Teamster violence on SoCal picket line

Tensions are rising on the picket lines as the SoCal Waste Management strike enters its second week. Sheriff's deputies have been called repeatedly to the company's Carson yard to mediate between company security guards and striking workers.

And on Friday morning, a replacement driver was attacked with a baseball bat while collecting garbage in Long Beach. He was not seriously injured, and declined medical attention.

Neither side seems optimistic about an early resolution to the strike, which began Oct. 19 after Teamsters Local 396 rejected Waste Management's final contract offer.

Waste Management began running ads Friday seeking to hire replacement drivers on a permanents basis - an implicit threat to striking workers that they may not find their jobs waiting for them when the strike is over.

The walkout affects three yards in Compton, Carson and Sun Valley, and some 225,000 residential customers in Long Beach, Carson, Manhattan Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills Estates, Inglewood, and elsewhere.

In Long Beach, replacement crews began picking up residential recyclables on Thursday.

At the yard in Carson, strikers have taken to blocking garbage trucks as they leave in the morning
and as they return at night. Strike organizers say the traffic backup limits the hours the replacement drivers are able to work.

"I make each one sit for a minute-and-a-half before he can come through my line," said Bill Huff, executive coordinator of Local 396. "I'm knocking out about five hours every day. They keep trying to throw me in jail but I'm still here."

Waste Management employees have called the Sheriff's Department several times to complain about obstruction and harassment. But when deputies arrive, the strikers are generally on good behavior, Sgt. Bruce Cantley said.

"We don't have the ability, unless they're paying for it, to sit there all day long," Cantley said.

As trucks returned to the yard Friday afternoon and evening, a striker playfully taunted the drivers with a bullhorn while security guards kept track of the allotted 90 seconds.

The conflict was more serious Friday morning in Long Beach, where a replacement driver reported that he was attacked with a baseball bat. The driver was collecting trash in the 3700 block of Atlantic Avenue at about 6:30 a.m. when the attacker approached and hit him in the head, Sgt. David Marander said.

The man also struck the garbage truck and fled. He was not apprehended.

Waste Management did not comment on the incident.

Jay Phillips, president of Local 396, said "We don't condone violence of any sort."

Phillips said he was not surprised that Waste Management was seeking to hire permanent replacements, but doubted that the tactic would be successful.

"This is a perfect example of the threatening, intimidating and heavy-handed tactics they use with their workers," Phillips said. "That's one of the reasons they're on strike. This company treats their workers like a commodity that's easily replaceable."

Kit Cole, a spokeswoman for Waste Management, said that striking drivers whose jobs were permanently filled would be placed on a list from which the company would hire workers as new jobs become available.

Huff said he doubted the tactic would work because the labor market is tight.

"They can't find drivers normally," he said. "They're trying to train a bunch of idiots now."

Phillips said the union's negotiating position is that once an agreement is reached, all striking drivers will be allowed to return to work.

But as the drivers' last paycheck arrived Friday, no negotiations were under way.

"I got three people - my son, my daughter and my wife," said Luis BriseƱo, 42, who has been a driver for the last 11 years. "We gotta pay all expenses. We gotta pay insurance. We gotta pay car. But everybody disagrees with the contract they're giving us right now. It's no good."


Union criminals furious at Bush Administration

The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) on October 16 announced its criminal enforcement data for September 2007. During September, OLMS obtained 13 indictments and seven convictions, for a total of 97 indictments and 115 convictions during fiscal year 2007. These indictments and convictions primarily involve union officers and employees who have embezzled union funds resulting in court-ordered restitution back to the unions of more than $31.5 million.

"In this fiscal year, OLMS's efforts resulted in 115 convictions of individuals found guilty of wrongdoing against unions. Our vigilance on behalf of rank-and-file union members punishes criminal behavior and protects union members, and we are proud of our results." said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Labor-Management Standards Don Todd. "Since fiscal year 2001, OLMS investigations have yielded a total of 834 indictments with 796 convictions and court-ordered restitution of nearly $102 million."

OLMS is the federal enforcement agency responsible for administering most provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA). The agency's criminal enforcement program includes investigations of embezzlement from labor organizations, extortionate picketing, deprivation of union members' rights by force or violence, and fraud in union officer elections. The agency's civil program collects and publicly discloses unions' annual financial reports, conducts compliance audits of labor unions and seeks civil remedies for violations of officer election procedures.

OLMS's public disclosure Web page at www.unionreports.gov contains union annual financial reports and additional forms required to be filed under the LMRDA. Other information, including synopses of OLMS enforcement actions, is available on OLMS's home page at www.olms.dol.gov.

A listing of selected OLMS enforcement actions during September 2007 is below.

Selected Enforcement Actions in September 2007
Office of Labor-Management Standards
U.S. Department of Labor

On September 20, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Jeffrey Klope, former financial secretary of Boilermakers Lodge 8-S, was sentenced to three years probation for embezzling union funds in the amount of $25,794. Under the special conditions of his probation, Klope is required to spend the first six months on home detention and perform 100 hours of public service. On June 13, Klope pled guilty to embezzling union funds in the same amount; Klope had previously paid full restitution to the union. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS St. Louis District Office.

On September 20, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, James Douglas, former secretary-treasurer of Glass Molders Plastic Local 220, was sentenced to two years probation and 240 hours of community service after pleading guilty to concealing, withholding and destroying union records. He destroyed union records to conceal his embezzlement of $12,857 from the union. Douglas repaid the union prior to sentencing, which follows an investigation by the OLMS Dallas District Office.

On September 20, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Jose Ocasio, former secretary-treasurer of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 404, was sentenced to two years probation and 240 hours of community service after pleading guilty to making false entries in union records. He made false entries in the union's records in order to conceal his embezzlement of $9,083. Ocasio made full restitution to the union before sentencing, which follows an investigation by the OLMS Dallas District Office.

On September 17, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, Marlene Watson, former president of the Associated Field Representatives, was sentenced to 12 months probation for falsification of an annual financial report filed by a labor union. Watson previously made restitution in the amount of $9,030. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Seattle District Office.

On September 6, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, Nathaniel Marc Greene, former president of AFGE Local 2562, was sentenced to10 months confinement, three years probation, ordered to pay a special assessment of $100, and ordered to pay restitution totaling $55,955.76. Greene knowingly and willfully made or used a false writing or document and knew the local's Form LM-3 contained a materially false statement or entry at the time he made or used the report. On April 4, Greene pled guilty to one count of making a false statement. The sentencing follows a joint investigation by the OLMS Dallas District Office and the Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of the Inspector General.

Guilty Pleas

On September 11, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Joseph Capece, former business manger/financial-secretary of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 163 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., pled guilty to one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $256,000. On September 4, Capece was charged with knowingly and willfully embezzling union funds in the same amount. The information and plea follow an investigation by the OLMS Philadelphia District Office.

On September 11, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, William J. Pagano, former secretary-treasurer of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 78, pled guilty to one count of embezzlement of union funds totaling $66,759.18. The plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office.

Criminal Charges and Indictments

On September 26, in the District Court for Douglas County, Wisconsin, John F. Sigafus, former secretary-treasurer of Machinists Local Lodge 335-W, was charged with business theft over $5,000 and forgery. The charges follow an investigation by the OLMS Milwaukee District Office.

On September 25, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Frank M. McEvoy, former business manager/secretary-treasurer for Laborers Locals 1370 and 123, was indicted on one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $11,167.50 from Local 1370 and one count of embezzling union funds totaling $23,779 from Local 123. The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Nashville District Office.

On September 24, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, Paula Adair-Butts, former office secretary of Plasterers Local 577, was indicted on four counts of embezzling union funds in the amount of $28,480.96. The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Denver District Office.

On September 11, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, former Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers Division 37 secretary-treasurer Randy Greear was indicted on one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $22,691.60. The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Washington District Office.

On September 6, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Richard Lopez, Mark Jones, Cassandra Mosely and David Rodriquez, current president, former business agents and former organizer, respectively, of Teamsters Local 743, were indicted on one count of conspiracy to deprive Local 743 members of their honest services and to embezzle, or steal, the official ballots in the 2004 election of officers. Lopez and Jones were each charged with one count each of embezzlement or theft of union property, that being the official ballots, while Moseley and Rodriquez were each charged with two counts of embezzlement or theft of union property, also being the official ballots. The indictment alleges that between August and December 2004, Lopez, Mosely, Jones and Rodriguez engaged in a scheme to rig the election by diverting official ballot packages to their friends, family and associates, and casting the ballots or causing them to be cast in both the October and December 2004 elections for incumbent officers, known as the "Unity Slate," to ensure their election. The seven-count indictment follows a joint investigation by the OLMS Chicago District Office, the Department of Labor and U.S. Postal Service Offices of the Inspector General.


Union operatives in concerted election felony

A man charged last summer in a scheme to submit phony voter registration forms pleaded guilty Thursday in King County (WA) Superior Court, a spokesman for the Prosecutor's Office said.

Ryan Olson of Needles, Calif., was sentenced to 30 days of detention on a felony charge of providing false information on voter forms, although his case will be reviewed to allow for possible electronic monitoring in his home, the spokesman said.

Olson was one of seven workers for a 2006 voter-registration drive conducted by the union-financed Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, who were indicted in July on charges that they made up names of voters, forged signatures and turned in bogus registrations to elections officials in Seattle.

No votes were cast based on the more than 1,760 fraudulent registrations submitted in October 2006, in part because they were turned in after the deadline for the November election.

The workers were not trying to commit election fraud but merely to make it easier to perform their temporary, low-wage jobs, prosecutors said. Instead of signing up would-be voters, they gathered at the downtown Seattle library and concocted voter identities from names in telephone directories, newspaper articles and baby-name books.

Elections workers became suspicious when they noticed similarities in the signatures on the registrations, which led to the investigation.

Two other ACORN workers - Tina Johnson of Tacoma and Jayson Woods of Elkridge, Md. - have pleaded guilty and await sentencing. The cases against the other defendants are pending.


Union embezzler surrenders to feds

A former employee of the Teamsters Union Local 19 in Houston surrendered to federal authorities Friday after an indictment accused her of embezzling $140,000 in union funds, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Houston. Heather Lott, 36, was the former bookkeeper of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 19, which represents 2,300 workers, most of whom airline mechanics.

The one-count indictment, which was returned by a grand jury on Oct. 18, alleges that Lott embezzled union funds between January 2003 and January 2006. Efforts to reach Lott for comment were unsuccessful. She lives in Wichita Falls, according to the statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office announcing the indictment.

Checks not clearing

Robert Rasch, president and business manager of Teamsters Local 19, said the union's secretary/treasurer noticed some checks were not clearing the bank. After looking into it, he alerted auditors from the Teamsters international union. Union officials also notified the Department of Labor, he said.

Terminated in 2006

Local 19 and the Teamsters union "have fully cooperated and assisted the Department of Labor with its investigation," Rasch said. "The local is appreciative of the efforts of the Department of Labor and looks forward to having this matter concluded through the justice system."

Rasch said Lott, who began working at the local in 1999, was terminated in January 2006.

Lott surrendered Friday morning to the U.S. Marshals Service in Fort Worth, authorities said.

She is expected to be arraigned in Houston next week, said Ed Gallagher, deputy criminal chief at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Houston.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Labor Management Standards along with the department's Office of Inspector General.


Right To Work law lifts Alabama jobs outlook

In the 1950s and '60s, thousands of Alabamians left their home state to "go up North" to find jobs. In fact, my dad and uncle moved their families to Michigan for manufacturing jobs that didn't exist in Alabama and wages that far exceeded what they could earn back home.

How things have changed. Even though most other states have enjoyed the benefits of the economic recovery spurred by the Bush tax cuts, Michigan has not. Compared to Michigan, Alabama is now the place you want to be if you want a good job with good wages.

A recent article entitled "Sweet Home Alabama" by Paul Kersey of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Michigan points out that "Alabama's economy is poised to overtake Michigan's in the important task of providing opportunities for workers to find good jobs."

Reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that between 2001 and 2006, Alabama added 73,000 jobs and increased payrolls by 3.9 percent, while Michigan lost 220,000 jobs and suffered a reduction of 4.8 percent in payrolls. Moreover, Alabama's unemployment rate averaged 4.7 percent during that period, compared to 6.5 percent in Michigan.

Kersey's article is based on "The Economic Effect of Right-to-Work Laws: 2007," a recent Mackinac Center report that compares the economic status of right-to-work states like Alabama with non right-to-work states like the heavily unionized state of Michigan.

Right-to-work states are those states with laws that protect workers from being forced to pay union dues or fees. Consequently, right-to-work states such as Alabama have a far lower percentage of union members in the workforce. The Mackinac study shows that the economies of right-to-work states grew faster and created jobs at more than twice the rate of states that allowed forced unionism.

Alabama has a long history of strong anti-union sentiment. In fact, most people in the state's workforce have no desire to be part of a union.

The recent attempt to unionize the Honda plant in Lincoln was overwhelmingly rejected by the employees giving further evidence of this anti-union sentiment among the Alabama workforce.

With such a strong conviction against unions, it is odd that so many Alabama teachers are members of the Alabama Education Association which is the education union.

In fact, the majority of union members in Alabama are government employees.

According to a report done for Alabama Arise by the organized labor-backed Economic Policy Institute, only 8.8 percent of the total Alabama workforce is unionized and over 56 percent of those are government employees.

While it is true that the average per capita personal income for pro-union states is $2,400 higher than for right-to-work states, the right-to-work states have been gaining over the last five years.

According to the Mackinac report, the income gap is closing because right-to-work states have a real advantage over heavily unionized states, not only in employment, but also in wages.

For years, Alabama lagged behind Michigan in per capita income, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau, now the gap is only $2,552 and it's closing quickly. Alabama's per capita income increased by 5.6 percent last year - from $29,623 in 2005 to $31,295 in 2006.

In contrast, Michigan's per capita income increased by only 3.2 percent - from $32,804 in 2005 to $33,847 in 2006. Since 2000, Michigan's per capita income has increased by only about 14.5 percent while the Alabama per capita income grew by over 33 percent.

The Mackinac Center projects that if the current trend continues, Alabama's per capita income will surpass Michigan's in 2011. However, when you take into account the higher cost of living in Michigan, Alabama's per capita income is already equal to that of Michigan.

Kersey points out that another major difference between Alabama and Michigan is taxes.

He quoted a report from the Tax Foundation that found the tax burden imposed by state and local governments in Michigan takes 11.2 percent of their citizens' personal income.

The tax burden in Alabama takes 8.8 percent of our citizens' personal income which leaves more money for individuals to invest or spend in our economy which helps create even more jobs.

Kersey makes a strong case that Alabama's right-to-work laws and low taxes have attracted businesses and families.

When it comes to solving economic problems, Kersey recommends that Michigan's leaders look to Sweet Home Alabama for answers.

Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization Reach him by e-mail at garyp@alabamapolicy.org.


GOP senators help labor unions monopolize

Call your U.S. Senator now to stop S.2123. The misnamed and egregious "Public Safety Employer-Employee cooperation act of 2007" was introduced by Senator Gregg on October 1 with enough Republicans (nine Republicans) to invoke cloture and pass the Bill.

The White House said it wanted flexibility on responding to Homeland security threats and was able to defeat the TSA screener amendment in the Homeland Security-9/11 Bill. The congress with S. 2123 is deciding that not all parts of NIMS under Homeland security can be flexible to meet a terrorist threat. Some parts of NIMS the Policeman and Fireman will be held to the break time and vacations that eliminate the very word "responder" from the American lexicon of our domestic security.

Here is what the Bill says: "State and local public safety officers, as first responders, are a component of our Nation's National Incident Management System, developed by the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate response to and recovery from terrorism, major natural disasters, and other major emergencies. Public safety employer-employee cooperation is essential in meeting these needs and is, therefore, in the National interest."

How can the National Incident Management System even work with one of its most vital components out there in our local towns with its hands tied behind its back?

The bill S.2123 is an unfunded mandate on the states violating the 10th amendment. It is also about the union intimidation that Congressman Lynn Westmoreland saw directed against his own father.

"Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my friend from Florida for yielding, and when I came to the floor today, I didn't come here to speak; but, you know, my father was a fireman for 26 years for the City of Atlanta. In fact, he died in an alarm. I know what it is like for these firefighters to answer the alarms. He suffered a heart attack while turning off an OS&Y valve in a pit. It was 18 degrees that December morning. I know what it is like for those firefighters.

But, you know, my father never belonged to a firefighters union, and that is what this is. This is basically a union bill and payback to the unions. But, you know, Georgia is a right-to-work State. We have a 10th amendment to our Constitution. I was very disappointed to hear from the chairman that this thing passed out of committee 42-1. That breaks my heart. That really breaks my heart that those Republicans were on that side. I don't know what the majority thinks about the 10th amendment, but I believe very strongly in it. This has something to do with States rights. And I am sorry and I am very disappointed that this House will do this under suspension and there won't be any opportunity for amendments or this thing to be looked at.

I hope that the majority of the Members here will realize what is going on, oppose this suspension and bring it up under regular order." Ninety eight Republicans voted for H.R. 980 the counterpart to S.2123 in the House.

It is a minute past midnight and we should not ever reward the Labor lords for their continued string of defeats in our workplace.

This Bill now stands to be passed by Congress and should be opposed by every free American who believes we should use all our resources in fighting the war to protect our homeland. Not one single Fireman or Policeman should be left behind.

Here are the nine republicans and eleven Democrats who co-sponsored S.2123

Sen. Sherrod Brown [D-OH]
Sen. Hillary Clinton [D-NY]
Sen. Norm Coleman [R-MN]
Sen. Susan Collins [R-ME]
Sen. Christopher Dodd [D-CT]
Sen. Pete Domenici [R-NM]
Sen. Thomas Harkin [D-IA]
Sen. Edward Kennedy [D-MA]
Sen. Joseph Lieberman [I-CT]
Sen. Mel Martinez [R-FL]
Sen. Barbara Mikulski [D-MD]
Sen. Patty Murray [D-WA]
Sen. Barack Obama [D-IL]
Sen. Mark Pryor [D-AR]
Sen. Bernard Sanders [I-VT]
Sen. Gordon Smith [R-OR]
Sen. Olympia Snowe [R-ME]
Sen. Arlen Specter [R-PA]
Sen. Ted Stevens [R-AK]
Sen. John Sununu [R-NH]

Again, call your Senator now and say no to S. 2123.

This alert is sponsored by the National Alliance for Worker and Employer Rights


Strike boss questions employer's loyalty

In the midst of a strike by its drivers, Waste Management Inc. is hiring permanent workers to replace the strikers, a company official said Friday. About 450 Waste Management drivers have been on strike since Oct. 19, after they rejected the company's offer for a new contract and demanded higher raises.

An official from Teamsters Local 396, which represents the workers, said the union will insist that all its employees return to work if it reaches an agreement with the company.

The striking drivers work at Waste Management facilities in Sun Valley, Compton and Long Beach. The strike has not affected residential customers in Los Angeles - who are served by city sanitation workers - but thousands of businesses hire Waste Management for trash hauling.

"Because of the size of the company's customer base and the geographic vastness of Los Angeles, the company must hire permanent replacement drivers in order to fulfill its obligation to the communities it serves," said Kit Cole, a company spokeswoman.

It started bringing in its own temporary drivers from across the country as soon as the strike began. The permanent drivers the company is hiring now are mostly from the L.A. area.

"There are employees on the strike line that have worked 30-plus years for this company, and within a week the company is proposing to replace them," said Jay Phillips, president of Local 396. "There is no loyalty to the workers."


Therapists pay for taking junk food to striking nurses

Two former recreational therapists at Hazard ARH Psychiatric Center have filed a lawsuit alleging that they were fired for taking sodas and snacks to picketing nurses on the first day the nurses went on strike against Appalachian Regional Healthcare.

The therapists, Cynthia Boggs of Leslie County and Amber Tye of London, filed the suit Wednesday in Perry Circuit Court. Candy Elkins, spokeswoman for ARH, said the company denies the allegations in the lawsuit.

During their 15-minute afternoon break Oct. 1, Boggs and Tye left the psychiatric center and went to the nearby Food City store, where they bought ice, sodas and snacks, then dropped them off for their friends on the picket line.

When Boggs and Tye returned to work, they say they were called into a meeting with their supervisor, the director of risk management and the center's administrator, who told them they had violated a directive prohibiting them from fraternizing with striking union members.

They say they were then told they were being suspended because they did not clock out when they left for the break. However, the lawsuit alleges that the women's supervisor had told them and other employees that they did not have to clock out for breaks if they stayed within a one-mile radius of ARH. It further claims that Hazard ARH's written employee policies and instructions for using the time system did not require them to clock out for breaks.

The women were notified Oct. 11 that they were being terminated from employment.

"It is pretty clear that Cynthia and Amber got caught in the middle between ARH and the union and were fired to send a message to other employees," the women's attorney, Cheryl Lewis, said in a press release. "It is regretful that these two fine employees lost their jobs over what amounts to a couple of packs of 'Nabs' and some pop."

More than 600 ARH nurses in Kentucky and West Virginia began striking Oct. 1 when their contract expired.

The nurses say they want better retirement and medical benefits and improved staffing levels.

ARH broke off negotiations with the nurses a few days before the contract expired.

The company's final offer included a 2 percent pay raise and schedules that would allow nurses to work 10- or 12-hour shifts.


Teachers strike is no vacation for parents

In some ways, it's been like summer in October for the last couple of weeks in the Seneca Valley (PA) School District: Children are filling the swimming pool at the local YMCA, going out to restaurants for lunch and practicing new skateboard tricks in their back yards.

But for parents, this is no vacation. "It's kind of an anxious time," said Kaye Wahlstrom, a Cranberry parent with three children in the school system. "Every day is just a wait-and-see."

About 7,600 students have been home from school since Oct. 15, when the district's 575 teachers - who have been working without a contract since June 30, 2006 - went on strike.

The families struggling the most are those with parents working outside the home who have to find daily child care for their young children.

Some community organizations have stepped in to help - the Rose E. Schneider Family YMCA in Cranberry has expanded its after-school program to span the full day - but some parents have been forced to take days off from work or rely on help from family and friends.

"It's just terrible," said Tammy McLay, who has a 12-year-old daughter at Seneca Valley Middle School and works as an office manager in Carnegie. "Thank goodness mine is old enough to stay home, but she's home all day by herself."

When Ms. McLay, of Zelienople, took her daughter to the bank with her yesterday, she said the teller noted that there were a lot of kids "shadowing" their parents around town these days.

Though child care isn't an issue for Ms. Wahlstrom, a stay-at-home mom, the strike has created numerous complications.

One of her children is a high school senior with college application deadlines starting Dec. 1. If the strike goes until Nov. 16 -- the date that the striking teachers must be back in the classroom to squeeze in the state-mandated 180 days of instruction -- she's concerned that seniors might get caught in an application crunch.

"Every senior is going to need a transcript immediately, plus recommendations," she said.

The family had been planning to spend Christmas with relatives in Utah, but the trip is in jeopardy now that the holiday may be shortened.

And planning is completely on hold for a vacation that the family was hoping to take right after the original last day of school on June 6, because the school year might now extend later in the month.

"It sounds so superficial but to families it's not," she said. "We fight for time together."

For Barb Hogan, another Cranberry parent, it's the day-to-day routine that has her concerned.

She's not letting her three kids sleep past 9 a.m., and she's encouraging her children to look at their schoolwork, so that they don't forget everything by the time they get back to school.

"I'm trying to keep them in school mode and not get too much into vacation mode," she said.

As for the students at Seneca Valley, while some are enjoying their time off, others realize how much they actually like going to school.

"Everyone says it's no fun when you're going, but when you're missing it, it's like 'What happened?' " said Steven Chepke, a seventh-grader at Seneca Valley Middle School. "You never see your friends anymore."

The two sides met informally Friday for less than an hour and "had a fairly brief conversation about where everybody was," said Tom King, the attorney for the school board.

The teachers union and the school board are still about $13 million apart on salaries and $350,000 apart on health care, said Mr. King.

No future negotiating sessions are scheduled.

The two sides also have held two formal negotiating sessions during the two-week strike, a pace that has frustrated some parents.

"I wish that both sides were negotiating, and that's why I feel like it's a waste of time," said Ms. Wahlstrom. "They have the kids out of school, and they're doing nothing. That's what's frustrating as a parent."


Union official seeks Council seat, ties questioned

While union support hasn’t necessarily meant victory at Duluth’s polls lately, local labor unions have helped boost the campaign war chests of Sharla Gardner and Laurie Johnson.

Since the end of August, Johnson, who is running to retain her 1st District Council seat, has collected $2,350. Sharla Gardner, running in the 3rd District to replace outgoing Councilor Russ Stewart, collected $4,694 in that period, at least $700 of which came from area unions.

Both candidates say they accept that a portion of their support comes from area unions because unions comprise hard-working Duluthians, and that’s who they want to represent. “Many of the people who are in unions are in my district,” said Johnson, who is a staff representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 96.

Johnson said that being in a union and getting union support hasn’t influenced her past votes on the council, and it won’t in the future. Johnson has raised a total of $12,948, at least $2,900 of which came from unions. She said she felt she had to ramp up her fundraising after the Aug. 31 filing. “After the last filing, my opponent had raised twice as much as me,” she said. “Obviously he’s got bigger spenders.”

Johnson’s opponent, Todd Fedora, has raised $24,191. Fedora said he is proud to say he hasn’t received any money from unions. “I don’t want any allegiances tugging me one way or the other,” Fedora said. “The amount and magnitude of the special-interest monies my opponent is earning concerns me,” he said.

Though Gardner, who is competing against Heather Rand, also said she won’t be influenced by unions, she did promise to resign from the executive board of AFSCME Local 66 if elected.

“I do feel fine taking the union donations and the Progressive Action donations. I believe very strongly in labor and working people,” Gardner said.

And though they may not be unions, everyone comes from somewhere and therefore has potential conflicts of interest, Gardner said, pointing out that Fedora works for a bank and that Rand works for the state of Minnesota.

Gardner has raised a total of $11,038, while Rand has raised $8,548.

In the 5th District, incumbent Russ Stover has raised $2,930, while challenger Jay Fosle has taken in $3,849.

In the four-person race for two At Large City Council seats, some candidates are beginning to count pennies as the time before Election Day dwindles.

At Large candidates Tony Cuneo and Jeff Anderson each have raised more than $20,000 this year, far more than their opponents. But Cuneo has spent nearly all of his money.

Incumbent Tim Little has raised $3,313 and has spent that much, while candidate Becky Hall has raised $2,325. Hall, however, had not filed her campaign expense report for September and October by Friday, as required by state law.

Cuneo’s figures are his estimates because he also didn’t file by Friday. He said the person responsible for filing the document had a family emergency that kept her out of town.


Union kids teach others about labor unions

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