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WBI BLOG

Nexus of Workers' Rights, Research & Social Policies



February 22nd, 2016

Mourning a champion for the cause. We will miss her spirit.

Over the years we have heard the personal tales of well over 10,000 individuals, met thousands more at speaking and consulting engagements and gone in-depth with litigants for whom I’ve provided expert witness services. So, forgive us for not personally bonding with many of those who have been bullied.

Emelise Francesca Aleandri was the exception and an extraordinary woman. Ruth and I came to know not only her plight but her spirit. Our relationship with her began with her 2004 legal case in federal court against the City University of New York (CUNY). The culprit was a jerk named Joseph Scelsa who directed the Calandra Italian-American Institute at CUNY. Scelsa’s wrath impacted several people, including Emelise and her co-plaintiff Gloria Salerno, a clinical psychologist, who had counseled students for decades successfully and without interference until Scelsa meddled with her too. Both women claimed sexual harassment by Scelsa within CUNY before filing in court.

The definitive attributes that bonded Emelise to Gloria was their Italian heritage and their activity in women’s advocacy group that Scelsa resented beginning in 1988. Perpetrator Scelsa had pledged to “get them big time.” The Institute gained its autonomy in 1994 and Scelsa ran his kingdom with impunity. The diminutive petty tyrant was an autocrat who demanded unquestioning loyalty. And the married Scelsa had a mistress who used to engineer Emelise’s downfall.

Emelise was the artist. She was born in Riva Del Garda, Italy, emigrating to the U.S. at age four. She was an actress, singer, folk dancer, author and theatrical producer and director of historical plays celebrating Italian culture and its contribution to American theater. Her major opus was the 14-volume book series on the Italian-American Immigrant Theatre, 1746-1899. She also wrote books on Little Italy.

With her MA (Hunter) PhD (CUNY) in Theater, she was the Director of the Center for Italian-American Studies at Brooklyn College (part of the CUNY system). Through my involvement in her legal case against Scelsa and CUNY, I learned that she was the creator and producer of the first nationally syndicated cable TV program about Italian-Americans: Italics: the Italian-American Magazine. She also produced documentaries about her heritage. Scelsa’s mistress was the script typist for the Aleandri’s CUNY show. The bullying Emelise experienced revolved around Scelsa stripping her from the TV show, putting the mistress-typist in charge!

However, her CUNY job did not define all that Emelise had become in a remarkable life. She was the Artistic Director of Frizzi & Lazzi The Olde Time Italian-American Music & Theatre Company, a not-for-profit group. She also was an actress who had roles in two Spike Lee films. She did TV commercials.

On Italian-American culture issues, she was the go-to expert for media. She gave walking tours of Little Italy in NYC. She lectured on Italian culture for the New York Council for the Humanities, in the tri-state area, nationally, and in Naples and Genova.

After her bullying experience and trial, WBI called on Emelise repeatedly to give articulate voice to the millions of bullied targets forced to the shadows. Here is a print version. For radio, among other shows, she helped WBI on The Takeaway with John Hockenberry. Here is an appearance she made on New York WPIX-TV.

She justifiably won several awards for her tireless advocacy on behalf of Italian-Americans. She was an Elena Cornaro Award Honoree(OSIA), New York State Woman of Distinction, and an Honoree of Leone de San Marco, Commission for Social Justice (OSIA), Lt. Joseph Petrosino Lodge (OSIA), Italian-American Educators.

It is little wonder that the jealous Scelsa felt threatened by her brilliance and absolute command of the Italian-American culture. I opined in the case brought by Aleandri and Salerno against Scelsa and CUNY:

Aleandri was the more invested of the two in the creative arts and was quite entrepreneurial prior to the Institute’s status as an autonomous research entity under Queen’s College. Scelsa interfered with, stole, or expressly prevented her role in the production of the Italics TV show that she had conceived. She was not given an office phone to conduct business. She had to use a hallway pay telephone on the floor below that afforded no working space for handling the phone duty associated with producing a TV show. She was a very public person as the creative producer and co-host of the show. Scelsa humiliated her in the eyes of guests by forbidding her to personally write thank-you letters. To the unknowing guest (and who could have known about Scelsa’s dominating influence from outside the Institute?), she must have appeared unprofessional. The nefarious manner in which Scelsa replaced Aleandri with the show’s technician (Schempp) and promoted the original script typist (Fosco) to a position higher than Aleandri had to have been degrading. She was then made to train the relatively unqualified staff that Scelsa hired to replace her. Ultimately, the theft of the master tapes for Festa and the copyright infringements compounded the insults.

The lawsuit was filed by both plaintiffs, Salerno and Aleandri, in 2001 [U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York – 191 F. Supp. 2d 352 (S.D.N.Y. 2001)]. The two week trial in 2005 ended in a $1.4 million settlement for Emelise and Gloria. Though it never did provide the justice sought or deserved. It was never about the money, and in the end, after paying attorneys, there wasn’t that much.

To its credit, the union, PSC (Professional Staff Congress), a higher education branch of the AFT, was supportive. You can read the union’s summary of the case here.

The bond between the two strong women, Emelise and Gloria, forged during the long internal struggle against Scelsa at CUNY and the nearly as long legal battle was further strengthened after the trial. After a few years, they decided to write the definitive account of what had happened to them. A publisher was found that agreed that the two would produce an unvarnished tale, naming names. However, after they completed the manuscript (not simply a book proposal), the cowardly publisher reneged, not wanting to offend CUNY backers of Scelsa. Again, the pair of advocates had been betrayed. Being lied to was becoming the institutional norm when dealing with straight shooters Salerno and Aleandri.

With CUNY and the publisher in the rear view mirror, the two began the next phases of their lives.

I made it a point to visit with Emelise every time there was a reason to be in New York City. She had moved north to Riverdale, but always drove into the city to graciously take me around. She was as warm and upbeat as ever. Her limitless energy drove her to engage in so many projects, she made this observer dizzy in amazement.

Though our own petty distractions keep us from reaching out to everyone we knew and loved, the infrequent trip to NYC or opportunity to ask Emelise to once again speak on behalf of all bullied targets brought us instantly close again. Despite the demonstrable accomplishments listed above, she was unpretentious. Her humanity leaped across the table from you, enveloping you like a warm blanket on a frigid day. She unabashedly showed her love.

Now we’ve come to learn that another of her battles of which she seldom spoke was her fight against cancer. Bouts of remission kept her going. On January 17, 2016 cancer treatment-related complications took her from us.

A beautiful soul was lost to us all. We were so lucky to have crossed paths, however briefly.

Requiescat in pace dear sweet Emelise.

Ruth & Gary Namie

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Posted in Target Tale, Unions, WBI Education | 1 Comment



February 14th, 2016

New record: 30th state – Rhode Island – introduces the WBI Healthy Workplace Bill

Everyone bullied knows how the absence of any state laws to expressly prohibit bullying and abusive conduct has made it difficult to get justice from their employers. Without a law such as state and federal statutes that make discriminatory misconduct illegal, employers can and do nothing.

Does anyone believe American employers, government or private sector, would voluntarily stumble upon the mistreatment women routinely face in the contemporary workplace and create protections for those employees? Not likely. Only laws get employer attention and compel compliance. That’s why employer policies are in place. In fact, most employers overreact to even a hint of harassment.

Try going to HR to simply clarify your experiences that may or may not be harassment. That’s why you went down to HR to explore what happened to you and what can be done informally. Bam! HR opens a complaint on your behalf, though you greatly fear reprisals. HR is minimizing exposure to legal risks for them without regard to your safety.

Yet, when you claim to be “bullied,” you are not believed or discounted or ignored or made to believe you caused your fate. Why? Bullying is still legal. Bullies can, and do, bully with impunity. And once you make the employer aware, the retaliation, often worse than the original sins, worsens your situation. Your health declines from a host of stress-related complications — cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurological changes that affect emotional regulation and memory, and mental health, often ending in trauma.

This is why having a law passed soon is essential for worker safety.

WBI thanks Rhode Island State Senator Frank Ciccone, a lifelong friend of labor, for sponsoring SB 2377 on Feb. 10, 2016. He and the other four co-sponsors deserve our thanks and praise.

SB 2377 also put Rhode Island on the map. It became the 30th state to ever introduce our anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill.

Now we pray for a public hearing in the Senate Labor Committee. May the Ocean State be the first to make the bill state law.

Bill details and contact information for all sponsors and committee chairs dwell on the Rhode Island State Page of the Healthy Workplace Bill website.

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Posted in Healthy Workplace Bill (U.S. campaign) | 2 Comments



February 6th, 2016

The Cruelty at Fred Fincher Motors, Houston

Sam Harless and Texas State Rep. Patricia Harless, co-owners of Fred Fincher Motors, a used car sales lot is the place where former top salesman Bradley Jones was tortured by taser at the hands of coworkers.

Here’s the Feb. 5, 2016 story on Inside Edition.

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Posted in Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Humans abusing adult humans, Target Tale, WBI Education | 1 Comment



February 5th, 2016

Inside Edition tells tale of tasered employee in Texas Feb. 5

Texas tasered employee story re-visited by TV’s Inside Edition.

Former best car salesman at Fincher Motors in Houston, Texas, Bradley Jones, is facing his day in Harris County Court next week. If you have forgotten, or never heard, his story, watch the KHOU-TV segment below.

Briefly, Jones worked for Fincher for nearly 9 years and was top performer during his entire time working there. Shortly after the co-owner and general manager, Sam Harless, acquired a taser, Bradley became the target of surprise assaults — at his desk in a glass-walled cubicle in front of customers and other employees and from behind — by two coworkers while Harless filmed the terrorization. In all, there were nearly two dozen attacks. Jones was involuntarily immobilized, unable to protect himself and often fell to the floor banging his head and limbs.

Let me repeat that. Harless and cohorts treated the weapon — originally created for law enforcement as an alternative to deadly force (shooting someone) that when held too long in contact with a person’s body can cause cardiac arrest — as a instrument of humiliation for their own sadistic entertainment.

The TV show Inside Edition recently interviewed Bradley on the eve of his day in court at which it is hoped that Harless takes an oath and has to defend his cruel misconduct. The segment airs on Friday night Feb. 5. As they say, check local listings for air-time.

By the way, it was Bradley, the best salesman at the auto dealership, who was fired after his repeated tasings. Go figure.

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Posted in Broadcasts: Video, TV, radio, webinars, Humans abusing adult humans, Media About Bullying, Target Tale, WBI Education | Post Comment



January 28th, 2016

2016 WA State activity: WBI Healthy Workplace Bill

Eleven Washington State House Representatives have sponsored the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill (HB 2894). Another 11 state Senators of both parties are sponsoring the Senate companion bill (SB 6532). The HWB defines health-harming abusive conduct and makes it unlawful for employers to allow it to happen.

This marks the return of the legislation to Washington, absent since 2012. Washington was the 4th state to ever introduce the legislation.

If you live in the state, please visit the WA State Page at the Healthy Workplace Bill website. Contact information for all bill sponsors and committee members can be found there. You can also volunteer to testify or help the State Coordinator get the bill through committees and floor votes in a very short legislative session.

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Posted in Healthy Workplace Bill (U.S. campaign), Workplace Bullying Laws | Post Comment



January 22nd, 2016

HR Webinar: When the Bully is the Boss — Feb. 4

Business 21 presents a Webinar for HR

When the Bully is the Boss
HR must do something about bully managers
When: Thursday Feb. 4 2016, 2:00 pm Eastern, 60 minutes, HRCI credit hour
Presenter: Dr. Gary Namie, WBI Director

REGISTER HERE

Many companies assume they don’t have a bullying problem. Employees get along. In meetings, team members respect each other. But look closer. You might find that the bully is the very person you would expect to protect your employees from being bullied—the boss.
Some managerial bullying is unintentional—supervisors see themselves as “demanding results.” Other times bosses know their behavior crosses the line, but they don’t care.

Not convinced? Consider the slew of new state laws protecting workers against bullying. And consider the number of companies that have rushed to adopt anti-bullying policies and procedures for investigating complaints.
Problem is, most policies are written for peer-to-peer conduct. They don’t do enough to protect employees against bully bosses.
The costs are real. The employee’s health can suffer, causing missed work, higher healthcare costs and reduced productivity. Bullied employees are also a flight risk, as are those who witness bullying. And there’s the threat of lawsuits against the company.

In this session, Dr. Gary Namie will teach you:
• How to recognize and respond to a bully boss
• What differentiates “bullying” from other conduct- both illegal (discrimination) and legal (non-abusive disagreements)
• Why your workplace climate may be allowing the bully to prosper
• Why owners and executives tend to defend bullies
• How to build an abuse-intolerant, accountable culture for all employees, regardless of rank

REGISTER HERE

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Posted in Advice for Employers, Products & Services, WBI Education | 1 Comment



January 22nd, 2016

WBI presents at Oregon Labor Law Conference Jan. 29

Oregon Labor Law Conference

The goal of the Oregon Labor Law Conference is to help officers and staff of unions serve their members better, be better equipped to organize the unorganized, and get training on how to avoid legal liability.

The program includes a workshop on Unions and Workplace Bullying led by Dr. Gary Namie, WBI Director. This is a return visit by WBI to OCCL; the first appearance was in 2013.

Founded in 1996 by Norman Malbin, the Oregon Labor Law Conference is now also sponsored by IBEW Local 48, Oregon AFL-CIO, Center for Worker Rights, Northwest Oregon Labor Council, Labor Education and Research Center (LERC), Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council and Oregon State Building & Construction Trades Council.

When: Jan. 29, 2016
Where: IBEW Local 48 Meeting Hall, 15937 NE Airport Way, Portland, OR
Details: OLLC website

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Posted in Hear Ye! Hear Ye! 2, Unions | Post Comment



January 21st, 2016

Audio & transcript of Friedrichs anti-union Supreme Court hearing

On January 11, SCOTUS heard oral arguments in a case designed to overturn a 39-yr. precedent involving public sector unions. Since the 1977 Abood decision, government workers had the right to enjoy all the benefits of union membership without paying all of the dues owed to unions. That is, Abood split dues into “fair share” fees and expenses ostensibly not related to collective bargaining and the mere protection of workers’ rights. Non-members were to pay only the bargaining-related fees.

The Friedrichs case found 10 California teachers who wanted to claim the right to refuse to pay any dues, even costs associated with protecting their workplace rights. Right-wing, anti-union groups used the case to bring to the pro-corporate/pro-employer Roberts SCOTUS to put what might be the final nail in the coffin of the strongest unions left in the country, public-sector unions.

You can read the NY Times SCOTUS watcher, Linda Greenhouse, as she interprets the oral testimony.

Details of the case can be read here.

You can read the entire transcript here.

Or listen to the audio of the oral arguments.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Decision is expected in June.

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Posted in Rulings by Courts | Post Comment



January 17th, 2016

WBI sets March Workplace Bullying University date

Marh 11-12-13 are the dates for the next public WBI Workplace Bullying University® Training for Professionals. The location is Boise, Idaho.

Since 2008, the Drs. Namie have delivered the only comprehensive research-driven training covering all aspects of the workplace bullying phenomenon. They are the pioneers and you can learn directly from them.

This interactive, intensive 3-day session is life-changing.

It will enable professionals to add abusive conduct to their list of specializations with the take-home lessons learned.

Professionals who have attended past sessions:

– Attorneys
– Union officials
– Nurses
– Counselors/psychotherapists
– Academics
– HR professionals
– Physicians
– School bullying trainers
– Consultants to organizations
– Corporate trainers
– Former targets turned entrepreneurs

Tuition Discount Ends Valentine's Day

Call today for — 360-656-6630. Visit the Workplace Bullying University website for program and registration details and testimonials from graduates.

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January 11th, 2016

American public sector labor unions’ future weighed by Supreme Court today

A most important 80 minutes of oral argument is heard today, Jan. 11 2015 by the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. The case is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA), Docket No. 14-915.

The case was brought by a group of California teachers who don’t want to pay any fees to unions for anything. Essentially, they want to enjoy benefits of having a contract — wages and other work condition protections (alas, not full protection from bullying yet) that are negotiated — for free. The CTA represents teachers in public schools; public school districts are government employers.

There are 39 years of history dealing with this issue. A May 1977 unanimous U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education [431 U.S. 209 (97 S.Ct. 1782, 52 L.Ed.2d 261)] divided union dues into two parts. One part is costs associated with providing union workers with a contract, the collective bargaining agreement with the employer, and its administration, the subsequent services of representation at adversarial meetings with management, grievances and arbitrations. Fees for those services are called “fair use” or “agency” fees. In other words, Abood said that non-members who benefit from union services have to help cover costs.

The second part of union dues is “expenditures for ideological causes not germane to its duties as a collective-bargaining.” This has been dubbed the political activity of the union, including overt politicking, lobbying lawmakers for specific legislation and financial support for political candidates. People who object to this part of union activity can refuse to pay that portion of dues to the union.

In the specific case before SCOTUS today, Friedrichs, plaintiffs are challenging California law. If a teacher wants to protest the political portion of the CTA dues, she or he can give the union a written objection — an “opt out” declaration. That portion of the contested fee is then refunded or a portion is reduced. The anti-union plaintiffs want that teacher to have to “opt in” and agree to the fees. Plaintiffs frame the issue as one of free choice and the First Amendment (whether or not the non-administrative fees constitute speech).

The Case’s Strange Origin

The union-busting groups, typically with a libertarian or right-wing political bent, found this case in order to abolish the last bastion of unionization in America — in government. The private sector unionization rate is now under 7%. If government, public sector, unions can be further weakened, the U.S. labor movement will be effectively gutted.

According to Maryann Parker, SEIU Associate General Counsel, speaking at an American Constitution Society expert panel, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association made it to the Supreme Court in two fast years without any facts associated with the case. The reason is that the plaintiffs filed the case in both District and Appellate courts and asked for a verdict against them just so they could take the case to the Supreme Court. Since the union-busting groups are well funded, the case raced to the Roberts pro-employer court. Unlike any other case, no facts have been argued in court before a judge or jury. No discovery of evidence on either side was completed.

The only facts have come via several amicus briefs written by advocates for both sides. The list of briefs filed before the Nov 6, 2015 deadline can be found here. On the anti-union side are organizations such as Pacific Legal Foundation
National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Goldwater Institute, Former California Governor Pete Wilson, Cato Institute and the NFIB. On the defense side, briefs were filed by Kamala Harris, California Attorney General (who also argued the case before SCOTUS today), California State Employees Association, and several California and New York cities that, as government employers, described the benefit of having a unionized workplace.

The other unusual aspect of the origin of the case is that the five majority justices in the 2014 Harris v. Quinn decision called for a reconsideration of Abood. In other words, the doctrine of stare decisis, of letting earlier case decisions stand, is betrayed by calling out for a case to challenge Abood.

The Anti-Union Argument

Here’s the argument by the union busters in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Collective bargaining in the government context is inherently political because government worker wages are public funds. Therefore, if the government compels “fair use” fees collection, it is a violation of a worker’s First Amendment rights. It forces an association with a political cause (bargaining with the state) with which a worker might not agree.

Abood had separated the functions of the union, administrative work versus political activity. Fredrichs says that ALL activity of unions is political.

If the Supreme Court decision agrees with Friedrichs, it will overturn Abood. It will end the practice of a “union shop.” The absence of any requirement to pay unions for services rendered will make it too easy to be a “free rider.” In turn, unions will wither and die from not having a budget.

Remember, even with a negotiated union contract, employers — only governments in this case — are entitled to all rights over workers which are not covered in the contract. With this line of reasoning, without unions, employers will have unchallenged, unbridled control over workers with no ability to contest mistreatment or abuse.

The undermining of unions, the only organizations that advocate for rights of workers, will contribute to the Republican-led state legislatures’ move to right to work laws. Currently 25 states have right to work provisions. The RTW advocates characterize states where unions represent government workers as “forced-unionism” states.

Advocates for “free bargaining” states label the right to work as the “right to work for less.” The quality of life for workers in RTW states is lower than in public sector union states — lower wages, more low wage jobs, higher rates of workers without health insurance, higher poverty and infant mortality rates. And if working in a RTW state, you have a 54% higher chance of dying at work.

Finally, by gutting union budgets, opponents will also thwart overt political activity by unions. Unions support Democratic candidates. Union-busting groups are partisan. By reversing Abood, the law of the land since 1977, Republicans will be able to reduce funding for Democratic opponents. However, this is not a realistic fear by Republicans. It seems closer to a zero-sum game in which Republicans want to eliminate all opposition. According to the Center for Responsive Government, 2015-16 interest group donations to the upcoming elections finds that labor has given to date a total of $19.2 million compared to $839.6 given by donors other than unions. Non-labor groups outspend unions by 43.7 times. A successful Friedrichs SCOTUS decision would nearly eliminate the influence of unions on candidates. Rights of workers will be driven further underground buried in a corporate post-Citizens United deluge of cash.

If the Court does not overturn Abood, the plaintiffs could still win a partial victory. Its a nuanced part of the practice in California. Contained in the fees charged to non-members are other expenses not involved with the costs of collective bargaining. If a teacher wants to protest that portion of the fee, she or he can give the union written objection — an opt out declaration. That portion of the contested fee is refunded or a portion is reduced. The anti-union plaintiffs in the case also argue that an employee should have to “opt in” and agree to the fees.

Stay tuned. The decision should be announced in June.

###

You can listen to the oral arguments and read the transcript of Jan. 11 hearing here.

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Posted in Fairness & Social Justice Denied, Rulings by Courts, Unions | Post Comment



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