• Google Bookmarks
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • reddit
Federal Government
BLS: Unions Representing Government Workers Are Gaining PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Friday, 04 July 2014 10:01

WASHINGTON (AP) — Unions representing government workers are expanding while organized labor has been shedding private sector members over the past half-century.

 
A majority of union members today now have ties to a government entity, at the federal, state or local levels.
 
Roughly 1-in-3 public sector workers is a union member, compared with about 1-in-15 for the private sector workforce last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, 11.3 percent of wage and salary workers in the United States are unionized, down from a peak of 35 percent during the mid-1950s in the strong post-World War II recovery.
 
The typical union worker now is more likely to be an educator, office worker or food or service industry employee rather than a construction worker, autoworker, electrician or mechanic. Far more women than men are among the union-label ranks.
 
In a blow to public sector unions, the Supreme Court ruled this week that thousands of health care workers in Illinois who are paid by the state cannot be required to pay fees that help cover a union's cost of collective bargaining.
 
The justices said the practice violates the First Amendment rights of nonmembers who disagree with stances taken by unions.
 
The ruling was narrowly drawn, but it could reverberate through the universe of unions that represent government workers. The case involved home-care workers for disabled people who are paid with Medicaid funds administered by the state.
 
Also in June, a California judge declared unconstitutional the state's teacher tenure, dismissal and layoff laws. The judge ordered a stay of the decision, pending an appeal by the state and teachers union.
 
"The basic structure of the labor union movement has changed, reflecting changes in the economy," said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University. "Manufacturing is a diminishing segment of the economy. Also, a lot of the manufacturing that's being done today is being done nonunion."
 
Union members continue to be a powerful political force in politics, and Baker said he didn't see the role of unions diminishing. "I just think the colors of the collars are changing," Baker said.
 
In 2013, 14.5 million workers belonged to a union, about the same as the year before. In 1983, the first year for which comparable figures are available, there were 17.7 million union workers.
 
The largest union is the National Education Association, with 3.2 million members. It represents public school teachers, administrators and students preparing to become teachers.
 
Next is the 2.1-million Service Employees International Union. About half its members work in the public sector.
 
The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees has 1.6 million, followed by the American Federation of Teachers with 1.5 million and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters with 1.4 million.
 
There are 1.3 million members in the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
 
Until four years ago, the unionization rate was far higher in the private sector than in the public sector. Now the roles are reversed.
 
But it's been a bumpy road for public unions in some Republican-governed states.
 
In 2011, Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., took on public sector unions forcefully soon after he was swept into office. He got enacted a bill effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers in the state. He withstood huge labor demonstrations at the state Capitol and then became the first governor in U.S. history to defeat a recall attempt. The law has been challenged in court, and continues to be. But its main thrust so far has been upheld.
 
A sign of the decline of traditional labor unions came in May when the United Automobile Workers raised its membership dues for the first time in 27 years to help offset declining membership. Also, the defeat in February of the UAW's effort to unionize workers at Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant was a setback to labor.
 
A 2013 Gallup poll showed that 54 percent of Americans said they approved of labor unions, down from the all-time high of 75 percent in both 1953 and 1957.
 
"Labor unions play a diminishing role in the private sector, but they still claim a large share of the public sector workforce," says Chris Edwards, director of tax studies at the libertarian, free-market Cato Institute.
 
"Public sector unions are important to examine because they have a major influence on government policies through their vigorous lobbying efforts. ... They are particularly influential in states that allow monopoly unionization through collective bargaining."
 
Since 2000, factories have shed more than 5 million jobs. Five states — Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina Georgia and Texas — ban collective bargaining in the public sector.
 
Last Updated on Friday, 04 July 2014 10:03
 
Supreme Court Deals Blow To Obamacare: Can't Make Some Employers Cover Abortion-Inducing Drugs PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Monday, 30 June 2014 11:03

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that some corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.

 
The justices' 5-4 decision is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law. And it means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under objecting companies' health insurance plans.
 
Contraception is among a range of preventive services that must be provided at no extra charge under the health care law that President Barack Obama signed in 2010 and the Supreme Court upheld two years later.
 
Two years ago, Chief Justice John Roberts cast the pivotal vote that saved the health care law in the midst of Obama's campaign for re-election. On Monday, dealing with a small sliver of the law, Roberts sided with the four justices who would have struck down the law in its entirety.
 
Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion. The court's four liberal justices dissented.
 
The court stressed that its ruling applies only to corporations that are under the control of just a few people in which there is no essential difference between the business and its owners, like the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby chain of arts-and-craft stores that challenged the provision.
 
Alito also said the decision is limited to contraceptives under the health care law. "Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer's religious beliefs," Alito said.
 
He suggested two ways the administration could ensure women get the contraception they want. It could simply pay for pregnancy prevention, he said.
 
Or it could provide the same kind of accommodation it has made available to religious-oriented, not-for-profit corporations. Those groups can tell the government that providing the coverage violates their religious beliefs. At that point, the groups' insurers or a third-party administrator takes on the responsibility of paying for the birth control.
 
The accommodation is the subject of separate legal challenges, but the court said Monday that the profit-seeking companies could not assert religious claims in such a situation.
 
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was part of the majority, also wrote separately to emphasize that the administration can solve its problem easily. "The accommodation works by requiring insurance companies to cover, without cost sharing, contraception coverage for female employees who wish it," Kennedy said. He said that arrangement "does not impinge on the plaintiffs' religious beliefs."
 
Houses of worship and other religious institutions whose primary purpose is to spread the faith are exempt from the requirement to offer birth control.
 
In a dissent she read aloud from the bench, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the decision "potentially sweeping" because it minimizes the government's interest in uniform compliance with laws affecting the workplace. "And it discounts the disadvantages religion-based opt outs impose on others, in particular, employees who do not share their employer's religious beliefs," Ginsburg said.
 
The administration said a victory for the companies would prevent women who work for them from making decisions about birth control based on what's best for their health, not whether they can afford it. The government's supporters pointed to research showing that nearly one-third of women would change their contraceptive if cost were not an issue; a very effective means of birth control, the intrauterine device, can cost up to $1,000.
 
The contraceptives at issue before the court were the emergency contraceptives Plan B and ella, and two IUDs.
 
Nearly 50 businesses have sued over covering contraceptives. Some, like those involved in the Supreme Court case, are willing to cover most methods of contraception, as long as they can exclude drugs or devices that the government says may work after an egg has been fertilized. Other companies object to paying for any form of birth control.
 
There are separate lawsuits challenging the contraception provision from religiously affiliated hospitals, colleges and charities.
 
A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 85 percent of large American employers already had offered such coverage before the health care law required it.
 
Most working women will probably see no impact from the ruling, corporate health benefits consultants expect. Publicly traded companies are unlikely to drag religion into their employee benefit plans, said Mark Holloway, director of compliance services at the Lockton Companies, an insurance broker that serves medium-sized and growing employers.
 
"Most employers view health insurance as a tool to attract and retain employees," said Holloway. "Women employees want access to contraceptive coverage and most employers don't have a problem providing that coverage. It is typically not a high-cost item."
 
It is unclear how many women potentially are affected by the high court ruling. Hobby Lobby is by far the largest employer of any company that has gone to court to fight the birth control provision.
 
Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby has more than 15,000 full-time employees in more than 600 crafts stores in 41 states. The Greens are evangelical Christians who also own Mardel, a Christian bookstore chain.
 
The other company is Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. of East Earl, Pa., owned by a Mennonite family and employing 950 people in making wood cabinets.
Last Updated on Monday, 30 June 2014 11:04
 
Supreme Court: Public Union Can't Make Nonmembers Pay Union Fees PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Monday, 30 June 2014 11:00

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court dealt a blow to public sector unions Monday, ruling that thousands of home health care workers in Illinois cannot be required to pay fees that help cover the union's costs of collective bargaining.

 
In a 5-4 split along ideological lines, the justices said the practice violates the First Amendment rights of nonmembers who disagree with the positions that unions take.
 
The ruling is a setback for labor unions that have bolstered their ranks — and bank accounts — in Illinois and other states by signing up hundreds of thousands of in-home care workers. It could lead to an exodus of members who will have little incentive to pay dues if nonmembers don't have to share the burden of union costs.
 
But the ruling was limited to this particular segment of workers and it stopped short of overturning decades of practice that has generally allowed public sector unions of teachers, firefighters and other government workers to pass through their representation costs to nonmembers.
 
Writing for the court, Justice Samuel Alito said home care workers "are different from full-fledged public employees" because they work primarily for their disabled or elderly customers and do not have most of the rights and benefits of state employees. The ruling does not affect private sector workers.
 
The case involves about 26,000 Illinois workers who provide home care for disabled people and are paid with Medicaid funds administered by the state. In 2003, the state passed a measure deeming the workers state employees eligible for collective bargaining.
 
A majority of the workers then selected the Service Employees International Union to negotiate with the state to increase wages, improve health benefits and set up training programs. Those workers who chose not to join the union had to pay proportional "fair share" fees to cover collective bargaining and other administration costs.
 
A group of workers led by Pamela Harris — a home health aide who cares for her disabled son at home — filed a lawsuit arguing the fees violate the First Amendment. Backed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the workers said it wasn't fair to make someone pay fees to a group that takes positions the fee-payer disagrees with.
 
The workers argue they are not government employees capable of being unionized in the traditional sense. They are different, they say, because they work in people's homes, not on government property, and are not supervised by other state employees. And they say the union is not merely seeking higher wages, but making a political push for expansion of Medicaid payments.
 
Alito agreed, saying "it is impossible to argue that the level of Medicaid funding (or, for that matter, state spending for employee benefits in general) is not a matter of great public concern."
 
The workers had urged the justices to go even farther and overturn a 1977 Supreme Court decision which held that public employees who choose not to join a union can still be required to pay representation fees, as long as those fees don't go toward political purposes. About half of the states require these fair-share fees.
 
Alito said the court was not overturning that case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which is confined "to full-fledged state employees." But he said that extending Abood to include "partial-public employees, quasi-public employees, or simply private employees would invite problems."
 
The court's limited ruling means public unions avoided a potentially devastating blow that could have meant a major drop in public employee membership ranks.
 
Justice Elena Kagan wrote the dissent for the four liberal justices. Kagan said the majority's decision to leave the older case in place is "cause for satisfaction, though hardly applause."
 
Kagan agreed with the state's arguments that home care workers should be treated the same as other public workers because Illinois sets their salaries, resolves disputes over pay, conducts performance reviews and enforces the terms of employment contracts.
 
"Our decisions have long afforded government entities broad latitude to manage their workforces, even when that affects speech they could not regulate in other contexts," Kagan said.
 
A federal district court and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had rejected the lawsuit, citing the high court's precedent.
 
Nine other states have allowed home care workers to join unions: California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
Last Updated on Monday, 30 June 2014 11:01
 
National Park Service: No Unmanned Aircraft Allowed On Park Land Or Water PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Friday, 27 June 2014 10:41

RALEIGH, (SGRToday.com) - After a serious of incidents with unmanned aircraft disrupting visitors and wildlife in national parks, the head of the National Parks Service has ordered superintendents to prohibit them on park and water.

 
“We embrace many activities in national parks because they enhance visitor experiences with the iconic natural, historic and cultural landscapes in our care,” NPS director Jonathan Jarvis said in a memorandum. “However, we have serious concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircraft is having in parks, so we are prohibiting their use until we can determine the most appropriate policy that will protect park resources and provide all visitors with a rich experience.”
 
Disruptive incidents have occurred at the Grand Canyon, Mount Zion, and Mount Rushmore, according to the agency.
Last Updated on Friday, 27 June 2014 10:42
 
«StartPrev12345678910NextEnd»

Page 6 of 13
Copyright 2011 - All Rights Reserved
3012 Highwoods Blvd., Suite 200
Raleigh, NC 27604
Telephone: (919) 790-9392