It was a busy year for labor unions, with victories and setbacks. The 2014 elections didn’t go well for union-backed candidates, but some union causes — such as minimum wage increases — prospered.
Here are six major labor issues that defined the year.
1. Harris v. Quinn. The Supreme Court ruled in Harris v. Quinn that Illinois home health care workers could not be compelled to join a union because they were hired by individual patients rather than the state.
Some of the homecare workers, who were represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, were taking care of their own family members.
The case has since been used to argue similar cases involving homecare workers who claim they are not state employees and therefore cannot be forced into a union.
2. Gov. Scott Walker defeats unions… again. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker quickly became public enemy number one for many labor unions thanks to Act 10, which significantly changed the collective bargaining process for most public employees within the state.
After failing to kick Walker out of office during an unsuccessful recall election, many unions put a substantial amount of time and money into denying him a second full term in the 2014 elections. Unfortunately for them, Walker still won.
3. Obama-controlled labor board deals franchise businesses a setback. In July, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a ruling which significantly changed the franchise model. The decision named McDonald’s and similar companies “joint employers” with the individual franchisees they contract with. As a result, McDonald’s must take more responsibility for its individual franchises.
Labor unions praised the ruling, but business groups were critical.
Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said in a statement that the decision went “against three decades of precedent and plain old common sense and completely redefine what it means to be an employer in this country.”
A spokeswoman for McDonald’s told The Daily Caller News Foundation, “This [franchise] relationship does not establish a joint employer relationship under the law – and decades of case law support that principle.”
4. The never-ending West Coast Port disputes. Since May, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) have been in a fierce contract negotiation that impact 29 ports on the West Coast.
With the two sides unable to come to a resolution, many have grown concerned of the impact the dispute will have on retail and the economy. It got even worse when back in October, the PMA began accusing the ILWU of encouraging worker slowdowns, which resulted in port congestion. The union has denied they are responsible. The PMA has called for federal intervention.
5. Obama-dominated labor board makes it easier for unions. Throughout 2014, the NLRB has issued several rulings which have made it easier for unions to organize workers.
In one ruling, the NLRB streamlined the process for resolving representation disputes. While NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce argues that the decision will “Simplifying and streamlining the process will result in improvements for all parties.”
However, Mark Mix, the president of National Right to Work told TheDCNF, “The NLRB’s new ambush union organizing election rules make union organizing campaigns even more one-sided and stifle the rights of employees who may oppose unionization in their workplace.”
6. Nationwide fast food protests. Throughout the year, several union-backed fast food protests occurred across the country to demand a $15 an hour minimum wage.
SEIU International president Mary Kay Henry, encouraged the protest by saying, “From McDonald’s and Walmart parking lots to the streets of Ferguson and New York, nationwide, communities are rising up — through actions, strikes and protests — crying out because they believe that a better path forward is possible.”
Business groups claimed many of the protesters weren’t even employees of the companies they were demonstrating against.
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