Judge victimized, smacks down UAW

Collective bargaining results in intimidation, ill will

After tires on two of her cars were flattened following the breakdown of negotiations with the UAW, Lucas County (OH) Juvenile Court Judge Denise Cubbon says she no longer will recognize the union as the bargaining unit for juvenile court employees. Her decision - announced to court workers in a letter dated June 18 - followed weeks of contentious negotiations among the the court, the UAW, and Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken, a former UAW official.

The negotiations did not produce a contract, only accusations of intimidation and ill will, according to correspondence among the judge, the union, and Mr. Gerken.

"Since June 3, 2008, it has been upsetting and frustrating to me that the Court's Administrative Staff, the Court's employees and I are spending so much time dispelling inaccurate information. This time would be better spent serving the children and families that we have been elected and hired to serve," Judge Cubbon wrote in her letter to employees. "Based upon these facts and additional information, I have made the decision to withdraw my permission given to the UAW for collective bargaining at Lucas County Juvenile Court."

Judge Cubbon said she feared for the safety of her family after two of her family's cars were found to have flat tires on June 15. Both had been deflated with a nail and a Phillips-head screw in the same way, according to a letter she wrote to the UAW.

Juvenile Court Administrator Dan Pompa said a sheriff's department officer was ordered to guard Judge Cubbon's home after the incident.

The bargaining impasse occurred after both sides agreed to a 2 percent across-the-board pay increase but couldn't agree about the "compression package," or the schedule of raises and other benefits for employees, based on seniority.

Ohio law does not require courts, as well county boards of elections and numerous other state and county offices, to recognize the unions of their employees.

None of the other Lucas County Common Pleas Courts has unionized employees, according to County Administrator Michael Beazley.

In 2006, the UAW announced plans to organize within the judge's courtroom, and the union was recognized by the court in the fall of 2007.

Judge Cubbon, a Democrat, replaced former Juvenile Court Judge James Ray in 2007.

The negotiations stalled in October after the union refused to accept a 2 percent across-the-board salary hike, according to a letter Judge Cubbon wrote to the UAW.

Since October, the union has been in contact with the county commissioners about that aspect of the bargaining contract.

Mr. Gerken took the lead role in the negotiations. A retired auto worker, longtime UAW member, and official, he wrote a letter to Judge Cubbon on June 10, urging her to accept a deal that would give the workers a 2 percent increase.

But Judge Cubbon balked at the deal's compression package, which came with a $641,000 price tag.

"I [have] made it clear that I will not approve the $641,000 wage compression or any financial package which will be funded by layoffs or program cuts," she wrote in a letter to Mr. Beazley on June 4, noting that the commissioners turned down two more funding requests from the juvenile court for the 2008 budget, citing financial concerns.

She said she would not meet with the commissioners until they were able to provide details about the agreement, such as how it would be distributed and whether the county commissioners would help fund it.

Mr. Gerken, in his June 10 letter, said Judge Cubbon's requests were unreasonable.

"Let me make it clear that the information you requested is not information that the UAW has, nor can provide to you," Mr. Gerken wrote. "I have a tremendous respect for your legal expertise and your ability to provide for the best legal outcomes for our youth; in turn, I would hope that you would respect my 30 years experience as a labor negotiator and recognize that this is not how negotiations are carried out."

From then, the negotiations went from bad to worse.

In another letter, Judge Cubbon claimed Mr. Gerken had met with UAW employees on June 11 and "outlandish" statements were made.

On June 13, UAW official Joe Rioux and another UAW member were kicked out of an internal meeting between the judge and employees - a move that prompted a lawsuit from the UAW, which claimed the meeting was a public meeting.

But the vandalism the following weekend was the last straw. Ms. Cubbon then moved to dissolve the UAW's presence in her court.

On June 15, Judge Cubbon filed a police report citing criminal damage to two of her family vehicles and intimidation.

She explained the event in a June 17 letter to Lloyd Mahaffey, Ohio region UAW director.

"This past Sunday, two of my family vehicles had flat tires. Upon examination of the tires, each has a nail and a Phillips-head screw driven into the tire treads in the same manner. My son was driving one of the vehicles on a rural road when the tire went flat," Judge Cubbon wrote in her letter.

"This developing pattern of intimidation, and the direct interruption of Court business in the administration of justice have led me to the conclusion that the relationship between the UAW and Juvenile Court has deteriorated to the extent that I have no choice but to withdraw the UAW's authorization to organize Lucas County Juvenile Court employees."

Even though he was negotiating with his longtime union, Mr. Gerken said he was not biased for or against them while acting as county commissioner.

Mr. Gerken, aside from being a member of the union, was also an officer once, and until two years ago was co-administrator of the UAW DaimlerChrysler Training Center. Mr. Mahaffey endorsed his initial run for the commissioner spot against fellow Democrat Harry Barlos in 1999.

"I don't see the conflict. I'm not negotiating with the element that has a benefit to me. I've never taken a UAW paycheck in my life," he said. "I obviously have relationships on both sides. I think it was probably logical to have some role on it."

Despite Judge Cubbon's actions, Mr. Gerken said he was hopeful that negotiations would continue and that a collective bargaining contract would be reached, but he disputed the claim that the deal would have forced layoffs with the juvenile court. "I don't believe that to be true," Mr. Gerken said.

UAW officials, as well as Judge Cubbon, did not return calls for comment.

Commissioners Ben Konop and Tina Skeldon Wozniak both said they hope the issue will be resolved.

"I think all of those matters are in between those two bodies, and I'd like all of the negotiations to remain in those two groups," Ms. Wozniak said.

Mr. Konop said he hasn't become involved in the dispute but that he supports the UAW's position. "I support the UAW being able to unionize in that shop," Mr. Konop said.


Teamsters go on strike v. Coca-Cola

Related Coca-Cola strike stories: here

Unionists seethe as workers cross picket line

About 600 Teamsters are on strike from Coca-Cola warehouses in Oceanside and San Diego, a protest against what they term a substandard contract offer for the Oceanside workers. The Oceanside distribution facility opened early last year. About 80 of its 100 workers voted in August to affiliate with Teamsters Local 683, in San Diego, but have been unable to come to agreement with The Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Southern California over a contract.

A spokesman for the bottler said its deliveries will continue without interruption. The 11 months of contract wrangling had allowed plenty of time to develop contingency plans.

The company bottles Coca-Cola, Fanta, Fresca, Dasani water, and a variety of other soft drinks. It's a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., which itself is 35 percent owned by The Coca-Cola Co., also based in Atlanta.

Teamsters say the bottler's proposed terms would make the unionized employees in Oceanside "second-class citizens" compared to the 550 workers in San Diego and others elsewhere in Southern California.

They would earn less in wages and benefits, and they wouldn't be guaranteed 40-hour work weeks, said Shannon Silva, the principal officer for the 80-odd union members in Oceanside.

"It doesn't cost any less to live here," Silva said. "The fuel is not any less expensive here. The food is not any less expensive here."

Bob Phillips, a spokesman for the bottler, noted that Silva himself had advised the Oceanside employees to approve the contract. And he differed with Silva's assertion that all but one of the 550 workers in San Diego had walked off the job Wednesday in support of the Oceanside employees.

"Some San Diego employees have not crossed" the picket line, Phillips said. "Some have crossed. It's unfortunate that the union has asked people in San Diego who are under contract to forego their wages and benefits."

Silva said he advised the Oceanside workers to accept the bottler's contract proposal because he thought they probably lacked the bargaining power to wrangle out a better offer. But the members dug in their heels and voted down the offer 54 to 2, he said.


Teamsters out on strike in NYC

Hundreds of cement-truck drivers went on strike days before the Fourth of July holiday weekend, disrupting some of the largest construction projects in the city including the World Trade Center site. More than 400 drivers for Local 282 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters walked out of talks with the Association of New York City Concrete Producers after the union's contract expired at 12:01 a.m. yesterday.

The local's lead attorney, Bruce Levine, said the union had negotiated for weeks with the concrete makers.

"Local 282 fully intends to continue negotiating in good faith and looks forward to reaching an equitable resolution to this dispute so that its members can return to work as soon as possible," Levine said.

The treasurer of the association, Joseph Greco Jr., told The New York Times in today's editions that the union has said it would not restart negotiations until next week. A call to Mr. Greco today wasn't immediately returned.

The union representing 3,200 crane and heavy equipment operators also went on a weeklong strike a year ago on July 1, stalling work at the trade center site and 1,000 other projects just before a holiday weekend.

The strike affects any construction site in the city working with concrete, including the trade center site, where a 1,776-foot skyscraper, September 11, 2001 memorial, and transit hub are being built. Other projects affected by the strike include new stadiums under construction for the Yankees and the Mets and several condominium projects.

Each construction site has separate schedules for pouring concrete and it wasn't immediately clear how many sites were affected.


Disinterested workers foil unionists

Relatesdstories about EFCA: here
Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Why labor officials want forced-labor unionism

Unions won 60 percent of the 1,500 NLRB-supervised elections in 2007, down from 61 percent of 1,650 in 2006. The Teamsters participated in the most elections, 407, and added 10,400 members. About 102,000 workers could vote in representation elections in 2007, down from 112,000 in 2006. Unions remained certified to represent workers in 37 percent of the decertification elections supervised by the NLRB in 2007.

The Service Employees International Union announced in June 2008 that it had over two million members and was aiming to have 2.5 million by 2012; the SEIU had one million members in 1995. The SEIU has three major divisions, health care (1.1 million members), property services such as janitors and guards (250,000), and public services (1 million).

The SEIU is the largest union in the Change to Win federation, formed in 2005 as an alternative to the AFL-CIO. There has been conflict between SEIU President Andrew Stern and Sal Rosselli, president of United Healthcare Workers West, the SEIU's third largest local. Stern argues that the SEIU must be part of a broader social movement that aims to improve living standards and working conditions for all workers, what he calls "justice for all" in contrast to "just us" unionism.

Stern favors national campaigns to organize workers. The SEIU has signed agreements with major firms such as Sodexho and Aramark under which the SEIU and UNITE HERE gave up the right to strike in exchange for the corporations remaining neutral in organizing campaigns, with recognition after card checks rather than NLRB-supervised elections. The SEIU says such agreements led to 15,000 new members. Critics say they require workers to give up too many rights, including potentially higher wages after strikes.

The SEIU has supported Wal-Mart Watch since 2005. Initially, Wal-Mart Watch attacked the largest private US employer for paying substandard wages to its often part-time labor force. However, as Wal-Mart expanded its health care plans to cover more workers and became the largest US seller of efficient light bulbs, Wal-Mart Watch has become less critical of Wal-Mart. The SEIU's Stem has met several times with Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott Jr.


AFSCME announces massive strike

Jumbo gov't union goes to war v. California taxpayers

The AFSCME union representing 8,500 University of California workers announced today that they will hold a five-day strike at UC’s ten campuses and five medical centers. The strike could begin at anytime, but workers still hope an agreement can be reached. The service workers, who have been negotiating in good faith since August, 2007, voted by 97.5% to authorize the strike in late May. If service workers strike, thousands of medical workers could individually honor the picket lines and not cross it. Negotiations are currently deadlocked.

UC service workers disinfect medical instruments and patient areas, clean the hospitals and campus dorms, provide cafeteria service to patients and students, maintain buildings and grounds, and transport patients, students and staff.

At issue are poverty wages as low as $10 per hour. Many work 2-3 jobs and qualify for public assistance to meet their families’ basic needs. UC wages have fallen dramatically behind other hospitals and California’s community colleges where workers are paid family-sustaining wages that are on average of 25% higher. In addition, when workers have stood up for better lives for their families and better working conditions, the University has retaliated by violating labor laws.

96% of service workers are eligible for at least one of the following forms of public assistance: food stamps, WIC, public housing subsidies and subsidized child care, creating a potential burden for CA taxpayers. Increasing wages would not only help lift workers out of poverty, but could positively impact CA and the low- and moderate-income areas where UC workers live as they contribute more to their local economy.

“We take great pride in working at UC and we do not want to go on strike but UC Executives have left us no other choice. It is shameful we work at such a prestigious university but we cannot support our families. UC could settle this right now by ending poverty wages at UC.” - Catalina Escobedo, Sr. Food Service Worker, UCLA

11,500 patient care workers have also been negotiating with UC since August, 2007. While these workers are not calling for a strike today, some may decide they cannot cross the service workers’ strike picket line to work as a matter of individual conscience.

“If the service workers are forced to strike because UC insists on continuing to pay poverty wages, I cannot in good conscience cross their picket line. UC can and should settle the contract fairly for service workers and lift thousands of families out of poverty.” – Judy McKeever, Respiratory Therapist, UCSF

78% of funding for service workers does not come from State general funds. A large portion of funding comes from the UC hospitals which posted profits of $371 million in 2006.

According to California State-appointed neutral Factfinder Carol Vendrillo, who independently evaluated the viability of a service workers’ labor agreement, said, “U.C. has demonstrated the ability to increase compensation when it fits with certain priorities without any demonstrable link to a state funding source…It is time for UC to take a broader view of its priorities by honoring the important contribution that service workers make to the U.C. community and compensating them with wages that are in line with the competitive market rate.” UC continues to reward its Executives with hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation and lavish benefit packages.


Green-collar workers reject IBEW soundly

Why unions favor forced-labor unionism

Employees of Clipper Turbine Works decided not to join a union in a weekend vote that represented one of the first attempts to unionize a wind industry supplier in Iowa. The National Labor Relations Board conducted elections Friday and Saturday at the plant in southwest Cedar Rapids on representation by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 204.

The vote was 45 in favor of the union and 125 opposed to the union, with 13 challenged votes, according to Bob Chester, district director for the National Labor Relations Board.

Chester said the number of challenged votes was insufficient to have an impact on the outcome of the election. He said results will be certified in seven days unless an objection is filed.

The Cedar Rapids plant assembles Clipper's 2.5-megawatt Liberty wind turbines.


Big unions agree on Bud waste, ineffeciency

Related A-B stories: here

AFL-CIO, AFSCME play bad cop to Teamsters' good cop

Anheuser-Busch Cos. executives may fret about InBev's proposed takeover, but a deal would mean a big payout for senior managers. August A. Busch IV stands to pocket $31 million in severance benefits if Anheuser-Busch agrees to InBev's $65-a-share and he loses his job.

The chief executive's change-in-control payout would include stock options and restricted stock that would vest immediately if he loses his job after the company changes hands. Other components include an enhanced retirement plan, deferred compensation, a bonus and money to offset taxes from the extra pay.

The payout would be in addition to nearly $182 million in other stock Busch owns directly or indirectly, based on his beneficial ownership listed in this year's A-B proxy statement. Beneficial ownership includes about 4.6 million shares he owns directly or through trusts, as well as 4.6 million stock options that already have vested.

Stock options give an executive the right to buy shares at a fixed price, normally the market price of the stock when the option is issued. At Anheuser-Busch, stock options become vested, or usable, in batches, usually a third of the options each year over a three-year vesting period.

The InBev bid raises the value of Busch's options and stock by at least $66 million above their value before rumors of the bid began circulating. The value of options is the difference between the exercise price and the stock's price when the option is exercised, multiplied by the number of options.

Other executives also would reap millions from the deal if they lose their jobs. They include:

— W. Randolph Baker, chief financial officer, who would get $20 million in change-of-control payments. About half of Baker's benefit is from deferred compensation, or money he already has earned that he has agreed to take at a later date. Baker owns or controls another $154 million in stock.

— Douglas J. Muhleman, group vice president of brewing operations, who would get $6 million in change-of-control payments. Muhleman's stock holdings are worth $88.5 million.

— Michael J. Owens, vice president of business operations, who would get $5 million in change-of-control payments. Owens' stock holdings are worth $67.6 million.

Companies are required to disclose payments top executives would receive if they lose their jobs in takeovers.

Companies generally justify change-of-control payments by saying they're needed to help executives remain neutral when evaluating any possible transaction involving the company, said Eric Marquardt, a compensation consultant with Towers Perrin, a benefits consulting firm.

"It gives them a level of income protection so they're not influenced in one way or another" by the possibility that they would lose their jobs in a merger, Marquardt said. He declined to comment on the A-B payments because his company does work for the brewer.

But critics say change-of-control benefits can give executives incentives to sell their companies. In a takeover situation, executives benefit even if they weren't doing a good job of running the company.

Richard Ferlauto, director of corporate governance and pension investment for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said change-of-control payments generally don't work as intended.

Ferlauto said change-of-control packages can provide "huge incentives for some CEOs to negotiate their own deal and not one in the shareholders' best interest.

"In any case, it's money out of the shareholder's pocket that could have paid for performance," he said.

Ferlauto says he suspects that A-B's board is involved in a tug-of-war between interests that want to keep the brewer independent and retain Busch family leadership set against those who would like to take InBev's offer. Ferlauto's union owns A-B shares.

To resist the offer, the board must be able to argue persuasively that A-B's current management can improve performance enough to warrant a stock price higher down the road than shareholders could realize now from the InBev offer. But with A-B's performance in the market in recent years, that would be a tough argument to sell.

"It's been a very sleepy company for years," Ferlauto said. "And they haven't performed."

Dan Pedrotty, director of the AFL-CIO Office of Investment, agrees.

"The company's performance over one, three and five years has lagged competitors and the (Standard & Poor's 500 index)," Pedrotty said. "The question is, have they managed themselves in a way that makes them a target for being picked off and rewards managers without generating value for long-term shareholders."

Paul Hodgson, a senior research associate for The Corporate Library, says the corporate governance group regards most change-of-control benefits as a conflict of interest for executives. The group would rather see unvested stock-based pay canceled in the event of a takeover.

If the executive stays on after a takeover, Hodgson said, he would rather see the stock-based pay in the old company converted to pay based on the new owner's stock. However, he said that could be difficult to accomplish when the buyer is a foreign entity like InBev.

Hodgson said shareholders probably won't object to executives taking advantage of any premium in the stock price with options that already have vested.

"Shareholders benefit from the same premium," Hodgson said.


The company Barack keeps

Suggests evaluating union-backed Dem by simplistic standard

When I was growing up, my parents always said, "Show me your friends and I'll show you who you are." Unfortunately, no one ever instilled these words of wisdom in Barack Obama. Obama has many friends with checkered pasts. He attended the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church for 20 years and never heard any of his hatemongering speeches. Another associate, Father Michael Pflager, put on a disgraceful display demeaning Hillary Clinton in Wright's church. Political fixer and friend of Obama, Tony Rezko, was convicted on 16 counts of corruption.

The terrorist "Weathercouple" William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, who were involved in dozens of bombings, held fund-raising events at their home when Obama was running for the Senate.

Jim Johnson, who once headed of Obama's VP selection committee, was former Fannie Mae CEO who obtained "mega-sweet" loans from Countrywide Mortgage. He was a business partner of George Soros, whose Moveon.org boasted that the Democratic Party is now "our party, we bought it, we own it." A vote for Obama is a vote for George Soros.

How can we trust Obama to be our commander in chief when he can't even select the right people to be his advisers, mentors and friends? People are catching on to his lack of ability to be the leader America needs. Wake up, voters, before it's too late.

Jerry Pettigrossi


Left-wing News Union takes more dues hits

News Guild woes include red ink, leftism, paper-stream waste

Journal Sentinel Inc. will cut about 10 percent of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 1,300 full-time employees due to the slump in ad sales affecting the entire newspaper industry. The industry has seen hundreds of layoffs as wary advertisers cut back on ads and newspaper costs soar. Half a dozen major newspapers announced layoffs last week totaling about 900 jobs. And on Wednesday The Tampa Tribune also announced a major cut, of more than one-fifth of its news staff.

It's not clear how many newsroom jobs will be lost at the Journal Sentinel, said Amy Rinard, president of the Milwaukee Newspaper Guild and a reporter at the paper.

It will depend on which employees take buyouts, said Elizabeth Brenner, president and chief operating officer of Journal Communications' publishing group. Layoffs will be done by the end of the year.

Journal Sentinel's stock fell 21 cents, or 4.4 percent, to $4.57 in midday trading Wednesday after the announcement of the loss of about 130 jobs. Its shares have ranged from $4.45 to $13.53 in the past 52 weeks.

Employees leaving voluntarily and as the result of targeted cuts will receive cash severance and health care benefits.

The newspaper's ad revenue dropped more than 12 percent between May 2007 and May this year as newsprint and fuel costs have risen.

"Our advertising customers—especially car dealers, real estate agents, hiring officials, retailers and financial institutions—have
been battered by a perfect storm of deteriorating credit conditions, slowing home sales, contracting company size and higher gas prices," Brenner said.

The cuts are the latest in a string for the paper. Last October, the Journal Sentinel cut about 50 jobs through buyouts, offering severance packages to employees with 10 years or more of service.

By June, the paper was down 107 positions, Brenner has said.

Also last month, the paper said it would stop publishing its free weekly aimed at young adults because the publication, called MKE, wasn't attracting enough ads. MKE workers had been encouraged to apply for jobs open at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Rinard said workers were caught off-guard Wednesday because they did not expect another round of cuts so soon.

"We thought maybe there might be something coming later in the year, but I guess this is a little sooner than we had anticipated," she said.

The cuts come in a year in which the paper won a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting by Dave Umhoefer. It was the first time the newspaper received journalism's top honor since Milwaukee's two daily papers were combined in 1995.

Last week, half a dozen newspapers said they would slash payrolls, including deep staff cuts at The Hartford Courant and The Sun in Baltimore—two Tribune papers—as well as at The Palm Beach Post and the Daytona Beach-Journal in Florida. The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press plan to reduce head count in their joint operations by 7 percent through buyouts. And The Boston Herald will lay off up to 160 employees as it outsources printing operations.

Earlier in June, McClatchy Co., publisher of the Sacramento Bee and other papers, said companywide staff cuts of 10 percent are in the works.


Collectivists unite for century-old goal

Leftists hunger to spend other people's money

Health Care for America Now, an unprecedented coalition of major organizations including labor unions, large community-based membership groups, women’s groups, doctors, nurses, small businesses, and leading netroots activists, will launch a new $40 million campaign to push for quality, affordable health care for every American.

The coalition will hold a press conference on Tuesday, July 8th at Noon at the Rotunda of the State Capitol to outline the mission of the campaign and how it will affect people here in Arkansas.

Along with the event in Little Rock, the campaign will be hosting launch events in 44 cities (including 36 state capitals) across the country.

Between now and election day, the group plans to spend $25 million in paid media and have 100 organizers in 45 states. The campaign’s steering committee includes ACORN, AFSCME, Americans United for Change, Campaign for America’s Future, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Center for Community Change, MoveOn, NEA, National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood, SEIU, UFCW, and USAction.


SEIU's Burger on political spending binge

Official figures understate flood of dues for politics

Believing it's within sight of a major pro-union shift in Washington, the Service Employees International Union announced that it will spend $75 million to help its favored candidates in 2008. An additional $10 million will be used to pressure lawmakers when Congress returns next year. It's a record-breaking number for the union, already a top player in Democratic politics. It spent $65 million in 2004, about three times what it spent in 2000.

The SEIU has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., for president and believes it is within reach of majorities in Congress that can help it push through its agenda on trade and passing so-called "card check" legislation.

"Our message is loud and clear: Barack Obama is the change that working people need," said SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger, the union's political director.

The campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., hit back, saying it showed Obama's hypocrisy on campaign finance.

"It is ironic that Obama cited these millions as one of the reasons for him pulling out of public financing and breaking his pledge to the American people," McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said.

SEIU will spend a big portion of the money in states like Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado, former GOP strongholds that are now electoral battlegrounds.

In Colorado, SEIU has "organized a number of public workers and expanded our base," Burger said.

SEIU voted in May to affiliate with the State Employees Association of North Carolina, giving it more pull there. It also spent $350,000 on ads to run against Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who's in a tight race against radio host Al Franken.

Obama has often touted his pro-union stances. He has backed the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make union organizing easier by implementing a simple petition drive to replace the federally monitored elections now required.

He and others claim that the Free Choice legislation, also called "card check," would protect workers' rights. Republican critics say it would take away secret ballots, allowing unions to intimidate people during votes.

Obama has also promised to renegotiate international trade deals such as NAFTA to include protections for union-heavy industries. And he's vowed to limit outsourcing and offshoring.

GOP opposition has stymied unions in the past. A card check bill stalled in the Senate last year, 51-48, after a GOP-led filibuster.

SEIU represents about 2 million workers. It is among the few labor groups that are growing and has cultivated close ties with Obama, having been one of the first major groups to endorse his candidacy back in February. Another member of its coalition, the Teamsters, also backed Obama that month. The AFL-CIO waited until last month to endorse the senator.

"We turned out millions of voters for Barack Obama," Burger said. "No other union has done as much as we have done."

Nevertheless, Burger says she expects to see labor have a united front for the general election. She blasted McCain, saying he "refuses to protect workers' rights to have a union," a reference to his opposition to card check.

McCain was not available to talk. He was completing a tour of South and Central America, touting the benefits of free trade.


AFSCME orders strike in Philadelphia

Is jumbo gov't union bluffing for bargaining leverage?

The union representing the city's 4,300 white-collar workers voted without opposition late today to authorize a strike if contract negotiations stall beyond July 15. After the vote, about 1,000 members of District Council 47 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees walked out of Benjamin Franklin High School chanting, "We want a contract!" The vote came a day after the contract expired and the union signed an agreement with the city to extend current contract terms for two weeks.

"We are not satisfied with the pace of negotiation," union president Cathy Scott said. The city has not responded in writing to any of the organization's contract proposals, she said.

Mayor Nutter and members of his negotiating team have kept contract talks out of the public spotlight.

Contracts with four unions representing city workers expired at 12:01 a.m. today. AFSCME District Council 33, the city's blue-collar union of 9,400 members, has agreed to keep negotiating with no immediate labor interruptions. Unlike District Council 47, it has not called a strike-authorization vote.

Today's vote allows District Council 47 leaders to call a strike if the negotiating team thinks the talks aren't going anywhere, Scott said.

Nutter's administration is moving more slowly with the two other groups with expired contracts: Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police and Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Neither can legally strike, so those negotiations will be subject to binding arbitration.

District Council 47 is scheduled to resume negotiations with city officials Monday.


Need a good labor lawyer?

EFCA could make anti-union lawyers obsolete

Six St. Louis-area labor attorneys were named to the Labor Relations Institute Inc.'s 2008 Top 100 list of labor attorneys, putting them in the top 1 percent of labor attorneys in the country, according to the firm. The institute, which evaluated more than 8,600 attorneys, selected the following local attorneys:

* Andrew Martone with the law firm of Bobroff, Hesse, Lindmark & Martone PC in St. Louis;
* Michael Kaemmerer with the law firm of McCarthy, Leonard, Kaemmerer, Owen, McGovern, Striler & Menghini LC in Chesterfield, Mo.;
* Kathleen Richmond with the law firm of The Lowenbaum Partnership LLC in Clayton, Mo.;
* Thomas McCarthy, James Foster Jr. and Geoffrey Gilbert Jr., all with the law firm of McMahon Berger PC in St. Louis;

The top 100 list was determined by the number of National Labor Relations Board-monitored elections in which each attorney provided representation and the election outcomes.

Broken Arrow, Okla.-based Labor Relations Institute Inc. provides communications materials and consulting services for use in opposing unions in National Labor Relations Board election campaigns.


Unionist lies about card-check bill

No choice: EFCA would replace union recognition elections

One of the greatest vehicles toward change for America's workers is the Employee Free Choice Act. Thus, this legislation has become the prime target for anti-worker employers ("It's in the cards for labor," Commentary, Sunday). Correcting every distortion from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce takes away from an honest discussion on the state of America's workers. However, your readers deserve to hear the perspective of those who actually care about workers' rights.

While the Chamber of Commerce claims that the legislation will eliminate the current union-election system, the bill itself clearly states that it will not. The bill instead provides workers with an alternative, proven system of majority sign-up, giving them the choice in how they choose to form their union. The Chamber also claims that this legislation will open the door to union intimidation. However, research from Adrienne Eaton of Rutgers University reveals that fewer than one in 20 workers report that the presence of a union organizer made them feel pressured to sign up for a union. In fact, workers report 50 percent less employer coercion during majority sign-up than in the current "election" system that favors employers. As for their fear of unions' effect on businesses, just look at successful employers like AT&T Inc., UPS Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp. that have proved that businesses can thrive while respecting their workers' rights.

So why does the Chamber of Commerce so adamantly oppose this legislation? This big-business special-interest group speaks for the portion of corporations that don't want to provide their workers with a livable wage, health insurance or the opportunity for a better life. The Employee Free Choice Act will give the 60 million workers who want a union a meaningful chance to have one. The Chamber knows this will mean a voice at work for these men and women to fight for their rights, and it is willing to say and do anything to stop it.

MARY BETH MAXWELL, Executive director, American Rights at Work


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