Union Foolishly Persists, Wasting Time and Resources

In 2011, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and its co-conspirators started invading Maryland Walmart stores and harassing customers and staff. Perhaps the UFCW thought it could get away with its outrageous behavior in a union-friendly state or that the federal courts would weigh in on its behalf. But, either way, it was in for a series of surprises.

The UFCW claims that it launched this campaign of harassment to improve working conditions for Walmart employees and that it does not wish to represent Walmart workers itself. Of course, since the UFCW is at least as honest as any unscrupulous used car salesman, its claims may or may not be accurate.

During this campaign, which went on for several years, the UFCW would assemble “flash mobs” to block traffic, block check-out lanes, sing, dance, scream, use bullhorns indoors, litter, confront managers, force their way into management meetings, etc. UFCW protesters would then refuse to leave as they were instructed to do by Walmart managers. The police would be called, and they would order the protesters to leave.

In response to this harassment, Walmart lawyers repeatedly sent cease and desist letters to the UFCW; and the union stubbornly refused to honor them. So, in March of 2013, Walmart filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the union of coercing Walmart employees to join the union.

In September of 2013, Walmart filed a lawsuit against the UFCW for trespassing and nuisance in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County. The UFCW filed a motion to dismiss the case, which was denied. Walmart requested a preliminary injunction preventing the union from trespassing on company property; the UFCW argued that the state’s trespassing law was preempted by federal labor law. Rejecting the union’s argument, the court issued a preliminary injunction just before Black Friday in 2013 and a permanent injunction in early 2015.

The permanent injunction prohibited UFCW from entering Walmart property in Maryland for the purpose of “picketing, patrolling, parading, demonstrations, chanting, ‘flash mobs,’ handbilling, solicitation, customer disruptions, manager delegations or confrontations, or associate engagement for a non-shopping purpose.” The injunction also prohibited

“Interfering with, obstructing or blocking Walmart’s and its customers’ access to, and use of, easements and/or right-of-ways granted by  Walmart across or upon apron sidewalks and parking lots adjacent to stores for which Walmart has a “building only” lease; and engaging in any nuisance conduct off Walmart’s private property which disrupts and/or interferes with Walmart customers’ or associates’ access to, or ability to move around or exit, Walmart private property…”

Hoping for a more favorable ruling, the UFCW appealed the circuit court’s decision to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. That court unanimously affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

Still not able to accept that it was wrong, the UFCW appealed to the highest court in the state, the Court of Appeals. Late last month, the court handed down its decision. Once again, the UFCW’s arguments were found to be without merit, and the Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the ruling of the Court of Special Appeals. In other words, the UFCW’s lawyers could not persuade even one of the seven judges on the Court of Appeals – whether appointed by a Republican or a Democrat – to side with the union.

For over three years, the UFCW spent its members’ money paying lawyers to fight a losing battle with Walmart in Maryland courts, and the union has absolutely nothing to show for it. Of course, the union tried its shenanigans at Walmart stores in a number of other states. And judges from California to Ohio to Florida also told the UFCW to stop trespassing on Walmart property.

Throughout its fight with Walmart, the UFCW has behaved shamefully: trespassing; harassing customers, employees, and management; ignoring cease and desist letters; and then defending its outrageous behavior year after year in the courts. It’s time for the UFCW to learn and follow the law, and stop wasting its members’ money – along with taxpayers’ money – on frivolous litigation.

In 2011, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and its co-conspirators started invading Maryland Walmart stores and harassing customers and staff. Perhaps the UFCW thought it could get away with its outrageous behavior in a union-friendly state or that the federal courts would weigh in on its behalf. But, either way, it […]






Why Doesn’t the UFCW Respect Women?

Since last year, Mickey Kasparian, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135, and his lackeys have been accused of discrimination and/or mistreatment by not one, not two, not three, but four Hispanic women. Three of these four accusers worked directly for the UFCW; a fourth works for a UFCW-funded organization.

Last December, Sandy Naranjo, a UFCW organizer, filed a lawsuit against UFCW Local 135 alleging gender discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination. This was a shocking turn of events, given the fact that she had previously viewed her job as a “dream job.” In her lawsuit, she alleges that “Kasparian created a work environment that was particularly hostile toward women.” Kasparian had fired this woman shortly before Christmas — while she was recovering from a work-related car accident.

As bad as those allegations are, the most troubling allegations are from Isabel Vasquez who filed a lawsuit against Kasparian and UFCW Local 135 for sexual harassment just a few days before Christmas last year. She claims that Kasparian repeatedly demanded that she have sexual relations with him. At one point, a co-worker interrupted one of these sexual acts, but nothing was done, and the harassment continued. Last year, after more than a decade of abuse, she decided to retire early from the UFCW. In her lawsuit, she further alleges that Kasparian sexually harassed another woman in 2011. After this woman’s husband found out about the harassment and beat up Kasparian, she too was fired.

In February, a local paper called on Kasparian to step down. At an anti-Kasparian protest that month, another woman who had worked for the UFCW for nearly a decade accused Kasparian of making “everybody [in the office] feel fearful of losing their jobs.”

After expressing support for Vasquez, Anabel Arauz, a UFCW organizer, was fired in March of this year. The following month, she also filed a lawsuit against UFCW Local 135 and Kasparian alleging discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. In her lawsuit, she referred to the union and Kasparian’s “demonstrated animus, bias, and discriminatory intent/conduct against women.”

Also in March – Women’s History Month – Nohelia Ramos Campos filed a complaint against the San Diego chapter of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), which is funded by the UFCW. In her complaint, she accused her employer of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Specifically, she alleged that a superior pressured her to support Kasparian and mentioned that Kasparian had threatened the UFCW’s funding of ACCE over her comments on social media in support of Kasparian’s accusers.

While serving as the president of UFCW Local 135, Kasparian was also the president of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, a group of local unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO. In May, Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, ordered the removal of Kasparian from the leadership of the labor council and placed the organization into receivership.

While one might guess that Kasparian would have taken his removal from the labor council presidency as a sign that it was time for him to resign from the leadership of his union, that was certainly not the case. Instead, the shameless Kasparian announced the creation of a rival labor council the day after his removal; this new labor council’s membership included SEIU Local 221 and several other unions. And through it all, the local Democrat Party leadership has continued to support Kasparian.

All of which leads to one question: how many more women will have to speak out about their mistreatment by Kasparian before the UFCW and its allies start taking women seriously?

Since last year, Mickey Kasparian, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135, and his lackeys have been accused of discrimination and/or mistreatment by not one, not two, not three, but four Hispanic women. Three of these four accusers worked directly for the UFCW; a fourth works for a UFCW-funded organization. Last […]






Out in the Cold

By Richard McCarty

Last year, Big Labor gambled on Democrats, and they lost big at both the state and federal level. Now they find themselves out in the cold in many places.

One of those places is Kentucky. Prior to the 2016 elections, Republicans held the Kentucky governorship and the state Senate, while Democrats held a 53-47 majority in the state House of Representatives. Big Labor fought hard to keep the Democrats in control of the state House, but their efforts were in vain – Republicans routed the Democrats picking up 17 seats.

As a consequence of last year’s elections, the new state legislature quickly passed a right to work bill that lets employees decide for themselves if they want to join a union, a paycheck protection bill (which prohibits the deduction of union dues from wages unless the employee opts in to paying them), and a bill repealing the prevailing wage law (a law that required contractors on certain government contracts to pay wages at or above local union wages).

Governor Matt Bevin signed all three bills into law.

In previous years, the Republican-led state Senate had passed right to work legislation only to watch it die in the Democrat-run state House.

Another place where unions find themselves out in the cold is Missouri. Republicans there have tried to enact right to work legislation for the past several years, but were stymied by the Democrat governor, Jay Nixon, who was unable to run for reelection last year due to term limits.

The Republican gubernatorial candidate, Eric Greitens, ran on enacting right to work; the Democrat gubernatorial candidate, Chris Koster, ran on opposing right to work and received generous union support. But in the end, union support wasn’t enough, and Greitens defeated Koster by nearly six points in November.

Republican legislators wasted little time in once again passing a right to work bill, and Greitens signed it into law. Now, the legislature is considering reforming its prevailing wage law and passing paycheck protection legislation.

And not only have unions lost a number of political battles — they’re also losing members. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 240,000 fewer US union members in 2016 than there were in 2015. In 1983, 20.1 percent of the US labor force belonged to a union; in 2016, only 10.7 percent of the labor force belonged to a union.

The overall rate would have been much lower if the public sector union membership rate were not so high, but both sectors have seen union membership declines last year. Between 2015 and 2016, the private sector union membership rate fell from 6.7 percent to 6.4 percent while the public sector union membership rate fell from 35.2 percent to 34.4 percent.

And the bad news for unions didn’t stop there: union members tend to be a bit older, most states saw declining union membership last year, and voters’ views of union bosses aren’t very good. The age group most likely to belong to a union was 45-64 year olds — 13.3 percent of workers in that age group belonged to a union. During 2016, union membership rates fell in 31 states, remained flat in 3 states, and rose in 16 states.

According to a Rasmussen poll taken last year, only 20 percent of likely voters believed that most union bosses do a good job of representing their members. At the same time, 57 percent believed that union bosses are out of touch with most of their members.

Facing facts like these, it’s time for union bosses to get serious about providing real value for their members, stop wasting their members’ money on pet projects, and stop playing political games.

One way that private sector unions could do this would be to start working with, rather than against, President Trump and help him achieve his goals of bringing back jobs from overseas and keeping existing jobs, issues that Democrats have neglected for years and where there may now be common ground with President.

Richard McCarty is a Senior Research Analyst at Americans for Limited Government.

By Richard McCarty Last year, Big Labor gambled on Democrats, and they lost big at both the state and federal level. Now they find themselves out in the cold in many places. One of those places is Kentucky. Prior to the 2016 elections, Republicans held the Kentucky governorship and the state Senate, while Democrats held […]






UFCW Loses Again

Although the UFCW bitterly opposed Right to Work legislation in Missouri, the state’s new governor just signed it into law. With Gov. Eric Greitens’ signature, Missouri became the 28th Right to Work state. Not long ago, the union claimed to have 20,000 members in Missouri; but, according to one labor expert, the UFCW will likely be one of the two unions to bear most of the brunt of the law in the near term.

Individual unions will struggle to convince union members to maintain their membership. Philip Dine, a journalist and author who spent more than two decades as a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, says the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are the two unions that are likely to feel the most immediate impact of the new law.

“UFCW and Teamsters are pretty strong in the St. Louis area. But the grocery store workers in the UFCW are going to come under a lot of pressure. A lot of those jobs don’t pay all that well to start with, so it’s not going to be easy to convince workers that union dues are worth the money,” says Dine…

Although the UFCW bitterly opposed Right to Work legislation in Missouri, the state’s new governor just signed it into law. With Gov. Eric Greitens’ signature, Missouri became the 28th Right to Work state. Not long ago, the union claimed to have 20,000 members in Missouri; but, according to one labor expert, the UFCW will likely […]






UFCW Boss Accused of Harassment, Discrimination

Three women, who are current or former UFCW employees, are accusing Mickey Kasparian, a powerful UFCW boss, of discrimination and/or harassment. The most serious allegations are from a recent retiree; she alleges that Kasparian repeatedly demanded she engage in sexual acts with him. She has filed a lawsuit against not only Kasparian but also the UFCW because the union did nothing to stop his abuse.

Three women, who are current or former UFCW employees, are accusing Mickey Kasparian, a powerful UFCW boss, of discrimination and/or harassment. The most serious allegations are from a recent retiree; she alleges that Kasparian repeatedly demanded she engage in sexual acts with him. She has filed a lawsuit against not only Kasparian but also the UFCW […]






Trying to Kill Jobs?

UFCW is supporting a ballot measure in Oregon to hike business taxes by $3 billion, the largest tax hike in state history. According to a government report, the regressive tax would likely lower incomes, raise prices, and kill jobs.

Measure 97 would be the biggest tax increase in Oregon’s history, generating an estimated $3 billion a year for public education and other state services.

The initiative would levy a 2.5 percent tax on many companies’ Oregon sales over $25 million. But Measure 97 exempts some types of businesses and applies differently to others…

Economists say how much businesses pass along would depend on their market power. Cable television companies, for example, may pass along much of the cost. Private utilities such as Portland General Electric have regulated monopolies and a legal right to pass along higher costs – including taxes – to ratepayers.

Other states exempt wholesalers from consumption and sales taxes, or they tax wholesale trade at a lower rate. Because Measure 97 does not, some economists expect a “pyramiding” effect in which added costs are stacked atop one another for some products and services.

Conventional sales taxes in other states usually exempt food from taxation. Measure 97 does not. So if businesses do pass along higher costs, it could produce higher grocery bills.

The legislative study — which was based on an approximation of Measure 97 — concluded it would both dampen wage growth and raise prices.

UFCW is supporting a ballot measure in Oregon to hike business taxes by $3 billion, the largest tax hike in state history. According to a government report, the regressive tax would likely lower incomes, raise prices, and kill jobs. Measure 97 would be the biggest tax increase in Oregon’s history, generating an estimated $3 billion a year for […]






UFCW Weakened Itself

The UFCW’s 2004 strike against California grocery store chains damaged the unionized stores and helped non-union grocery stores. And in the process of weakening the grocery chains, the union weakened itself.

They [Aldi and Whole Foods] took advantage of a grocery landscape that has been in upheaval since the 141-day work stoppage and lockout, which cost Ralphs and Albertsons $1.5 billion in sales and helped retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target expand their grocery aisles.

“That last time, it increased the opportunities for other chains geometrically,” said Burt Flickinger III, managing director of consulting firm Strategic Resource Group. “The unionized operators, and the unions, were hit so hard financially.”

Since then, the big chains have hemorrhaged market share. In 2004, Ralphs, Albertsons and Vons/Pavilions (which was acquired by Albertsons in 2014 as part of its Safeway purchase) held nearly 60% of the Southland’s grocery trade, according to the Strategic Resource Group. That share has plunged to about 33% today.

These days, Unified Grocers Inc. in the City of Commerce, a wholesale cooperative which mainly serves independent stores, controls 16.6%, according to the Shelby Report, which tracks the industry. Wal-Mart is right behind with 11%, followed by Stater Brothers at 8.9% and Trader Joe’s with 6.2%.

A strike presents an opportunity to grocers to break the shopping habits of consumers. Once someone flees to another chain, they often don’t go back, analysts said.

The UFCW’s 2004 strike against California grocery store chains damaged the unionized stores and helped non-union grocery stores. And in the process of weakening the grocery chains, the union weakened itself. They [Aldi and Whole Foods] took advantage of a grocery landscape that has been in upheaval since the 141-day work stoppage and lockout, which […]