The Progressive Battle against American Business

Union membership has dropped from 18.5 percent in 1983 to 7.5 percent by 2013 in the private sector and 45.5 percent to 38.7 in the public sector. Because of this, there is an all-out assault on business, both big and small.

In 2009, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn issued an executive order unionizing the caretakers of in-home patients that received Medicaid benefits. This deliberate scheme to bolster the waning membership rolls of public sector unions spread with successful attempts in Missouri, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

However, most of these caretakers are not employees of the patient, but rather family members.

Such is Pam Harris’ case, who cares for her disabled son, Josh. Despite the fact she doesn’t receive compensation from the government, Quinn’s executive order reclassified her as a state employee, forcing her to pay membership dues to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) against her wishes.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court ruled Illinois home health care workers cannot be required to pay fees that help cover a union’s costs of collective bargaining. In a 5-4 split along ideological lines, the justices said the practice violates the First Amendment rights of nonmembers who disagree with the positions that unions take.

The ruling is limited to “partial-public employees” and stopped short of overturning decades of practice allowing public sector unions of teachers, firefighters and other government workers to pass through their representation costs to nonmembers.

Recently, SEIU spent more than $2 million of its members dues money to fund the Restaurant Opportunity Center (ROC), a so-called “worker center” that the union uses to skirt rules about union organizing. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union spends freely on another outfit called OURWalmart, trying to push unionization more deeply into the retail sector.

These groups like UFCW, ROC, OurWalmart, and Fast Food Forward hold protests and demonstrations, stage strikes and walkouts, chant slogans demanding outlandish minimum wage with bussed-in protestors who don’t work for any of the companies subject to the protests.

In early June, the Seattle City Council approved a large minimum wage hike to $15 per hour, giving larger businesses with over 500 employees three years to comply and smaller businesses seven. However, under current labor law, franchises like fast food chains are technically small businesses since they’re owned and operated locally.

A June 24 Seattle-Times survey shows 42 percent of businesses are “very likely” to cut staffing levels in response to the new law, and 44 percent are “very likely” to cut employee hours.

Meanwhile, 70 percent indicated that the new law will spur cost increases, while 43 percent are “very likely” to limit their future expansion in the city. In fact, one in seven businesses plans to close at least one location in the city in response to the new law.

Leading the wage-hike charge in Seattle is Socialist Alternative Councilmember Kshama Sawant. She also has it out for the practice of tipping.

“We don’t want any worker to be beholden to the mood of the customer on any given day,” Sawant stated.

The Seattle-Times reported ROC co-director Saru Jayaraman, “described tips as institutionalized sexism” and then to make her views perfectly clear added “the best option, she suggests, is to eliminate tips.”

She recently told the University of California, Berkeley’s alumni magazine: “Ultimately, this system of tipping needs to go.”

Jayaraman also told the Ford Foundation, who has given more than $2 million to ROC: “No portion of anybody’s income should be tips because tips are not wages.”

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the average hourly wage for a restaurant employee earning tip income is $11.82, which by most definitions lifts them into the American middle class. It also shows top earners can collect $24 an hour or more.

The service industry in Seattle is fighting back, with a group called ‘Tips Are Wages.’

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