Matt Patterson

Meet Julius.

Julius is an African American man living in modern-day America. Julius is a fictitious character, but the problems he faces are real problems that real people face every day. He wants the American Dream. He wants prosperity and opportunity. He wants his kids to have a better life than he did. When he retires, he wants to know that his years of hard work have meant some level of comfort in his old age.

In other words, Julius wants what all of us want.

Unfortunately, his economic hopes are continually frustrated in ways both large and small, both obvious and subtle, by a powerful force: labor unions.

In a new CEI video production, an animated film called “The Life of Julius,” we see how he is affected by the laws and regulations supported by unions at every turn of his working life.

As a young man entering the job market for the first time, for example, Julius finds the job pool artificially shrunk in part by minimum wage laws (vigorously promoted by unions for decades), laws that drive up the cost of business and kill thousands of entry-level jobs.

Later in life, as a homeowner in his 40′s, Julius is faced with the imminent prospect of sending one of his children to college. But for a whole host of reasons, labor unions have conspired to leave Julius with less take-home pay, limiting his ability to pay for his daughter’s education, as well as provide for food and vacations.

And on and on it goes, right up to and including his retirement at age 64 (I won’t spoil the end for you).

The point is this: people may not realize it, but labor unions have a stranglehold on the economy in hundreds of ways that affect every single worker, whether they are union members or, like Julius, never belong to a union in their entire life.

Julius just wants the best for him and his family, like all of us. Unfortunately, the best that Julius can do is not nearly as good as it could be, thanks in large part to the pernicious influence of labor unions.

Please come see Julius’s story at WorkplaceChoice.org, and share with your friends and family. After all — you are Julius. And so are we all.

On Friday, April 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act, a laudable attempt to rein in President Obama’s unconstitutionally staffed — and therefore illegitimate — National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act (HR 1120) requires the NLRB to “cease all activity that requires a three member quorum” in an attempt to bring some sense of order to a labor market thrown into chaos by a Board comprised of unconstitutional appointees issuing hundreds of now questionable rulings.

Before the vote, the Competitive Enterprise Institute had released a statement urging members to support the bill, explaining:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has unanimously held President Obama’s three so-called ‘recess appointments’ to the NLRB were unconstitutional. The legitimacy of every ruling the NLRB has made since January of last year is therefore in question, throwing even more uncertainty on a business community already plagued by high tax and regulatory burdens. H.R 1120 is not only a good idea but absolutely necessary to help bring stability and to preserve the integrity of the U.S. Constitution.

“I am pleased the House passed this important legislation,” said bill sponsor Phil Roe (R-Tenn), chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions.

See the WorkplaceChoice legislative scorecard here to see how your representative voted (under RC 101). Read more about the bill here.

This week Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell struck a little heralded — but much needed — blow for privacy rights in the Old Dominion by signing two key bills: House Bill 1385, the “Secret Ballot Protection Act,” and House Bill 1931, the “KEEP Secure Act: Keep Employees Emails and Phones Secure Act.”

The “Secret Ballot Protection Act” will provide, according to legislation summary, that:

[I]n any procedure providing for the designation, selection, or authorization of a labor organization to represent employees, the right of an individual employee to vote by secret ballot is a fundamental right that shall be guaranteed from infringement.

A secret ballot is, of course, a cornerstone of the democratic process, and absolutely vital to ensuring elections free of intimidation and coercion — which explains why organized labor has so bitterly opposed secret ballot provisions, preferring insetad so-called “card check” laws whereby, as we put it in a previous OpenMarket post, “new unions can be formed with signatures from only a majority of a company’s employees on a card which union officials kindly bring right to your door.”

Unions will equally loathe the “KEEP Secure Act,”which will ensure that employers cannot be forced to share private information about current or former employees to “a third party…unless required by federal law, state law, court order, warrant issued by a judicial officer, subpoena, or discovery.” This, too, will make it harder for labor leaders to intimidate workers into joining a union.

Both bills had been championed by spearheaded by Delegate Barbara Comstock, who said in a statement:

The signing of the Governor of these bills is a victory for the rights of workers and for protecting employees in the workplace.

Indeed. Kudos to Comstock for her tireless efforts on behalf of worker freedom, and kudos to the governor for joining her in the fight.

Poor Bob King.

Perhaps no other union leader presides over an organization in such stark decline as the United Auto Workers. At its peak in 1979, the UAW boasted a membership of 1.5 million. Today, by its own admission, it boasts a mere 390,000. And Michigan’s newly passed right-to-work law almost certainly will make it harder for the union to both retain existing members and recruit new ones.

The dire demography explains why the UAW is desperate to organize in the so-called “transnational” automakers – foreign companies whose manufacturing plants are largely scattered throughout the low-tax, low-regulation – and less-unionized — southern states. King is not shy about admitting as much:

We’ve got very aggressive campaigns going on at the transnationals. We know that’s key long-term to the success of our membership and the long-term security of our membership.

The latest chapter in this long and ignoble tale: King is accusing management at Nissan’s plant in Canton, Miss.,  of threatening staffers with dismissal if they dare let the UAW in their shop. “They’re threatening workers there that they’re going to close the plant, and that’s baloney,” he raged, adding that the poor Nissan workers are “being lied to by the American management. The American management violates workers’ rights every day.” Specifically, he claims management has violated the labor standards set by the International Labor Organization, the United Nations Global Compact and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), among others.

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Post image for “Color” Them Bad: Restaurant Shakedown Group Suddenly An Expert On Ethics

There’s a hilarious sketch in the comedy show “Portlandia” that features a painfully liberal couple attempting to order a meal in a restaurant. Unfortunately, their earnest desire to be politically correct in all things thwarts their efforts as they barrage the flummoxed waitress with a flurry of questions about the food on offer:

Is the chicken organic? Is that U.S.D.A. organic, Oregon organic, or Portland organic? How big is the area where the chickens are able to roam free?

And on and on…

The sketch, like the show, is a good-natured ribbing of left-wing concerns, a reductio ad absurdum of the liberal mind. Unfortunately, as so often happens, real life threatens to out-satirize even the best satire, as The Huffington Post brings us news guaranteed to warm the hearts of Portandia’s socially concerned couple:

Following their mission to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s restaurant workforce, ROC — the Restaurant Opportunity Centers — have launched the ROC National Diner’s Guide to Ethical Eating, a yearly publication that puts labor issues at the forefront. The rating criteria include wages, benefits (including health insurance and sick days), and opportunities for professional advance and internal promotions.

To assist in this mission, Clay Ewing, an assistant professor at the University of Miami, has teamed up with ROC to create a mobile app that, in Ewing’s words, “…allows customers to make a decision on their restaurant based off of different decisions rather than just the food.” The app ranks restaurants in five categories, including whether or not they offer paid sick leave, and whether they provide a “suitable” living wage (whatever that means).

But wait a minute: Just what is a “Restaurant Opportunity Center,” and who are they to rate eateries?

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Post image for “Right-To-Work” Train Rolls On: Next Stop, Pennsylvania?

The earthquake that was Michigan’s right-to-work law has produced a number of interesting aftershocks, not least of which is the right-to-work rumbling in Pennsylvania where lawmakers (guided by Rep. Daryl Metcalf) have introduced legislation called “Pennsylvania Open Workforce Initiative,” aimed at ending compulsory unionism.

The initiative actually consists of a number of bills, including:

  • House Bill 50, The Freedom of Employment Act, under which “employment in Pennsylvania will no longer be conditional upon membership or non-union membership, nor upon payment or non-payment of money to a labor organization”;
  • House Bill 51, which “would remove the language [of current law] that gives a public school entity the ability to collect compulsory union dues from non-members and return the Right to Work protections that were present in the original bargaining law of 1970″;
  • House Bill 52, which would “amend the administrative code of 1929 to eliminate the authority for imposing the ‘fair share fee’ for commonwealth employees and relieve certain employee organizations of specific duties and obligations”; and
  • House Bill 53, which would “would return the individual freedom of choice to all local government employees to decide for themselves which private organizations they wish to support by removing the compulsory language and preventing the collection of compulsory union dues.”

Metcalfe, a long-time and passionate advocate of right-to-work, acknowledges the economic benefits of such legislation. But more than that, he sees the issue as one of basic freedom:

The framers of our Constitution did not intend for our government to become an enforcer for unions. Working men and women should have the freedom to join a union if they choose and to leave that union when it is in their best interest to do so.

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Hard to believe, but even under the most union-friendly president since FDR, organized labor in America continues to shrink in numbers, popularity and influence.

The latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics are enough to give any union leader a Trumka-sized case of heartburn. Last year, the number of union members plummeted by about 400,000 workers, leaving a mere 14.4 million union members in the American workforce. The percentage of workers who belong to a union dropped from 11.8 to 11.3 percent in 2012, the lowest level in nearly a century.

(The loss hit unions representing workers in both the public and private sectors: the former declined from 37 to 35.9 percent; the latter from 6.9 to 6.6. percent.)

All of this under the watch of Barack Obama, who has labored mightily to repay his money masters with sympathetic appointees to an already labor-friendly National Labor Relations Board (appointments that have now been found unconstitutional), as well government bailouts to unions under the guise of “stimulus.”

And yet, the great union contraction continues. Indeed, as the Manhattan Institute’s Diana Furchtgott-Roth notes, unions have suffered as much erosion under four years of Obama as they did under eight years of George W. Bush.

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Post image for It’s Official: Obama’s NLRB Appointments Unconstitutional

From the Duh! files:

A federal appeals court has ruled that President Barack Obama violated the Constitution when he bypassed the Senate to fill vacancies on a labor relations panel.

The contested nominees, including Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, were appointed last January along with Richard Cordray as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The nominations were made without the “advice and consent” of the Senate, as prescribed by the Constitution in Article II, Section II:

[The President] shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to… nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law.

The administration, however, argued that the NLRB appointments were valid under the president’s powers to take such actions when the Senate is in recess. The problem: The Senate was not actually in “recess”at the time.

And so the three-judge panel has now found, in a decision that amounts to a stunning rebuke to Obama’s imperial overreach. After a long and careful examination of the history, legality, and definition of “recess” appointments, the court concluded in part:

In short, we hold that ‘the Recess’ is limited to intersession recesses. The Board conceded at oral argument that the appointments at issue were not made during the intersession recess: the President made his three appointments to the Board on January 4, 2012, after Congress began a new session on January 3 and while that new session continued…Considering the text, history, and structure of the Constitution, these appointments were invalid from their inception.

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It’s almost too beautiful to believe.

In this era of ever-expanding government power, of rising and risible rapacity in the federal Leviathan, can it really be the case that, on the state level, at least, significant victories for liberty are not only possible, but achieved and strengthened?

So it would seem, as the powerful government/union two-headed beast continues to reel from ferocious assault by bold governors in Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and elsewhere.

This last is perhaps most significant. Wisconsin, after all, was the birthplace of public-sector unionism in the United States; the powerful American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) can trace its origins back to the Badger State in 1932.

And yet, here Gov. Scott Walker successfully pushed a budget repair bill in 2011 in part designed to loosen the grip of public unions on the state’s purse strings, a grip that was driving up the cost of government to Wisconsin taxpayers.

And now a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court has given Walker’s reforms judicial imprimatur, rejecting complaints from seven public unions, including the Wisconsin Education Association Council, that Walker’s law violates the Equal Protection clause of the First Amendment. The editors of The Wall Street Journal summarize:

“The unions argued that Mr. Walker’s limits on collective bargaining, the requirements that a union be recertified each year by a majority of its members and the elimination of the payroll deduction of dues were illegal because they exempted cops and firefighters. Supposedly this amounts to discrimination by creating two categories of public employees. They also argued that the payroll deduction clause violates the First Amendment.”

Thankfully, the Seventh Circuit didn’t buy these arguments:

“The Equal Protection claims were first to go. The Seventh Circuit held that it was rational to fear a retaliatory strike from police and firemen that could endanger public safety, and thus the two-tier system protects a legitimate state interest.

As for the First Amendment, the court ruled that Wisconsin has no obligation to help unions fund political or other spending, in accord with a slew of Supreme Court and appeals court precedents.”

They say on the Internet Chuck Norris can do just about anything. But when it comes to putting important curbs on union power in one of the bluest, most union-friendly states in the nation, Gov. Walker seems able to give Chuck a run for his money.

It may not be enough to make Lafayette proud, but it’s good news all the same. The New York Times reports:

French labor unions and business leaders struck a deal on Friday to overhaul swaths of France’s notoriously rigid labor market, moving to tame some of the most confounding rules in the 3,200-page labor code as the country tries to increase its competitiveness and curb unemployment.

Representatives from three of the five powerful unions at the negotiating table, the Christian CFTC union, CFDT union, and the CFE-CGC union, all expressed confidence their organizations would approve the reform deal (the two holdouts, the notoriously radical CGT and FO unions, refuse to sign on), which includes real, substantive changes, including, “…giving employers more flexibility to reduce working hours in times of economic distress without incurring union strikes.” In addition:

High levels of compensation that courts can award to laid-off workers would be trimmed. The five-year period that former employees now have to contest layoffs would be reduced, a shift that Medef, France’s employers’ union, said would ‘reduce the fear of hiring’ by businesses.

Why so much change, and why now? French President François Hollande admitted France’s notoriously labyrinthine labor edifice – wholly designed and owned by  unions — have made it virtually impossible to do business in France. (Ergo, a 10.7 percent national unemployment rate; 25 percent for young people). And he’s right: In a passage that could be filed under “Too Ironic For Words,” the Times details how union-backed regulations stifle job creation and economic growth:

Under current labor rules, many entrepreneurs in France hesitate to hire large numbers of workers. Some employers even resort to operating several companies with no more than 49 employees each instead of running larger ones that employ hundreds. That is because after the 50th employee is hired, a stack of new regulations come into play, including long firing procedures even for underperforming employees and requirements for numerous union representatives.

(Apparently, The Grey Lady believes the laws of economics are different in the United States, where Times editors and writers have never met a regulation they didn’t love.)

When right-to-work passed last year in Michigan, a long-held union redoubt, many observers noted that it now seemed as if serious labor reform could happen anywhere.

It seems they were right.