What do you do when you’re a labor boss at a time when union membership is at its lowest point in over 50 years?  Anything you can to save a sinking ship, apparently.  That includes forming new union front groups called “worker centers” to pull in additional funding for unionization efforts.

As reported in The Hill, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce just released a report detailing the role of worker centers in union fundraising.  Worker centers are playing an increasingly larger role in backing labor causes as traditional unionization efforts continue to underperform.

Worker centers often engage in highly disruptive campaigns against employers, usually taking aim at a specific industry, such as restaurants or retail.  They are behind the protests and demonstrations surrounding fast-food establishments and Walmart, sparking national attention.  In terms of goals and objectives, worker centers are aligned with Big Labor interests.  But how, exactly, do they work and who funds them?

According to Glenn Spencer, vice president of the Chamber’s Workforce Freedom Initiative, “Contrary to their public façade, union front groups are well-financed, highly-sophisticated labor organizations …When you pull back the curtain, one finds a river of financial support flowing to these groups from activist foundations.” In fact, from 2009 – 2012, that river of financial support burst its banks to the tune of $57 million dollars.  They may technically be non-profits, but worker centers sure do rake in a lot of cash.

By forming under the guise of charitable organizations, worker centers are able to seek funding from a wider array of sources than traditional unions.  Collective bargaining units primarily rely on members’ dues to fund their organizing activity.  However, as more workers decide to opt out of unions and more business-friendly states embrace right-to-work status, labor’s power continues to dwindle.  Worker centers, therefore, give union bosses the opportunity to draw in additional funding from a variety of foundations, aswell as from state and federal government sources. These union front groups, importantly, are not bound by any of the laws that govern the behavior of unions.

While labor heads, including the AFL-CIO, hope worker centers will help revive membership recruitment and generate additional funding, the results of their efforts remain to be seen.  One thing is certain though, Big Labor is doing everything it can to hold onto their power, even as it slips through their fingers.

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AZ Daily Sun--Coconino Voices: PRO Act legislation would hurt local businesses

— 05.13.2021 —
By: Julie Pastrik Arizona businesses and workers have had an incredibly challenging year given the economic slowdown that followed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. However, local businesses and industries across the state are resilient and on the road to a strong recovery that will mean more jobs for Arizona workers and increased economic development to strengthen our communities. That is, as long as Congress does not move forward with potentially devastating legislation that would hurt local employers and employees alike while impeding our state’s economic recovery. Unfortunately, some members of Congress seem determined to do just that by pushing through the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. As harmless as the name may sound, the PRO Act would have serious repercussions for local businesses, particularly smaller ones, while undermining long-standing rights for employees and threatening the growing gig economy that has helped provide much-needed income for so many during this time. Arizona is fortunate to have leaders like Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, who have both refrained from joining the vast majority of their Democratic colleagues in cosponsoring the PRO Act. In a slap in the face to Arizona workers, the PRO Act removes one of the most fundamental rights a worker has when it comes to voting in elections to determine whether to unionize: the secret ballot. Instead, workers could be forced to sign union authorization cards in front of other employees, their employer, or union organizers. This bill would also destroy workers’ right to privacy by allowing unions access to personal information, including their home address and personal phone number. If that doesn’t open the door to union intimidation and harassment, I don’t know what does. As if that was not bad enough, the PRO Act would create major new challenges for Arizona businesses, making it harder for them to create jobs, expand in their communities, and even keep their doors open. It would redefine what it means to be a “joint employer” under national labor law, greatly complicating existing relationships between franchisors and franchisees as well as between business owners, contractors, subcontractors, and vendors and suppliers. At the same time, it would interfere with attorney-client confidentiality and make it much more difficult for small businesses to secure a legal advice on labor issues. Particularly harmful during these times, the PRO Act would apply a failed policy from California to national labor law by using the “ABC” test to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee. This makes it much harder to qualify as an independent contractor, threatening the freedom and flexibility that tens of thousands of Arizonans find in independent contracting and gig economy work. Ultimately, the PRO Act is bad public policy that only works for union leaders to inflate their falling ranks while threatening workers’ rights, undermining small businesses, and jeopardizing a growing part of our economy. This is not a good solution for Arizona, and Senators Sinema and Kelly should stay firm and not cosponsor this misguided legislation.
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