12/27/07

Tribal Casino War vote earns UAW 10 ULPs

The National Labor Relations Board has scheduled a hearing into complaints by the Mashantucket Pequots over last month's union election at Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Table game dealers at the casino voted 1,289-to-852 to organize under the United Auto Workers.

The tribe has accused the union of interfering with the Nov. 24 election and claims the ballots were not multilingual. The union has denied the accusations. Foxwoods initially lodged 12 objections after the vote, but the NLRB has dismissed two of them, calling the tribe's sovereignty complaints "without merit."

The hearing is set for Jan. 15.

"Sovereignty does not mean complete immunity from labor laws," said Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has supported the dealers in their bid to unionize. "We look forward to dismissal of the remaining claims as promptly as possible." Blumenthal said Wednesday that the remaining complaints relate to the conduct of the union during the vote and that those objections are not supported by fact or law.

(newsday.com)

Court: Union organizing trumps property rights

Shopping malls can't stop protesters from calling for boycotts of their stores, even when they're on mall property, the California Supreme Court has ruled.

In a 4-3 decision, the justices ruled that California's free-speech protections extend to demonstrators who set up inside shopping centers and urge customers not to shop there.

The Dec. 24 ruling in Fashion Valley Mall, LLC v. National Labor Relations Board upholds a 1979 state Supreme Court decision — Robins v. Pruneyard Shopping Center — that found shopping malls are public forums in which people's free-speech rights are protected by the California Constitution.

The case ruled on this week stems from a 1998 incident at the Fashion Valley Mall in San Diego in which members of a labor union from the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper were forced out for distributing leaflets urging the boycott of the Robinsons-May store, one of the mall's tenants.

The union was involved in a labor dispute with the Union-Tribune and wanted to hurt Robinsons-May's business because the retailer advertised in the newspaper. The mall kicked the protesters out based on its rule that demonstrators on mall property can't demand a boycott of mall stores because it would hurt business.

The court ruled on Dec. 24 that malls can enforce regulations on demonstrations to assure they don't interfere with normal business, but they can't block speech based on its content, such as calling for a store boycott.

"A shopping mall is a public forum in which persons may reasonably exercise their right to free speech" guaranteed by the California Constitution, Associate Justice Carlos Moreno wrote for the majority.

Associate Justice Ming Chin, writing for the dissenting minority, said the court was giving too much leeway to demonstrators.

"The only tradition that is relevant to this case is the tradition, followed in most of the country, of finding no free speech rights on private property," Chin wrote. "The majority is trampling on tradition, not following it."

(firstamendmentcenter.org)

Union political operatives fake it as 'uncoordinated'

In the final days before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, John Edwards has stepped up his criticism of outside organizations that spend money to influence elections, repeatedly disavowing a labor group that is blanketing Iowa with commercials supporting his candidacy.

“As for outside groups, unfortunately, you can’t control them,” Mr. Edwards said last weekend as he distanced himself from the actions of the group, known as a 527 for the section of the tax code it falls under. He would prefer the group “not run the ads,” he said.

But the Edwards campaign may have expected the support of the group, Alliance for a New America, set up by a local of the Service Employees International Union. An Oct. 8 e-mail message circulated among the union leaders who created the group suggests that they were talking with Edwards campaign officials about “what specific kinds of support they would like to see from us” just as they were planning to create an outside group to advertise in early primary states with “a serious 527 legal structure.”

The message, sent by the president of one of the locals involved, was obtained by a rival campaign.

The 527 organizations and other third-party groups have become an issue in the presidential campaign because they allow donors who are sometimes anonymous to spend large amounts outside the limits of the campaign finance laws. The groups are prohibited from coordinating their expenditures with the campaigns.

Eric Schultz, a spokesman for the Edwards campaign, said that officials of the service employees union talked with the campaign only about permissible cooperation like endorsements, then said that some union staff members would no longer be allowed to communicate with the campaign. Such a move is typically intended to comply with campaign finance laws barring coordination of advertising spending.

“As soon as SEIU officials informed us that some of their staff were no longer able to communicate with us about the campaign, we immediately cut off all conversation with them, as we legally should,” Mr. Schultz said. “We found out about the existence of this outside group the same way the public did and we stand by our strong position that 527’s should have no role in the political process.”

In the Democratic primary, Mr. Edwards and Senator Barack Obama, a leading rival, have attacked such groups as symptomatic of the corrupting power of moneyed special interests. Just days before the Oct. 8 message, Mr. Edwards announced that as a matter of principle his campaign would abide by the spending limits of federal matching money, to demonstrate his commitment to reducing candidates’ dependence on big money.

Legal experts say the restrictions on coordination between campaigns and third-party groups are narrowly defined and difficult to apply.

“The definition of ‘coordination’ has been one of the most difficult legal concepts for the F.E.C. to grapple with for years and years,” said Kenneth Gross, a veteran campaign finance lawyer. “I don’t know if my wife and I met the standard for coordination before we decided to have a child.”

The Oct. 8 e-mail message was sent by David Rolf, president of a Washington State local of the service employees union, to his counterparts at other union locals. It summarizes a meeting of “
SEIU for Edwards,” a group of state-level union leaders rallying around Mr. Edwards.

The message discusses plans to swing as many
SEIU locals as possible “into a pro-Edwards position” and to coordinate public endorsements with the Edwards campaign. The organizers plan “to discuss with the Edwards campaign what specific sort of support they would like to see from us,” and list specific meetings scheduled between union leaders and campaign officials like David Bonior, the national campaign manager.

The message says the organizers intend to hire a full-time operative to run their pro-Edwards effort as a legally separate organization. “There was general agreement that the campaign will likely involve fund-raising, field work in early states, media in early states, and require full-time staffing and a serious 527 legal structure for any communication beyond our own membership.”

The 527 that the
SEIU locals ultimately formed, Alliance for a New America, is run by Nick Baldick, an operative who helped run Mr. Edwards’s 2004 Democratic primary campaign.

Adam Glickman, a spokesman for the Washington local led by Mr. Rolf, said Mr. Rolf was traveling and unavailable. Mr. Glickman declined to comment on conversations with the Edwards campaign, but said that as a matter of policy the
SEIU insulates political operatives from officials who may talk to campaigns.

In the closing week before the Iowa caucuses, Mr. Obama has taunted Mr. Edwards for the support he is receiving from the 527 group despite his repeated criticism of such groups. Mr. Obama, though, has faced similar questions. A few months ago, he disavowed an independent group set up by supporters in part to advance his candidacy in California.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is also receiving support from several labor groups.

(nytimes.com)

Out-of-state SEIU front-group's $1.3m Iowa TV ad

Here’s the much-talked-about pro-Edwards ad paid for by a 527 being advised by the candidate’s former campaign manager.

The ad begins by laying out stark problems: “The price of dependence on foreign oil. Health care in crisis. Government run by corporate lobbyists. Isn't it time someone had a plan to take them on?”

It then breaks down what is described as Edwards’ plan to combat these issues.

The group, Alliance for a New America, is funded mostly by local SEIUs, a group which has endorsed Edwards. Mundy Ketowitz Media got the bulk of the money ($750,000) with music and postproduction outsourced, according to FEC documents. In who's given to the group, it's mostly SEIU and one contribution from UNITE HERE. Here’s how the money breaks down: Ohio SEIU ($122,000), California SEIU ($400,000), local SEIU in Los Angeles ($100,000), local SEIU in Oregon ($60,000), local SEIU in St. Paul ($18,000) and Minneapolis ($36,000), Chicago UNITE HERE board ($100,000), NAGE COPE ($50,000), which is the political education arm of the National Association of Government Employees, which is also SEIU. COPE stands for Committee on Public Education.

The group is based in Arlington, Va., and it appears the individual who filled out the paperwork for the pro-Edwards group, Katherine Buchanan, has actually given money to Obama this cycle. A Katherine Buchanan of Arlington, Va., gave $250 to Obama in June.

Here’s the script of the ad:

“The price of dependence on foreign oil. Health care in crisis. Government run by corporate lobbyists. Isn't it time someone had a plan to take them on? The Edwards plan: Ban campaign cash from lobbyists. End tax breaks for big oil. Stop job killing trade deals. Stand up to insurance companies for real health reform.
Ask all the candidates what their plan is to level the playing field.

“Paid for by the Alliance for a New America which is responsible for its content. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.”



(firstread.msnbc.msn.com)

Union propaganda tires Iowa voters

Despite there being several inches of snow and ice on the ground, politics marches on. Several candidates had to cancel stops on the weekend before Christmas due to unsafe driving conditions. Most campaigns are praying for better weather between now and caucus night, but the extended forecast is calling for more snow tonight and Friday before the sun comesout again.

A break in the snow and ice is good news for those candidates who are depending upon first-time or inexperienced caucus-goers to up their totals. It remains to be seen exactly how much trouble those individuals will go through in order to stand in a crowded gymnasium or church basement for their chosen candidates.

Repeat Iowa caucus attendees - the party faithful - are those who will walk/snowshoe to caucus locations, if necessary, in order to make their voices heard. Strong supporters of this type can be found in the corners of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. On the Republican side, both former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee have been drawing party loyalists to them and could also stand to benefit if the weather turns foul.

... there is still grumbling about the direct mail piece sent by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) that used a quotation from Edwards to justify an attack on Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's health care plan. AFSCME has endorsed New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, although her name was not to be found on the full-color mailer.

A softer version of the original mailer hit Iowa mailboxes on Christmas eve. This one, also issued by AFSCME's political arm, took aim at Obama's health care plan, but did so without resorting to other candidate's words for the punchline.

... recycling bins are chock full of political mailings, most of it directly from the campaigns.

Just before Christmas New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson issued a full-color, glossy broadsheet both taking a swipe at the current administration and touting Richardson's plans for Iraq, education, energy independence and
health care. Edwards, who seems to be the most prolific mailer of the bunch, has a new glossy piece outlining his plan to rebuild rural Iowa. Clinton issued a non-glossy hitting on her energy plan.

By far, Clinton seems to be garnering the most support in the state from affiliated groups, campaigning on her behalf. In addition to AFSCME, EMILY's List and the American Federation of Teachers both have advertisements and/or direct mail pieces.

... Iowans, who have been up to their eyeballs in candidates since at least February 2007, are starting to tire. The campaigns, some of them in full-fledged panic mode, are also starting to grate on volunteers. The one-day break -- yes, one day since there were campaign events on Christmas eve and scheduled for Christmas Day-- was much needed by all. While the prior year cannot be completely discounted, these final few days are going to be telling.

(rhrealitycheck.org)

AFSCME in Iowa: 'Not-coordinated' coordination

Political Punch has gotten its hands on yet another Iowa mailer being sent by a pro-Clinton union that attacks Obama and makes it look like the attack is coming from Edwards.

You can see the mailer (.pdf) HERE.

The outside of the mailer has a "take a number" dispensary, and your number is "15,000,000." Resembling a similar mailer sent by AFSCME, this flier says, "There are 15 million reasons why Barack Obama's health care plan is not up to the job ... John Edwards said that if we go with the Obama plan, 'as many as 15 million Americans would be without coverage.'"

The Obama campaign has taken issue with the claim that as many as 15 million Americans would go without health insurance under Obama's plan, an estimate from some non-partisan experts who say the number is largely due to the plan's lack of individual mandates.

But here's the rub -- AFSCME has long opposed individual mandates as well. So, the mailing has nothing to do with the substance of the charge -- it has to do with defeating Obama and, one can only assume, making Edwards look bad in the process as well.

In a conference call set up by the Obama campaign last week, the executive director of the AFSCME chapter of Illinois, Henry Beyer, and a former official with the AFSCME chapter of Iowa, Carter Woodruff, pointed out the curious nature of the AFSCME mailing, since, as Beyer said, "we've always opposed individual mandates. Woodruff said the the mailer was a "desperate attempt to attack" Obama and "hypocritical."

The Clinton campaign said it had nothing to do with this mailer ... or the previous one.

(blogs.abcnews.com)

Voting: mail-in ballots easier to manipulate

Encouraging more union members to vote and saving money are just two reasons the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 353 has voted on a possible change in its election format.

On Dec. 13 IBEW Local 353 held a vote, at its regular union meeting, on a proposal to change its bylaws and introduce the mail-in ballot for its elections. Currently, the mail-in ballot is used for votes to ratify joint proposals for negotiations, resulting in an 80 per cent return of mail-in ballots. Local 353 has approximately 7,000 members. Results of the vote were unavailable and calls to Local 353 were not returned as of press deadline.

“Our members have busy lives after work,” explained Barry Stevens, Local 353 president, in a report to his members. “A mail-in ballot makes life a little less hectic.” Stevens noted that the geographic base of the union’s membership has expanded, making it a “difficult task” to establish easily accessible polling stations.

Also, finding people to man the stations has proven difficult, added Stevens in the report. Issues of voter intimidation can also be avoided through the mail-in ballot, he said. “Last elections members told me they were tired of being intimidated by other members both at work and prior to voting,” said Stevens. “Enough is enough. What could be easier than reading a candidate’s literature and then voting at home and tossing it into the mail?”

IBEW Local 353’s last election carried a $100,000 price tag and this cost could continue to rise “if we don’t change the way we conduct elections”, Stevens told members in his report. A mail-in system could save the union roughly $75,000.

“Many local in our area already have adopted the mail in vote. Ottawa, Windsor, Kitchener, Niagara and Sudbury all have a mail-in ballot,” noted Stevens. “In Kitchener they went from a 20 per cent participation rate to 80 per cent after adopting the mail in ballot.”

(dcnonl.com)

N.Y. Times class warrior's Fairy Tale

Beware of newspaper columns that begin, "Once upon a time." That's how Paul Krugman opened his Christmas Eve New York Times op-ed. "[B]ack when America had a strong middle class, it also had a strong union movement. These two facts were connected," he argued.

Continuing his liberal bedtime story, Krugman wrote, "Unions negotiated good wages and benefits for their workers, gains that often ended up being matched even by nonunion employers. They also provided an important counterbalance to the political influence of corporations and the economic elite."

The fascinating thing about Krugman's argument is that all of his premises can be ceded without accepting his conclusion that "a strong union movement" was the cause and "a strong middle class" the effect.

Any conservative who dared make such a straightforward cause-and-effect claim - about gun control and the District of Columbia's crime rate, say - would be accused of being "simplistic." In fact, Krugman's crude claim of causation reveals the dishonesty of liberal objections to simplistic argument. So long as one is arguing on behalf of liberal agendas and Democratic constituencies, no such objection is ever heard.

Krugman reduces decades of economic history to a single-factor analysis that hinges on a fight for "political influence" between (a) the "union movement" and (b) "corporations and the economic elite."

Well, once upon a time, such arguments tended to end with "Workers of the world unite!" Krugman is, after all, setting up the classic proletariat-vs.-capital showdown that inspired the fevered dreams of Marxism. Whereas Marx and his followers saw downtrodden industrial toilers as the world-historical force destined to rise up in revolutionary fury, however, Krugman's sloganeering conscripts the middle class to the task.

He is a thoroughly bourgeois revolutionary, and it is therefore not surprising that Krugman's Christmas Eve manifesto was issued on behalf of John Edwards, the multimillionaire trial lawyer and Democratic presidential candidate whose "populist message resonates with labor."

Assisted by union-controlled political groups, Edwards is reprising his famous "two Americas" 2004 campaign theme, premised on the same sort of simplistic single-factor argument that Krugman made. In this populist fairy tale, Americans can be divided neatly into two groups, the villainous "rich" and everybody else. It is the political influence of the rich, embodied in the Republican Party, that explains whatever woe afflicts everybody else.

Implicit in this myth is the existence of a lost postwar Golden Age of middle-class comfort, to which we may return by electing Democrats and enacting their preferred economic policies (which, not coincidentally, are those endorsed by Big Labor).

There are three chief problems with this liberal fantasy. The first is that the Golden Age wasn't really so golden. This point was most persuasively argued by David Frum in his book How We Got Here: The '70s: The Decade That Brought You Modern Life - For Better or Worse.

For all the hazy nostalgia attached to the Ozzie-and-Harriet era, Frum points out, the quarter-century following the end of World War II was typified by a level of regimentation - including the military draft and leftover New Deal economic regulation - that was fundamentally at odds with American ideals of liberty.

The second problem with this mythical Golden Age is that its genuine golden qualities were not the fruit of union-backed politics. The AFL-CIO bosses and their political henchmen did not produce the widespread prosperity and upward mobility of the 1950s and '60s.

To the extent that it was really golden, the Era was the product of a unique set of historical conditions. On the heels of the Great Depression, the United States had marshaled its industrial potential to achieve victory in a war that devastated the infrastructures of America's chief economic competitors, especially Germany and Japan.

Emerging with its industrial capacity unscathed and its workforce accustomed to wartime discipline, postwar America benefited from a source of capital never mentioned by the populist mythologists. Four years of rationing and war-bond drives had prevented Americans from purchasing consumer goods, while encouraging them - forcing them, really - to save wartime wages inflated by the emergency demand for labor. When wartime controls ended, these artificially imposed savings flooded into the marketplace, unleashing a tsunami of consumer demand that created unstoppable economic momentum.

Contrary to the Krugman-Edwards delusion that the good times of the '50s and '60s were caused by the political supremacy of labor unions, the causation was more likely the other way around: Because of the good times, perhaps, workers didn't much mind paying union dues, and the political influence of union bosses was a largely a function of their fat coffers.

Yet that happy honeymoon was over before it really began. In 1946, Americans elected a Republican Congress, and in 1947, the newly elected GOP majority overrode President Harry Truman's veto to pass the Taft-Hartley Act, limiting the coercive and often violent means by which union bosses had established their stranglehold on the American economy.

Stripped of legal sanction for their thuggish abuses, unions soon began losing membership. After cresting at nearly 33 percent in 1953 - the belated upswing caused by new employees joining already-unionized workplaces - Big Labor's share of the workforce dwindled steadily. By 1979, less than a quarter of American workers were union members. A decade later, fewer than one-in-six U.S. workers belonged to a union. Today, it's fewer than one-in-eight.

This trend points the third problem with the Krugman-Edwards populist myth. Taft-Hartley doesn't prevent workers from joining unions; it only prevents unions from forcing workers to join.

The American exodus from the Egyptian bondage of coercive unionism is entirely voluntary - and in many cases, this exodus has been more than a metaphor. U.S. population has been drastically reapportioned in the past half-century, with people departing the heavily-unionized Northeast and Midwest in favor of Sunbelt states where right-to-work laws prevent unions from extracting dues from unwilling workers.

Americans have voted with their feet, and there is not the slightest evidence that the 87 percent of non-unionized U.S. workers crave an opportunity to pay for the privilege of union membership.

If further refutation of the Krugman-Edwards mythology were needed, one might point out that union membership is only 7.4 percent in the private sector, compared to 36 percent for government workers, and that union membership is practically non-existent in the Information Age industries where productivity, growth, and wages are highest.

Krugman's fairy tale may give Edwards a boost in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Voters who understand economic reality aren't likely to trudge through the snows of Iowa to participate in a Democratic caucus. But if liberals expect to win the White House on the basis of Big Labor mythology, 2008 will prove a very unhappy year for Democrats.

(spectator.org)

Union members paying for political cannibalism

The decision by two local labor unions to support challenger Donna Edwards of Fort Washington in the primary race against Congressman Albert R. Wynn (D-Dist. 4) of Mitchellville last week brought a wave of criticism against the longtime incumbent.

"In his 16 years in office, Al Wynn has put interests of big business and his corporate contributors ahead of those of his constituents," said Terry Cavanagh, executive director of the SEIU Maryland State Council.

SEIU, which represents workers in the Prince George’s hospital system, was joined by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 in endorsing Edwards. Both unions endorsed Wynn in the last election.

Wynn and Edwards are considered the top two candidates in the crowded Democratic primary race for District 4, which includes parts of Montgomery County and Prince George’s County. In 2006, Edwards came within three percentage points of the party nomination.

Though supporters say Wynn has consolidated his base and boosted constituent service in the year since his near-defeat, Edwards has come back with a better-financed and more organized campaign this year, according to those watching the race.

Officials for SEIU and UFCW pledged to add to the Edwards campaign by tasking 20 paid staffers to campaign on the challengers’ behalf before the Feb 12 Primary.

Wynn spokeswoman Lori Sherwood said Wynn is satisfied with the campaign, and listed his support from other union groups, including a recent endorsement by the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO.

"He’s very pleased with the endorsements he’s received," said Lori Sherwood, spokeswoman for the Wynn campaign. "He has an overwhelming, broad base of support from labor."

(gazette.net)

Big Ent rolls with long writers' strike

Cutting costs. Getting tough with talent. Reinventing business models. Wall Street loves that kind of talk from Hollywood, so it should come as no surprise that the 8-week-old writers strike hasn't rattled the share prices of major showbiz congloms. In fact, they've barely budged since the day the strike began Nov. 5.

As of Wednesday, Viacom and Sony are up slightly. News Corp., CBS Corp., Time Warner and Walt Disney Co. are essentially flat. NBC Universal parent General Electric is down about $2, although with the industrial giant's products also including aircraft engines, plastics and washing machines, it's hard to blame it all on the drama in Burbank and Universal City.

The cold, hard fact is that media stocks were already trading at historic lows this year because investors see the profitability of traditional businesses heading south.

One investor explained that Wall Street never put much stock in executive hype about a digital windfall just around the corner -- hype the writers are throwing back at studios, who now say digital is still too undeveloped to be profitable.

Digital revenue varies from the millions at some congloms to the nearly $1 billion at News Corp.'s Fox Interactive. Profits are nil, except at Fox Interactive, where they're driven by MySpace, the huge social-networking site that uses little scripted content in any case.

With Wall Street in their corner, the studios view the strike in part "as a great opportunity for cleaning house. It's a little like filing for bankruptcy -- you can get out from under," said one former studio exec.

Some downplay the strike's impact. "What shows are on this January don't make any difference to the value of these companies in a couple of years," said Mark Greenberg, a senior portfolio manager with AIM Investments. "I can pretty much promise strikes do get settled. Each side will make concessions."

CBS Corp., the closest of the congloms to a pure-play television company, would theoretically be expected to feel some heat from the Street. But reaction's been muted so far. Some of CBS' flagship shows, like "CSI," aren't serials and do well in repeats. CBS, like the other major networks, has a reality lineup and a big news department to draw on. In addition, it can draw programming from its pay cabler Showtime for the mothership CBS broadcast net, as it is already planning to do with buzzworthy serial-killer drama "Dexter."

Within each conglom, however, production divisions are smarting. Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox TV, the industry's largest suppliers of TV programming, have been forced to shelve projects they've already paid big bucks to develop with high-priced talent. And given the great divide between the studios and scribes and the impasse in their negotiations, it's looking increasingly like that the town will chalk up the 2007-08 television season as collateral strike damage.

Fox has a big advantage on the network side because its nonscripted megahit "American Idol" is still arriving on sked next month.

Fox is also part of the News Corp. global empire, which helps blunt the overall impact of shocks that hit some of its many divisions. News Corp. has $30 billion in annual revenue and far-flung interests in newspapers, publishing and satellite television.

Disney owns juggernaut ESPN, which uses little scripted fare and can buffer woes at ABC for a time. Disney Channel has thrived on scripted hits like "Hannah Montana" in the past few years, but the kid-centric cabler can survive on reruns more easily than its older sib ABC. Between Disney's theme parks, hospitality and live entertainment businesses, it rakes in total annual revenue of about $35 billion.

At Time Warner, parent of Warner Bros., Turner Broadcasting, Time Warner Cable, AOL and Time Inc., annual revenues reach about $44 billion.

Sony Pictures Entertainment is a blip on the Japanese electronic giant's $70 billion in annual sales. Ditto for NBC U and General Electric.

"These are big companies. Warner Bros. itself is a big company," said one industry exec. They're "not going out of business."

Still, the big unknown is the same on Wall Street as it is on the picket lines: How long will it last?

"The more it goes on, the more I worry about TV," said media analyst Richard Greenfield of Pali Research. "If it ends in January, that's very different than if it ends in September."

Longer term, the question for broadcast TV is not whether but how many people will tire of a diet of repeats and reality and seek entertainment elsewhere. And how many of those eyeballs will return once the strike ends.

Networks will lose momentum on new shows they've invested in. And in due time, broadcasters in particular will feel the pinch of lower ratings in the form of make-goods to advertisers to account for those ratings shortfalls.

"A few shows start to get traction with an audience and now will have a hard time coming back," said veteran showbiz analyst Harold Vogel, author of "Entertainment Industry Economics." "They will recover some of the lost audience but not all." And the industry "will have to spend millions on advertising and marketing and on make-goods. Until now, they've been saving, not paying anyone and still getting advertising revenue."

From Wall Street's purview, the sides are ensnarled in a dogfight over a shrinking pool of revenues. And at least for now, digital distribution of shows is not the cure-all for declines in traditional profit-generating areas like syndication and international sales. Studios have taken a tough stance in the negotiations with the Writers Guild of America because contract talks with directors (who may wind up cutting a deal before the scribes) and actors are just around the corner next year.

"The ratings have gone way down. Shows typically aren't profitable; one or two out of 10 makes money. The backend is drying up. And there's a group that wants more money," said a former media exec. "If it was just the (new media) residuals, you'd say yes, they should get paid more. But the studios (are obsessing about) the bigger picture."

(variety.com)

Labor-state's union-happy Governor

In the words of Yogi Berra, "It is déjà vu all over again." Looking at the recent article in the Statesman Journal announcing that state workers were to receive raises in a union deal was like reading an article I could swear I had read several times already this year. And in fact, I had.

The recent bonus pay announced by Gov. Kulongoski for union workers is the third he has handed out this year. One of Oregon's top union leaders called it a "win for the governor's office and a win for us," but the losers are Oregon taxpayers.

This most recent pay raise comes with a price tag of $54 million that Oregonians will have to pay. That is $54 million on top of the $125 million already doled out for pay raises and health care increases for unions this year along with an additional $12 million in raises for state managers. The governor's sudden generosity to his biggest campaign supporters could not come at a worse time for hardworking Oregon families.

Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve chairman have stated that the country's economic warning signals are flashing a cautionary color. The housing market is heavy with a 2?206-140? years' supply of foreclosed and unsold homes. The stock market recently adjusted downward by 12 percent. Washington Mutual Savings and Loan is closing more than 500 offices across the country. These are the signs of pending economic troubles.

Meanwhile, the governor led the charge to increase government spending by 21 percent last legislative session. Now, he has turned a blind eye to the economy's clear danger signals to hand out three separate pay raises to state workers over the course of a year. He is draining Oregon's checking account.

These constant pay raises don't represent the type of government spending that puts more teachers in Oregon classrooms, more textbooks in the hands of students or fixes potholes in the road. The governor's blank check to unions will yield only one measurable result: big deficits in future years.

Oregon's leaders should be reprioritizing the way we spend. Taxpayer dollars should only go where they will do the most good and produce the best results. For too long, government has spent without concern for rising costs, forgetting that every dime spent today costs us dollars in future years.

This coming special session, many of my colleagues and I will be pushing for an Office of Government Accountability that actually measures the product of government spending while working to control costs.

I believe Oregonians are ready for a government that spends money based on a clear set of priorities, not the whims and dictates of special interests. That means rewarding high-quality teachers for results in the classroom, putting cops on the road 24 hours a day, seven days a week and zeroing in on identity theft. And with the possibility of a rainy day on the horizon, it means less spending and more checkbook discipline.

Someone should tell the governor.

- Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, can be reached at (503) 986-1950 or sen.tedferrioli@state.or.us.

(statesmanjournal.com)

The building of America's teachers unions

When he died 10 years ago, Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, was probably the most powerful union leader in America.

At a time when the spreading Rust Belt was reducing once-mighty industrial unions to skeletons, the AFT's astonishing growth -- from 70,000 members in 1961 to nearly a million in 1997 -- bucked the trend.

The private sector is becoming a union-free zone, but 70 percent of America's public school teachers are covered by collective bargaining agreements.

Shanker did not single-handedly engineer the explosive growth of teachers unions. Union organizers everywhere saw the public sector as an inviting target, and teachers were ripe for the picking. Still, it is hard to deny that Shanker played a central role in the rise of teacher unionism. His strategic vision and tactical skill, wedded to a formidable intellect and no-holds-barred debating style, helped transform the tiny United Federation of Teachers, the bargaining agent for New York City's 50,000 public school teachers, into the biggest union local in America.

That the UFT had more members than the rest of the AFT put together made Shanker's rise to the presidency of the national union all but inevitable. After winning that prize in 1974, however, Shanker did not stand still. He led the AFT from strength to strength, and used its political clout to influence national debates about school reform and educational standards.

In the late 1960s, Shanker acquired a reputation as an overbearing bully whose strike-happy militancy needlessly disrupted the lives of millions of parents and children. He was also accused of deliberately playing up the issue of anti-Semitism during an ugly confrontation in New York's Ocean Hill-Brownsville area between teachers, most of whom were Jewish, and advocates of community control, most of whom were black.

If Shanker was sometimes needlessly pugnacious, however, he needed to be tough. Growing up in 1930s New York, he encountered raw anti-Semitism. In one horrifying incident, the 8-year-old Shanker was blindfolded by classmates and almost underwent a mock lynching for being a "Christ-killer" before being rescued by his sister. When he became a teacher in 1952, he entered a system in which the power of the principal and the low status of teachers fostered a kind of institutionalized bullying. Only through strikes could teachers break this system, and Shanker twice served jail time for defying anti-strike laws. No wonder he fought hard to defend teachers' employment rights when Black Power militants tried to oust white teachers in the name of community control. Understanding how tenure and seniority shielded Jewish teachers from anti-Semitism, he was both a passionate supporter of the civil rights movement -- he marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala. -- and a tenacious opponent of race-based affirmative action.

Shanker was certainly tough, but was he a liberal? According to Richard D. Kahlenberg's sympathetic biography, Shanker rooted his politics in the liberalism of the New Deal, in which organized labor played a central role, and in the principled anticommunism of Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy. This class-based liberalism, when wedded to a resolute foreign policy that promoted democratic values abroad, enabled the Democratic Party to dominate national politics until the 1960s and, in so doing, to improve the lot of all American workers.

However, the reaction against the Vietnam War and the rise of identity politics weakened that tough liberalism and delivered a substantial portion of the white working class to the Republican Party. If the Democrats are to reconstitute their majority, Kahlenberg argues, they should go back to the policies and values espoused by Albert Shanker.

A reader looking for a nuanced explanation of the Democratic Party's decline will be disappointed. Castigating the "peaceniks," "limousine liberals" and "New Politics type candidates" whom Shanker loathed, Kahlenberg resorts to stereotypes that preclude serious analysis. And his overly dogged defense of virtually every position Shanker took sometimes challenges credulity. Kahlenberg's hostile treatment of the AFT'S rival, the National Education Association, is blatantly partisan, and his justification of Shanker's hawkish position on Vietnam ignores decades of historical scholarship. "Tough Liberal" is a spirited and readable biography, but it is not the last word on the remarkable Albert Shanker.

(washingtonpost.com)

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