Your Voice, Your Choice
OPEIU Local 39
August 2016
Labor and the Courts

The summer season is winding down, but that only means that the political season is heating up. At the end of July, both major parties had their conventions and the presidential race is set. One important question in the race is whether or not the next president will be a friend to Labor.

Labor-friendly courts play a huge role in whether or not there will even be a labor movement! Below, we'll look at how a future Supreme Court might curtail the right of Unions to even exist, and then we discuss how recent court rulings may affect November's election and Voter ID.

Unions and the Supreme Court
Guaranteeing the Right to Organize for the Next Decade
How will the coming presidential election affect Labor and the ability of Unions to be a voice for working people? We've seen in Wisconsin, with Act 10 and the so-called "Right to Work" laws, that a government that is inimical to the rights of working people can cause great damage to the Labor movement. Can the same happen at the Federal level?

The short answer is YES! A case that went all the way to the Supreme court last spring concerned the ability of public-sector Unions to collect fees from those who benefited from collective bargaining but didn't want to pay. A ruling against the Unions would have destroyed public sector unions across the country.

But the court ruled 4-4, which upheld the lower court's ruling in favor of Unions. The tie came about only because Justice Scalia was not there to vote against Labor. 

Closer to home, lawsuits challenging the Wisconsin and West Virginia versions of the so-called "right to work" laws will no doubt eventually make their way to the Supreme Court. Another case concerns a Department of Labor ruling that closed a loophole that has allowed employers to hire union-busting consultants and attorneys in secret. The ruling simply said that Unions had to be apprised of such coordinated activities. But the ruling has been blocked by a Texas court and will also be working its way up the judicial ladder.

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These and other court cases impacting the Labor movement in the US will be decided by who gets appointed to the Supreme Court over the next few years, especially as Scalia's seat remains open and it looks like it won't be filled until after the election.

Labor-friendly reforms by the current Democratic president may be in jeopardy after November depending on which party wins the White House. Department of Labor rulings such as the expanded eligibility for overtime pay and the new Fiduciary rule that impacts retirement savings are already facing lawsuits that will likely be challenged all the way up to the Supreme Court. Who fills Scalia's open seat plus any other vacancies over the next four years will profoundly impact Unions and workers, even after we've retired.

So how do we choose? It's a personal choice, of course, and will be made based on many criteria. The most recent ruling that allowed public sector Unions to even exist only came about because the Court's most extreme conservative wasn't there to vote against Labor. The Republican nominee for president has said : "The replacement for Justice Scalia will be a person of similar views and principles." In other words, someone hoping to see the end of organized Labor.
Voter ID: Some Sections Unconstitutional
Earlier this month, US District Judge James Peterson ruled that the state must "quickly issue credentials valid for voting to anyone trying to obtain a free photo ID for voting but lack the underlying documents such as birth certificates to obtain one. The state’s current process for getting free IDs to people who lack such documents, Peterson wrote, is unconstitutional and 'a wretched failure' because it has left a number of overwhelmingly black and Hispanic citizens unable to obtain IDs."  

Some parts of his ruling he stayed almost immediately while others still stand, making the voting situation in Wisconsin unclear. What the ruling does show is that the efforts to disenfranchise certain categories of voters to prevent non-existent voter fraud is far from settled.
A Federal Judge has removed limits on absentee voting
Judge Peterson further ruled that the way the Wisconsin Legislature limited in-person absentee voting unfairly targeted black and Latino voters. "'The Legislature’s objective was political,' Peterson wrote. 'Republicans sought to maintain control of state government. But the methods that the Legislature chose to achieve that involved suppressing the votes of Milwaukee’s residents, who are disproportionately African-American and Latino.'"

The judge's ruling has been appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the 7th District.

This challenge to the law does NOT change the need to have a voting-valid ID at the polls. If you haven't voted since the last Presidential election, you need to make sure that you have an ID that will allow you to cast a vote in this election. 
In the last newsletter, we incorrectly stated that changes to the Retirement Services area had been announced before CEO Trunzo's June 15th All Staff Forum. That was not accurate. Neither the Union nor the Retirement Operations area were notified of changes until June 21st. We regret the error.

Held at the Union Office

This is the IBEW Union Building: 701 Watson Ave, Madison WI 53713

We meet in the conference room one floor up from our Local's offices.

PS - Membership Meeting THIS Week!
The Union succeeds through everyone's efforts. Please join us this week, August 17th at 5:30 PM.

  • Unit Updates
  • Financial Updates
  • Updates on issues at CMFG

CMFG announced further layoffs last week affecting Members in various departments. Come to the meeting to discuss this on-going issue.

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

August 17th, 2016
November 16, 2016
February 15th, 2017
May 18th, 2017

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