Electing Our Values by Wayne Murphy

 In News, Newsletter: Winter '18

Let me begin by wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season. This time of year we should consider all we have been blessed with, both personally and professionally, and also look forward with high hopes to the future.

There is power in high hopes, but without hard work, we won’t accomplish anything. You will read in this Newsletter about the recently concluded election season. Let me just express my heartfelt thanks to all the members who put their money where their mouths are and assisted in various political campaigns throughout New England. As is usually the case with elections, we had some wins and some losses. Most importantly, we gave our support to candidates who share our values to help working people get ahead. The work continues.

Nationally, we see more madness from Pennsylvania Avenue. Forcing the “resignation” of Attorney General Sessions and replacing him with a person who has already seemed to pre-judge the Mueller investigation is just the latest example of a President who doesn’t understand or won’t accept the series of checks and balances our democracy has in place to prevent any one branch of government from becoming all-powerful. Just last week, a group of 18 state Attorney Generals, led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, wrote acting U.S. Attorney General Whitaker and urged him to recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation due to his blatant conflict of interest. It is clear to all reasonable people that Whitaker was given the position due to his demonstrated hostility to the investigation. It is certain that he can’t be expected to oversee it in a fair-minded fashion.

We have also written in support of United States Senate Bill 2644, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act. The Bill’s sponsors are pushing to have the matter taken up before the full Senate. It is critical that the Special Counsel is fully capable of completing this work and reporting to the American people.

Our Government Affairs Department is also closely tracking and monitoring the work being done by the Joint Select Committee on Multi-Employer Pension Plans. Retirement security is critical to the life of our Union and we must do all we can to ensure that our elected officials fully understand the ramifications to our membership if the laws around multi-employer pension plans are changed. We have been in communication with each of the members of the Joint Select Committee, educating them as to the financial strength of our pension plan and making sure they fully understand the subject matter before making any decisions. With the wide array of substantive issues that our elected officials deal with, it is so important that each of them has a nuanced understanding of the issues before them. Expecting them to understand our issues is simply foolish. It is our job to educate and advocate for our values.

Our advocacy efforts continue with the various federal agencies now under Republican control. The National Labor Relations Board recently issued a directive to each of its branch offices across the country that an emphasis should be placed on the filing of unfair labor practice charges against labor unions as employers. There could be no clearer evidence that the Trump administration is no friend to organized labor, and under his leadership organizations like District Council 35 should be on the look-out for government interference in our operations.

The Chairman of the NLRB has also proposed a rule to change the way “joint-employer” status is determined. The proposed rule would make it easier for unethical employers to avoid their responsibilities to pay proper wages, make proper withholdings and to provide a safe work-place. The proposed rule, if enacted, would overrule a 2015 NLRB decision that protected workers from unscrupulous companies that flagrantly ignore and violate critical labor and employment laws. Without these safeguards in place, wage theft will become more prevalent. This, in turn, will make it more difficult for our signatory contractors to compete for work. Our market share will be affected and unless we are vigilant, this could lead to reduced work opportunities for our membership.

We have submitted extensive comments to the NLRB, strongly voicing our opinion as to the proposed rule change. Many of our elected officials have also expressed their concern and we now await the fate of the proposed rule change.

As the new year approaches, we will again ramp up our efforts to ensure that our legislative agenda is taken seriously at the state level. A Massachusetts wage theft bill remains a top priority as does some legislative relief from the Supreme Court’s Janus decision. Organized labor is working on refining its position for the post-Janus world and I expect that there will be some headway made in this regard during the upcoming legislative session.

While we take the time to relax and enjoy the Holiday Season with our loved ones, it is also the time to prepare and re-energize for 2019. District Council 35 will be ready, and we will rely on each of you to get involved and stay involved. Our livelihoods depend on it.