Category Archives: AFSCME

Will the Supreme Court Ignore Pleading Rules in Janus?

Source: Andrew Strom, On Labor blog, September 7, 2017

Many Court watchers think it is a foregone conclusion that the Supreme Court will grant the cert petition in Janus v. AFSCME, and then overturn the forty-year old decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. While I’m not willing to bet against that, it’s worth noting that to reach that result the Court would need to ignore a series of recent cases requiring plaintiffs to plead facts rather than conclusory assertions….

….In recent years, the Supreme Court has made it easier for defendants in lawsuits to file motions to dismiss. In two cases, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the Court has stated that to survive a motion to dismiss “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” The Court has further explained that “[w]hile legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” When workers have sued their employers, lower courts have often relied on Twombly and Iqbal to dismiss the workers’ claims without allowing any discovery….

….When public employees have sued their employers, the Supreme Court has been quick to assert that it does not want to “constitutionalize the employee grievance.” Yet this seems to be exactly what Janus is asking the Court to do. Janus complains that he does not want to fund AFSCME’s actions as the bargaining agent for him and his fellow employees. But, undoubtedly the great bulk of any agency fees he objects to are spent on those very same employee grievances that the Court has said it does not want to “constitutionalize.” At a minimum, the Court should not allow conclusory pleadings in a bare-bones complaint to form the basis for a decision overturning long-settled law…..

Cab Drivers Union Says Chicago Taxi Industry Is Nearing Collapse

Source: Jeff Schuhrke, In These Times, June 13, 2017

….But with the introduction of Uber and other rideshare companies to the city—which can operate without the expensive, city-issued medallions—Aikins has seen his clientele plummet over the past three years, making it increasingly hard to keep up with his medallion loan payments.

Across the city, the number of taxi rides dropped from 2.29 million in January 2014 to 1.1 million in January 2017, according to a report released recently by Cab Drivers United, AFSCME Local 2500 (CDU). As a result, the average monthly income per medallion has fallen by $2,000 during the same time…..

….In addition to repaying loans on their medallions, taxi operators also have to pay thousands of dollars each year in city expenses, like the ground transportation tax and medallion license renewal fee—expenses that rideshare drivers are not subject to.

CDU says the number of rideshare vehicles in Chicago now exceeds 227,000, while 42 percent of the city’s taxis didn’t pick up a single passenger this March. The union stresses that the decline of the taxi industry is a loss for the broader public. Unlike most rideshare vehicles, taxis serve people without bank accounts by accepting cash, and they also have more stringent requirements on providing access to people with disabilities…..

Until Death Dues Us Part?

Source: Jim DeWan, Rockefeller Institute of Government, June 1, 2017

One of the most immediate impacts of Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court may be on a case that could have a major impact on public employee unions right here in New York.

CASE OVERVIEW
This case, Janus v. AFSCME, deals with state laws that allow public employee unions to automatically withhold fees or dues from all represented employees’ paychecks, even those who are not members of the union. The plaintiff in the case, Mark Janus, is an employee of the state of Illinois. He is suing his union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), because he believes the Illinois state law allowing AFSCME to deduct monies from his paycheck violates his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association. New York has a similar law on its books. Illinois and New York are two of 22 states that allow for arrangements under which all represented employees must make payments to a union as a condition of their employment, even if they affirmatively elect not to join the union….

The Entire Public Sector Is About to Be Put on Trial

Source: Naomi Walker, In These Times, Views, May 25, 2017

The Right’s assault on public-sector workers is an assault on the public sector itself.

Within the next year, the Supreme Court is likely to rule on the latest existential threat to workers and their unions: Janus v. AFSCME. Like last year’s Friedrichs v. CTA—a bullet dodged with Justice Antonin Scalia’s unexpected death—the Janus case is a blatant attack on working people by right-wing, moneyed special interests who want to take away workers’ freedom to come together and negotiate for a better life.
For years, the Right has been hammering through state-level “right-to-work” laws in an effort to kill public sector unionism; it would see victory in the Janus case as the coup de grace. ….

MLK’s Advice on Strike Strategy Still Relevant Today

Source: Rand Wilson, Labor Notes, January 18, 2017

…King’s strategic advice to the striking Memphis sanitation workers is still useful for workers seeking to improve their lives with direct action today:
– Once on strike, expand the struggle beyond the immediate company to its corporate allies and suppliers.
– Use boycotts and economic action to involve supporters.
– Transform the pain inflicted on strikers to pain inflicted on executives, board members, and investors.
– Be prepared to stay in the struggle one day longer with “dangerous unselfishness.”
– And perhaps most importantly, place the struggle in a larger context that challenges elected officials and government at every level to make America a better nation!

Time to Set New Priorities?

Source: José La Luz, New Labor Forum, Vol. 25 no. 3, September 2016
(subscription required)

I strongly disagree with Brother Richman’s assertion that the inadequate resources devoted to external organizing are the result of a conscious choice—strategic or tactical—made by labor leaders because they have opted instead to dedicate all or most of their union’s resources toward “winning better pay, working conditions, and rights for existing union members.”

It is entirely possible that many of these leaders have not even considered these two seemingly opposing priorities in the face of a sustained and escalating attack by corporate interests and their political allies. Many may simply be maneuvering to defend their unions by helping to elect a “friend” to the White House who could work with them to usher in a program of modest labor reforms and provide some needed oxygen to their embattled institutions.

It should be noted that although most unions are not spending enough on organizing, a few—such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)—have continued to spend on large-scale external organizing campaigns, such as efforts to organize home and child care workers or independent providers, and plants of foreign automakers in the south.

AFSCME’s Social Worker Overload: Digital media stories, union advocacy and neoliberalism

Source: Tara La Rose, Journal of Industrial Relations (JIR), Vol. 58 no. 4, September 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article presents a case study analysis of Social Worker Overload, a digital media story created by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and shared publicly using the social media site YouTube. This story uses worker testimonials to present a compelling story about the effects of neoliberalism on social care work in the field of child protection. This story illustrates how the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in Washington State uses ‘evidence based practice’ discourses to limit the forms of knowledge that may be utilized in discussions of work overload and work design within the child protection system. Through the creation and sharing of a digital media story about their experiences, the workers present narratives demonstrating how these and other elements of neoliberalism limit the workers’ capacity to actualize the potential benefits of professional social work. Finally, the analysis considers the process of worker advocacy using digital media practices, highlighting the roll that unions play in facilitating this type of resistance.

Twin Cities Unions Respond to Police Violence

Source: Alexandra Bradbury, Labor Notes, July 21, 2016

….Philando Castile, an African American man who was shot and killed by a police officer at a traffic stop July 6, was a member of Teamsters Local 320. The union issued a brief statement expressing grief over his death. It’s a public employees local, representing a handful of police officers—though not the one who killed him—as well as corrections officers, campus workers, city workers, bus drivers, and even public defenders, who often find themselves opposing police in court. The local hasn’t tried to engage members in protest, or even conversation, about racism or police violence. “Our union has traditionally not encouraged member dialogue on any issues—especially issues as complicated as the relationship between police officer union members and other union members,” said member Bob Kolstad….

….But other Twin Cities unions have been bolder. Hundreds of teachers, in town for their union convention, marched on July 19 to protest Castile’s killing; 21 were arrested. Last fall, members of AFSCME Local 3800 helped organize a rally, “Labor for Justice for Jamar,” after Minneapolis police shot and killed another African American man, Jamar Clark. Local 3800 represents clerical and technical workers at the University of Minnesota. President Cherrene Horazuk said many members there, too, had personal connections to Castile. Since his death the local has been encouraging members to attend protests and vigils—and to wear their union shirts, to show that this is a union issue. Horazuk said few members have opposed their local taking a stand. She believes one reason why is that, in its contract campaign, the union was already raising racial justice issues, such as the low wages of workers of color on campus, and Muslim workers’ fight to get religious holidays off. So, she said, “it doesn’t seem like it’s out of the blue.”…..

Internal Union Organizing Centered on Building Community

Source: Kris Rondeau, Negotiation Journal, Volume 31 Issue 4, October 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
….In our unions — the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), which represents support staff at Harvard University; the two State Healthcare and Research Employees’ (SHARE) union locals at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Healthcare and the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts; and the Union of Social Workers at the Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts — the process of forging a pre-negotiating consensus is more about continuous organizing to build friendships than it is about preparing internally to bargain with management.

Internally, a union is never done organizing. Organizing — that is, talking and listening — happens every day. The thousands of stories that members share help them build community and develop friendships that bridge the differences among us. Unions initiate these conversations so that we may understand each other deeply. Special interests or identity politics are diminished because bridges and friendships have been built…..

Bargaining for the Common Good

Source: Joseph A. McCartin, Dissent, Spring 2016

….Two things made the Minneapolis People’s Congress particularly significant. First, it signaled a deep alignment of community and labor organizations, a potentially potent melding of their interests, organizational energies, and agendas that went well beyond the merely transactional forms of coalition-making that we have often seen between labor and community organizations in the past. Unions did not merely enlist community groups to support their contract campaigns; instead unions and their allies built a common agenda from the ground up. Second, this extraordinary gathering was the most fully articulated example of a growing phenomenon: unions and community partners collaborating to challenge twenty-first century capitalism, reviving democracy and government integrity in the process….. But the Minneapolis gathering was more than simply another iteration of an oft-repeated union tradition. It represented something new, a conscious effort to tie union-community mobilization to the function that lies at the very heart of unionism: collective bargaining. Since the rise of a routinized collective-bargaining regime—first in the 1940s and ’50s in the private sector, and then in the 1960s and ’70s in the public sector—collective bargaining had come to mean a binary negotiation between unionized workers and their direct employers. Although unions repeatedly sought community allies, they never tried to enlist them in a common effort to break out of the employer-union binary and bargain together on behalf of workers and their communities. The Minneapolis effort is a significant step in that direction…..