The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, May 23, 2014

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Supreme Court case big threat to unions

WASHINGTON (PAI) – A recently argued U.S. Supreme Court case, pushed on the justices by the anti-worker National Right to Work Committee, is an even bigger threat to unions – and to progressives in general – than everybody realizes, a top Service Employees attorney who worked on the union’s friend-of-the-court brief says.

And, anticipating that the majority of the justices may rule against her union and against unions in general in the case, Harris vs. Quinn, SEIU is already considering new ways of approaching and organizing workers, adds union counsel Nicole Berner.

Berner’s warning came at a May 13 panel discussion at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.  Panelists were scheduled to talk about the 1stAmendment – which guarantees freedom of speech – and campaign finance.  And they covered several recent High Court rulings, including one earlier this year, that open the floodgates for unlimited flows of campaign dollars from corporations and the 1 percent.

The court uses the 1st Amendment’s free speech guarantee to declare that “money is speech” and let the cash flow.  But Berner said the justices may use the amendment’s right of free association to grant the Right to Work crowd’s demand: To bar unions from collecting money – even just money for contract bargaining and administration – from any worker.

If the justices rule in the Right to Work committee’s favor, they would, in one stroke “turn all 50 states into Right to Work states” where unions cannot insert provisions in contracts calling for dues deductions, Berner added.  “By judicial fiat, Right to Work then becomes the law of the land.”  The justices would be saying “our whole collective bargaining system violates the 1st Amendment.”

As a result of such a ruling, unions would have to rely on voluntary contributions instead.

-Mark Gruenberg, PAI


Good work trend continues in state

Michigan remains part of a “fragile” construction recovery in the U.S. – one of 39 states that have enjoyed an increase in construction employment compared to a year ago.

From April 2013 to April 2014, Michigan’s construction employment rose by 5,600 workers or 4.3 percent – ranking us No. 18 among the states in job growth, according to the Associated General Contractors.

“The industry’s recovery will remain on track if these two infrastructure measures continue to receive the kind of strong bipartisan support we saw this week,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the Associated General Contractors’ chief executive officer. “But if members of Congress really want to help the economy, they need to act quickly to make sure we don’t run out of federal road and bridge repair money by this summer, as the government predicts.”