TIME College Sports

Here’s the Road Ahead for College Athletes After Union Setback

College Athletes Union northwestern
Jeffrey Phelps—AP Northwestern football players gesture during practice at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside campus on Aug. 17, 2015, in Kenosha, Wi.

Anti-trust case are now the clearest path to reform

Back in April of 2014, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in D.C. granted Northwestern University’s request to review what seemed like a landmark decision in college athletics.

A regional NLRB director ruled that Northwestern football players were indeed employees under federal labor law, and thus had a right to unionize and fight for better health protections, compensation and other benefits at the collective bargaining table.

For a good 16 months now, all stakeholders in college athletics, from players to school and NCAA administrators, to coaches and students and alumni, waited for the NLRB to make a call on Northwestern.

Many labor scholars expected a win for college athletes. They figured that the five-member panel in D.C. would uphold the decision in Chicago, which seemed entirely logical: since Northwestern players dedicated some 50 to 60 hours of their weeks to football, an activity entirely separate from studying in class, sports is indeed a full-time job.

What almost nobody expected: the NLRB spending 16 months to decide not to make a decision.

But that’s exactly what the agency did. Call it a punt, call it an abdication of responsibilities, call it cowardly. On Monday, the NLRB declined to assert jurisdiction in the Northwestern case, simultaneously refusing to address the central question — are big-time college athletes, who in many cases generate millions of dollars for their schools, employees? — squashing the Northwestern union effort, and explicitly leaving the door for other union challenges down the road.

“No legal scholars I’ve talked to over all these months predicted this outcome,” says Warren Zola, sports law expert at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. “It took them over 500 days to reach a conclusion they could have reached in hours. It seemed like they shirked their duties.”

Definitely call it a setback for college athletes, and a strange one at that. The NLRB concluded that making a decision in this case would “not serve to promote stability in labor relations.” But doesn’t the NLRB exist because labor relations are inherently unstable, since employers and employees have such competing interests?

The NLRB decided to pass on this case in large part because of the structure of college athletics. Northwestern University may be a private institution — and thus under NLRB jurisdiction, which oversees the private sector. But all of Northwestern’s “primary competitors” in the Big 10 conference are public institutions, and thus subject to state law.

In fact, of the roughly 125 institutions that compete in top-tier Division 1 football, all but 17 are public schools. Since the NRLB can’t regulate all schools, it won’t regulate Northwestern.

William Gould, emeritus professor at Stanford Law School who chaired the NLRB from 1994 to 1998, isn’t buying this conclusion. “The point about collective bargaining is that it enhances stability,” says Gould. “This decision assumes immaturity on the part of all parties.”

So where do college athletes go from here? While Ramogi Huma, president of the College Athletes Players Association–which organized the Northwestern union efforts–remains surprised and disappointed in the NLRB decision, he doesn’t plan to stop fighting. “There’s no reason to give up,” he insists. “This decision does not set a precedent. We still have an opportunity to unionize college sports.”

Huma won’t specify where and when his next unionization push will take place, because he fears that coaches and administrators will urge players not to organize; Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald, for example, publicly said it wasn’t in his players’ interest to unionize. “Anything we telegraph will be crushed,” Huma says.

The NLRB non-decision will make private university unions more difficult for athletes, but not impossible. The NLRB, for example, noted that “in all our cases involving professional sports, the Board was able to regulate all, or at least most, of the teams in the relevant league or association.” So athletes from an entire conference of private schools within the NLRB’s jurisdiction — say, men’s basketball players from the Big East, which includes strong revenue-producing programs like Georgetown and Villanova — would seem to have a stronger case.

Also, some states laws offer potential openings for public school unions. In fact, Huma might want to visit UCLA, his alma mater, where he played football in the 1990s. In California, the student employee test asks if the services rendered are related to the student’s educational objectives. Since scholarship football players aren’t spending those 50 extra hours studying, athletes at UCLA and other California state schools could lay claim to employee status.

Still, states like Ohio and Michigan have already preemptively struck down college athlete unions in the wake of Northwestern’s effort, by passing statutes specifying that scholarship athletes are not employees. Other states limit, or prohibit, public employees from unionizing altogether: college athletes at the University of Alabama, for example, have no constitutional or statutory right to collectively bargain. So a mass push to unionize athletes at public schools isn’t entirely practical.

Another avenue for athletes is Congress. Federal lawmakers can lift the compensation and benefits restrictions that the NCAA places on its member schools. But Congress is unlikely to rewrite NCAA regulations anytime soon, especially after six Republican lawmakers who help oversee the National Labor Relations Board submitted a brief in the Northwestern case knocking the regional director’s decision.

“Scholarship football players are not and should not be treated … as employees,” wrote the lawmakers, which included Rep. John Kine (Minn.), chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

So the best bet for athletes are the courts. “The action is going to shift to anti-trust,” says Gould, the law professor. Players have already achieved a victory in the O’Bannon case, which permits schools to cover the full cost of attendance for men’s basketball and football players and to set aside deferred payments, capped at no less than $5,000 per year per player. The NCAA is appealing that case.

Even more promising for college athletes — and scary for schools invested in the status quo — is a class-action anti-trust claim, brought forward by famed sports labor attorney Jeffrey Kessler, that seeks to lift all NCAA restrictions on compensation.

“The NLRB decision in the Northwestern case just underscores how important the anti-trust cases are for the players in basketball and football in Division 1,” Kessler says. “Because the anti-trust laws apply fully to all the schools, whether or not they are public institutions. The anti-trust cases are really at the moment the only legal road that players have to try to vindicate their rights. If our case is successful, it will let a market develop where schools or the conferences themselves decide how they want to do this. And we think they’ll make good decisions.”

A hearing for class certification in Kessler’s case is set for October 1. He hopes the case is ready to go to trial by the end of 2016.

“The Northwestern decision is a major setback for college athletes,” says Gould. “But this is just the beginning of this sort of litigation.” College sports is still shifting. Despite the labor board’s pass.


TIME 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton Faces Unrest Among Organized Labor

DOVER, NH - JULY 16: Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a town hall event at Dover City Hall July 16, 2015 in Dover, New Hampshire. Clinton spoke about how to build an economy that will boost the middle class. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Hillary Clinton
Darren McCollester—2015 Getty Images Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a town hall event at Dover City Hall July 16, 2015 in Dover, New Hampshire.

Labor activists are deeply divided over Hillary Clinton's candidacy

Hillary Clinton had good reason to celebrate Saturday. The American Federation of Teachers, a 1.6-million strong union of teachers, nurses and higher education faculty endorsed her, adding a key working-class voice to a campaign that has so far lacked much overt support from organized labor.

“I’m honored to have the support of AFT’s members and leaders, and proud to stand with them to unleash the potential of every American,” Clinton said in response. “Their voices and the voices of all workers are essential to this country.”

But almost immediately, there was a backlash among teachers in far-flung locals across the states. The AFT’s Facebook page lit up with angry comments from those who favored Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders instead. Teachers took to Twitter to condemn the endorsement and at least two petitions were circulated online in opposition. Widely read teachers’ blogs published screeds against the decision, calling it rigged in favor of Clinton, a longtime friend of AFT president Randi Weingarten. Though a June poll among AFT members showed a majority supporting Clinton over Sanders, the fervor of those unhappy with the endorsement ran high.

While the AFT blowback may ultimately prove a minor roadbump for Clinton, it reflects a wider unrest among the ranks of organized labor, and one that may be hard for the campaign to shake.

Unhappy with the status quo and uncertain about the future of labor as union membership shrinks, union members across the country are restive over the possibility of their affiliates endorsing Clinton. Many workers see a more natural alliance with Sanders than with Clinton, according to interviews with dozens of union members, from rank-and-file dues-payers to national union presidents.

Sanders took a year off from the University of Chicago in his early 20s and worked for a local union. He strongly opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement loathed by labor unions across the country, and supports a $15-minimum wage, free tuition at public universities and curbs on corporate power.

Clinton embraced the Trans-Pacific Partnership as Secretary of State, though she has distanced herself from it as a candidate, saying she would only support it if it met high standards for workers and the environment. On Thursday, Clinton declined to support raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, though she is in favor of raising it generally, and has broadly discussed reducing the cost of college education.

For Clinton, the trouble seems to lie in a rift between organized labor’s heart and its head. Activists in a wide array of unions including the American Federation of Teachers, Communication Workers of America, the American Postal Workers Union and the AFL-CIO locals say they are eager to support Sanders. But some of the national leaders are reticent to endorse a candidate like Sanders, who is still considered a long shot in the Democratic primary, and risk losing influence with Clinton down the road or even damaging her candidacy in the general election.

Union leaders “don’t realize how upset rank-and-file membership is and how positively they’re responding to Bernie Sanders’ message,” said David Newby, a former president of the AFL-CIO in Wisconsin. “Clinton’s going to have to be more specific and more hard-hitting than she’s been in the past if she’s going to slow down the rank-and-file momentum towards Bernie.”

“Many of our members have a deep dissatisfaction with both political parties, and the corporate agenda they feel that both the political parties represent,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union. “In our ranks there’s a lot of interest and excitement for Sanders, and it’s bubbling up.”

Support for Sanders isn’t universal, though, and Clinton has some enthusiastic supporters among both rank and file and leadership. Part of the support is based in the belief that she can defeat a Republican in a general election. Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers said he admired Clinton’s decision to join the Children’s Defense Fund after graduating college and added he believed Clinton had a much better chance of winning the general election. “I’ll stand by her from now until November and then forward,” he said. International Association of Fire Fighters President Harold Schaitberger said Clinton’s work for public safety officer benefits after 9/11, and her cosponsoring of a collective bargaining bill as New York Senator endeared her to many in his union.

“Hillary Clinton can take the Republicans on in 2016 and win which is critical to protecting working families wages, benefits and rights to collective bargaining and organizing,” said Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign. “She has been a tireless and tenacious fighter for working families all her life and now she’s working hard to earn their support for President.”

But some of the loudest labor voices are coming from Clinton’s left.

Two AFL-CIO locals in Vermont and South Carolina have passed resolutions supporting Sanders, a petition called “Labor for Bernie” has circulated online and garnered signatures from over 4,000 people. Larry Cohen, the president of the Communication Works of America until last month, has joined as a full-time volunteer for Sanders’ campaign. Citing AFL-CIO rules about early endorsements, several union presidents declined to speak on the record but voiced enthusiasm for Sanders, saying that picking safe, winning candidates over hard-core labor backers has hurt the movement.

Sanders and Clinton have both been making their case to labor. On Monday, Sanders held a private meeting with union leaders at the American Postal Workers Union headquarters in Washington D.C. The next night, many of the same leaders met with Clinton in campaign chairman John Podesta’s home, where Clinton spoke for about 20 minutes and rehashed much of her speech on Monday about her vision for the American economy. According to several people who attended both meetings, Sanders was more specific than Clinton was in addressing labor issues.

MORE: What to Know About Hillary Clinton’s Economic Proposals

“Bernie has complete command of the facts and the need for change,” said Larry Hanley, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union who attended both meetings. “We’re waiting to hear that from Hillary.”

The decision by AFT’s leadership and Weingarten to endorse Clinton early in the primary contest was met with particular vitriol, not just by Sanders supporters but also by union members who felt it was a poor strategic move to endorse so early in the contest.

Around a dozen AFT members, including local board members and local presidents, said in interviews with TIME that they were deeply upset by the early endorsement of Clinton. They said they were broadsided by the endorsement, and many state and local presidents were not aware the AFT was preparing to endorse Clinton until it was announced on Saturday.

“Right now, Sanders is better on our issues than Hillary is,” said Morton Rosenfeld, president of an AFT local in Long Island, New York. “Our goal should be to drive Hillary closer to our position than she already is. That’s the way the politics works.”

In an interview, Weingarten defended the early endorsement of Clinton, saying that a majority of the AFT said they supported endorsing the Democratic frontrunner early in the primary process.

“She shares our values, the sentiment of our members are with her, and she’s clearly best positioned as a Democrat to be elected,” said Weingarten. “We’ve got to win this race.’

Weingarten pointed to a poll of 1,150 randomly selected members from teachers in all the union divisions that showed 67% of members supporting Clinton over Sanders. Weingarten said the support for an early endorsement was “overwhelming.” The executive council of the AFT, which is elected by the locals, voted nearly unanimously in favor of a Clinton endorsement. Weingarten added that by endorsing early, the AFT could control the narrative of the race with a closer link to the campaign.

Among some of the dyspeptic teacher members, however, suspicion lingered over the endorsement, a reflection of some of the alienation among rank-and-file members. They noted that the poll being conducted by Hart Research, a firm led by Clinton allies, and Weingarten’s board membership on Priorities USA, a super-PAC that supports Clinton’s reelection campaign.

The members of the AFT are more naturally aligned with Clinton than those in many other AFL-CIO affiliates. Clinton has long championed early childhood education and supports universal pre-kindergarten, issues particularly important to AFT members. And Clinton’s support as secretary of state for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which most manufacturing-based labor groups oppose, is less of a concern to a teachers union.

In addition to the AFT, some other union leadership say Clinton’s message resonates. Much of Sanders’ message on the environment and defense spending does not sit well with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, for instance, said president Tom Buffenbarger, which represents workers in the defense and forestry products industry.

“We want someone who is seasoned and experienced and has a track record to run on. In all respects that would be Hillary,” said Buffenbarger. He added that he hears from his members so far that they support Clinton.

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, has struggled to hold many of the unions in line and stop them from endorsing candidates early. After the South Carolina and Vermont AFL-CIOs passed resolutions supporting Sanders, he circulated a memo reminding the state divisions of the union’s bylaws not to unilaterally “endorse a presidential candidate” or pass resolutions supporting any of them.

Sources say Trumka also privately asked leaders of the affiliate unions—including the AFT—not to endorse a candidate before the end of July, when presidential candidates Clinton, Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, meet with union leadership to discuss their platforms. (Update: On July 21, the AFL-CIO tweeted that the AFT endorsement is “playing by the rules.”)

Members of the AFT complained that by endorsing early, they gave up a key tool in pushing Clinton further toward progressive issues. It represents a central concern among labor activists, who want to hold out an endorsement until candidates like Clinton embrace their positions. Without taking a tough line with candidates, the labor movement will continue to decline, several union presidents told TIME.

One unionized teacher in New York who supports Sanders said he had hoped the AFT would hold out an endorsement.

“The AFT is always looking for a seat at the table. But when they get seat at the table, for us teachers, we feel like we’re the dinner,” said Arthur Goldstein, a chapter leader of an AFT affiliate at high school in New York. “We want to build out own table and make the politicians come to us.”

More than anything, the unease reflects anger with President Obama’s push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the overwhelming sense among many that unions are losing their political influence.

Labor is searching for a candidate that can buck the trend.

“We are not going to salute the status quo,” said Hanley, president of the transit union. “That is not happening.”

TIME Supreme Court

Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Union Fee Collection

The Supreme Court Issues Orders On Lethal Injection And Redistricting
Mark Wilson—Getty Images An American flag flies over the U.S. Supreme Court June 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. ( Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The case could affect 7 million public sector employees in 20 states

The Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it will hear a pivotal case against public-sector unions, deciding whether those unions can collect mandatory fees from non-members who benefit from collective bargaining.

The challenge comes from 10 non-unionized public school teachers in California who argue that paying the fee violates their free speech rights. They’re asking the Supreme Court to overturn a precedent from the 1970s that allows public sector unions to charges fees to non-union workers as long as the funds are not used for political activity.

California teachers’ unions and state Attorney General Kamala Harris have opposed the challenge, while conservative Justices have criticized the union precedent in the past. The case could affect 7 million public sector employees in 20 states, Reuters reports.



MONEY Unions

Snarky Journalists Have Crude, Wrenching Public Debate About Unionization

Mart Klein—Getty Images/Ikon Images

So much for secret ballots.

Last month, some editorial members of Gawker Media, owner of various web properties including Deadspin, Jezebel, Gizmodo, and of course, Gawker.com, announced they planned to form a union.

Now, with an election scheduled for next week that will decide whether the company will unionize, Gawker writers have made their votes and opinions on the plan public in a post published Thursday. The discussion offers a rare look at how wrenching labor organization can be. Some pro-union writers have been so turned off by the process that they’ve decided to cast their ballot against unionization efforts.

“I am an avid proponent of unions, a leftist, and am perpetually distrustful of those in power—especially those that hold sway over my own employment,” writes Deadspin staff member Kevin Draper. “Yet on June 3rd, I am going to vote against Gawker Media editorial staffers unionizing. That is how f— up this entire process, from start to apparent finish, has been.”

Draper goes on to list a set of grievances that turned him against unionization, including a perceived lack of communication and transparency from union supporters and an election the writer feels was scheduled too soon.

Those issues are echoed by a number of other staffers, including Deadspin columnist Drew Magary, who added that the push toward organization had turned many staffers against one another (“This has created a GALACTIC amount of acrimony within Gawker”). Magary also voiced concerns about the everyday implications of unionization (“I f***ing hate meetings.”). Stef Schrader, an editor for Jalopnik, questioned whether a raise that would include union dues could force the company to cut into other benefits. “I don’t agree that we need to pay an outside entity to negotiate these things for us,” posted Schrader.

Most staff commenters appear to support unionization.

“I am voting yes on the union,” wrote Hamilton Nolan, Gawker’s longest-tenured writer and a major force behind the drive to organize. “This has been a truly ‘grass roots’ organizing process in the sense that we’ve been making it all up as we go along. There’s no doubt all the communication efforts have not been perfect. But I really, really hope that everyone will think about the big picture: a vote for this union is a vote for unity. It’s a vote to meld all of our interests together as one. And beyond the practical benefits for us, it’s a really important symbolic vote for our entire industry. It’s the first step of a movement that could end up helping a lot of people.”

If the pushback against organization by some writers comes as a surprise, it shouldn’t. Online media companies, despite being populated by many young city-dwellers who, as a demographic, tend to skew towards the left, have generally been reluctant to unionize. If Gawker does become a union shop, it would be the first major new media company to do so.

Why is the digital press so reluctant to band together? As the Washington Post explained in January, a combination of generational and economic forces tend to make unionization less palatable to online scribes. Younger workers are typically less familiar with unions and more apt to see themselves as personal brands instead of as part of a collective.

Another reason for web media’s union-phobia may just be that many journalists don’t feel they have it quite so hard. “They tend to think that because of their education and their talent, they don’t need [a union],” said Freddy Kunkle, the co-chair of The Washington Post’s Guild unit, in an interview with the Post. “What they’re doing is not coal mining: It’s not dangerous; it’s not dirty. What are they going to get out of it?”

MONEY Minimum Wage

Unions Say It’s OK for Businesses to Sidestep the L.A. Minimum Wage

Labor leaders say that businesses with unionized workers should be exempt from the $15 minimum wage requirement.

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles City Council voted in favor a new law that would increase the city’s minimum wage from $9 to $15 an hour by the year 2020. Yet the Los Angeles Times reports that labor officials, who until now have been strong supporters of the wage hike, are asking for a last-minute change that would allow unions the freedom to collectively bargain for wages that are lower than the minimum.

“With a collective bargaining agreement, a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both,” Rusty Hicks, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said in a statement. “This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing.”

Some business leaders suspect the sudden about face by the organization, which represents over 300 unions in the L.A. area, might be a tactic to increase membership and enhance the power of organized labor. Ruben Gonzalez, a senior vice president with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, which opposed the wage legislation, told the Times he believes labor leaders are hoping to use this exception to pressure companies into unionizing, thereby allowing them to avoid minimum wage rules.

The city council’s Economic Development Committee is scheduled this Friday to review an ordinance enacting the new minimum wage law.

TIME jeb bush

How Jeb Bush’s Union-Friendly Pension Law Could Haunt Him

Former Florida Governor and potential Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks to supporters at an early morning GOP breakfast event in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on March 18, 2015.
Richard Ellis—ZUMA Press/Corbis Former Florida Governor and potential Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks to supporters at an early morning GOP breakfast event in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on Mar. 18, 2015.

Democratic lawmaker calls it "the most union friendly bill I've ever seen"

Shortly after he was sworn in as governor in 1999, Jeb Bush signed a union-backed bill that some argue led Florida’s cities to massively underfund their municipal pensions. As he squares off against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and others in the Republican presidential primary, the law may come to haunt him.

“If you’re Governor Walker, you can say ‘I took on the unions, while he gave them what they wanted,’” said Andrew Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “It plays as something where he held the line, and Governor Bush didn’t.”

The law set a minimum standard for fire and police pension benefits and used state money to encourage cities to enhance pensions above those amounts. The goal was to increase pension benefits without letting cities simply pass their baseline obligations onto the state.

During the boom years of the early 2000s, the system worked well. But when the Florida economy crashed in 2008, the law prevented cities from getting help from the state to cover their pension losses. Instead, to avoid leaving state money on the table, cities ended up continuing to add extra benefits, leaving local taxpayers on the hook for the core of the pensions and increasing government spending overall.

“Now you have a hole in your underlying funding,” explains Mike Sittig, president of the Florida League of Cities. “That hole has to be filled, and in most cities that hole is filled with property taxes. It means that property taxes went up, or some other local priority was cut out of the budget.”

In the 16 years since the law was passed, pension spending has skyrocketed as some cities have tried to make up for pension fund losses in the market. A bill to reform the 1999 law passed the Florida legislature on April 24th — it ends the rule that state funds only be used for extra pension benefits, but incentivizes cities and unions to directly negotiate on the municipal level. That bill is awaiting Governor Rick Scott’s signature, but the damage may already be done. A 2014 report card of Florida municipal pensions conducted by the Leroy Collins Institute and Florida TaxWatch found that almost 50% of municipal pension plans got “D” or “F” grades.

Police and firefighter unions stood by the 1999 law as a way to ensure that first responders get their due, regardless of a city’s budget problems. “That’s not the police officer’s fault, that’s not the union’s fault, that’s the fault of city leaders who did not put in the money that they should have,” says John Rivera, president of the Florida Police Benevolent Association. But both unions also support the recently passed legislation.

Gov. Bush’s campaign team says the economic problems are the fault of the cities’ mismanagement, not the law itself. “The intent was always that these benefits be funded in a fiscally sound way,” says Kristy Campbell, a Bush spokeswoman. “Some cities did not.” She added that the candidate supports the recent reform, noting that it’s “consistent with the original purpose and intent of the 1999 law,” which she says was to ensure that funding for benefits was “fiscally sound.”

Opponents to the law have been trying to raise awareness about the $10 billion unfunded liability in Florida municipal pensions. Florida TaxWatch, a research institute and government watchdog, has even started a coalition called Taxpayers for Sustainable Pensions to explain the problem and encourage reform.

So far, the pension issue has not become a major rallying cry in the Sunshine State, and none of the other 2016 Republican hopefuls have picked it up as an attack line. But it could become a headache for Bush if the race narrows with Walker, who defeated public-sector unions in a high-profile fight that avoided any cuts to police or fire employee pensions in Wisconsin.

“You’ve got pension funding problems in almost every state in the country, so that’s something that can resonate with people,” Biggs says. “If you work out how generous public employee pensions are compared to what you or I are going to get in a 401(k) … it looks like a giveaway to a group that is already getting a better pension than you or me.”

The pension problem is ultimately the local government’s responsibility, though critics blame unions’ role in state politics for exacerbating it.

“Jeb Bush likely credited them for his victory in ’99, and this was the reward,” says state Sen. Jeremy Ring, a Democrat who sponsored the recent reform bill. “It was the most union-friendly bill I’ve ever seen.”

The pension drama has the potential to cast a cloud on Bush’s claims that during his time in the governor’s mansion he was the “most conservative governor in the country.” While he cut billions in taxes and balanced the state’s budget, he did so at a time of strong economic growth. When the market collapsed a year after he left office, many of the gains under his tenure eroded. Critics contend Bush should have pursued policies that would have been more resilient during a downturn.

Many of the Floridians who opposed the bill in the 1990s say that the law has done exactly what they feared it would. Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox’s father was the first president of the Florida police union, but the younger Maddox fought against the bill when he was Tallahassee mayor in 1999. “It keeps adding to that benefit, even if it wasn’t asked for,” he says. “It makes no sense to me.”

“I’m for local control, and I’m for collective bargaining, and I’m fiscally conservative,”says Maddox, a Democrat who also served as President of the Florida League of Cities. “If you’re any of those three things, I don’t know how you can support that legislation.”

TIME Internet

New Google Doodle Celebrates International Labour Day

New Google Doodle Celebrates Labour Day

The holiday has its origins in the 19th century labor movement

It may have a different date in the U.S., but many countries around the world will be taking a public holiday Friday to celebrate the international Labour Day, and Google is marking the event with a new Doodle

Labour Day, also called International Workers’ Day or May Day, has its origins in the late 19th century labor movement. One of the most significant contributors to Labour Day was the Haymarket Massacre.

On May 4, 1886, a Chicago, Ill., bombing killed seven police officers along with four civilians. The dynamite blast was a response to the killings of peaceful demonstrators by police the day before. After the bombing, eight anarchists were convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to death. The case created international headlines because the evidence suggested none of those eight men actually threw the bomb.

Three years later, a French socialist party created an international day to honor the labor movement and marked May 1 in commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre.

The Google Doodle honors the Labor Day origins with graphics showing traditional manual labor tools such as a wrench and tape measure.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 17

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Is it time for the Jews to leave Europe?

By Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic

2. The divorce rate is falling. Here’s why that’s bad news for some Americans.

By Sharadha Bain in the Washington Post

3. Across the planet, cost and class determine who lives and who dies.

By Paul Farmer in the London Review of Books

4. The U.S. should consider joining — rather than containing — the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

By Elizabeth C. Economy in Asia Unbound

5. Trade unions in Cleveland will launch a “pre-apprentice” program to prepare high school kids for construction jobs.

By Patrick O’Donnell in the Cleveland Plain Dealer

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Labor

Burned McDonald’s Workers File Complaint Over Poor Working Conditions

Worker claims she was told to use mustard to treat a burn

McDonald’s employees in 19 cities have filed health and safety complaints against the fast food giant over lax standards that they say led workers to sustain severe burns on the job.

The complaints, which McDonald’s has said it is reviewing, allege that low staffing and pressure to work quickly led to employees getting injured. In at least one instance, a worker at a Chicago McDonald’s claims that after she suffered a severe burn from a hot grill, her boss told her to put mustard on it instead of immediately seeking medical treatment.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened a review into the complaints, according to the BBC.

The complaints are being publicized by Fast Food Forward, a union-backed group that has been organizing one-day strikes of fast food workers for more than two years, demanding a $15 per hour living wage and the right to unionize.

A McDonald’s spokeswoman told BBC that the company is “committed to providing safe working conditions for employees in the 14,000 McDonald’s Brand US restaurants.”

Read next: McDonald’s Wants to Replace the Drive-Thru with Drones

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

MONEY privacy

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Using Personal Email at Work

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
Jason DeCrow—AP Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Clinton is in trouble for mixing up her personal and business accounts—and you could get in trouble too.

Hillary Clinton has come under scrutiny for exclusively using her personal email account for all of her work communications when she was secretary of state, according to a report in the New York Times. That’s actually a huge problem. Under federal law, Clinton was required to preserve all of her communications.

But you don’t have to be a former secretary of state and favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination for your work emails to be preserved for posterity, and someone might be interested in their contents: your boss.

Here’s what you should know about the privacy of your work emails—namely, that you don’t have any.

1) Your employer can monitor pretty much anything you access on the company’s computer system, even your personal email account.

In most cases, courts have taken the position that employers have the right to monitor what employees do on the employer’s computer systems and equipment, says Catherine E. Reuben, employment lawyer at the firm Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP.

To start, that means your boss can see any messages you send using your work email. But that’s not all. “When you send an email from work, the company server doesn’t know or care whether this email is on your company email account or your personal Yahoo account—it monitors everything,” says Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute. And that’s completely legal.

One gray area: A recent National Labor Relations Board case ruling found that employees have a presumptive right to use their employer’s email system for union organizing, although labor laws restrict employers from surveillance of union organizing activities. That means the NLRB may eventually conclude that employers are not able to monitor emails related to union organizing, even if they are sent using the employer’s server or equipment. “That is an unsettled issue,” Reuben says.

2) Assume any email, text message, or other electronic communication you send on your employer’s system can be used against you.

“In my personal experience, employers will monitor email when there is a business reason to do so,” Reuben says. “For example, if an employee accuses another employee of sending sexually harassing emails, the employer would naturally want, as part of its investigation, to review all of the email communications between the two employees.”

Adverse consequences are not uncommon. In 2007, a survey by the American Management Association found that 28% of employers had fired employees over “e-mail misuse.” The most common kinds of misuse: violation of company policies, inappropriate language, excessive personal use, or breaking confidentiality. (“Internet misuse” was even more common; another 30% of employers said they had terminated employees for excessive personal use of the Internet at work, viewing inappropriate content at work, or other violations of the employer’s electronic use policy.)

And your emails could cause a problem long after you send them. “Remember that emails, text messages, other electronic documents can live on forever, even if you delete them,” Reuben says.

3) Beware of “George Carlin software.”

You probably assume your boss doesn’t have time to monitor every email you send. That’s true, Maltby says, but you’re forgetting about the IT department. “People in IT can look at anything, anytime they want to, for any reason they want to,” Maltby says. “They are agents of the employer, and it’s the employer’s system.”

One very common practice: Some employers have keyword software to detect sexual harassment. Maltby calls it “George Carlin software” (note: that link is NSFW) because it can flag certain inappropriate words. But the software can pick up false positives. “If a female employee sends an email with the word ‘breast’ to her oncologist through the company system, it’s going to be read,” Maltby says.

The simple solution: Send any sensitive, personal messages from your own device.

4) Emailing company documents to your personal account could get you in trouble.

You have more work to do, but you just want to go home—and accessing your employer’s email remotely is a huge hassle. So you just forward your files from your work email account to your personal account and finish your work at home.

The problem? That could later create the impression that you are trying to steal the company’s confidential information.

“Make sure you read and understand your employer’s policies, and don’t download company information without permission,” Reuben says. “Do your best to protect the company’s trade secrets, confidential information, and data.”

5) When you set up your company’s email on your personal phone, you often give your employer the right to delete all of your personal data.

Want to check your work email on your personal iPhone? Your employer probably asked you to sign a “bring-your-own-device” agreement. If you didn’t read it, do that now—you likely waived some of your rights.

There’s good reason for that: Companies need to secure their information systems. “What the policy is essentially saying is, if you want the privilege of accessing our proprietary, confidential systems and the convenience of accessing those systems on your personal device, you’ve got to waive your right to privacy,” Reuben says. “Many employers in such a policy will reserve the employer’s right to monitor the employee’s activities on the device and to remote-wipe the device if there is a security risk, for example, if the device is lost or stolen.”

You read that right: You probably gave your employer permission to delete all of your personal data. Your company might want to do that if your device could be compromised—or if you just no longer work there. “When you leave the company, the company will probably wipe your cell phone, and they’ll probably wipe everything,” Maltby says. “Pictures of your kids, bank records, and God knows what else have been erased forever.”

The takeaway: Actually read your employer’s electronic use and BYOD policies. And back up those photos somewhere else.

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