8/31/08

Labor union corruption: A national epidemic

More embezzlement stories: here

Despite rampant racketeering & ripoffs, labor bigs seek $10 billion bailout from Congress via EFCA

Remember the air-traffic controllers union strike of 1981? Odds are you don't -- 60 percent of Americans were 16 or younger at the time of Big Labor's last nationwide power grab.

But unions haven't made that kind of nasty headline for a while. So it should be no surprise that this Labor Day many of these underinformed Americans approve of labor unions as an institution.

But new research indicates that unions' popularity would be in the tank if Americans were aware of the current leadership's record of fat expense accounts, corruption, embezzlement and discrimination.

You might be surprised to learn that in the last reported five years, inspectors from the Department of Labor obtained 1,100 labor racketeering indictments, with court judgments exceeding $400 million in fines and other forms of punishment and repayment to union members who were ripped off.

In addition, the federal Office of Labor-Management Standards has successfully prosecuted 850 corrupt union officials and obtained $103 million in restitution orders since 2001.

And since 2000, labor unions have faced more than 14,000 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints -- charging leaders with discrimination by race, sex, age, disability and religion.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, "Schemes involving bribery, extortion, deprivation of union rights by violence and embezzlement used by early racketeers are still employed to abuse the power of unions."

But union leaders have kept their activities out of the public eye -- relying on deft political maneuvering, multimillion-dollar public relations campaigns and the residual goodwill of the American people.

This has worked for a long time. But now organized labor has a new scheme that should be prompting more and more concerned citizens to speak up and oppose disturbing new legislation that amounts to a brazen power grab.

It's congressional legislation deceptively named the Employee Free Choice Act, or EFCA. It eliminates workers' right to a private vote when considering the forming of a union in the workplace and makes it vastly easier for outside organizers to enter a workplace and form a union, without time for debate and deliberation.

How would this "free choice" proposal do all this?

Instead of giving everyone the right to make a decision in the privacy of the voting booth, signatures would be collected in public, making individuals vulnerable to pressure and harassment from union organizers.

If organizers collect cards from more than 50 percent of a workplace's employees, the result is a binding contract for representation.

The U.S. Supreme Court has called this signature-collection method "admittedly inferior to the (private ballot) election process."

"It would be difficult to imagine a more unreliable method of ascertaining the real wishes of employees," said the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a real election, when you vote "no," your word is final. But under EFCA, union organizers would be permitted to pester employees as much as necessary, even showing up at their homes until they relent.

To a union organizer, "no" means "not yet." How can you ever register a final "no" vote in that process?

An AFL-CIO "Guidebook for Union Organizers" admits that sometimes employees will sign just "to 'get the union off my back.'" Nevertheless, 50 percent plus one of the targeted employees signing a card equals an election under the proposed rules.

An office could be unionized overnight.

Union president Andy Stern predicts EFCA would mean 15 million to 20 million more unionized Americans. By Stern's calculations, unions would conservatively pick up an additional $10 billion in dues annually.

Money talks in politics so unions would have unprecedented political influence and power to advance their agenda. And given their history of corruption, deception and mismanagement of member dues, a $10 billion cash injection should be enough to cause any American serious concern.

This Labor Day, make sure your friends and neighbors have heard about the labor bosses' latest scheme to increase their own power and eliminate working Americans' right to a private vote, free from coercion or intimidation.

It will be tragic if millions of Americans don't find out until it is too late.

- Richard Berman is the executive director of the Center for Union Facts, a nonprofit watchdog for America's workers.

(pittsburghlive.com)

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