Unions Allowed Back Into Utah’s Payroll System

Published April 1, 2008

Big Labor struck back against Utah’s Voluntary Contributions Act by convincing the state’s 10th Circuit Court unions have the right to collect political contributions of members through the state and local payroll systems.

Utah’s Voluntary Contributions Act of 2001 limited unions’ access to the state’s payroll system by allowing unions to collect only membership dues, not political contributions.

The Utah Education Association (UEA), Utah AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 1004, Utah School Employees Association, and Professional Firefighters of Utah bypassed the legislature by challenging the constitutionality of the issue in court.

Free Speech Ruling

The court ruled the law restricts protected political speech.

“This is another case of the courts protecting us against a legislature that is bent on suppressing the rights of a person and an organization to participate in the political process,” said Michael McCoy, general counsel for the UEA.

“Union bosses should not be allowed to use the public payroll system to generate private money to fund private political causes,” said Michael Reitz, legal counsel and director of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation Labor Policy Center.

“If an individual wishes to participate in the political process,” Reitz said, “he or she has the ability to send their contributions to their respective union. The state and local payroll system should not bear the burden to collect money for a private membership organization.”

Though the ruling was a major blow to labor policy reform in Utah, it will more than likely be challenged in the courts in the months to come.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune

Unionization Halted in Toyota Plant

Business owners who want to keep employees from joining unions might want to follow the model of Toyota in Georgetown, Kentucky, where workers have resisted union representation.

The experience at the Kentucky Toyota plant is one reason labor unions have been trying to persuade lawmakers to pass legislation friendly to their cause. Last year, for instance, unions applied strong pressure for the proposed federal Employee Free Choice Act, which would have allowed Big Labor to force employers to negotiate with them based on signed authorization cards.

The act would have deprived employees of their right to choose, in a secret ballot election, whether to have a union. The measure failed to make it through Congress, but unions are still pressuring for it.

Union Persistence

The United Auto Workers (UAW) has been trying to unionize the Toyota plant for the past 20 years, largely because of job cuts at U.S. automakers. Downsizing by U.S. automakers cut UAW membership 11 percent in 2005 and 3.4 percent in 2006.

“Fewer than 20 percent of Toyota workers would vote to join the UAW,” said Brian Howard, a former tax examiner who has been a Toyota employee for the past 17 years.

“The UAW knows they do not have and will never have the votes to win an election,” said Marvin Robbins, one of Howard’s co-workers. “So they want to take the rights of the workers away and not have an election.”

Toyota takes a proactive management approach to labor relations in the belief it can improve the company’s performance. Open lines of communication between workers and management have enabled Toyota to improve worker safety and employee morale. The company also offers competitive wages and benefits.

Source: “Toyota Workers Resist Unionization,” Saqui & Raimondo newsletter: http://www.srlaborlaw.com/labor-relations/toyota-workers-resist-unionization-1-21-2008.html

Colorado Tries to Ban Strikes

In late January, a Colorado House commission rejected the state’s first attempt since 1992 at banning strikes by public employees, but a much more limited alternative is still being considered. The legislature has not taken action on the bill so far.

State Rep. Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs) proposed banning strikes by all public employees in the state, including teachers and city workers. Instead, the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee voted 6-5 in favor of a measure introduced by state Rep. Jim Riesberg (D-Greeley) that bans strikes by state employees only.

“I had neither fear nor malice [toward employees] when I decided to bring this forward,” said Riesberg, who once helped to form a union in Greeley. “It was done only for the sake of clarity.”

The competing measures came in response to an executive order issued November 2, 2007 by Gov. Bill Ritter (D) giving state employee unions more bargaining power.

Ritter’s order banned strikes, but state Attorney General John Suthers (R) issued an opinion that the Colorado Supreme Court had upheld workers’ conditional right to strike, despite an old clause in state law prohibiting it.

Source: “Colorado House panel rejects ban on strikes by public workers,” Colorado Springs Gazette: http://www.gazette.com/articles/state_32361___article.html/house_strikes.html

Ryan Harriman ([email protected]) is a labor analyst at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Olympia, Washington.