Posts Tagged union

Public Opinion Court: Unions Yes, Special Union Privileges No


A recent Public Opinion Court focus group session empaneled by the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. on Worker Freedom and Economic Progress found a generally favorable opinion of labor unions, but a lack of support for the special privileges that unions currently enjoy within the Pennsylvania political and policy structures.

The Public Opinion Court is a research vehicle developed by the Lincoln Institute to allow for more in-depth probing of an issue area than can be accomplished by a public opinion poll.  Members of the focus group are not told in advance what issue they will be discussing.  Thus they come into the session with common knowledge of the issue.  The process begins by having the focus group take an entry survey.  Following the entry survey an advocate addresses each side of the issue.  The advocates speak separately, with focus group members given time to ask questions.  After each advocate speaks, the group engages in a roundtable discussion on the issue.  The focus group then concludes with an exit survey designed to measure how opinions may have changed as the group went from common knowledge of the issue to being more informed.

For this Public Opinion Court session the issue advocates were Rick Smith, host ofThe Rick Smith Show, a labor union-backed public affairs radio program.  David Taylor, President of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association advocated for the pro-growth position.  Each speaker was given 20 minutes to make a presentation, followed by 10 minutes of Q & A with the focus group participants.

The Public Opinion Court focus group session was held on Monday, September 19, 2015 at the Reckner research facility in Chalfont, Bucks County.  The focus group participants were recruited from the five county Philadelphia metropolitan area. The focus group was balanced by age, gender, race, political party affiliation and, to the degree possible urban/suburban.  The goal was to make the group as closely representative of the state at-large, although it more accurately reflects the composition of the electorate in southeastern Pennsylvania.

A major theme that emerged from the group discussion was the lack of information voters in southeastern Pennsylvania receive about state government.  While all of the participants were able to correctly identify Mitch McConnell as the leader of the U.S. Senate and John Boehner as the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, none could identify Joseph Scarnati as the President Pro Tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate or Mike Turzai as Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.  The group agreed that media coverage of state issues in southeastern Pennsylvania is inadequate.

The group was more familiar with bigger picture labor power issues, such as Right to Work, but significantly less familiar with state-related union power issues like dues deduction and carve-outs for activities such as stalking, harassment and threats to use a weapon of mass destruction.  They were also largely unaware of the influence labor unions wield over politics and public policy in Pennsylvania.

Included in the focus group were two individuals who currently are members of a labor union and two participants who are retired, but were labor union members during their careers.  Of the two currently enrolled as a union member, one is a member by choice and the other a member as a condition of employment.

In both the entry and exit survey the participants held a generally positive view of labor unions.  Entering the session two had a very favorable impression of unions, seven a somewhat favorable view. Four offered a somewhat unfavorable opinion; nobody viewed unions very unfavorably.  There was only slight movement in the exit survey, so no major shift in opinion occurred as a result of the group discussion.  Entering the session, six participants agreed with the statement that labor unions were needed at one time to ensure workplace safety standards and fair wages, but are not generally needed in today’s society.  Seven disagreed with that statement.  In the exit survey one person switched from agreeing to disagreeing with the statement.

Although viewing labor unions favorably, there was strong support for a Right to Work law.  When asked if they favor or oppose enactment of what is commonly known as a Right to Work law, whereby a worker cannot be compelled to join or pay fees to a labor union as a condition of employment, in the entry survey four strongly favored such a law, eight somewhat favored a Right to Work law.  One person somewhat opposed such a law.  Nobody changed their opinion on the exit survey.  This result is significant given there were two active and two former union members in the focus group indicating opposition to a Right to Work law by union leaders does not trickle down through union membership.

Significant time was devoted to a discussion of exemptions in state law that allow stalking, harassment and threats to use weapons of mass destruction during a labor dispute.  The group was in disbelief that such carve-outs in state law even existed.  There was a lack of knowledge that labor union leaders have been blocking legislation in Harrisburg that would eliminate those carve-outs.  The group unanimously – in both the entry and the exit survey – indicated the carve-outs should be eliminated.

The group also unanimously agreed that there is never a circumstance in which acts of violence are justified to force a company to use union labor on a project.  The group was split, with six having heard of and seven not knowing about the recent case in Philadelphia involving the indictment and conviction of numerous Iron Worker union officials for crimes including violence, threats and vandalism.

Currently governments at all levels – state, county, school district and municipal – at taxpayer expense deduct labor union dues from members’ paychecks and forward the money to unions.  There is legislation being considered in Harrisburg that would end the practice and require labor unions to collect their dues money through private, rather than government means.  Nine members of the focus group oppose such forced deduction of labor union dues, four favor it.  Views did not change in the exit survey.

When a group of employees are voting on whether or not to form a labor union they currently do so by secret ballot.  Labor union leaders would like to change to law to make the voting process public.  Such a move raises concerns that the lack of anonymity would put pressure on employees to vote in favor of unionization.  The Public Opinion Court focus group unanimously agreed in both the entry and exit survey that such decisions should be made by secret ballot.

Raising the minimum wage, however, resulted in a split decision.  Nine entered the session favoring an increase in the state’s minimum wage, four opposed.   But, when asked if raising the minimum wage would result in fewer jobs and/or less hours being available for minimum wage workers, support for raising the minimum wage dropped to four participants with nine indicating opposition.

During the group discussion phase of the Public Opinion Court session several issues arose that were not included in the entry/exit survey process.  Several times the group returned to the state budget impasse.  While there was general knowledge about the stalemate, the group was largely unaware of such significant developments as the partial veto over-ride attempt, the second budget offer made by legislative Republicans or a then-pending vote for a stopgap budget.  The group also lacked comprehensive knowledge of the size and scope of Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed tax hikes.

The state’s public employee pension crisis also arose during group discussion.  There was general awareness of the problem and its significance to taxpayers.  The group was in unanimous agreement that those already retired and those currently employed should remain in the current defined benefits pension system and that the state should honor its pension obligations.   However, the group also unanimously agreed that the current system is unsustainable and that the state must move to a 401k-style defined contribution system.  Most were unaware of the passage of legislation last June to do just that and the fact Governor Wolf vetoed that legislation due to opposition by labor union leaders.

On each occasion when the group discussed government dysfunction, the participants fell back on one prescription for change: term limits.  Term limits were not mentioned in either the entry or exit survey, nor were they brought up by either speaker or the panel moderator.  Despite that, the group repeatedly and unanimously and with enthusiasm felt that career politicians were at the heart of the state (and national) government’s woes.  For example, when discussing the state’s pension crisis and the cost of legislative pensions to taxpayers, the group offered term limits as a solution which would make legislative pensions obsolete.

Conclusion

Efforts in Harrisburg to curtail special treatment for labor unions have failed repeatedly due largely to an alliance between Democrats and suburban Philadelphia Republican legislators who unite in opposition to such reforms as enactment of Right to Work legislation; ending union dues deduction and eliminating carve-out that allow for harassment, stalking and threats to use weapons of mass destruction during labor disputes.

That handful of suburban Republican senators and representatives who have stymied reform efforts claim they are representing the views of their constituents and must vote with organized labor in order to win re-election.   Results of this Public Opinion Court focus group session indicate that argument is not valid.  While labor unions are generally viewed favorably, on issue after issue the focus group supported reform measures, with even some current and former union members in agreement.  The political equation in Harrisburg has changed with the coming to power of enhanced Republican majorities in the current legislative session reducing the influence of union-backed GOP members.  However, Governor Tom Wolf – whose campaign was heavily financed by organized labor – now wields a veto pen over labor policy reforms.

Demographics

The Public Opinion Court focus group session on labor power issues was balanced by gender, seven males and six females.  There was at least one participant in each age group, with the largest participant group being between 50-65 years of age.  Income skewed high, as expected in the Philadelphia suburban region, but did include those in the middle income categories.  The group included seven Democrats, five Republicans and one Independent.  The focus group included four members with graduate degrees, six with a four-year degree, one with a post-secondary certificate, one with a high school degree, and one with secondary education.   Ten of the participants lived in a suburban area, two in an urban area and one in a rural area.

(The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit educational foundation based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania that focuses on pro-growth economic issues.)

Permission to reprint is granted providing author and affiliated are cited.

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Union Money Grab


Radio Program Schedule for the week of April 11, 2015 – April 18, 2015

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm has news headlines from PAIndependent.com
  • David Taylor of the PA Manufacturers Association, Kevin Shivers from the National Federation of Independent Business – PA, and Matthew Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation have a Capitol Watch roundtable discussion on Governor Wolf’s executive order effectively unionizing home care workers
  • Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on Pennsylvania Democrat’s growing corruption problem

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with John Gizzi of Newsmax about the entry of U.S. Senator Rand Paul into the presidential race
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on the soon-to-be-passed federal budget
  • Eric Boehm and Benjamin Yount have a Watchdog Radio Report with Jonathan Williams of the American Legislative Exchange Council on the latest Rich States/Poor States report
  • Dr. Paul Kengor from the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College has an American Radio Journal commentary on redefining marriage

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Union Leader Jailed


Radio Program Schedule for the week of January 31 – February 6, 2015

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm has news headlines from PAIndependent.com
  • David Taylor of the PA Manufacturers Association and Matthew Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation are joined by Robert Reeves of the E. Allen Reeves Company for a Capitol Watch look at the conviction of a Philadelphia union leader for inciting violence
  • Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on a bad week for government transparency

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with John Philip Sousa, IV of the Draft Ben Carson Committee about the role of various PACs and campaign committees
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story about how the debate over the sequester is about to resurface
  • Eric Boehm and Bre Payton have a Watchdog Radio Report on a failure to protect the privacy of student loan holders
  • Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA has an American Radio Journal commentary on radical Islam

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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Official Represson


Richard Nixon was often accused of creating an imperial presidency and of using the levers of power to repress and punish those who disagreed with him.  Nixon’s “enemies list” became a national sensation and official actions against those on the list either directly or indirectly prompted his resignation to avoid certain impeachment. But the disgraced president’s use of repressive tactics pale in comparison to those employed by the current crop of Democratic office holders at both the state and the national levels.

President Obama and his administration have led the way.  His Justice Department has wire tapped the phones of the Associated Press, investigated a Fox News journalist and engaged in systemic harassment of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service.  Unchastened by media and public backlash from these mini-scandals, the administration has ratcheted up the stakes by proposing a wide range of new IRS regulations designed to silence public policy advocacy organizations.

Here in Penn’s Woods two statewide elected officials have taken a page from the Obama playbook.  Unable to defend their positions, they have chosen instead to try and silence the opposition.  Attorney General Kathleen Kane is waging war against a free press, and State Treasurer Rob McCord has taken to suing a private citizen who legally sought information McCord’s office does not wish to disclose.

Attorney General Kane took office barely over a year ago as a media and voter darling. Her star has fallen rapidly.  An investigation into why it took former Attorney General-now-Governor Tom Corbett so long to indict convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky has, well, taken a long time.  It shows no sign of ending soon.  Pandering to her Left-wing base, Kane refused to defend Pennsylvania’s defense of marriage laws, embroiling her in a controversy over whether or not the state’s highest elected law enforcement official could pick and choose which laws she will uphold.

Then the Philadelphia Inquirer dropped a political nuclear bomb revealing the attorney general scuttled an investigation into four Democratic state representatives allegedly caught on tape accepting bribe money from an informant.  Kane claimed the investigation was sloppy and racially motivated; a rationale that sank faster than the Titanic when Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, a highly respected prosecutor who happens to be African-American penned an op-ed that was highly critical of the attorney general.

Shortly after the Inquirer’s expose was published Attorney General Kane sought a meeting with the newspaper only to show up with a prominent libel attorney at her side.  Her action was an unmistakable message to every newsroom in the state: criticize me and you face expensive legal action. It amounted to nothing less than a frontal assault on the media’s first amendment rights.

State Treasurer Rob McCord’s playing of the official repression card has resulted in little media coverage, but similarly sends a chilling message to those who challenge an elected official.  In this case the repression is aimed at an individual activist rather than the news media, although it offers considerable insight as to his view of open records requests.

In January of this year, Pennsylvanians for Union Reform, headed by activist Simon Campbell, filed a public records request invoking a 1929 state law asking the state treasurer for the names, salaries, and other employment related information of all state employees in Pennsylvania. The law cited by Campbell in asking for the information states in part: “The information received by the Auditor General, the State Treasurer and the Secretary of the Budget under this section, shall be public information.”  Not only did Treasurer McCord refuse his request, but he has sued Campbell in court to stop him from even asking for information and in the process is asking the courts to declare all state laws governing public access to documents be declared invalid except the state’s Open Records Law.

While the Open Records Law strengthened the ability of citizens and the news media to gain access to government records, it contains some notable loopholes which the legislature is currently working to close.  By demanding the courts restrict Campbell’s right to even ask for such records, McCord’s actions have a chilling effect on government transparency.

Aside from the core issues involved in each of these cases such acts of official repression should be of great concern to every citizen.  Our representative republic can only function for the benefit of “we the people” when government at all levels is open and transparent, when the freedom of the press is preserved, and the flow of information is easily accessible and readily available.

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Union Violence Hits Tipping Point


Psst.

How would you like to be able to stalk someone?  Or perhaps harass them?  Maybe even threaten to use a weapon of mass destruction against them?

And how would you like to do that legally?

It’s simple. Just get involved in a labor dispute and all such actions are perfectly legal.  In fact, those tactics have been used regularly by labor unions right here in Penn’s Woods.

It seems though that one union has been collared by the feds for going too far.  Ten members of the Ironworkers Union Local 401 in Philadelphia were indicted recently for, among other things, vandalizing a Quaker meetinghouse that was under construction.

Yes, those Quakers; the religion that preaches non-violence.

Meanwhile, back in Harrisburg, legislation that would eliminate the so-called carve-outs in state law that permit stalking, harassment, and threats of mass destruction awaits action.  It is cued up and ready for a vote in the state House, but for some reason has yet to hit the floor for a vote.

This should be an easy vote for lawmakers.  In the post-911 era who can justify allowing anyone to legally threaten to use a weapon of mass destruction?  Well, aside from one prominent labor leader who appeared before the House Judiciary Committee to offer a half-hearted defense of the carve-outs.  His justification was that business supports and uses the carve-outs as much as organized labor.  However, a poll of business owners and chief executive officers conducted last Fall by the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research found 84% opposed the carve-outs.  Just 3% voiced approval.

Among voters statewide there is strong support for the legislation to end the carve-outs.  A Lincoln Institute poll conducted in November found 83% support the bill, 16% oppose.  While it is somewhat disconcerting that 16% of Pennsylvanians would support allowing anybody to legally stalk, harass, or threaten to use a weapon of mass destruction, any legislative proposal that achieves the support of over 80% of voters would seem to be an easy vote for lawmakers to cast.

A culture of threats and violence has long been part and parcel of the labor scene among the construction trades in the Philadelphia region for generations.  It is evidence of the influence these unions have in Harrisburg that they were able to get carve-outs allowing psychological tactics included in state law.  More amazing is that the loopholes have not yet been closed.

Even when union tactics advanced past threats to action, law enforcement and prosecutors in the Philadelphia region have long turned a blind eye.  Finally, however, at least one union over-stepped its bounds.  The indictment against ten leaders of Ironworkers Local 401 alleges the existence of a “goon squad” that among other tactics set fires, took crowbars to those who stood in their way, and incited riots.  All under the cover of getting more work for their members.

The vandalism and threats against the contractor at the Quaker meetinghouse in Chestnut Hill seems to have been the tipping point.  The indictment claims Ironworkers Local 401 business agent Edward Sweeney ordered the hit on the work site.  And this apparently was not an isolated incident.  The union’s operatives nicknamed themselves “THUGS,” short for The Helpful Union Guys, but actually quite descriptive of their activities.

The egregious nature of such actions is, however, only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to union privilege in Pennsylvania.  Also making its way through the General Assembly is a bill that would end the practice of having government deduct union dues and political contributions from the paychecks of their public sector members.  Since Pennsylvania is not a Right to Work state, certain public employees are required to join a labor union as a condition of employment. Then, union dues and in some cases political contributions are deducted from their paychecks.

Pennsylvania’s jails are populated by former lawmakers who used government resources for political purposes.  Yet labor unions have their dues collected at public expense, then turn around and use those dollars to elect candidates and lobby legislators to protect and enhance the many unique privileges they enjoy under state law.

With the Ironworkers Local 401 leaders under indictment and strong public support for ending at least the indefensible carve-outs allowing stalking, harassment, and threats of mass destruction you would think such action would top the legislative agenda.  We’ll soon see if the Republican-controlled legislature gets the job done.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Union Violence


Radio Program Schedule for the week of August 31, 2013 – September 6, 2013

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Alvaro Vargas Llosa of the Independent Institute about immigration reform
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story behind a full agenda for congress in September
  • Eric Boehm and Dr. Robert Costrell of the University of Arkansas have a Watchdog Radio look the fiscal woes of Philadelphia schools
  • Dr. Paul Kengor from the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College has an American Radio Journal commentary on how the leader of Vietnam duped Barack Obama

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm and Melissa Daniels have news headlines from www.paindependent.com
  • David Taylor of the PA Manufacturers Association hosts a Capitol Watch discussion with Kevin Shivers from the PA Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business about carve outs in the law that allow labor unions to harass, stalk and threaten
  • Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on Latrobe’s claim to banana split fame

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Union Impact on Municipal Budgets


Radio Program Schedule for the week of August 17, 2013 – August 23, 2013

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Eric Telford of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity about the GOP’s lagging use of technology and social media
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on what congressmen are hearing from voters during their summer recess
  • Benjamin Yount has a Watchdog Radio look at what it means to be a journalist in the digital era
  • Dr. Paul Kengor from the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College has an American Radio Journal commentary on the passing of Reagan advisor Bill Clark

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm and Melissa Daniels have news headlines from www.paindependent.com
  • David Taylor of the PA Manufacturers Association and Matthew Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation have a Capitol Watch discussion on the impact of organized labor on state and municipal budgets
  • Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on why cutting the size of the legislature is not real reform

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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