Capital Briefs

Labor unions have some wild ideas about ‘work’

MIAMI – Defending workers’ rights is a noble mission.  But sometimes labor unions take it too far.  Here are some of our favorite examples of labor union contracts “gone wild.”

1) Three strikes and you’re still not out.

Believe it or not, an overly generous clause slipped into the teacher Master Agreement in 1997, basically states that Bay City School Teachers (Michigan) can be caught drunk at work up to five times before they get sacked.

In Florida, a teacher who showed up to class plastered and then started “dirty dancing” with her students may end up teaching again, thanks to her union’s excellent negotiating skills.

Bay City School teachers (again in Michigan) managed to negotiate a union contract where they could be caught in possession of, or under the influence of, drugs  three times before they lost their job.

2). No shows at work

Dozens of Miami-Dade County employees often don’t bother to show up for work, and instead, opt to spend their time working as union reps, on the taxpayers’ dime. County Commissioner Esteban Bovo told Florida Watchdog this is costing taxpayers anywhere from $12 million to $24 million annually.

3). A gamble where everyone wins

Martin Mulhall, a groundkeeper for Mardi Gras Gaming in Hallandale Beach, Fla., alleged the Florida casino traded the personal information of nonunion employees to UNITE-HERE, a hospitality union, in exchange for the union’s endorsement of a bill that would expand gambling in the state.

Mulhall said that the union used the personal information, as well as access to casino grounds, to wage a 2004 card-check campaign, which would allow labor organizing at the casino without a secret ballot election. The groundskeeper and his attorney argued that the casino, in giving the union the personal information of employees, violated federal labor law.

On Dec. 10, the Supreme Court ruled to dismiss an appeal from UNITE HERE Local 355 without deciding whether its agreement with Mardi Gras Gaming is valid.

4) The ‘pushing’ power  

The Miami police union, just one week before union negotiations, produced a video warning job applicants not to work for them. “Are you looking to advance in your career? Do not apply to be a police officer in the City of Miami,” says the 16-second clip, shown in the Fraternal Order of Police website.

5) Meetings: Not open to public

According to The Times-Union, Jacksonville mayor’s office worked secretly with the Police and Fire Pension Board in a carefully organized  ruse to iron out a pension deal. The secret meeting appeared to be a violation of the state’s Sunshine Law that says all collective-bargaining meetings must be open to the public.

On the flip side, being a unionized employee has its advantages. According to a 2011Bureau of Labor Statistics report, unionized workers typically earn higher pay than nonunion workers doing the same job. Although it varies based on industry and occupation, the overall averages are striking. In 2010, union workers’ median weekly income was $917, compared to  $717 for nonunion workers.

According to the New York Times, in Florida, one in 20 of workers in the state belongs to a union.

Contact Marianela Toledo at  Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org twitter @mtoledoreporter.

 

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