Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

8 Recall Petitions Filed In Wisconsin

Courthouse News Service reported that 8 recall petitions have been filed in Wisconsin (5 with respect to Republicans and 3 Democrats) and more are expected. Democrats need to pickoff 3 Republicans to gain control of the Chamber. 

This is certainly an important development and something worth keeping an eye on.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

May 1, 2011 in Unions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Breaking News Judge Enjoins NFL Lockout

A federal judge recently issued an injunction ending the lockout impose

d by the NFL. Details here.                    Mitchell Rubinstein

 

 

April 26, 2011 in Unions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Indiana bill restricting teacher collective bargaining rights clears state senate, goes to governor

A bill to restrict Indiana teachers’ collective bargaining rights has cleared its final legislative hurdle, and has been sent to Gov. Mitch Daniels for his signature, reports Bloomberg Businessweek. The Indiana Senate voted 30-19 in favor of a House-passed version of the bill, which would prohibit contracts between school districts and teachers’ unions from including anything other than wages and wage-related benefits. The limits would affect contract agreements between districts and unions for teachers and any other school employees, such as bus drivers, custodians and nurses, starting July 1, 2011. 

Bloomberg Businessweek, 4/19/11, By Deanna Marti

April 25, 2011 in Unions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Interesting NYT article about AFSCME President McEntee

Countering the Siege is another excellent New York Times article by Steven Greenhouse. Students of the labor movement will certainly want to read it. It is about Gerald McEntee, a name that you do not hear very often in the news, but Mr. McEntee heads one of the most powerful public sector unions in the country, AFSCME with 1.2 million members.

AFSCME is also under attack in several states, including Wisconsin which makes for some difficult times, to say the least.  As the article states: 

In Wisconsin and Ohio, Republican lawmakers argued that public sector unions had grown too powerful and that it was vital to weaken public employees’ bargaining rights, so as to give state and local governments flexibility to help erase their budget deficits. In what is largely a decentralized union, Mr. McEntee is doing his utmost to serve as national field marshal, strategist and megaphone for the counterattack.

He sent money to Wisconsin to help fight Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union legislation, initially to mount the huge protests in Madison before the law was enacted and more recently to try to elect a labor-friendly Supreme Court justice and gather signatures to recall eight Republican state senators who voted for the law.

Mr. McEntee has also been pouring resources into Ohio to promote a statewide referendum to overturn that state’s new anti-bargaining law.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

April 18, 2011 in Unions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Airport Security Personnel Are Expected To Form Union

Steven Greenhouse, Labor Reporter, for the New York Times wrote an interesting article on the unionization of airport security screeners on April 15, 2011, here. The major point of the article is that even though public sector workers are under attack, these workers are likely to vote in favor of unionzation. As the article states:

By next Tuesday, the screeners, employees of the Transportation Security Administration, are to finish casting their votes on whether to unionize. Almost everyone agrees that they will choose to do so.

That may seem surprising when so many public employee unions are being forced into wage freezes and paying more toward health coverage and pensions, and when they have become the target of widespread public criticism. Many Republican leaders say public employees should not be allowed to bargain collectively, asserting that it pushes up costs for taxpayers and impedes management’s flexibility. What is more, they warn, letting airport screeners unionize could jeopardize national security if strikes and work slowdowns crippled airports and resulted in inadequate security checks.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

 

April 17, 2011 in Unions | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Information and Copies of Legal Documents Concerning Wisconsin Union Busting Law

The Wheeler Report contains copies of documents concerning the Wisconsin Union Busting law, i.e, known by the Tea Party as the Budget Repair Bill. This is a wonderful resource where you can find copies of the pleadings, briefs and court decisions. Researchers will find this cite of great assistance.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

April 16, 2011 in Current Events, Unions, Websites, Faculty, Websites, Lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Judicial report to New Jersey Supreme Court concludes governor’s cuts to school funding unconstitutional

Reportedly, a report from Bergen County Superior Court Judge Peter Doyne concludes state aid cuts have left school districts across New Jersey unable to provide a constitutionally mandated “thorough and efficient” education, especially for the state’s poorer students. Doyne was appointed by the state supreme court to determine the constitutionality of Governor Chris Christie’s cuts in financial aid to the state’s public schools. It is now left to the supreme court to decide what, if anything, to do with the report’s conclusions. 

NorthJersey.com, 3/22/11, By Patricia Alex and John Reitmeyer

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

April 3, 2011 in Education Law, Law Review Ideas, Unions | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Breaking News-Wisconsin Union Busting Law Enjoined Again

The Washington Post just reported that a Wisconsin Judge again enjoined Wisconsin from putting into law a state statute which dramatically curtails the rights of public employees to organize and bargain collectively, here.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

March 29, 2011 in Law Review Ideas, Unions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 21, 2011

New York Lower Court Effectively Rejects Labor Union Privilege

As readers to this blog know, I wrote a law review article on whether a labor union privilege is developing ,here.  This is an area of law where there is relatively little authority and which is still developing. That is why each case is significant. As I pointed out in the article, New York has recognized a labor union privilege which protects confidential communications between a union member and a union officer concerning labor relations matters. 

Matter of Suffolk Co. Ethics Commission, ___Misc. 3d____, 2010 NY Slip Op 20418 (Suffolk Co. Oct. 9, 2010), effectively rejected this privilege at least with respect to an EMPLOYEE of the union and union members. Why? The court reasoned that the leading case in this area, Seelig v. Shepard, 152 Misc. 2d 699 (N.Y. Co. 1991), dealt with communications between members.

The courts logic is difficult to comprehend. A labor relations privilege is designed to protect confidential labor relations information and it should make no difference whether the discussion with the union is being held with other union members or union employees. The policy reasons behind this privilege (to encourage open and frank debate and to not chill union activity) remain the same. The court also confused the notion of a privilege (which prevents a union member from having to disclose conversations via a subpoena) with the notion of a Improper Practice under the Taylor Law which makes it unlawful for the employer to pry into internal labor relations strategy that a union may have formulated.

I hope this decision is appealed.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein 

March 21, 2011 in New York Law, Unions | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Resolution Introduced In House Supporting Unions

Rep. Edwards (D. Maryland) introduced a resolution supporting unions. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D. D.C.) introduced that resolution with the following statement:

Today, I rise in advance of leading a special order this evening, to offer a resolution supporting the rights of all workers, including federal employees and other public employees, and calling for an end to attacks on their ability to organize and to collectively bargain.  There are only a few salient rights recognized by every democracy, such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech, and on that list always appears the right for workers to organize in order to bargain collectively with an employer.  It has long been recognized that individual workers have little, if any, bargaining power sitting alone with an employer who has hired or could hire her.  When unions organize workers, the ground becomes more level and economic conditions decide the outcome.

            Mr. Speaker, the American labor movement has been a major catalyst for the formation of a majority middle class in the United States by leading the way for improvements for all workers, which unions gain through collective bargaining.  I ask the House to join me in recognizing the value of one of America's union movement and those who work for a living in the public and private sectors.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

March 20, 2011 in Unions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Resolution Introduced In House Supporting Unions

Rep. Edwards (D. Maryland) introduced a resolution supporting unions. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton 9D. D.C.) introduced that resolution with the following statement:

Today, I rise in advance of leading a special order this evening, to offer a resolution supporting the rights of all workers, including federal employees and other public employees, and calling for an end to attacks on their ability to organize and to collectively bargain.  There are only a few salient rights recognized by every democracy, such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech, and on that list always appears the right for workers to organize in order to bargain collectively with an employer.  It has long been recognized that individual workers have little, if any, bargaining power sitting alone with an employer who has hired or could hire her.  When unions organize workers, the ground becomes more level and economic conditions decide the outcome.

            Mr. Speaker, the American labor movement has been a major catalyst for the formation of a majority middle class in the United States by leading the way for improvements for all workers, which unions gain through collective bargaining.  I ask the House to join me in recognizing the value of one of America's union movement and those who work for a living in the public and private sectors.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

March 20, 2011 in Unions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

March 25, 2011 marks the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire where 146 people mostly immigrant Jews and Italians who worked in a locked sweat shop lost their lives. Additional coverage, here. The building still stands today in Washington Square, NYC. The building is currently owned by NYU. 

What is significant about this fire is that it gave birth the modern labor movement. There is an excellent HBO documentary that will be showing March 21st and cermonies all week. 

With what is going on in Wisconsin, I can not help, but to be fearful that some of us may be forgeting about history as well as the importance of unions. 

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

March 20, 2011 in Unions | Permalink | Comments (1)

HBO Film on Triangle Shirt Waist Fire

This Monday, March 21, 2011 at 9 pm HBO is airing a movie about the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory fire which, as you know, gave birth to the modern labor movement. (It will also be aired at other times). I saw excerpts played at the NYS Bar Assoc Labor and Employment Law annual meeting and it looked excellent. I thought you might be interested in watching.

Workers United (formerly ILGWU) is also having a number of events this Friday, March 25th (the 100th anniversary) in Washington Square Park, NYC which is where the fire occurred. The building still stands and is owned by NYU. Unfortunately, I have a hearing-otherwise I would be there.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein 

March 20, 2011 in Unions | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Breaking News Copy of Decision Enjoining Wisconsin Union Busting Bill

Unless you have be living under a bus, by now you have heard that a lower court judge enjoined the enforcement of the union busting bill that was signed into law by Wisconsin Gov. Walker. The decision is Wisconsin v. Fitzgerald, (March 18, 2011) and can be downloaded here Download Wisconsin v. Fitzgerald (March 18, 2011)

The decision was based upon the following langague in the Open Meeting Law. 

“Public notice of every meeting of a governmental body shall be given at least 24 hours prior to the commencement of such meeting unless for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical, in which case shorter notice may be given, but in no case may the notice be provided less than two hours in advance of the meeting.”

There is no primary authority in Wisconsin interpreting this language. The decision by Judge Sumi is a bit disappointing to me. It is only 8 double spaced pages long and appears and reads like a speech. No doubt that this case is going to the Wisconsin Supreme Court so I am surprised that the decision was not more scholarly. 

However, this does not mean that the Judge was wrong or that the decision should be reversed. While the decision does not do a good job in documenting the facts, if less than 2 hours notice were given then the court's decision is clearly correct and ultimately the legislation will be declared void. Even if 2 hour notice were given, it seems that there is also a strong argument that 24 hours notice still should have been given. I fail to understand how it would have been "impractical" to give shorter notice.

Therefore, my view is that at the end of the day this decision will be upheld on appeal even though it could have been written in a more scholarly fashion.

More interesting to me is whether Gov. Walker will give up the fight on this Bill and simply pass another. My guess is that he will not because he does not want to admit that he was wrong-very wrong.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein 

 

March 19, 2011 in Law Review Ideas, Public Sector Labor Law, Unions | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

More On Public Sector Union Busting. Ohio Wants To Designate Prof.'s As Managerial Employees

Joe Hodnecki, over at Law Librarian Blog follows up on a posting I did on Union Busting in Wisconsin and elsewhere.  Joe points out that a proposal in Ohio would designate professors as managerial employees. Joe does not  view this as union busting per se, but an attempt to deal with economic realities. 

With respect Joe, that is laughable. Collective bargaining has been working in Ohio for years. If it is about economics, then the Governor should seek concessions from the unions to deal with those tough economic issues. Tenure rights are not collective bargaining rights. Additionally, if there were not a union to protect tenure and provide representation when necessary, that right could be marginalized. 

In terms of calling professors managerial employees. That is an obvious attempt to apply Yeshiva private sector principles to the public sector. But that is like comparing apples to organges. A public university is not an independent institution. It is financed by the state and subject to state policies. While I am not familar with Ohio law, my bet is that the legislature sets the tutition as well as tenure issues. While the profs may be managers over the students, they are not the managers of the university. Therefore, the Supreme Court's 1980 Yeshiva University case should have no application-unless of course it is put their by legislation. That is why I believe this proposed legislaation is another example of union busting period. 

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

March 5, 2011 in Public Sector Labor Law, Unions | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Using Social Media Sites To Organize Woman and Younger Workers

Readers may find that a recent report, by the Labor Project for Working Families, Cornell ILR Programs and University of California Berkeley Labor Center interesting. This report  includes highlights of interviews with 23 organizers about how they use new social media tools and work-and-family issues in organizing campaigns. It also includes recommendations that may help unions strengthen their relationships with women and young workers.  The  Executive Summary is available as is the Full Report.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

February 16, 2011 in Articles, Unions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Union Membership Continues To Decline

The BLS just released its annual satistics on unionization rates in this country and if you believe in unions the numbers are not good in the private sector. 6.9% of the private sector workforce is unionized while 36.2% of the public sector is unionized. Never-the-less, these stats also show that unionized workers continue to earn more than non-union workers. An analysis of union stats can be found here.  

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

Hat Tip: Workplace Prof Blog

January 23, 2011 in Unions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Labor Union For Porn Stars?

Inside These Times reports that an apparent well known porn star named Jenna Jameson is calling for the creation of a union for porn stars. Her reasoning appears to be serious-to stop the spread of AIDS. One porn start was recently infected. The article reports that in 2004 a different porn star was infected and passed AIDS to 3 of his 14 partners. 

Jameson's logic is that with a union, porn stars would more likely report unsafe sex practices to California OSHA which has apparently imposed mandatory rules prohibiting unprotected sex. 

As readers know, I am a strong proponent of unions, but I cannot see how forming a multi-employer union will result in safer sex practices. Frankly, a lawsuit by infected porn stars against the employers for allowing this practice to continue would be more effective. If porn stars want to form a union to organize such a suit or to better their terms and conditions of employment, then unionization may be a good idea. 

Only in California!

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

October 20, 2010 in Unions | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Marijuana Workers Join Teamsters Union

The Scramento Bee reported on September 20, 2010 via an AP story that 40 Marijuana workers voted to join the Teamsters Union. Apparently, they did more than vote to join the union as the employer has recognized the union in that it agreed to increase wages from 18 dollars per hour to almost 26 dollars per hour over a 15 month period. 

As I recall, it is still a crime under federal law to sell Marijuana whether it is used for medical purposes or not. However, the feds are not enforcing that law, at least in California when the Marijuana is being used for medical purposes. An interesting legal issue would arise with respect to the role of federal law (NLRA) in such circumstances if these employers are subject to the NLRA. Significantly, however, these employees are probably not protected under the NLRA as the NLRA excludes agriculatural workers from its protection. 

However, in Calfornia, such workers are protected under state law which created an administrative agency called the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board. I believe that this agency will protect these workers.  

Only in California!

Mitchell H. Rubinstein 

  

September 20, 2010 in Oddly Enough, Legal, Unions | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Union awarded $165,000.50: fifty cents in damages plus $165,000 for attorney fees

Local 32B-32J, SEIU v Port Authority, USDC SDNY 96 CIV 1438

Although Locals 32B and 32J won only fifty cents in damages after refusing a settlement offer of $50,000, they were awarded attorney fees and court costs totaling more than $165,000.

Why? Because the unions were the “prevailing parties” in their challenge to picketing restrictions imposed on them by the New York-New Jersey Port Authority. The unions contended that these restrictions constituted unlawful restrictions on their right to free speech.

Reprinted with permission New York Public Personnel Law

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

August 17, 2010 in First Amendment, Unions | Permalink | Comments (0)