1/10/08

UFCW chided for 'psychological terrorism'

It has not been a good week for AgriProcessors, the world’s largest kosher slaughterhouse. In addition to a falling-out between two of its kashrut certifiers, the company recently lost an appeal in federal court and continues to field attacks from the slaughterhouse workers’ union.

Last week, a federal court of appeals rejected AgriProcessors’ claim that workers in a Brooklyn distribution center should not be allowed to unionize because many of them are undocumented aliens. The decision ended a two-year court battle.

“[AgriProcessors] tied the case up in court,” said Jill Cashen, a spokeswoman for United Food and Commercial Workers, which is the union that represents slaughterhouse employees. She added that the long period during which the case moved through the courts would have given AgriProcessors time to hire a new crop of workers who had not voted to unionize in 2005. “It’s a union-busting tactic,” she said.

In yet another development, the UFCW, which has long protested AgriProcessors’ labor practices, claims that its chemical tests of AgriProcessors’ meat reveals much higher sodium levels than the company reports on its packaging. The union has also uncovered a letter from four United States congressmen to the United States Department of Agriculture that expresses concern over the plant’s record on health and safety regulations.

Rabbi Menachem Weissmandl, leader of an ultra-Orthodox community in upstate New York, criticized the UFCW for what he called its “agenda” of recruiting uninterested workers into the union. He called a November 2007 UFCW campaign, in which the union phoned religious households with a Yiddish message questioning AgriProcessors’ kashrut standards, “psychological terrorism.”

(forward.com)

Airline workers reject union, stock price surges

Wednesday, air carrier Continental Airlines, Inc. said its field service employees, which included ramp, operations, and cargo agents, rejected the representation from the Transport Workers Union of America, or TWU, to organize them.

In the after-hours trading, the company's stock rose 8.51%, following a gain of 5.38% to $18.80 on a volume of 8.44 million shares during Wednesday's regular trading.

Quoting the Houston, Texas-based airline, AP reported that out of the 7,660 eligible voters, only 3,517 workers voted for the TWU. This was 314 short of the winning majority required by the union. The election, which began in December and concluded on Wednesday, was the third in the series of rejections by the Continental workers. In 2006, the TWU could only rally 3,300 votes, falling short by about 300 votes for the majority needed for approval. In 2005 also, the TWU had lost by a narrow margin. Prior to that, the Teamsters and the International Association of Machinists had failed in their efforts.

The report quoted TWU President James Little as saying overwhelming majority of workers voted in favor of the union, but the turnout was below 50% required for the union to win under federal law. During the campaign, the TWU had argued that ground workers would have more leverage to recover pay cuts of nearly 10% in 2005 if the union represented them in contract negotiations. Last year, the ground workers received only 2% raises.

Bill Meehan, senior vice president airport services, said, "Once again, we are pleased that our co-workers recognized the value of our direct working relationship. We'll continue to work together to honor the commitments and promises we've made and maintain our culture of trust and success."

(tradingmarkets.com)

Teaching unionism worldwide

There has been much debate over the ways in which historical ideology is passed on to the next generation - over Japanese textbooks that downplay the Nanjing massacre, Palestinian textbooks that feature maps without Israel and new Russian guidelines that require teachers to acclaim Stalinism. Yet there has been almost no analysis of how countries teach economics.

In France and Germany, schools have helped ingrain a serious aversion to the market economy. In a 2005 poll, just 36 per cent of French citizens said they supported the free enterprise system. In Germany, support for socialist ideals is running at all-time highs: 47 per cent in 2007 versus 36 per cent in 1991. In both countries, attempts at economic reform have been routinely blocked by a consensus against policies considered "pro-market". Might some of this be traced to the ideas instilled at school? In a project for the German Marshall Fund, I analysed French, German and US high-school curricula and textbooks for their coverage of the economy, the welfare state, entrepreneurship and globalisation.

"Economic growth imposes a hectic form of life, producing overwork, stress, nervous depression, cardiovascular disease and, according to some, even the development of cancer," asserts Histoire du XXe si├Ęcle , a text memorised by French high-school students as they prepare for entrance exams to prestigious universities. Start-ups, the book tells students, are "audacious enterprises" with "ill-defined prospects". Then it links entrepreneurs with the technology bubble, the Nasdaq crash and massive redundancies across the economy. Think "creative destruction" without the "creative".

In another widely used text, a section on innovation does not mention any entrepreneur or company. Instead, students read a treatise on whether technological progress destroys jobs. Another briefly mentions an entrepreneur - a Frenchman who invented a new tool to open oysters - only to follow with an abstract discussion of whether the modern workplace is organised along post-Fordist or neo-Taylorist lines. In several texts, students are taught that globalisation leads to violence and armed resistance, requiring a new system of world governance. "Capitalism" is described as "brutal", "savage" and "American". French students do not learn economics so much as a highly biased discourse about economics.

German textbooks emphasise corporatist and collectivist traditions and the minutiae of employer-employee relations - a zero-sum world where one loses what the other gains. People who run companies are caricatured as idle, cigar-smoking plutocrats. They are linked to child labour, internet fraud, mobile phone addiction, alcoholism and redundancies. Germany's rich entrepreneurial history is all but ignored.

A typical social studies text titled FAKT has a chapter on "What to do against unemployment". Instead of describing how companies create jobs, it explains how the jobless can join self-help groups and anti-reform protests "in the tradition of the East German Monday demonstrations" (which in 1989 helped topple the communist dictatorship). The text concludes with a long excerpt from the platform of the German Union Federation, including the 30-hour working week, retirement at 60 and redistribution of work by splitting full-time into part-time jobs. No market alternative is taught. FAKT blames unemployment on computers and robots - a recurring theme in the German books.

Describing globalisation, another text has sections headed "Revival of Manchester Capitalism", "Brazilianisation of Europe" and "Return of the Dark Ages". India and China are successful, the book explains, because they practise state ownership and protectionism, while the freest markets are in impoverished sub-Saharan Africa. Like many French and German books, it suggests students learn more by contacting the anti-globalisation group Attac.

It is no surprise that the continent's schools teach through a left-of-centre lens. The surprise is the intensity of the anti-market bias. Students learn that companies destroy jobs, while government policy creates them. Globalisation is destructive, if not catastrophic. Business is a zero-sum game. If this is the belief system within which most students develop intellectually, is it any wonder French and German reformers are so easily shouted down?

- Stefan Theil is Newsweek's European economics editor.

(ft.com)

Workers strike against A-list L.A. hotel

Wilshire Plaza Hotel workers walked out on strike this afternoon after facing alleged retaliation by management and other unfair labor practices.

The allegations of retaliation included charges that workers who were subpoenaed by the Federal Government to testify in a National Labor Relations Board hearing had their hours reduced and their working conditions changed, the quality and quantity of the food in the worker cafeteria was decreased, and the hotel will no longer be providing or cleaning uniforms for cooks.

Workers at the Wilshire Plaza Hotel have been represented by a UNITE HERE Local 11 for close to 30 years, but have been working without a union contract since December, 2006. In October, 2007, the Wilshire Plaza Hotel workers and workers at four other hotels in Los Angeles voted overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing a strike.

The strike comes in the aftermath of a three-week long hearing against the Wilshire Plaza Hotel by the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board. The General Counsel has alleged 45 violations against the Wilshire Plaza, which include the failure to make payments to the Health and Welfare funds, resulting in the loss of health coverage for their employees. Workers and their families who rely on medical coverage to treat their illnesses have been forced to cease medical treatment, adversely affecting their physical and mental health.

Soon after the hearing, two critical witnesses, who were subpoenaed by the federal government to testify, faced alleged illegal retaliation for their role in the government hearing. Lester Salazar, a room service waiter, saw his hours drop from approximately 33 hours per week before the hearing to only 12 hours a week now. Noelia Lopez, who has worked at the Hotel for 28 years, was allegedly discriminated against when the Hotel added to her job duties soon after the hearing.

Other allegations in the government complaint include charges that the hotel illegally altered terms of employment by refusing to pay vacation time to its employees, that hotel management interrogated employees about their union involvement and conducted surveillance of their employees to monitor their activities in support of the union. Additionally, workers had their wages reduced to as low as $8.05 per hour. "In my many years with UNITE HERE I have never seen such a vast NLRB complaint issued against a single employer whose employees are represented by Local 11. The Wilshire Plaza Hotel has shown a blatant disregard for its employees, many of whom have given decades of their lives to ensure that this hotel is successful," said Tom Walsh, Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 11.

(launionaflcio.org)

Guild collectivism's collateral damage

Warner Bros, a unit of Time Warner Inc, has told about 1,000 television and film production workers that an unspecified number of layoffs will soon be announced due to Hollywood's screenwriters strike.

"These WARN notices were sent because, in certain circumstances, federal and California law can require employers to give notice of staffing changes," Warner Bros said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Due to the ongoing Writers Guild of America work stoppage, some studio divisions will have to lay off employees. We regret the impact this will have on our employees, and we hope to bring them back to work once the WGA strike ends," it said.

About 10,500 WGA members went on strike against major film and TV studios on November 5 in a contract dispute centered mainly on the issue of compensation for work distributed on the Web.

The strike has halted production on scores of TV shows and derailed several film projects.

FilmL.A. Inc, a nonprofit group that handles production permits for the city, estimates the TV industry stands to lose $21.3 million a day from shutdowns of 65 prime-time broadcast and cable shows that are shot in the Los Angeles area.

Those shows -- 44 one-hour dramas and 21 half-hour sitcoms -- collectively employ well over 10,000 people whose loss of income will ripple through the local economy, the group said.

The dispute is also now casting a dark shadow over this year's Hollywood awards season, with the Golden Globe Awards becoming the most high-profile casualty to date.

On Monday, General Electric Co's NBC was forced to modify the Golden Globe Awards broadcast, set for January 13, from its usual glitzy affair to a scaled-back news conference, since actors said they would boycott the show to honor writers' picket lines.

NBC is offering cash back to some Golden Globe Awards marketers after the network scrapped the star-studded telecast, which typically generates about $25 million in advertising, advertising and network executives said.

Since talks between writers and studios broke down in December, the WGA has sought to make deals with independent producers in an effort to divide and conquer Big Hollywood.

This week, the WGA signed a deal with Tom Cruise's film company, United Artists, owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

While the Cruise deal and the Globes' derailment mark interim victories for the writers, no end is in sight for the strike without plans for further negotiations.

Industry insiders said on Wednesday peoples' minds as well as their pockets were bearing the brunt.

"The impact of the strike on the Southern California economy is happening in two realms - the realm of reality and the realm of psychology," said Michael Levine, a veteran public relations professional, who has represented stars such as Demi Moore and Barbra Streisand.

"There's a feeling that this strike is part of a perfect storm, with anxiety over real estate, the economy and historically higher gas prices all coming together," he said. "It's pretty noxious."

(reuters.com)

Striking writers' collateral damage spreads

Two months into the writers strike, ICM on Wednesday became the first major talent agency to invoke the force majeure clauses in its agents' contracts.

Several agents, including Renee Tab, Eva Lontscharitsch, Jenny Fritz and Brian Levy of the motion picture literary department, have been suspended, sources said. All will receive special "strike pay" and benefits for the duration of the strike and may return after its end. Additionally, there will be temporary salary reductions in the neighborhood of 20% in all strike-affected departments, but no assistants will be laid off. The assistants of the suspended agents will be reassigned.

For ICM, the belt-tightening comes after a strong year capped by sizable bonuses paid to the entire staff last month. Agencies, which saw a major portion of their revenue dry up with TV production shutting down, have been hit particularly hard by the strike.

The writers walkout already has led to a temporary 20% salary reduction among the top echelon of agents and executives at UTA as well as the firing of about 10 assistants at Innovative Artists. With no end in sight to the strike, agencies had been expected to begin suspending or laying off agents in January under the force majeure -- or "act of God" -- provision triggered in extraordinary circumstances like a major strike.

Several smaller agencies and management companies, which rely heavily on booking guest stars on series, might go under in the next month or so, observers say.

Many smaller talent representation players already have laid off assistants and low-level agents who are now searching for new jobs, but with the entertainment market so tight because of the strike, they might have to look elsewhere.

"There are some good people leaving the business for good," one manager said.

(hollywoodreporter.com)

Pittsburgh teachers union authorizes strike

Negotiators for Pittsburgh (PA) Public Schools and its teachers' union met for about 6 1/2 hours Wednesday without reaching agreement on a new contract.

"I didn't think things went very well," said John Tarka, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers. He declined to elaborate. Talks are scheduled to resume Friday.

Union leaders, who represent 4,042 teachers and other school employees, have been authorized by members to call a strike when they consider it necessary. The teachers' contract expired June 30.

(pittsburghlive.com)

Big teachers union issues strike threat

Downingtown, PA teachers say if they do not have a tentative contract by Jan. 28 they will go on strike. President Lisa Anderson of the 850-member Downingtown Area Education Association gave a copy of the strike notification to the school board at its Wednesday night meeting.

Board President Robert Eldredge says the nearly 12,000-student district seeks a settlement in the best interest of taxpayers as well as teachers.

The teachers have been working without a contract since Sept. 3. School board and union negotiators last met on Dec. 13, and have not reached an agreement on wages. Union spokesman Paul Gottlieb says the board's proposed pay increases are "minimal." The board says union wage requests would require use of reserve funds. Talks are scheduled again on Tuesday.

(pennlive.com)

Labor-state gets too costly, UAW faces dues hit

The company that owns the New Process Gear plant in DeWitt (NY) is notifying its workers it can no longer afford to keep the plant open, if it can't lower it's cost of doing business.

There have been hundreds of layoffs at the plant, including just over 300 that began January 1st, however there is now very serious talk about closing the facility. A direct communication was made Wednesday morning to unionized workers. A membership bulletin was handed to employees as they left the overnight shift.

The bulletin says in late December, "Magna Powertrain informed the bargaining committees and International Union that they could not 'afford' to keep New Process Gear open at its current cost structure and were planning to close our plant in the immediate future. On December 20th, after many long hours of heated debate, we were able to convince Magna to keep negotiating and continue to look at every possible scenario that would make financial sense and keep our doors open."

The union says the International UAW approved release of Magna's plant closing threat, as negotiations continue with the company. Almost 3,000 people depend on new process gear for a living. The majority of the hourly workers are covered by a national agreement with Chrysler, the plant's former owner.

However, that deal will not matter much if Magna can't strike a local deal with the union to cut costs and keep the factory open. The UAW says it continues to take a firm stance at the bargaining table, against Magna's financial proposals, demanding instead that the company invest more in New Process Gear.

No one from the union or the company returned phone calls from NewsChannel 9 Wednesday morning.

(9wsyr.com)

Truthy pro-Clinton Gov. appoints Teamster

Lynn Lehrbach has been appointed to a four-year term on the TriMet Board of Directors, representing District 6, which covers East Multnomah County.

He replaced Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Guisto, whose term ended Dec. 31.

Lehrbach, who lives in East Multnomah County, is a 25-year representative for the Teamsters Union. Lehrbach is responsible for coordinating the negotiations, the organizing and also the political activities at both the federal and state level for nine local unions representing about 40,000 members in Oregon and Southwest Washington. He is also an International Teamster representative for construction on the West Coast.

He was appointed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

(bizjournals.com)

Replacements loom, Teamsters abandon pickets

More than 100 workers stopped picketing yesterday at Times Super Market stores on Oahu after a new offer from the company held out hope of an end to their three-week strike.

Members of the Hawaii Teamsters Local 996 are expected to discuss the latest offer today, though the union hasn't scheduled a vote. The union represents about 118 meat cutters and wrappers, deli clerks, fish cutters and utility workers who walked off the job Dec. 17.

The workers are striking over how long the company should pay medical premiums for employees on extended leave. They earlier rejected the company's proposal to set limits of one year for existing workers and three months for new hires, the only sticking point barring a new contract. There's currently no limit.

The strike involves about 10 percent of the company's 1,100-member workforce -- the rest of which is nonunion -- at its 12 stores on Oahu. The company says that if an agreement isn't reached soon, it will hire permanent replacements for all positions.

(starbulletin.com)

Bankrupt airline's union revs strike committee

Dear Fellow Pilot,

The financial press continues to report almost daily on developments on the airline industry consolidation front. Industry analysts and self-proclaimed insiders casually predict the most likely pairings and even the timing of proposed events. While they do not always agree on details, Delta remains a common element in almost every scenario.

Meanwhile, many airlines are warning that fourth-quarter results will be disappointing, citing decreased demand and increased fuel prices. The price of crude oil remains a primary concern, and just last week, it briefly broke the $100 per barrel mark for the first time before retreating to close just below $100. The Amex Airline Index, a financial index designed to measure the performance of the airline industry, remains anchored near its historic low. Just this week, the price of Delta stock closed below $12 per share for the first time since it was relisted on the New York Stock Exchange last May.

While we have been hearing about "inevitable consolidation" for many years, it is becoming increasingly difficult to discount these facts and other recent events as simply more rhetoric. Consolidation may indeed be at our door. How we face its challenges will have a significant impact on our careers and profession for decades to come.

This week, your elected representatives are meeting in special session in Atlanta. While the MEC [Master Executive Council] will discuss a variety of issues, much of the meeting will focus on the fact that our company may soon be involved in some form of industry consolidation. The MEC remains fully engaged with all relevant issues, and I want to provide you with an update on your union's efforts as we continue to prepare for different possibilities.

In recent Chairman's Letters, I reviewed some of our ongoing efforts. In November, the MEC unanimously voted to retain the Merger Fund. This fund, now with a balance of over one million dollars, was initially authorized and funded by the Delta pilots early in Delta's bankruptcy while our company was extremely vulnerable and even facing the possibility of liquidation. While the bankruptcy threat is now behind us, the potential for a consolidating event is every bit as real.

The MEC has also retained legal counsel specializing in the field of mergers and acquisitions. This counsel has joined our existing legal and financial advisors to provide us with an outstanding team of professionals, supplying your elected representatives with the guidance, advice, and support they will need to properly represent your interests. We continue to meet with the team on a regular basis to refine our strategy as the situation warrants.

Finally, we continue to send a very clear and consistent message to all concerned parties, and that message is this: We do not oppose consolidation, and may even determine that consolidation is desirable. But as I wrote to you last month:

The kind of consolidation that the Delta pilots might support is one that will produce an even stronger and growing airline that will vigorously and successfully compete in the international marketplace for years to come, will adequately reward the pilots for their participation as stakeholders in the transaction, and will provide the necessary platform for long-term growth in pilot earnings and career progression. Nothing less can justify a change in the status quo.

Any attempt at consolidation will fail without the active involvement and support of the pilots from the earliest formative stages of the effort. Any consolidated company must provide meaningful protections and added value for the Delta pilots. Without those critical components in place, we will not support a consolidation attempt, and the attempt, like virtually every other airline consolidation attempt over the past two decades, will fail. Management and the financial community must accept the fact that after the sacrifices we made to save our company, we will not be bystanders to career altering events. We are relevant, and we will assert that relevance.

With that in mind, I want to tell you about your MEC's plans over the next few weeks as we continue to mobilize for various contingencies.

I have reactivated the Strike Preparedness Committee (SPC). The SPC is the tactical arm of the Delta MEC. While the traditional objective of the SPC has been to prepare for and, if necessary, execute a strike against Delta Air Lines, ensuring that not a single Delta jet will fly in the event of failed negotiations under the Railway Labor Act, the committee has demonstrated that they are capable of much more. In the past two years, the SPC has demonstrated the capability to react quickly and precisely to carry out short-notice operations in support of the Delta MEC. They have organized picketing efforts not only of airports but also of corporate events and Wall Street. They have supported lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill including those to successfully kill the US Airways hostile takeover attempt of Delta Air Lines. They have embraced the technology necessary to create a virtual strike center in very short order at the location of our choice.

Conversely, the flexible nature of the SPC will also allow your MEC to task them in support of a consolidation effort—but if and only if it is the right consolidation, a merger opportunity that provides the Delta pilots with the protections and equity we have communicated so clearly and unambiguously from the outset.

In concert with the mobilization of the SPC, later this week, the Delta MEC Strike Operations Center will open just a short distance from Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. This physical location will help to provide the infrastructure in the event the MEC deems it necessary to call you to action.

Also at this week's MEC meeting, your MEC will elect a three-member Merger Committee. While we have an extremely talented and dedicated committee already in place, the Merger Committee is one of only two MEC committees (the other being the Negotiating Committee) that is elected by the MEC. Since the MEC has had some turnover due to regular election cycles, it is prudent to ensure that the Merger Committee in place is reflective of the desires of the current MEC.

The Pilot-to-Pilot Committee is being reconstituted as a means of two-way communication between Delta's line pilots and their elected representatives.

Finally, the MEC has scheduled a "State of the Union" rally on Wednesday, January 23 at 10:00 a.m. at the Georgia International Convention Center. We are operating in a very dynamic environment. Consequently, a precise agenda will depend on what events, if any, occur between now and the time of the rally. In general terms, the rally will provide an overview of your union's recent efforts with an emphasis on the consolidation related activity that has dominated the industry's financial press and how you can participate to craft our collective future. You will receive more details in the near future. Please make every effort to attend.

Since Delta entered bankruptcy in September, 2005, the ride has often been turbulent and as we enter the New Year, the course ahead appears no less arduous. You are extremely well represented by the pilots you elected to serve, but their best efforts cannot succeed without your continued support and resolve. Please continue to stay informed, and be willing to answer the call to action, whenever and in whatever form that call might come.

Fraternally,

Lee Moak, Chairman, Delta MEC

(ajc.com)

Teamsters divide evenly on corruption

The members of Teamsters Local 377 in Youngstown (OH) will have to wait another month before they know who's really in charge or if they'll have to vote again for new leaders.

At least two new officers whom the members elected last fall are accused of theft in office and corruption. The top Teamster leaders from the International had suspended them. But those same top officials also allowed the new officers to remain in charge for now while the International decides whether to uphold the suspensions and hold a new election.

The issue has divided the thirty-eight hundred local members down the middle. The International executive board will meet February 12th in Washington to make a decision on both the suspensions and the second election.

(wytv.com)

AFSCME momentum sweeps across country

Fresh off its stunning come from behind victory in New Hampshire, the Hillary Clinton for President campaign today kicked-off its post-New Hampshire efforts with a series of events across the country.

"Momentum is clearly in our side," said Clinton National Campaign Chairman Terry McAuliffe. "Voters across the country are going to see what New Hampshire voters saw. Hillary Clinton doesn't just talk about change - she will be a President who actually brings change."

"We're going to build on this momentum in Nevada, South Carolina, and the February 5 states - all the way to the nomination and the White House," McAuliffe continued.

The campaign planned activities in fourteen states on Tuesday, including major endorsements in Nevada and Delaware, phone banking in South Carolina and Missouri, a rally in Arkansas, and "Honk and Hollers" in California.

NEVADA (25 delegates, January 19) - MAJOR ENDORSEMENT ALERT: After announcing today the addition of Joe Biden's former state director to the Clinton Nevada team, the campaign will announce a major Nevada endorsement today. Stay tuned!

SOUTH CAROLINA (45 delegates, January 26) - BURNING UP THE PHONE LINES: State leaders, Hillary supporters and volunteers will kick off the South Carolina campaign's final push when they gather to phone bank at seven campaign offices around the Palmetto State today. They'll be calling fellow South Carolinians to talk about Senator Clinton's ability to lead America on day one in the White House and create change for a brighter future. Phone banks will be held in Columbia, Spartanburg, Orangeburg, Charleston, Florence, Rock Hill and Greenville.

ARKANSAS (35 delegates, February 5) -- RALLYING IN LITTLE ROCK: Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, Congressman Marion Berry and former Treasurer Jimmie Lou Fisher will headline a rally with Hillary Clinton supporters at the Arkansas campaign headquarters in Little Rock.

CALIFORNIA (370 delegates, February 5) - HONK, HOLLER AND BYOP: Building on the momentum in the Golden State, California will be the site of several events for Senator Clinton today, including a "Bring Your Own Phone" party in Los Angeles with LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and street campaigning in San Francisco's Mission District featuring San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, SF Assesor Phil Ting and SF Treasurer Jose Cisneros. The Mission district, is the historic heart of the city's Latino community. In addition, the campaign is hosting lunchtime rallies with local elected officials and Clinton supporters in Los Angeles, Fresno and San Francisco. The campaign is also organizing "Honk and Holler for Hillary" visibility rallies in San Francisco and Los Angeles during afternoon drivetime.

ALABAMA (52 delegates, February 5) - KICKING OFF THE CAMPAIGN: State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks will hold a conference call to kick-off Hillary's campaign in Alabama, and discuss the grassroots momentum she has throughout the state.

COLORADO (55 delegates, February 5) - ROCKY MOUNTAIN SUPPORT: Former Mayor of Denver Wellington Webb will join Hillary Clinton campaign volunteers and supporters to discuss Hillary's momentum and strong grassroots organization at the Colorado for Hillary Headquarters in Denver. Webb and supporters will also discuss Hillary Clinton's record of change for Colorado families, and why her lifetime record of making change happen in the lives of real Americans serves as a sharp contrast to her opponents.

DELAWARE (15 delegates) - MAJOR ENDORSEMENT WATCH!! The Clinton campaign will announce a major endorsement in The First State.

KANSAS - (32 delegates) - STEERING COMMITTEE KICK-OFF: The Clinton campaign will release its Kansas Steering Committee today, which is broad and diverse and demonstrates united support for Hillary across the state.

MINNESOTA (72 delegates) - WHO'S WHO OF DEMOCRATS: Former Vice President Walter Mondale, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Assistant Majority Leader Tarryl Clark former Senator Mark Dayton, and Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner will hold a press conference at the Minneapolis Clinton Campaign Headquarters to discuss Hillary Clinton's real record of making change and getting results for Minnesota families. The group will also discuss details surrounding Hillary Clinton's campaign and efforts in Minnesota.

GEORGIA (87 delegates) - REACHING OUT TO WOMEN: Campaign National Co-Chair Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones will join Vivian Bishop (President of the Congressional Black Caucus Spouses) in discussing with reporters the campaign's outreach to women across Georgia.

MISSOURI (72 delegates) - SHOW ME THE SUPPORT: Hillary supporters and volunteers will roll up their sleeves and get to work, making phone calls and conducting other get-out-the-vote efforts at the Clinton Campaign State Headquarters in St. Louis. During this time, Clinton Missouri Campaign Director State Rep. Rachel Storch will discuss Hillary Clinton's experience making change and getting real results for Missouri families. The group will also discuss details surrounding Hillary Clinton's campaign and efforts in Missouri.

OKLAHOMA (38 delegates) - TOP DEMS SPEAK OUT FOR HILLARY: Secretary of State Susan Savage, along with former Attorney General Mike Turpen and former House Speaker Steve Lewis, will hold a conference call with Oklahoma media to discuss Hillary Clinton's real record of making change and getting results for Oklahoma families. During the call, Savage, Turpen and Lewis will contrast Clinton's action and results verses her opponents' rhetoric and talk.

UTAH (23 delegates) - The Hillary Clinton Campaign in Utah will hold a phone bank and conduct other Get Out the Vote efforts at the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Salt Lake City office. During this time, Clinton Campaign Representative Donald Dunn will join volunteers to discuss Hillary Clinton's record of experience making change, and getting results for Utah families. Dunn and campaign supporters will also discuss details surrounding Hillary Clinton's momentum and grassroots campaign in Utah.

TEXAS (193 delegates, March 4) -- National Co-Chair Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Former Land Commissioner Gary Mauro will hold a press conference call to discuss Hillary Clinton's real record of making change and getting results for Texas families. During the call, Jackson Lee and Mauro will discuss Hillary's grassroots momentum and broad support throughout Texas.

(prnewschannel.com)

Unions make peace offering

Following a slim defeat in New Hampshire, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) bounced back on Wednesday by picking up two key endorsements from labor unions in Nevada. The 17,500-member Nevada chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the 60,000-member Culinary Workers union have both thrown their support behind the junior senator from Illinois ahead of the Silver State's January 19 caucus.

"Nevada is a caucus state, and as Obama showed in Iowa, organization of every precinct is key to winning. SEIU Nevada members from Reno to Elko to Las Vegas are ready to make a difference in this state for our candidate," SEIU Executive Director Jane McAlevey said.

An estimated 40,000 Democrats will vote in the Nevada caucus and an estimated 16,000 of those voters will be Culinary union members.

A local Culinary union chapter in Nevada explained, "We are paying close attention the race, meeting with all the candidates and talking to our coworkers and family about this important election. The road to victory in the Nevada Caucus is going to go through us!"

"We believe that Obama is the candidate who can bring the country together and we are proud to support his candidacy," Culinary union Executive Vice President Shauna Hamel said.

(allheadlinenews.com)

Katherine Heigl: I don't particularly enjoy picketing

"Oh, man, I'm tired," Katherine Heigl said.

She laughed. It was 9 a.m. on a recent Saturday morning and Heigl was wearing a full-length red Oscar De La Renta dress, black shawl over the shoulders. Her hair was blown out, face fully made up. This week very much promised to be busy - and all about her. She was getting married in a few days to singer Josh Kelley - a destination wedding on her property in Utah. She was still deflecting comments she made in the January issue of Vanity Fair. And she had her first big starring role in a movie to promote.

For now, Heigl was sitting under a heat lamp outside at the Four Seasons Hotel, smoking and drinking a pot of coffee with Splenda before heading back upstairs to her "holding suite" before a day's worth of promotion for her new movie, the romantic comedy 27 Dresses.

"I'm not a workaholic," she insisted. "I'm not. I'm the laziest person I know."

It was hard to believe this, coming from someone in De La Renta at 9 in the morning. Still, this self-effacing confession is in keeping with Heigl's growing reputation as being unusually frank, her comments coming in somewhere between Dorothy Parker-tough and diva-spoiled.

"Outspoken," people call her, although it could also just be said that she speaks. Jane Fonda in Vietnam was outspoken; Heigl in Hollywood, calling the character she played in Knocked Up a shrew, is merely being forthright.

"The press or the media has decided that I'm outspoken, and I guess that's my angle or something?" she asks. "I have been this way for the last five to seven years when I started saying, You know, screw it, I'm not going to pussyfoot around issues anymore.' I kind of say what I think. And if I feel passionately about something I will be honest about it, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that."

Heigl also just might be the next big romantic-comedy heroine, joining the conga line of Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, Drew Barrymore - actresses in whom men see a sex object and women see themselves.

"She's beautiful, but not in a cold way," said Elizabeth Gabler, president of Fox 2000, which is releasing 27 Dresses, a film that will test Heigl's box-office draw. "You feel like you could be working with her in the office."

In her best-known work - Izzie Stevens on the ABC hit Grey's Anatomy, Alison Scott in the Judd Apatow comedy Knocked Up - Heigl comes off as a goddess who ends up falling for sweet, lumpish men. There is George (T.R. Knight), the menschy fellow intern on Grey's, and Seth Rogan's frizzy-haired stoner Ben in Knocked Up. But with 27 Dresses, which opens Jan. 18, Heigl is the unabashed star, and she is surrounded this time by more image-appropriate suitors.

Her new movie, written by Aline Brosh McKenna of The Devil Wears Prada fame, features Heigl as Jane, a people-pleasing bridesmaid so dutiful in her role helping friends pull off their weddings that she has no time to ... wait for it ... find true love herself. Here Heigl is choosing between Ed Burns as a dull-eyed yet suave boss who is oblivious to Jane's feelings for him, and James Marsden (Enchanted) as her romantic foil, a cute-boy cynical reporter who covers weddings for his New York daily newspaper.

Funnily enough, 27 Dresses is just the kind of hearts-and-flowers, all-about-me romantic comedy that propelled Apatow to offer his bracingly funny male tell-all in Knocked Up, in which a bemused stoner stumbles into a one-night stand with an otherwise unattainable blond that leads him into a forced march toward coldblooded responsibility.

Heigl, of course, was that one-night stand, and her character helped enable Apatow to say all those things about immature men and the women who bring down the bliss of arrested male bonding. But Heigl still had to make us believe that Alison would see into the best of Ben's nature and ride off into the sunset with him (and their baby).

"I think people need to understand that (life is) not all about finding the most charming, sexy, fabulous guy and then making him yours," Heigl said of the thematic contrast between Knocked Up, which is about compromise, and 27 Dresses, which is about the fairy tale. "(But) of course (in) 27 Dresses she does just that." Finally, Heigl gives a wide berth to romance at the movies; she welcomes both the more jaundiced view of Knocked Up and the fanciful formula of 27 Dresses. This is someone, after all, who counts Pretty Woman among her all-time favorite movies but also can't stop watching The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Her views on the male-female dynamics in 27 Dresses were much tamer than the sentiments she expressed in the January issue of Vanity Fair, in which she said of Knocked Up: "It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. It exaggerated the characters, and I had a hard time with it, on some days."

Heigl likes to say that she and her manager-mother have pledged to never approach her career from "a place of fear." But in the aftermath of the Knocked Up comments Heigl released a quote that reaffirmed her admiration of the movie, lest anyone think she was biting the hand that had made her viable as a romantic comedy star.

"I wouldn't have said anything at all, except that it was getting so much attention," she said. "It would have just gone away had I said nothing at all. Because it wasn't that interesting, and it wasn't that outrageous."

Still, the incident encapsulated how Heigl has achieved her budding mainstream stardom - charming on screen, attention-getting off it. But her popularity is rooted in her charisma. On both the big and small screen, Heigl comes off as earthbound if not earthy - no doubt what helped Apatow put her in Knocked Up. She allows you to see her characters unraveling; it's what plays as soap-opera emotionality on Grey's and as chick-lit comedy in 27 Dresses. Her ability to distract audiences from her glamour is key. Otherwise, why root for her?

Off-screen, Heigl is similarly open. Infamously, she publicly chastised then-Grey's Anatomy costar Isaiah Washington backstage at last year's Golden Globe Awards, a rebuke ("He needs to just not speak in public," was the gist of what she said) that was a continuation of the controversy sparked by Washington's alleged on-set homophobic slur against fellow Grey's cast member Knight.

"The sort of unwritten code is you say nothing," Heigl said. "You say nothing, you turn the question around or you spin it in a good light, and that's how you deal with these sort of things, you don't address it, you don't bring it up and you don't have an opinion. And that's how I've pretty much understood things to be, especially about bigger issues."

But Heigl has become one Hollywood's most fearsome creatures -- an actress with opinions. She openly questions the direction of her character on her show and, more recently, became one of the few celebs to publicly declare that she wouldn't attend the Golden Globe Awards if the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike is still in effect.

"I don't particularly enjoy it," she said of the two times she's joined the picket line, both at the behest of Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes. "I'm not great with chanting, and I don't like circling around and around for hours or holding a sign. I do it when my boss asks me to."

In the same issue of Vanity Fair in which Heigl appears on the cover, all lovely and seductive, there is a profile of Angie Dickinson, in which the 76-year-old says:

"You get so used to being fussed over that when it stops you feel naked just going to the supermarket. You end up obsessed with your looks. If an elevator doesn't have a mirror in it, I'm finished. I don't care who you are, when you get to be past 50, it all changes. That's the way it is. It isn't wrong - we want to look at young, beautiful things."

Heigl - still a young, beautiful thing - just turned 29. She has been managed by her mother, Nancy, since she was 9 and began modeling for Sears catalogs while a child in New Canaan, Conn. She acted through high school (most notably opposite Gerard Depardieu in My Father the Hero) before moving to L.A. with her mother to pursue a show business career more aggressively. Her parents by then were divorced.

Heigl and her mother remain business partners "She doesn't love reading scripts," Heigl said, "so I usually read the scripts and I'll say, I love this role,' and she'll say, OK.' At the end of the day I'm the person who has to love this."

As a fail-safe against the day the Dickinson rule kicks in, Heigl and her mother recently formed a production company, optioning the novel Lost & Found by Jacqueline Sheehan. Heigl says there's no part for her in it, but there certainly could be: Woman moves to an island in Maine after her husband dies, going to work in an animal shelter. Heigl's next scheduled starring vehicle, The Ugly Truth, has her in another battle-of-the-sexes romantic comedy.

Around the time she moved to L.A., Heigl said, she took an audition class - where she learned that she rolled her eyes too much - but has never had any formal acting training. Nor is she looking for a role that would completely upset her physical appearance, a la Charlize Theron in Monster or Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry.

"I like simpler things, I think. I like happy stories. I've had enough real life to live that I kind of don't want to go see it in the theaters, was sort of my point about Babel."

Earlier, she had said of her love for romantic comedies: "I'd much rather go see that than Babel. Do you know? Like Babel really depressed me. And I just don't need to spend three days feeling (lousy). I'm aware. I'm aware of all the problems."

That had sounded flip, Heigl now realized. Babel, of course, was a beautiful movie, she said, even if she is more of a Pretty Woman, 40-Year-Old Virgin kind of girl - with a mind of her own.

(azcentral.com)

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