Congressman honored for protecting workers

An 'advocate for a 21st century workforce'

The Alliance for Worker Freedom honored U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett this week with its fourth annual "Guardian of Worker Freedom" award at a private, informal ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. The workers rights organization selected 126 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 30 U.S. Senators for the award.

This session, the "Guardian of Worker Freedom" award was given to representatives who voted for freedom and opportunity for workers against special interest and regulatory control. The restoring of funding to the Office of Labor Management Standards, opposing a forced and mandated minimum wage, striking forced TSA union provisions and voting against cloture on the Employee Free Choice Act, were all tracked in this session.

"When it comes to keeping American workers and our economy competitive, Rep. Bartlett is a tremendous advocate for a 21st century workforce," executive director Brian M. Johnson said.


Shame on the Carpenters Union

Related Shame On stories: here

Video coverage: here

A group of non-union contractors will take another shot at the "Shame On" campaign that's been launched against businesses across Bakersfield. Associated Builders and Contractors says their new complaint was actually suggested by the National Labor Relations Board. Eyewitness News has investigated the Shame On campaign for more than a year. Dozens of local businesses have been targeted with banners or pickets.

On Thursday, ABC spokesman Kevin Korenthal told Eyewitness News the new complaint focuses on alleged Carpenters' Union actions at a Santa Barbara Business College construction site at 5300 California Avenue.

In February, Eyewitness News heard from a college project manager who said he had been roughed up by union reps. In March, the non-union contractors group filed a complaint about that with the NLRB.

But, ABC's Korenthal says the NLRB investigation found that assault complaint was too much of a "he said/he said" situation. However, the labor board found other information which seemed appropriate for a new complaint.

"In the course of their (NLRB) investigation, they found that there was probable cause to do further charges against the Carpenters' Union for blocked ingress and egress to the same property at an earlier time during the day," said Korenthal.

ABC says access was blocked by the union reps, and a witness saw a confrontation between the union men and the project contractor.

"The primary contractor, Steve Carlile, was actually harassed as he tried to enter the Santa Barbara Business College site to basically look after the scope of the work," says Korenthal.

Carlile was out of town on Thursday, by Eyewitness News contacted him by phone. "They were packed into a courtyard area," Carlile said about the union people. "Making it very hard and uncomfortable for anyone to get in."

At another Carpenter's Union picket in March, access to the building was also an issue. A heart doctors' office on the Truxtun Extension was the target of a large group of Carpenters' Union pickets.

The doctors' staff told Eyewitness News elderly heart patients were scared and upset by the noisy picketing -- right at the office entrance. Eventually, the office called Bakersfield Police, and officers did ask the picketers to move away from the entrance.

In addition to the NLRB complaint, ABC is taking another tactic to deal with the "Shame On" campaign. Korenthal says his organization has set up a meeting with concerned non-union contractors and the Bakersfield City Attorney and Chief of Police next week.

Korenthal says his group wants to ask questions and get clarifications about the city's policies on where and how unions actions can take place.

The Carpenters' Union picketers hold signs at the pickets complaining that "prevailing wages" are not being paid at the construction sites they target. Their large banners at other locations complain about unfair pay.

Contractors at the targeted businesses say these jobs do not require union pay.

Korenthal says the new NLRB complaint was filed earlier this week. They expect the labor board will get more statements and information on the complaint. They got a response to their original complaint after about two months, they hope NLRB's response to this second action will come faster.

Korenthal is hopeful the new complaint will convince the Carpenters' Union to change their ways.

"One of the main benefits that we hope to get out of this is the opportunity to show the citizens of Bakersfield that the Carpenters' Union and their activities have gotten out of hand," says Korenthal. "And ABC has been watching, and we're doing something about it."


Voters to re-examine forced-labor unionism

Colorado is 'ground-zero' for organized labor in 2008

While a "right to work" initiative on the November ballot has labor and business groups girding for battle, two lesser-known proposals that could go before voters also have unions on alert. Both of the initiative petitions are being pushed by the Independence Institute, a Golden-based organization that promotes free-market ideas.

One would ask voters to amend the Colorado Constitution to prohibit state and local governments from withholding union dues from employee paychecks. The other would ask Coloradans to pass an amendment that would prohibit unions that have collective-bargaining agreements with governments from making campaign contributions.

Proponents have until Wednesday to submit the 76,047 valid signatures of registered voters to get the paycheck-deduction initiative on the November ballot. Signatures for the campaign-contribution measure must be turned in by Aug. 4.

"I'm confident we will have enough signatures to put them on the ballot," Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, said of the two measures.

Targeting unions

The paycheck-deduction measure would allow governments to withhold money from an employee's check for only taxes, federal withholdings, court-ordered liens and garnishments, insurance and benefits, pensions, retirement plans and charitable deductions.

Caldara has said the initiative was not specifically aimed at unions, but while the proposal declares that "public payroll systems should not be utilized to benefit private organizations and special interests," labor groups say it's pretty clear who those organizations are.

"I think its (the initiative's) main target is the unions," said Jess Knox, executive director of Protect Colorado's Future, a coalition of unions and advocates fighting against the right-to-work initiative.

The Independence Institute's other proposal is ostensibly aimed at "sole-source contractors," or those where competitive bids or proposals are not taken. Governments sometimes do not take bids for jobs that are small enough that it is considered economically unfeasible to bid them or in cases where there are specialized types of services that few firms — or perhaps just one — can offer.

But the proposal adds labor unions that have collective-bargaining agreements with governments to the list of "sole-source contractors."

How are collective-bargaining agreements sole-source contracts?

As Caldara explained, "You're limiting government's ability to be creative and responsive to taxpayers by not entertaining other proposals" from organizations that want to represent workers.

Measure casts large net

The initiative says that the owners and officers of companies or organizations that have sole-source government contracts worth more than $100,000 cannot give political contributions to candidates or parties during the term of the contract and for two years after it ends.

And the measure says that the owners and officers' "immediate family" members — a class that ranges from spouses and children to nephews and in-laws — cannot give political contributions either.

Meanwhile, if an elected official knowingly accepts a contribution from a contractor or a family member of one, he or she would be automatically ousted from office and barred from holding any future office or appointment.

Mark Grueskin, an attorney for Protect Colorado's Future, said the initiative violates free speech by banning unions representing government employees from giving political contributions.

But he also said the proposal could create a nightmare for candidates trying to comply with campaign-finance law.

"How do you know who your contributors are related to?" Grueskin asked.

Tim Hoover: 303-954-1626 or thoover@denverpost.com

Initiative 53: Ethical Standards for Public Payroll Systems

What it proposes: Amend the Colorado Constitution to prohibit state and local governments from withholding items such as union dues from employee paychecks.

Status: Awaiting approval of signatures to make 2008 ballot.

Initiative 59

What it proposes: Categorize unions that have collective-bargaining agreements with governments as "sole-source contractors," which then prohibits members (and their family members) from making campaign contributions.

Status: Collecting signatures for inclusion on 2008 ballot.


Driving the labor agenda into the ditch

U.K. failure a warning shot to U.S. collectivists

Prime Minister Gordon Brown now leads the most unpopular Labour government in history, according to a new ''poll of polls'' published Thursday. After just over a year in office, the public approval ratings of Brown's government have sunk below the worst achieved during Labour's darkest days in power in the 1960s and 70s, when former premiers Harold Wilson and James Callaghan were engulfed by economic crises.

Only 17 percent of people were found to now approve of the Brown government's record, while 70 percent disapprove. His own personal ratings with only 22 percent expressing satisfaction was also below the lowest suffer by his predecessor Tony Blair.

The Independent, publishing the poll, said the figures will "alarm already despondent Labour MPs because they call into question the Brown camp's claims that the Prime Minister can mount a successful political fightback if he steers through the current economic storm.

"It is probably safe to say that Labour is now in a larger electoral hole than any previous Labour government," said John Curtis, professor of politics at Strathclyde University in Scotland, who compiled the "poll of polls."

"Only John Major's Tory government ever had even less polling support. So much for New Labour's claim that it would avoid any repeat of Labour's record in the 1970s," Curtis said. --IRNA


Teamsters strike, boycott v. Coca-Cola

Related Coca-Cola - Teamsters stories: here

Teamsters crossed picket line

Workers at the company's Oceanside bottling plant walked off the job Monday, refusing to deliver Coke cans and bottles until they can settle a fight over pay. They are asking for wages and benefits equal to other bottling plants. On Thursday, 600 San Diego-based Teamsters staged a demonstration for 30 hours as a sign of solidarity. This is coming at a time when soft drink demand is way up.

Besides soda, Coca-Cola also sells Fanta, Minute Maid, bottled water and ginger ale. If Coke deliveries can't keep up with demand, Pepsi shouldn't have any problem filling the shelf, but that may not satisfy die-hard fans. The striking drivers deliver from state Route 56 to Riverside County, so if there is a shortage it's more likely to show up in North County.

The strike and boycott are expected to continue until Coca Cola Enterprises agrees to settle a contract that will provide equality for drivers and warehouse workers in Oceanside.


Campaign fraud unit adds two

Bulking up against non-union voters

The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a union-funded progressive think tank and watchdog group for campaign fraud, has hired Joel Foster as deputy executive director and John Kraus as communications director.

Foster makes the move to the East Coast after spending more than a decade in Arizona working on labor issues and as a community organizer.

Most recently, he was the policy director for the Arizona chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers union. He has dedicated much of his career to increasing Latino voter turnout in the Grand Canyon State. Foster was communications director for Mi Familia Vota, an offshoot of the Service Employees International Union, and spokesman for We Are America/Somos America, a coalition of civil rights groups and unions dedicated to immigration reform.

Kraus brings to BISC a deep knowledge of that cheese-loving swing state, Wisconsin. He has worked with a number of the state’s top Democrats, including Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, and former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist. He has also worked in the communications and policy departments at the Center for State Innovation and the advocacy group One Wisconsin Now.


UAW dues-embezzler gets wrist-slap

Obama may shut down anti-fraud unit

A former United Auto Workers official was ordered to pay back more than $41,000 he admitted embezzling from the union. Norman K. Brown pleaded guilty in March in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne to a single charge of embezzlement. He was charged after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Management Standards’ district office in Pittsburgh.

Brown, the former bargaining committee chairman at UAW Local 2911 in Fort Wayne, admitted to stealing $41,478.35 from August 1999 to May 2005.

In a judgment issued Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Theresa Springmann sentenced Brown to two years’ probation, with the first six months to be served on home detention. He will need to make $41,478.35 in restitution to Zurich American Insurance Co., according to court documents.

Local 2911 represents workers at International Truck and Engine, according to the UAW’s Web site.


Strikers halt Seattle paychecks

More strike stories: here

Collectivists help curb economic growth

A strike by 300 fire sprinkler installers, members of the United Association of Plumbers, Pipe Fitters and Sprinkler Fitters Local 699, has shut down construction at most large construction sites here and Bellevue, Wash.

The strike began at midnight July 1. Since then, at least 40 construction sites in the Seattle area have been shut down, idling some 20,000 other union construction workers who have honored the picket line. The total strike area covers seven counties in western Washington.

The strikers know what they are up against. Sam Bond, a member of Local 699 for nine years, said in an interview, "We have got to keep up with what's going in the world. As prices go up, we have to stay up on it, so we can afford the lifestyle we want to live. This strike is really important for us, and for future generations of sprinkler fitters."

Ironworkers, electricians, laborers, operating engineers, as well as delivery drivers like UPS workers are just some of the union workers who have refused to cross the picket lines.

At the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Wash., the strike has shut down completely nine huge tower cranes, with upwards of 800 workers getting an unexpected extra long holiday weekend.

The union is reporting that not a single member has crossed the picket line so far. A unanimous strike authorization vote and the "last, best, and final" offer from the employers' organization, the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA), was voted down 219 to 14.

It's been nearly two years since a major construction workers strike hit the Seattle area. In August 2006, concrete workers who were members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 paralyzed most of the industry for a month. Those workers won a contract that included pay raises of $3.95 an hour over three years and, crucially, allowed them to honor strike picket lines held by other union trades.

The importance of that strike victory is now magnified. The basic labor idea of "an injury to one is an injury to all" has been highlighted by the solidarity of all the building trade workers refusing to cross the sprinkler fitters' picket line.

As one Local 699 striker put it, "The support we're getting is unbelievable. To be able to have all the trades honor the picket line also helps them out more when their contract times come up."

ONE OF the major issues in this strike is the length of the contract. The NFSA is demanding a four-year contract with a wage and benefit package worth $14 an hour over the life of the contract. The union wants to maintain a three-year deal.

This is important for a couple reasons. Currently, the workers' contract ends right after the plumbers' contract, which gives them leverage. The United Association Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 32 recently ratified a deal with a wage and benefit package of $13 for three years.

In addition, Ironworkers Local 86 workers are voting by mail ballot on a three-year contract proposal with raises of only $7 over three years. The local is recommending a "no" vote. Ballots will be counted July 18.

A four-year contract would weaken the strikers' ability to build solidarity with the plumbers' and ironworkers' unions in the next round of contract negotiations. Also, it would mean the contract would expire in the same year as the Local 699 election for officers, which would distract the union from focusing its energies on the bosses.

The other major issue in the strike regards strengthening the contract language applying to apprentices, who currently have a lower-tier health care plan. The union wants to end it and pull them into the same plan as journeymen workers. The union also wants to increase apprentice starting pay from 42 percent of journeymen pay to 45 percent.

For its part, the NFSA is trying to increase the number of lower-wage apprenticeships and is demanding random drug testing for them. The union opposes both of these proposals.

Finally, the union is asking for contract language that would include the inspection and testing of sprinklers as part of job requirements, in order to prevent nonunion workers from taking their work.

The NFSA is trying to roll back the gains of Local 699, which has seen its share of the fire sprinkler industry grow from 51 percent union in 1997 to 82 percent today. You can see why the union succeeded by looking at the $55 an hour total wage and benefit package for journeymen workers.

But this is deceptive. First, there is no separate vacation or holiday pay in their contract. Also, $7 an hour goes to health care. Other parts of the package go to the apprenticeship fund, dues, and pensions.

Then there's 45 cents an hour paid into the "industry promotion fund," paid directly to the contractors. The bosses can write this off on their taxes and use the money to "promote" their industry. In other words, it's money that should go into wages that is being used by the industry to fight the union. The union wants to eliminate the "promotion fund" while the NFSA wants to increase it to 55 cents an hour.

This strike is also a test--in the context of the slowing economy and especially the downturn in the housing market--of whether a building trades union can maintain, if not, increase the quality of its contract in a recession.

Dan Cochran, an organizer for Local 699, summed up the stakes of the strike. "Our strike can set an example for working people," he said. "This shows that you're not afraid to strike, even when the economy is getting bad. It shows that there is power in that strike, that people can make changes, and that they shouldn't be afraid. Because that's what they (bosses) want. They want fear to inundate us, to stop us. We have been battling that for a long time."


Board of Selectmen opposes police union

Gov't union organizers tested in New Hampshire

Discussion of a petition filed on behalf of police department personnel to form a collective bargaining unit was brief Wednesday, July 2 as all three selectmen voted to protest the petition. "I'm not interested in having a union," said Selectman Shawn Hanson, who added he felt terms of previous negotiations were satisfactory and that a union would add another layer to town business.


Gov. Mike Easley, North Carolina DINO

Related story: "Public opinion survey on card-check"

Democrat accepts award from anti-democratic union

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley is being lauded by the nation's top teacher lobbying group as "America's Greatest Education Governor." The National Education Association planned to give Easley an award Thursday during the group's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

The NEA cites Easley for his "More at Four" program for at-risk preschool students and the "Learn and Earn" program, which allows high school students to graduate with a diploma and an associate's degree.

Easley also got the Legislature to create a program that allows students to finish college without debt.

This is the first time the award has been handed out. Nearly 10,000 people attending the convention are expected to be in attendance.


NEA convention, episode 1

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