sign the bill into law.

Illi­nois has seen its credit rat­ing fall in recent years to the low­est among U.S. states as it has strug­gled to address a gap in its pen­sion funds that is near­ing $100 billion.

The mea­sure also gives Chicago offi­cials a tem­plate to fol­low as they move to address the city’s own pen­sion cri­sis; Chicago’s credit rat­ing is among the low­est for major U.S. cities.

The pen­sion cri­sis is not truly solved until relief is brought to Chicago,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “With­out pro­vid­ing the same relief to local gov­ern­ments, we know that tax­pay­ers, employ­ees, and the future of our state and local economies will remain at risk.”

The Illi­nois over­haul pack­age relies on ben­e­fit cuts, includ­ing reduc­ing the annual cost-of-living increase for retirees and rais­ing the retire­ment age for younger workers.

Iron­i­cally, the plan is being attacked on two fronts.  Orga­nized labor (as expected) is scream­ing bloody mur­der about the changes and plans on going to go to court to chal­lenge the law as soon as the ink on Quinn’s sig­na­ture is dry.

On the other side is the few con­ser­v­a­tive think tanks which oper­ate in and around Spring­field, which don’t think the leg­is­la­tion goes far enough to keep the state from even­tu­ally hav­ing to file for bank­ruptcy.  They’ve called the bill a ban­dage on a open wound which will not be enough.

I tend to agree with the think tanks here, but the real­ity that Illi­nois is even doing this given all the “hey” Quinn tried to make about Act 10 in 2011, is kind of nice to enjoy.

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Amazon Wants to Build in Kenosha

All for this for a num­ber of reasons.

1) Any­thing that gets me what I’ve ordered from Amazon.com, be it a book, game, tech gad­get or Christ­mas nick-nack for my mom, it will now arrive about two days faster.

2) This will drive lib­er­als nuts with Walker on the jobs front.  Espe­cially since Ama­zon wants to open it in the Fall of 2014, right in the mid­dle of the guber­na­to­r­ial campaign.

3) Ama­zon is noto­ri­ously anti-union. (Read here.)  So it will drive the #WIU­nion folks nuts.  Makes you won­der if there’s an effort going on right now behind the scenes in Kenosha to try to kill the project until Ama­zon puts in a union shop.  (Just a hint here, it ain’t gonna hap­pen.  Ama­zon will not let unions in.)

One of the world’s best known com­pa­nies wants to bring lots of jobs to Kenosha. City lead­ers have con­firmed inter­net giant Ama­zon is seek­ing to build a mas­sive dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ter East of I-94 and 38th Street.

It’s a project we haven’t seen in Kenosha in a long time with the eco­nomic down­turn,” said Alder­man Dan Prozanski.

Prozan­ski said the com­pany plans on cre­at­ing more than 1,000 full-time jobs. He said the aver­age start­ing pay will be around $13 per hour.

Ama­zon will invest around $250 mil­lion dol­lars. The sprawl­ing facil­ity will be around 1.5 mil­lion square feet. That’s slightly larger than the foot­print of Miller Park.

This is going to be a huge facil­ity, prob­a­bly replac­ing either its facil­ity in Ken­tucky or Indi­ana as a way to bet­ter ser­vice the upper Mid­west.   Keep in mind this is part of a mas­sive nearly $14 Bil­lion project where the com­pany is build­ing ware­houses and dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ters across the globe.

They plan on open­ing three in Poland alone.

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Cartoon of the Day

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Orga­nized labor’s top pri­or­ity this Labor Day. Pretty pathetic ain’t it?

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Quote of the Day

I spent a good half-hour Thurs­day night on the phone with Sean Hack­barth (of the Amer­i­can Mind) talk­ing sports.  Specif­i­cally, whether the NFL dodged a bul­let with its set­tle­ment with retired play­ers and their fam­i­lies over the reported $765M it will spend in deal­ing with concussion-related injuries and illnesses.

While we both agree that no one put a gun to these men’s heads to play foot­ball, but the league clearly hid safety data and didn’t want change hel­met ven­dors because it would effect its cur­rent deal with league spon­sor Rid­dell.  (Rid­dell does make a fine hel­met for what it is worth, but no hel­met is concussion-proof, or may ever be.)

Any­way, my point was that I felt the NFL got off easy.  It spent much of the late 90s and early 2000s either in denial or cov­er­ing up con­cus­sion data and the over­all $765M it will be pay­ing out is small when com­pared to the amount of rev­enue the NFL will be gen­er­at­ing ($10B, expected in 2013, and $25B by 2025 accord­ing to esti­mates), so it wouldn’t be hurt­ing for cash.

Also, given the way that the NFL pays for things, it wouldn’t be the league itself which will be pick­ing up the tab.  It will be the tele­vi­sion con­tracts it will charge Dis­ney (ESPN), Fox, CBS, and Com­cast (NBC) when they expire in 2022.  So, the NFL isn’t going to cry over a lost billion.

In fact, accord­ing to ESPN’s “Out­side the Lines,” attor­neys for the play­ers were ini­tially seek­ing $2B in dam­ages while attor­neys for the league were using every trick in the book — prob­a­bly writ­ten by attor­neys who defended the tobacco com­pa­nies — to bring that fig­ure down.

Part of the NFL’s strat­egy to bring the play­ers’ mon­e­tary demands down included point­ing out that years of lit­i­ga­tion would have the effect of deny­ing the play­ers — many of who needed med­ical and finan­cial assis­tance — the help they needed.

Some play­ers and their fam­i­lies have crit­i­cized the $765 mil­lion set­tle­ment as too small to mat­ter for an indus­try that gen­er­ates nearly $10 bil­lion annu­ally. Includ­ing legal fees, which have not been deter­mined, the finan­cial bur­den to the NFL is likely to approach $1 bil­lion. If a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of play­ers were to exer­cise their right to opt out of the set­tle­ment agree­ment, Brody has the option of not accept­ing the set­tle­ment over­all or issu­ing a rul­ing on the league’s motion to dis­miss the lawsuit.

Per­haps I’m too empathic to some of the icons of the game who are suf­fer­ing from demen­tia and the like (such as Pack­ers Hall of Famer Willie Wood, who is now in hos­pice care out­side Wash­ing­ton, DC), but it’s hard to cel­e­brate the start of a new NFL sea­son this Thurs­day when you see the busi­ness side of it on full dis­play and just how lit­tle and com­plete dis­re­gard for the human life which made the league the suc­cess story it was in the first place.

Of course, as the work of guys like Mike Ditka, Bart Starr, and Jerry Kramer con­tinue to point out, lord knows the NFLPA — the play­ers’ union — hasn’t done its own due duty when it came to pen­sion, health care and the like for many of the greats the game had who are no in their 70s and 80s.

Just like the mobile quar­ter­back, greed is all the rage in the NFL and NFLPA these days.

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How to Deal with “Striking” Fast Food Employees in One-Simple Step…

Replace them with touch-screen cashiers.

(Actu­ally, there are a num­ber of McDonald’s which are prac­ti­cally there already…)

Wel­come to McDonald’s. My name is HAL 9000. May I take your order?”

McDon­alds recently went on a hir­ing binge in the U.S., adding 62,000 employ­ees to its ros­ter. The hir­ing pic­ture doesn’t look quite so rosy for Europe, where the fast food chain is draft­ing 7,000 touch-screen kiosks to han­dle cashier­ing duties.

The move is designed to boost effi­ciency and make order­ing more con­ve­nient for cus­tomers. In an inter­view with the Finan­cial Times, McDonald’s Europe Pres­i­dent Steve East­er­brook notes that the new sys­tem will also open up a gold­mine of data. McDonald’s could poten­tially track every Big Mac, McNugget, and large shake you order. A calo­rie account tally at the end of the year could be a real shocker.

The touch screens will only accept debit or credit cards, adding to the slow death knell of cash and coins. This all goes along with an over­all revamp of McDonald’s restau­rants world­wide aimed at pro­ject­ing a mod­ern image as opposed to the old-fashioned golden arches with a slightly creepy (to my taste any­way) clown guy hang­ing around the french fries.

This puts McDonald’s one step closer to open­ing up its first Alphav­ille loca­tion. At least our new com­puter over­lords will be nice enough to serve us a Filet-o-Fish. Maybe they’ll even throw in an iPad with the Happy Meal one of these days.

Another thing this solves, a cashier mis­hear­ing your order.  Oh, they might still screw it up in the “Putting the food on your tray” phase, but most of the times you don’t have to hear “What was that again sir?” when you’re stand­ing in line get­ting your order taken.

No com­ment from SEIU, or whether they will go full Lud­dite in Europe and destroy the machines by force with ham­mers and other means.

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