How Unions Influence Policy With Tactics They Denounce

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Labor unions used front groups to get favorable legislation passed in San Francisco according to a new report released Monday.

Employment Policies Institute (EPI) released the report titled “By Big Labor and For Big Labor?”. It analyzed hundreds of emails obtained through a California Public Records Act request. The emails reveal how unions use front groups to influence San Francisco lawmakers into enacting union-friendly laws. Tactics that unions have often condemned when it comes from the right.

“Since early 2012, labor unions and the left-wing pressure groups they fund have attacked conservative policy organizations for assisting state and local legislators in developing legislation,” the report notes. “However, many of the same unions and left-wing pressure groups employ nearly identical tactics to develop and enact liberal policies.”

The report lists several organizations and city lawmakers allegedly doing the bidding of big labor. The front groups include Jobs with Justice San Francisco (JWJ SF), the SF Labor Council and the National Employment Law Project (NELP). The lawmakers listed are San Francisco Supervisors David Chiu and Eric Mar.

“Labor unions and their activists in San Francisco entered 2014 riding high,” the report notes. “Mayor Ed Lee had endorsed a citywide minimum wage increase and the city had just enacted an ordinance to require businesses with more than 20 employees to offer a ‘right to request’ for workers who need flexible scheduling arrangements to care for children or sick people.”

Those involved have several connections, according to the report. They constantly emailed each other about the legislation, had private meetings and in some cases were related.

“It was with the political winds at their back that an assortment of union representatives, left-wing union-funded community organizers, labor-aligned academics, and politicians gathered in early February 2014 to plan,” the reported says. “And in 2014, amid a burgeoning campaign for a $15 minimum wage ballot measure, labor groups sought to impose additional labor regulations.”

Eric Mar was the lead sponsor of the formula retail bills. He is also brothers with Gordon Mar who conducted payrolls operations for JWJ SF. He did his work through Local 3 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union. The SEIU United Service Workers West is also listed as being involved in the network of lawmakers, front groups and unions.

“It shouldn’t be surprising that there are unsavory special-interest negotiations and backroom dealings in city and regional politics,” the report concludes. “But unions like the SEIU, the Teamsters, and the AFL-CIO along with labor-funded groups like the Center for Media and Democracy are engaging in hypocrisy.”

For example, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is often a main target of unions. The group has drafted templates for several laws unions hate. One of the more significant policies that put ALEC at odds with unions is what is known as right-to-work. The policy outlaws mandatory union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

When Wisconsin began to rein in union power under Gov. Scott Walker, the AFL-CIO was quick to denounce it as a ALEC conspiracy. Local 3 is an affiliate of AFL-CIO. The local affiliate of SEIU did the same. Speaking with The Daily Caller News Foundation back in February, ALEC dismissed the criticism as a difference of opinion, rather than legitimate concern. What comes out of their meetings is public record and their template legislation is publicly available as well.

The alleged front-groups, lawmakers and unions did not respond to requests for comment from TheDCNF.

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