Union Bosses Use Fast-Food Workers For Personal Gain

On April 15, the Service Employees International Union is organizing nationwide fast food worker strikes to draw attention to its push for a $15 hourly wage. While such protests may seem to be grassroots efforts led by struggling workers, major unions fund and promote them. Unions desperately need to extend their reach to the high-turnover fast food industry if they are to stem sharply declining membership rolls.

Unions often make contact and generate political activism from low-wage employees through what they call “worker centers,” which conduct activities similar to those of unions but with fewer legal restrictions and oversight. My Manhattan Institute colleague Diana Furchtgott-Roth argues these worker centers are doing unions’ dirty work. As she wrote during similar strikes in November 2013, “Unlike worker centers, unions must hold supervised elections so that members can elect union officials as representatives. Worker centers do not necessarily represent employees. Employees can decertify a union—dismiss it from representing them—but they cannot dismiss a worker center” (emphasis added).

Worker Centers Are Union Branches

Unions are organized as 501(c)(5) entities. They need to hold elections, file detailed financial reports with the Labor Department, and cannot receive tax-deductible contributions. Alternatively, many worker centers are organized as 501(c)(3) charities, which means they can receive tax-deductible donations and they are not accountable to the workers they claim to represent.

Recently-released union financial reports show the strong financial connections between unions and worker centers. Among the prominent worker centers that received funding from the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU’s) national headquarters in 2014 were Interfaith Worker Justice ($50,000) and New York Communities for Change ($50,000). NYCC is a remnant of the disgraced community organizing group ACORN, which was investigated multiple times for fraudulent voter registration and financial fraud. The rebranding effort was not comprehensive, as NYCC remains at the same Brooklyn address that ACORN occupied. Jobs with Justice, a labor organizing group that does not consider itself a worker center, received $226,600 from SEIU.

Union financial support of worker centers does not end with the SEIU. Last year, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union gave Jobs with Justice $223,000, Interfaith Worker Justice $117,000, and NYCC $5,000. These two unions stand to benefit the most from unionizing fast food workers.

Read the rest at the Federalist…

Millennials Don’t Want to Join Unions, Here’s Why

Unions are in trouble. Membership is declining, public pension plans are dangerously underfunded, and young workers are not interested in diverting a portion of their paychecks to dues that offer them few benefits in return. Half the states have passed “right to work” legislation that says that workers cannot be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. In the face of these challenges, the union membership rate has fallen to a 100-year low.

Membership rates continue to fall as traditionally unionized industries such as steel and textiles move offshore and younger workers choose the non-union sector. Only 4 percent of employed 16 to 24 year-olds are union members, and the membership rate for workers 25 to 34 years old is less than 10 percent. Union shops tend to value tenure over skill, and merit bonuses are nowhere to be found. Young workers are the first to be fired, even if they are more competent than experienced employees. Workers aged 45 to 64 have the highest union participation rate at 14 percent.

Given the costs of joining a union, it is unsurprising that unionization rates increase with age and few young people clamor to sign up. Younger workers already ask what that FICA tax is doing in their paycheck, and union dues add another 2 percent to 4 percent tax. United Food and Commercial Workers dues range from <href=”#dues”>$19 to $60 a month, according to the union’s website. Initiation fees can add another $50 to $100, the price of a year’s worth of Netflix.

Reasonable people would expect union bosses to reevaluate unpopular policies in an attempt to attract and retain new members. Reasonable people would be mistaken. Rather than competing in the labor market, union bosses favor influencing government policy by doubling down on political donations.

Unions are required to file annual financial and membership data with the Department of Labor, and recently-released LM-2 forms show that unions continue to struggle to gain new members.

United Food & Commercial Workers International Union membership has fallen 4 percent from its peak in 2009, to 1.3 million. Over this same time, employment has risen by 7 percent. Service Employees International Union membership has fallen 2 percent from its peak in 2011, to 1.9 million. AFL-CIO membership has fallen 7 percent from its peak in 2005 to 12.7 million, although membership has risen over the past few years.

Read the rest at Townhall…

Death Sentences for Drug Crimes

An Indonesian court last Monday rejected the appeal of two Australian nationals on death row for drug offenses, exhausting the duo’s final effort to avoid the country’s next firing-squad execution, which is slated for this year. While the ruling brings to light the extreme measures some nations take to punish drug offenders, it also calls attention to the involvement of the U.S. government and the United Nations, both of which are indirectly supporting these efforts through their attempts to prosecute the War on Drugs internationally.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were arrested in 2005 on drug-trafficking charges for leading a plot to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia. The other seven members of the drug ring, which has become known as the Bali Nine, were more fortunate and narrowly evaded death sentences. While Indonesia underwent a four-year capital-punishment hiatus in 2008, it resumed executions in 2013, with the most recent round — six drug offenders — held this past January. Although January’s executions elicited an international outcry, with both Brazil and the Netherlands recalling their ambassadors from Jakarta, Indonesian president Joko Widodo has remained steadfast on capital punishment for drug criminals.

In fact, 33 countries have capital drug laws. Most of these laws are never used, but some countries execute drug criminals regularly. In Malaysia, for example, there were 648 drug offenders on death row in September 2012. Many legal experts have argued that these policies violate international law, citing the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which limits death sentences to the “most serious crimes,” and U.N. committee rulings that suggest drug offenses do not qualify under this criterion.

Despite widespread awareness of these laws, both the U.S. and the U.N. continue to provide counter-narcotics support to countries that execute drug offenders. The DEA has spent roughly $400 million each year for the past four years on international drug enforcement, some of which has ended up in these countries.

Read the rest at RealClearPolicy…