Scalia’s Putsch at the Supreme Court

Justice Breyer was referring to the compromise at the heart of the 1977 precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, that Mr. Carvin was asking the court to overrule. The court in that case upheld the constitutionality of the fair-share fee as long as it was limited to the union’s collective-bargaining expenses and did not subsidize the union’s political or other “nonchargeable” activities.

.. The case was Locke v. Karass. The decision was unanimous.

What changed since 2009? How could the court go from unquestioning acceptance of a long-lived precedent to a situation in which all that remains in doubt is whether that same precedent will be overturned in early June or late June? In the answer to that question lie some disturbing observations about the Roberts court.

It’s no secret that in recent years, major segments of the Republican Party have declared open season on public employee unions — selectively, of course. Police unions and correctional officers’ unions, which have stood in the way of reform-minded policy initiatives in states and cities across the country, have been exempt as targets. Conservative and Tea Party ire has instead been focused on teachers’ unions.

How Walmart Keeps an Eye on Its Massive Workforce

Internally, however, Walmart considered the group enough of a threat that it hired an intelligence-gathering service from Lockheed Martin, contacted the FBI, staffed up its labor hotline, ranked stores by labor activity, and kept eyes on employees (and activists) prominent in the group. During that time, about 100 workers were actively involved in recruiting for OUR Walmart, but employees (or associates, as they’re called at Walmart) across the company were watched; the briefest conversations were reported to the “home office,” as Walmart calls its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

.. OUR Walmart made its claims public in June 2011, when 97 employees and their supporters arrived in Bentonville with a 12-point declaration that asked for wages and benefits sufficient to ensure that no worker would have to rely on government assistance. They also called for dependable schedules, expanded health-care coverage, and the freedom to speak up without facing retaliation. In the parking lot, they presented the document to Casey and asked to speak with her inside.

.. Lockheed Martin is one of the biggest defense contractors in the world. Although it’s best known for making fighter jets and missile systems, it also has an information technology division that offers cybersecurity and data analytics services. Tucked into that is a little-known operation called LM Wisdom, which has been around since 2011. LM Wisdom is described on Lockheed’s website as a tool “that monitors and analyzes rapidly changing open source intelligence data … [that] has the power to incite organized movements, riots and sway political outcomes.”

.. Employers can send people to open meetings or rallies or demonstrations. But there’s little labor law regarding companies’ monitoring of their employees’ own social media accounts.

.. Williamson, the former Walmart associate who became an OUR Walmart organizer, knew she was being monitored in Bentonville. “I sent a couple of fake tweets about where we would be or what we were doing. I don’t know if it worked,” she says. “I wonder how people feel about Walmart wasting money by hiring Lockheed Martin to read my tweets.

How Walmart Persuades Its Workers Not to Unionize

“People are scared to vote for a union because they’re scared their store will be closed,” said Barbara Gertz, an overnight Walmart stocker in Denver.

.. Gertz said that when workers call in sick, their first day off comes out of their vacation days or personal days, not their paid sick days.

.. The spokesperson added that its bonuses, 401(k) plan, and health plan are considerably better than at most other discounters—its 401(k) plan gives a dollar-for-dollar match for the first six percent of pay and the premium for its most popular health plan is just $21.90 every two weeks. That said, part-time workers, who represent nearly half its work force, don’t qualify for many of these benefits.

.. But the UFCW had a big success in 2004, when it unionized a Walmart in Jonquiere, Quebec—a first in North America. Walmart closed that store shortly afterward, and Canada’s Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the shutdown was an illegal ploy to avoid having a union. Walmart has long argued that it closed the Jonquiere store because it was unprofitable and that the closing had nothing to do with the union

Scott Walker’s Wisconsin Audition

At the time he proposed Act 10, Walker claimed that busting the public employees’ unions was necessary because Wisconsin was facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit, and that the deficit couldn’t be closed, as he told Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday,”“with the current collective bargaining laws in the state.”

.. And while Walker claims to have saved the state $3 billion during his first term as a result of Act 10, he almost surely could have gotten the same givebacks by bargaining for them, as other states, such as Rhode Island, have done.

To put it another way, Walker busted the public employee unions not because he had to but because he could.

.. No, what motivated Walker, clearly, was politics. Unions, which have long been traditional Democratic allies, have been in steep decline — except for public employee unions, which now make up just under half of all union workers. By crippling them, Kettl told me, “Walker is trying to put a stake in the heart of a strong piece of Democratic support that has long been a thorn in the side of the Republicans.”

.. As Kaufman nicely puts it, passing Act 10 was his “audition” for potential big money backers like the Kochs.

 

The Cost of a Decline in Unions

Most studies suggest that about one-fifth of the increase in economic inequality in America among men in recent decades is the result of the decline in unions. It may be more: A study in the American Sociological Review, using the broadest methodology, estimates that the decline of unions may account for one-third of the rise of inequality among men.

.. In Germany, the average autoworker earns about $67 per hour in salary and benefits, compared with $34 in the United States. Yet Germany’s car companies in 2010 produced more than twice as many vehicles as American companies did, and they were highly profitable.