Your Voice, Your Choice
OPEIU Local 39
February 2017
A History Lesson

Our voices are being heard, and you have another chance to have yours count this week. The President's nominee for Labor Secretary withdrew last week and below we take a quick look at the history of the Department of Labor and why that withdrawal is an important win, even as a new nominee has been named.

We'll take a look at news around the Local and remember, tomorrow is another election day, with local races and the State Superintendent of Education primary. Get out and vote! Make yours a voice for labor and make that voice heard.

Government and Labor
Union Fish
President William Howard Taft signed the bill that created the Department of Labor on his last day in office in 1913. After nearly half a century of pressure from Labor groups to get a voice in the cabinet, they finally had one. Was the Department to focus on business owners? CEOs?

" In the words of the organic act, the Department's purpose is 'to foster, promote and develop the welfare of working people, to improve their working conditions, and to enhance their opportunities for profitable employment.'"

In other words, the Labor Department was created with the express purpose of helping those who work for a living. President Wilson understood this and appointed William B. Wilson, one of the founders of the United Mine Worker's Union as the first Secretary of Labor.

While the creation of the Labor Department was a good first step, it took the National Labor Relations Act before a worker's freedom to join a Union was actually protected. The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project summed it up well:

"Reversing years of federal opposition to organized labor, the statute guaranteed the right of employees to organize, form unions, and bargain collectively with their employers.... The act also created a new National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to arbitrate deadlocked labor-management disputes, guarantee democratic union elections, and penalize unfair labor practices by employers."

After the NLRA was signed into law in 1937, and employers no longer had the ability to fire workers for trying to join a union, Union Membership surged. As mentioned above, a Board was created as part of the act to " give teeth" to the new right to collectively bargain and ensuring that both Labor and Management follow the law. There are five members appointed to the board, each with a five year term.

Unions during World War II had agreed to wage freezes and limited strikes as part of their concession to the war effort. Once the war was over, however, Unions rightfully wanted their share of peacetime prosperity. A wave of general strikes in 1947, while peaceful, showed the strength of the labor movement.
But 1947 also brought with it a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, some 250 anti-union bills,  and the desire to undo the New Deal. The Taft-Hartley act passed by that Republican Majority was called by Labor leaders "a 'slave labor' bill and 28 Democratic members of Congress declared it a 'new guarantee of industrial slavery.'" One of the provisions of Taft-Hartley was the ability to create so-called "Right to work" laws.

We are again facing an administration that will try to use the Department of Labor against those who labor for a living. Andrew Puzder, who until last Wednesday had been the President's pick for Secretary of Labor, had "nothing but contempt for everything the Labor Department stands for," according to AFSCME President Lee Saunders.

However, Puzder withdrew after intense push back from Labor, Democrats, and others. This is a big win for workers, for with his second nomination, President Trump may have gotten the message.

Alexander Acosta has had Labor-related experience as a member of the NLRB and "deserves serious consideration" according to the AFL-CIO. However, his appointment isn't without controversy. His tenure in the Justice department was known for blatant politicization, among other things

Just like in 1947, with a Republican majority in both houses, we're seeing a wave of anti-worker bills being put forward. Bills against paying prevailing wage, bills to allow the firing of workers with pro-union sympathies, even a national "right to work" bill is being presented.

All working people will have to stay active and get their voices heard as this president's nominees go through the process. This President will also be making appointments to the NLRB, where he's poised to put his people into positions of power on a  board that ruled against him in the past

It's important to remind our elected politicians that the Department of Labor had been created to benefit workers and not to quietly accept unqualified or hyper-partisan people in leadership positions. Protesters have been showing up at Town Hall meetings, last week saw both a "Day Without Immigrants" planned for the 16th and another group calling for a "General Strike" for the 17th.

We've seen that dogged, determined action can impact the decisions of those in Washington. If the many groups agitating for a voice come together, great things may yet be accomplished.
Vote in Tuesday's Primary
Tuesday, February 21st, voters go to the polls for several local races as well as for voting in the Superintendent of Schools primary.

This race has already seen controversy, with questionable side deals and displays of poor judgment. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Education Association Council recommends the incumbent Tony Evers for another term.
Other News Around the Union
Tentative Agreement Reached for Aspirus Riverview Hospital!
We have a tentative agreement at Aspirus  Riverview hospital. Members will be able to review a summary of the tentative agreement and will be voting on the contract soon.  A big thank-you to the stewards on the bargaining team, Noreen Adams, Linda Sipe and Suzanne Berg for all their hard work!
An OPEIU Facebook Page for the Madison Community
OPEIU now has a Facebook page for the community. For several years now, we've had a members-only Facebook page, but the Local recently added one for the public. We developed the public page to promote unions, our union in particular, and the positive aspects that unions bring to the workplace. Check out the link below.
Our Executive Board
Our Executive Board is made up of Union members just like you. There are eight positions, with the terms expiring at different times so that we can have a mixture of new and experienced members at any one time. In November, four terms had expired and the Board put out the notice in the newsletter that nominations were open for any Member who would like to have a chance of contributing to the Executive Board.

At that meeting, those who had been in the seats expressed interest in continuing in those roles. No other Member expressed an interest in joining the Board at that time. Given that there were no contested seats, the Board accepted the nomination of those present. (In last month's Newsletter, I had copied over text from the previous membership meeting which implied that the nominations were still open. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused and for the delay in getting the results to you).

Your Local 39 Executive Board is:
  • President – Kathryn Bartlett-Mulvihill
  • Recording Secretary – Kelsey Hahn
  • Trustee 2 – Nancy Dietzman-Mills
  • Trustee 3 – Alex Wollangk
  • Vice President – Michael Pionke
  • Secretary-Treasurer – Lori Richardson
  • Trustee 1 – vacant (formerly Phil Miller who recently resigned from his position at CMG)
  • Member-At-Large – Debi Eveland

Please note, there is now one open seat. If you would like to add your voice to those making a difference in our Union, please contact the Union office.

Membership meetings are held the third Wednesday of the second month of the quarter, at 5:30 PM in the Union Office.

May 18th, 2017
August 16th, 2017
November 15, 2017
February 21st, 2018

This is your Union. Your participation gives us the strength to face the continued opposition of both companies and politicians.
Unions = Gym Membership
Know Your Weingarten Rights!
The US Supreme Court has ruled that the National Labor Relations Act gives workers the right to request union representation during investigatory interviews by supervisors, security personal, and other managerial staff.  These are called Weingarten Rights.
An investigatory interview occurs if 1) management questions you to obtain information; and 2) you have reasonable apprehension that your answers could be used as a basis for discipline or other adverse action.
You must ask for union representation either before or during an investigatory interview.  Management does not have to remind you of this right.  If your request is refused and Management continues asking questions, you may refuse to answer.  Your employer is guilty of an unfair labor practice and charges may be filed.  If you are questioned in a situation where Weingarten may apply, read or present this statement:

"If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at this meeting. Until my representative arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion."
Local 39 Union Offices
701 Watson Ave
Ste 102
Madison WI 53713