7/11/08

Organized labor's voter-fraud group revealed

Related story: "Rotten ACORN exposed"
Related ACORN stories: here
More union embezzlement stories: here

A pattern of voter-registration abuse, cover-up at ACORN

James Terry, the Chief Public Advocate for the Consumers Rights League, issued the following statement in response to The New York Times article ("Funds Misappropriated at Nonprofit Group") detailing how members of ACORN's leadership team covered up an internal embezzlement scandal for nearly eight years.

The scandal -- which involved nearly $1 million in stolen funds by the brother of the organization's founder, Wade Rathke -- was never disclosed to law enforcement authorities or to ACORN's Board of Directors.

Also today, the Consumers Rights League released a Backgrounder Document which provides a synopsis of ACORN's continuing history of abuse, explains how the organization would reap millions from the housing bill moving through Congress and lays out some suggested taxpayer protections that must be added to that legislation.

"The revelations in the New York Times article of June 9, 2008, 'Funds Misappropriated at Nonprofit Group,' are just further proof of a broken system. As highlighted in the Consumers Rights League's recent whistleblower report, the current system lacks appropriate oversight and enabled this web of organizations to use taxpayer funds for political activities with little accountability. Now, we learn that ACORN has been able to cover up the embezzlement of almost a million dollars for nearly eight years.

"On June 20, 2008 -­ days after the Consumers Rights League released its expose on the activities of ACORN and it subsidiary, the ACORN Housing Corporation (AHC) -- Congressmen Tom Feeney (FL), Ed Royce (CA) and Jeb Hensarling (TX) sent Chairman Barney Frank (MA) a letter requesting that the Financial Services Committee hold hearings to investigate these potential abuses. To date, Chairman Frank has yet to respond to the request for hearings or even acknowledged that a problem exists.

"In addition to the potentially illegal practices detailed in the Consumers Rights League's whistleblower report and the embezzlement cover-up revealed by the New York Times, ACORN is under felony investigation in several jurisdictions for rampant voter registration fraud.

"Despite the evidence that continues to pile up suggesting that ACORN and its affiliates have apparently engaged in illegal behavior on several levels, Congress has so far refused to act. Worse yet, they are poised to pass legislation (HR 3221) that would make hundreds of millions of dollars more available to these organizations.

"Even proponents of this legislation should recognize that there is a problem with the system. It would be outright irresponsible for Congress to pass this legislation without investigating these allegations and installing measures such as increased transparency requirements and stiffer penalties for misusing funds.

"The dollars given to these organizations are supposed to benefit consumers but instead, have been used to advance political agendas. It is time that Congress acts in the interest of American consumers."

The Consumers Rights League is a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization dedicated to protecting consumer choice and access to the marketplace. Through investigative analysis, CRL produces quality research that thoroughly documents the real-world choices and challenges consumers face and reports on the benefits enjoyed by an overwhelming majority of consumers.

Learn more about CRL's mission and read a full copy of the backgrounder and whistleblower report at www.consumersrightsleague.org. Please direct all media requests to Kate Kennedy at 202.333.4444 or via email at kkennedy@adfero.com.

(earthtimes.org)

Hoffa: Let's force labor unions on workers

More EFCA stories: here
More card-check stories: here

'No-vote' unionism would swell political coffers

As the election draws closer, we are going to hear a lot about how to improve our economy here in Michigan and across the United States. The Employee Free Choice Act, a proposed law that would boost the power of America's workers, should be a key component of our economic overhaul. It has the potential to revitalize our middle class. Our next president should make signing it into law a top priority.

Simply put, the Employee Free Choice Act would make it easier for workers to form a union at their workplace. In turn, more workers could negotiate as equals with their employers for fair wages, benefits, working conditions and retirement security for them and their families.

Under the Employee Free Choice Act, if a majority of workers at a workplace decides to sign cards stating that they want to join a union, then they have a union. The law would also provide a path for negotiating a contract with their employer and truly hold an unscrupulous employer accountable if a worker is intimidated or unjustly fired.

Union membership can make a major difference for a family. On average, workers who have a union at their workplace earn 28 percent higher wages than non-unionized workers, are 62 percent more likely to have employer-provided health coverage and are four times as likely to have a pension.

Our nation's history clearly shows that union membership is the best route to improving workers' pay rates and benefits. Unionized workers have a unified voice and the power to make a difference in their workplaces.

Unfortunately, unionization rates have declined significantly from their peak in the 1950s, when economic distribution was much more equal than it is today. Then the middle class thrived in part because more workers were union members.

There is a correlation during the past few decades. Unionization rates have decreased just as income disparity and companies' aggression against workers who seek to form a union have increased.

Today, the majority of chief executives have labor contracts that detail their obscene pay rates, stock options and golden parachutes -- they wouldn't work a day without their contracts. Yet CEOs and their corporations coerce and intimidate their employees who want to form a union to negotiate much more modest labor contracts.

Of course, not all companies do this -- upstanding employers exist, and they deserve respect. However, a 2005 study by the University of Chicago found that 30 percent of employers fire pro-union workers; 49 percent threaten to close a work site; 82 percent hire union-busting consultants to fight organizing drives; and 91 percent force employees to attend anti-union meetings one-on-one with supervisors.

These are the repercussions workers endure if they try to form a union today. Intimidating or firing workers simply because they are exercising their right to form a union is un-American, as are coercive one-on-one meetings between a manager and an employee he or she supervises. Yet these one-on-one meetings are legal under our current, company-dominated system. In these meetings, employers use their supervisory power to coerce -- after all, a supervisor has great power over an employee's working conditions.

The Employee Free Choice Act ensures that the person who conducts a worker's job evaluations, sets his or her compensation, and even determines whether he or she keeps their job doesn't decide whether workers should form a union: workers make that decision.

Considering the skyrocketing costs of gas, energy and food, working people are losing ground, not to mention health-care coverage, retirement security and jobs. They need the strength that union representation provides.

As more workers across the country form unions, workers will have the strength to improve their wages and protect their benefits. There is strength in numbers, and if more workers are free to join unions then union members will be able to bargain more effectively with employers.

Good-paying jobs with affordable healthcare and a secure retirement are pillars of the labor movement. All Americans should have the means to secure these benefits.

As a key state in this year's election, we in Michigan will have opportunities to talk to candidates for president and Congress about this vital piece of legislation. We need to tell them that it's time to restore the American middle class. It's time to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

- Jimmy Hoffa is president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

(detnews.com)

Inartful jumbo teachers union

More NEA stories: here

NEA too big for its britches

Everyone knows you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, spit into the wind or mess with the 3.2-million-member National Education Association, especially during election time. The union’s liberal agenda is backed by a campaign war chest estimated at $40 million, but its bigger ammunition is its unmatched army of energetic volunteers.

In 1996, just a month before the Bill Clinton/Bob Dole presidential matchup, I witnessed this war machine in action. Near Cincinnati, I found teacher Renee Rayburn, a daughter of two teachers and married to a teacher, as well, manning a command post at Spaulding Middle School in Goshen, Ohio, a rural area outside the city.

“I felt injured,” said Rayburn, referring to Dole’s ill-advised debate utterance suggesting teachers unions were “the very groups who run our public schools into the ground.” Rayburn was part of a nationwide political mobilization that took revenge by helping Clinton outdraw Dole on education issues by jarring margins. From that day forward, the NEA cemented its reputation as the 800-pound presidential Election Day gorilla.

But if the NEA is the political boss of bosses, why did Barack Obama conclude recently that Montana hay-bale campaigning was far more urgent than flying to Washington to speak directly to 9,000 fired-up teachers endorsing him? And if the NEA is the all-powerful force Republicans project it to be — prompting Democratic candidates to genuflect before its agenda — why did Obama tweak those teachers (via satellite) with jabs favoring charter schools and performance pay? (The first drew cold silence; the latter, lusty boos.)

Times change. First, the NEA declined to endorse during the primary, and Obama won without it. More importantly, Obama and his advisers may be concluding that the leftward drift of the NEA has pushed it closer to political irrelevancy. Giving the cold shoulder to charter schools? Even four years ago you could get away with that, but high-performing charter schools in cities such as New York are giving meaning to the words “equal opportunity” for poor and minority students.

And the lusty boos for performance pay? American parents are willing to pay far more for a quality education, but only if that education comes with high-quality math and science teachers attracted and retained by free market salaries.

The true target of the union’s leftward movement is the President Bush-inspired, teacher-despised No Child Left Behind Act. The NEA leadership is betting that momentum is on its side in this fight. During the Democratic primary, condemning the unpopular school accountability law guaranteed huge applause for both Obama and his Democratic opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In a few months, Bush won’t be around to defend his baby. Hard-core conservatives, who dislike the law’s intrusion into local education matters as much or more than liberals do, are unlikely to defend it after he leaves office.

Seems like a good bet for the NEA, which is why the union has joined two efforts to smother the law. The first, in Congress, would neuter its sanctions until the law is reauthorized, which could take years. The second, and more interesting, effort involves embracing the goals of a new group of education elites calling themselves the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education. They argue that schools alone can’t carry the burden of solving society’s inequities. Community development, health care and high-quality preschools have to take the lead while we ease off on school accountability.

I understand the Broader, Bolder argument that schools can’t do it all. But some things, especially semifixable things, can’t be put off until poverty is “solved.” And as Core Knowledge, KIPP, Uncommon Schools, Green Dot and other schools have demonstrated, it is possible to make a difference by changing what can be changed.

By dissing successful charters and tough school accountability, the NEA has drifted so far leftward that even the Rev. Al Sharpton has drawn a line in the sand. Teaming up with reform school leaders such as New York’s Joel Klein, Sharpton’s Education Equality Project is calling out the teachers unions on issues such as protecting incompetent teachers and tolerating the widespread school failures among African-American boys.

I’m willing to grant that the NEA has deep pockets and a surfeit of smart political operatives who know how to run door-to-door operations in Goshen and hundreds of similar towns across the country. I’m just not sure the NEA has chosen the right side of history here, and I suspect Obama and Sharpton may be thinking alike. Perhaps tugging on Superman’s cape, gently, isn’t such a bad idea after all.

- Richard Whitmire is an editorial writer at USA Today who blogs at whyboysfail.com.

(dyn.politico.com)

Unions' voter-fraud groups active in Lousiana

More ACORN stories: here

Ground zero for ACORN-style registration violations

An apparent record number of new voters — the majority of them black Democrats — have registered to vote in East Baton Rouge Parish during the first half of the year. Secretary of state records show that 15,485 new voters have registered in East Baton Rouge this year through the end of June.

“We’ve never received that many at one time,” said Elaine Lamb, East Baton Rouge registrar of voters. “I know New Orleans has in the past, but we have never had that many.” The new local voters represent a large chunk of a Democratic Party-backed, statewide voter registration drive targeting minority areas.

Of the new local voters, 9,782 are Democrats, 2,398 are Republican and 3,305 are affiliated with other parties or no party, according to the secretary of state statistics. Those same statistics show that 9,809 of the new voters are black, while 4,829 are white and the rest listed “other” as their race.

Lamb said the vast majority of the new registrations were submitted by Voting is Power, a Washington, D.C.-based group hired by national Democrats to register some 70,000 new voters in Louisiana.

VIP spent months in East Baton Rouge registering new voters before concluding its operation last month, Lamb said.

Lamb said the community group ACORN recently began its own registration drive targeting the northern part of the parish. ACORN officials did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.

The new additions bring the total number of registered voters in the parish to 266,585, state records show. That total also reflects the several thousand voters who were removed from the parish roll throughout the year.

Statewide there are now 2,887,345 registered voters, up from 2,816,320 in July 2007.

VIP spokesman Brian Welsh said the group’s statewide drive was successful, registering an estimated 65,000 to 70,000 voters statewide.

“I really think that there’s a general excitement out there among the electorate to get out and vote and have their voices heard,” Welsh said. “Any time you’re seeing a high voter registration and the level of turnout we saw during the primaries, that definitely gives us reason for optimism heading into the fall.”

Frank Ransburg, a political science professor at Southern University, said the new registrations appear to be following a historical political trend of the opposition party generating more new voters than the party controlling the presidency.

“The conditions of the country are the cause of this voter registration, and the conditions of the country are generally laid at the doorstep of the president,” Ransburg said.

Aaron Baer, a spokesman for the Louisiana Republican Party, said party officials will counter with their own voter registration drives and will also work to persuade existing voters to switch their party affiliations before the fall elections.

“There are a lot of conservative Democrats in this state that are fed up with the direction of the national Democratic Party,” he said.

In East Baton Rouge, Lamb said VIP submitted at least 17,000 registrations, including 8,000 in May alone, overwhelming her staff. She hired extra help from West Baton Rouge and Iberville parishes to process the applications.

She said VIP submitted some registration cards that were not completely filled out and others were duplicates for people already on the voter roll. Some applicants left off birth dates, birthplaces, addresses or didn’t sign the card.

Lamb said she didn’t know precisely how many VIP applications were rejected, but she said it was at least several hundred.

In once instance, Lamb said, three people living together submitted cards that were apparently filled out by one person.

She said in instances like that someone in her office calls the individuals and mails new applications. If they can’t reach the person, the application is rejected.

Similar stories of erroneous or duplicate applications in other parishes prompted state Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere to call for Secretary of State Jay Dardenne to investigate. Dardenne has said he already had a probe under way, but has yet to disclose any findings.

The Secretary of State’s Office does not comment on ongoing investigations, spokesman Jacques Berry said.

Welsh said VIP officials recently met with Dardenne to discuss concerns but have not heard anything since then from his office.

VIP has offered to help the parish registrars resolve any questions with the applications, said Welsh, adding that some issues were expected because the operation was so large.

“Any time you have a drive this big there are always going to be glitches and problems,” Welsh said.

While East Baton Rouge has seen record levels of new voter registrations, surrounding parishes have not.

In Ascension, the number of registered voters on July 7 was 61,909, up from 60,206 in January. West Baton Rouge netted 240 voters this year to reach 15,014; and Livingston had 71,546 voters, up 1,616 from January’s total.

(2theadvocate.com)

Beyond LM-2 reporting: Enforcement

More union dues stories: here

Analyst calls for enforcement of mandatory union financial reporting

The history of organized labor is intrinsically tied to that of the state of Michigan. Its role in the political and social life of Michiganders is large, and both its accomplishments and mistakes are great.

Union members pay mandatory dues to their local and national chapters, and receive collective bargaining and other representation in return. Labor organizations, however, have a vastly larger goal than just representing their members in disputes. Their political influence has gone mostly unchecked for much of the last century. Recently, the federal government has asked labor unions for detailed accounting of their expenditures in the form of an LM-2 report so that the membership and public can see what exact purpose the unions are serving and how they are spending mandatory dues money. This is a huge step in the right direction towards clamping down on union power.

While the first attempt was not perfect, a revision is currently being considered. Given the loopholes and abuses seen in the following examples, such a revision is sorely needed.

The LM-2 asks unions to list all specific expenditures over $5,000. This includes officer and staff salaries, and categories labeled "other receipts, representational activities, political activities and lobbying, contributions, gifts, and grants, general overhead, and union administration." According to the instructions provided by the Department of Labor, most expenses should fall into one of these categories. Leaving the categorization of expenditures to these general labels is the downfall of the system.

According to the Department of Labor, all expenses over $5,000 "associated with preparation for, and participation in, the negotiation of collective bargaining agreements and the administration and enforcement of the agreements made by the labor organization," must also be reported. This also allows for expenses that are used for recruiting, organizing and protecting their status within a business. Unions have interpreted this to include money given to various political organizations. For example, the Teamsters International Union called a $12,200 donation to the organization "Jobs with Justice" a representational expense. While Jobs with Justice is an organization that shares similar goals with that of the Teamsters, Jobs with Justice also acts as a political organization that openly encourages its members to campaign for legislative and social issues.

Labor organizations across the board use this classifying technique to varying degrees. There is a separate column on the LM-2 for political activities and lobbying, and each union has separate PACs for this purpose. Union members should not be forced to give dues that go towards political goals. Representational costs should be strictly interpreted as costs associated with collective bargaining.

A second problem with the LM-2 is that of how organizing costs are reported. Unions are generally involved in two types of organizing. The first type, which is critical to the life of a union, is done for recruiting purposes to convince employees to organize under a specific union. The second type, a specialty of the Service Employees International Union, is "community organizing," which tends to be political in nature and is very different than organizing for growth. Community organizing lends itself to "corporate campaigns," which are public relations schemes that make companies look bad and in some cases even force corporations out of business. These differences in organizing are not addressed in the LM-2 and are both reported as representational costs. This discrepancy leads to members and interested parties reading the report and believing the union spends more on representation than it actually does. Organizing for political gain needs to be separated from recruitment and retention in the LM-2, which will lead to a more transparent picture on the actual work of labor unions.

Finally, the category titled "contributions, gifts and grants" is a broad umbrella name for money given to any organization. This leads to several contributions to political organizations and various consultants that can be misinterpreted as charitable and civic donations. This category should be defined more closely to reflect this difference, and would lead to a much more educated public.

The LM-2 is a valid first attempt at forcing organized labor to think twice about its spending and to limit corruption and embezzlement. The system still needs revision and, more importantly, enforcement, in order to truly accomplish this monumental task.

- Jim Vote is a graduate student at Wayne State University and a labor policy intern at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

(mackinac.org)

Voters to examine misuse of union dues

More union-dues stories: here

Proponent: Unions promote special-interest, not good for all

The debate about unions in Colorado was ratcheted another notch with this week's filing of petition signatures for a second pro-worker measure for the November ballot. The Independence Institute turned in more than 120,000 signatures for Initiative 53, a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar special-interest groups such as unions from taking dues directly out of government workers' paychecks. A total of 76,047 signatures are needed to qualify for the ballot.

If enough signatures are determined to be valid by the Secretary of State's Office, the initiative would be on the ballot alongside Amendment 47, a right-to-work law that would bar "closed shops" in which union membership is a condition of employment. Unions already have contributed about $2.2 million to fight that measure.

Jon Caldara, president of The Independence Institute, a conservative think tank, disputed characterizing the proposal as anti-union, saying its intent is to bar government from being the "banker, accountant and collection agency for special interests."

If the state of Colorado deducted workers' money for a group like the National Rifle Association, people would be upset - and unions are no less a special interest than the NRA, he said.

Jess Knox, executive director of Protect Colorado's Future, a group fighting Amendment 47, dismissed that contention, saying the two measures have the same goal: promote special interests over workers.

"If it swims like a fish and smells like a fish, it is one," Knox said.

Caldara also is circulating a third petition opposed by Knox's group that would ban sole-source government contract holders from being able to donate to political candidates.

Meanwhile, Protect Colorado's Future is collecting signatures for two measures to make company executives criminally liable in cases of business fraud and to require just cause for any employee to be suspended or fired. Knox said it has collected more than 68,000 signatures on petitions that must be submitted by Aug. 4.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union also is circulating petitions for two measures to require companies to operate safe and healthy workplaces and to mandate that businesses with 20 or more employees provide health insurance.

All this adds up to a scenario that some have called mutually assured destruction, in which pro- and antiunion groups dump tens of millions of dollars into the state and potentially hurt the economy through their fight.

Protect Colorado's Future already has sued to knock Amendment 47 off the ballot, claiming signaturecollection fraud, and Knox made the same accusations against Initiative 53.

Caldara said the allegations are standard actions to try to knock something off the ballot.

(gazette.com)

Fog City loses millions to collectivism

More privatization stories: here

Politically powerful SEIU opposes privatization, tax savings

The City could lose up to $5 million this fiscal year if a plan to contract out for private security guards at San Francisco General Hospital and other medical clinics is shot down amid pressure by an influential labor union.

Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposed $6.5 billion budget closed a $338 million projected deficit and included a proposal to contract out services to replace security guards at San Francisco General Hospital, Laguna Honda Hospital and other clinics. The plan would result in an estimated savings of up to $5 million this fiscal year and up to $8 million in the subsequent year.

The plan, however, is being met with resistance from members of the Board of Supervisors, which on Tuesday postponed a vote on the proposal until next week.

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, chair of the of board’s budget committee, said if the plan doesn’t pass then he will have to cut $5 million from “a lot of the programs that people care about: AIDS programs, things for kids.”

McGoldrick said that the labor union representing the security guards — the local chapter of Service Employees International Union — had engaged in “very strong” lobbying efforts and supervisors’ votes are being influenced by “political ambitions.”

The SEIU union is politically influential as one of the largest city unions, representing about 13,000 city employees.

Supervisor Chris Daly, who is opposed to the plan, suggested instead using $5 million from The City’s operating budget reserve account, money set aside for unforeseen expenses to avoid contracting out for guards.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd called Daly’s proposal “one of the most irresponsible, fiscally imprudent ideas I have ever heard proposed in these chambers.”

Elsbernd said that using the reserve money could have The City starting off the fiscal year with “zero dollars” in the reserve account.

Robert Haaland, SEIU political coordinator, said private security jeopardizes the safety of patients and staff since it has “high turn around, little training” and lacks the authority to make arrests.

“You don’t see them using private security to guard them at City Hall, do you?” Haaland said.

The union and supervisors may discuss a compromise in the coming days.

(examiner.com)

Teamsters welcome UPS card-check surrender

Related Teamster - UPS stories: here

Who really owns UPS?

An overwhelming majority of about 100 workers at UPS Freight (formerly Overnite Transportation) terminals in Illinois, Louisiana, Nevada and Virginia have signed authorization cards to become Teamsters, bringing the total number of drivers and dockworkers who have signed cards to nearly 11,200 since January 16, Teamsters General President Jimmy Hoffa announced.

The workers will be joining Local 371 in Rock Island, Illinois; Local 270 in New Orleans which covers the Baton Rouge terminal; Local 533 in Reno, Nevada and; Local 22 in Collinsville, Virginia, which covers the Danville terminal.

"We are closer to our goal of organizing 12,600 UPS Freight workers," said Teamsters Package Division Director Ken Hall. "These workers deserve to be protected by a strong union that will make certain they have a secure future."

"We would not have gotten our victory without the help of Local 391 in North Carolina and Local 175 in West Virginia, who sent us valuable material to share with UPS Freight workers," said Local 22 Secretary-Treasurer Michael Hughes. "Organizers in both of those Locals were instrumental in our victory."

"We're proud to welcome these UPS Freight workers to the Teamsters," said Local 371 President Howard Spoon. "We look forward to representing this strong, dedicated group of UPS Freight workers."

"The card-check agreement made this victory possible and if the Employee Free Choice Act gets passed by Congress, the Teamsters could see victories like at UPS Freight at numerous companies," said Local 270 President David Negrotto.

"This victory has been a long time coming, and we are happy to be part of the largest organizing campaign in the freight industry in decades," said Local 533 Secretary-Treasurer Mark Tracy.

In April, more than 89 percent of UPS Freight workers who are already Teamster members ratified a new contract, which improves wages, benefits and working conditions.

A majority of UPS Freight workers in 40 states have submitted cards: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Victories have come in numerous large cities, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, Minneapolis, Nashville, Oakland, Orlando, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Jose, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.

(marketwatch.com)

New Bud management would roil Teamsters

Teamsters/InBev web page: here
Related A-B/Teamsters stories: here

Has InBev sucked up to Hoffa yet?

The man who could be king of Anheuser-Busch Cos. is quick to voice his respect for the St. Louis-based brewer and its top executives. But make no mistake: Carlos Brito thinks his company can do a better job managing Anheuser-Busch and its venerable Budweiser brand. And he's itching for the chance.

In an exclusive interview, the chief executive of Belgian brewer InBev said the proposed buyout of Anheuser-Busch is the natural next step in a relationship that stretches back nearly three decades.

Brito is making his case that the combined forces of Anheuser-Busch and InBev, the maker of Stella Artois and Beck's, would unleash powerful brands in markets around the world. An important part of the pitch: many of the endearing things that St. Louis loves about Anheuser-Busch would remain unchanged.

Brito, 48, is trying to pull off the deal of a lifetime — the $47.5 billion takeover of an iconic American brewer that once towered over foreign rivals.

Anheuser-Busch, maker of Budweiser, Bud Light and Michelob, controls about 48 percent of the U.S. beer market, the world's most lucrative. But the company has struggled to grow in the plodding U.S. market as it sat out on a series of international mergers and acquisitions that created London-based SABMiller and InBev. Those brewers now far outrank A-B in terms of global beer sales.

Accustomed to being the King of Beers, Anheuser-Busch finds itself an unwilling takeover target.

LITTLE OVERLAP

On Wednesday, Brito touted his company prowess in meshing newly-acquired brewers into the parent company.

"We've been able to integrate, not lose the local touch," he said. "Not sacrifice the local jewels in terms of brands."

Taking over Anheuser-Busch would allow InBev to surpass SABMiller and create one of the world's top five consumer products companies — the rarified air of companies such as Procter & Gamble, NestlĂ©, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

But Brito, a Brazilian who lives in Belgium, is himself running up against challenges. There is Anheuser-Busch's legacy of independence, as well as rampant nervousness in St. Louis and beyond about InBev's true intentions.

InBev is known for constantly pursuing acquisitions and for inexorable cost-cutting, wringing wider profit margins from its sales. Some analysts have suggested that InBev's desire for A-B stems from a need for a big source of cost-savings, since its own operations offer fewer and fewer opportunities to trim.

The Teamsters union, which represents about 8,000 Anheuser-Busch workers, predicted recently that the ascendancy of InBev could mean layoffs, wage cuts and inferior health benefits.

For his part, Brito stressed the advantages that Anheuser-Busch and InBev could reap by merging their brands into the distribution systems of the other. More Budweiser would be sold overseas and more InBev brands would travel to the U.S., he said.

The "beauty" of his company's proposal, he said, is the lack of overlap between Anheuser-Busch and InBev. The two companies are largely complementary rather than competitive, said Brito, who was in New York to meet with advisers. The CEO sat for an interview in the offices of a public relations firm, accompanied only by InBev spokeswoman Marianne Amssoms. He sported a blue oxford shirt, unbuttoned at the top. No tie.

Despite the informality, Brito is on a serious mission. He is trying to reassure a variety of constituents, from workers to beer distributors who carry Anheuser-Busch brands and whose loyalty has in many cases been richly rewarded.

"We look at wholesalers as business partners," he said. "A change in ownership doesn't mean a change in what matters. People are very rational. Once the emotion settles down, they look around and say what's in it for me?"

Anheuser-Busch ending up in InBev's hands, said Brito, would mean an infusion of more InBev brands that wholesalers can use to entice beer drinkers.

On Wednesday, the InBev CEO reiterated his earlier statements that the Belgian brewer plans to maintain a significant presence in St. Louis; the plan is to make the city InBev's North American headquarters.

Anheuser-Busch's St. Louis brewery tours, museum, Clydesdales, habit of charitable giving and support of Grant's Farm would remain a part of the company even after a takeover, he said.

"I have no place to go, so why would I exit St. Louis if St. Louis is important to the business and the brand, for which I'm paying a high premium?" Brito said. "Why would I change the Clydesdales if the Clydesdales are the thing that most people remember?"

He added that he liked the Cardinals, even attending a game at Busch stadium.

'WE LOVE THEM'

The chief executive spent much of Wednesday's interview extolling InBev's culture, which he said stresses candor and constant accountability for performance.

The cultures of Anheuser-Busch and InBev, he said, are more alike than different.

Brito acknowledged that Anheuser-Busch's executives and board "know (Anheuser-Busch's) business better than we do," and said InBev hopes to retain them after a takeover.

A friendly deal, he said, is a better way to do business. He expressed optimism that the stare-down would not verge into a full-blown conflict.

In the pursuit of Anheuser-Busch, InBev is pursuing parallel plans, Brito said — launching a lawsuit and laying the groundwork for an aggressive shareholder solicitation to replace A-B's board of directors, while still urging A-B's board to negotiate a friendly deal.

"I know a lot of the top guys, most of them for years," Brito said of Anheuser-Busch's executives. "We love them, we respect them, we like what they did with the business and the brand."

It appears those feelings may not be reciprocal. In a federal lawsuit filed this week in St. Louis, Anheuser-Busch accused InBev of misleading A-B's shareholders about the reliability of its financing for the buyout, which would be funded primarily by debt, and other aspects of the deal.

Brito defended the $65-a-share, all-cash offer, saying it is a firm proposal with committed financing.

"For a company like our company, a public company … you don't do (a proposal) if we think we don't have money or if we didn't think we're serious," he said. "We'd lose the credibility we'd built over many years."

One big attraction of the deal is Budweiser — "America in a bottle," Brito said.

Compared to Anheuser-Busch, InBev can "do much more for Budweiser because we have the scale, the size, the knowledge" in dozens of markets around the world, he said. InBev has significant operations such as breweries and distributors in 30 countries; by contrast, Anheuser-Busch is mostly focused on the U.S., Mexico, Canada, China and the U.K.

But InBev has a somewhat mixed record of building brands. Its Stella Artois is growing worldwide, but analysts say the brand has been badly damaged in the U.K. because of price cuts that eroded the beer's upscale image.

InBev hoped to make Brahma a global brand, but the Brazilian beer didn't take root and those plans were recently dialed back.

Still, the InBev CEO has high hopes for what he can do with A-B's most famous brand.

"Look at Coke, look at McDonald's, look at so many American brands that did so well internationally," said Brito. "We believe Budweiser can be the next one."

(stltoday.com)

Feds smack down secret IBEW slush-fund

Local law enforcement a paper tiger v. unions

A federal court has rejected a bid by the Philadelphia electricians union's powerful political wing to keep secret details of how it spent $2.5 million last year. The decision handed a victory to the city Ethics Board, which is investigating whether the Local 98 IBEW Committee on Political Education was behind an anonymous 2007 mayoral primary campaign flyer that portrayed Michael Nutter as a supporter of racial profiling.

The political action committee, which is known as COPE and is one of the state's richest, went to court after the ethics panel moved in November to obtain vouchers for all of its political expenditures above $25, as permitted under state law.

COPE had argued that the state campaign-spending disclosure laws violated free-speech rights, but U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle 3d ruled otherwise Wednesday and dismissed the committee's motion seeking relief.

"We're looking at our appeal options," said George Bochetto, the attorney representing COPE.

J. Shane Creamer Jr., the Ethics Board's executive director, said the panel was pleased with the decision, which he called "clear, concise and well reasoned."

Why the board wanted to see the expense vouchers has not been made public, but in papers filed in state court in April, the panel said it was investigating COPE's possible involvement in the anonymous mayoral primary flyers.

Under state law, it is illegal to distribute campaign literature without identifying the source of the funding.

The investigation and the federal court battle became two of several subplots to emerge during electricians union leader John J. Dougherty's unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination to succeed State Sen. Vincent Fumo.

Dougherty's campaign had suggested that the ethics panel's efforts were directed at getting him defeated, an idea board officials rejected.

The flyers, created by a political consultant linked to COPE, depicted a famous 1970s photograph of six men suspected of being Black Panthers being strip-searched by police. The text beneath it read, "A vote for Nutter is a vote for racial profiling" - a reference to Nutter's proposal to stop and frisk people suspected of carrying illegal firearms.

About 125,000 copies were distributed in North and West Philadelphia on primary day, the board said in its court papers.

Dougherty supported Tom Knox in the Democratic mayoral primary after deciding not to run himself.

(philly.com)

Labor-state politics out-of-bounds

Public employees caught in naked partisan smackdown politics

On July 10, Pennsylvania’s Attorney General announced indictments against a state legislator, a former state legislator, and ten Democratic legislative staffers, for accepting public funds to work on the petition challenges to Ralph Nader in 2004 and the Green Party statewide petition in 2006. Here is the press release from the Attorney General.

The grand jury found that as many as 50 Democratic House Caucus staff members participated in the 2004 Nader petition challenge. Some employees spent an entire week working on the challenge. For the 2006 challenge to the Green Party statewide petition, the same activity occurred. Staffers were told, “It’s very important to the (Democratic House) leadership that the Green Party not appear on the ballot, and also not to worry about taking vacation time, but to work on government time.

There was also a great deal of other partisan work done by state employees on government time that did not deal with the Nader and Green Party petition challenges. See this article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

(ballot-access.org)

Tribal Nation to UAW: No

Related Tribal Casio War stories: here

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe today refused the United Autoworkers Union request to negotiate a contract on behalf of nearly 3,000 poker and table game dealers at Foxwoods Resort Casino, which is owned and operated by the tribe. This letter, which was addressed to Julie Kushner, the assistant director of the UAW’s Region 9A, which includes Connecticut, is the first piece in what will most certainly be a lengthy appeal that could possibly reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

But first, the tribe is seeking a judicial review in the U.S Court of Appeals. The National Labor Relations Board issued a decision on June 30 certifying the results of a November election where 1,289 of 2,141 votes cast by dealers were in favor of unionization.

The tribe has argued that the NLRB does not and did not have jurisdiction to administer the election because it is a sovereign nation. The tribe has urged workers and the UAW to unionize under tribal labor laws rather than federal labor laws.

Today was no different. “We know that you disagree with the Tribal Nation’s position on jurisdiction,” wrote Jackson T. King Jr., the tribe’s general counsel, in his letter to Kushner. “Nevertheless, we trust that the UAW, as an organization publicly committed to civil liberties, will understand and respect the Tribal Nation’s need to seek legal redress when it feels its fundamental rights are being trampled.”
A spokeswoman for the UAW could not immediately be reached for comment.

(theday.com)

UC officials seek injunction v. AFSCME

Massive gov't-union strike might be averted

Service employees working for the University of California system are planning to begin a five-day strike Monday over wages, the union representing the workers announced today. However, UC officials said today that the Public Employment Relations Board, a state agency that oversees collective bargaining for public sector employees, has issued a complaint against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 for bad faith bargaining.

In addition, the board has agreed to a UC request seeking an injunction against the strike, said UC spokeswoman Nicole Savickas.

A decision is expected to be made at San Francisco Superior Court Friday, Savickas said.

William Schlitz, a spokesman for the union, said, "We're confident this strike is legal.''

The union, which represents 8,500 UC service workers at 10 campuses and five hospitals, claims that service employees are being paid "poverty wages'' and that rising prices of food and gas are forcing many workers to take second jobs.

Some service employees currently earn as little as $10 per hour, which union representatives claim is 25 percent lower than the average service worker's salary outside the UC system, according to the union.

UC officials say that the union has rejected numerous proposals and the latest included a minimum wage increase of 26 percent over the next five years for patient care employees and increases in minimum hourly rates for service employees from $10.28 to between $11.50 and $12 depending on the location.

"The reason we're striking is because the university denies its moral responsibility to pay its workers,'' Schlitz said.

In a letter on Wednesday welcoming UC President Mark Yudof, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer stated, "It is my understanding that wages are so low for UC service workers that over 95 percent of these employees are eligible for certain public assistance programs.''

(cbs5.com)

Unions blamed for tax-hike scheme

Officials begin to scrutinize AFSCME special-interest

Carson, CA's largest public employee union is the driving force behind the city's bid to put a half-cent sales tax on the November ballot, officials said Tuesday. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees first raised the idea last year, after defeating a city effort to create a two-tiered retirement system.

The city had hoped eventually to save $2 million a year with the new retirement plan, under which new employees would have come in at a lower rate of benefits. But AFSCME, thanks largely to the backing of Carson Councilman Mike Gipson and Mayor Jim Dear, was able to defeat the idea. Both Dear and Gipson were contemplating a bid for Assembly at the time, and were in need of labor support.

After winning that battle, AFSCME Council 36 took the lead in developing support for new city revenues, said City Manager Jerry Groomes.

The labor group, which represents 240 city employees, put up some of the money for a public opinion poll showing broad support for the sales tax.

The City Council debated the proposed sales tax for the first time at a workshop on Tuesday night. The council is expected to vote on the issue next Tuesday. Most council members sounded favorable to the idea, which could bring in $8 million to $10 million a year.

Several members of the public suggested other ways to raise revenues, such as a ticket tax at the Home Depot Center or a tax on warehouses.

"You will drive residents to shop in Cerritos, Long Beach, Torrance," said resident Barbara Post. "I don't have to spend a dime in this city. That will hurt our businesses. They are struggling to stay in business."

The public opinion poll of 400 Carson residents showed stronger support for a sales tax than for a utility tax. But the poll did not ask voters about their support for a warehouse tax.

The $25,000 poll was partially funded by the Carson Companies and Watson Land Co., two major landowners in the city, as well as by an association of warehouse owners. Together with AFSCME, those groups paid $15,000 for the survey, leaving the city to pay the other $10,000, said Jackie Acosta, the city's top finance officer.

Last year, the city successfully negotiated a two-tier retirement plan with its four other labor groups. But AFSCME balked at the idea, and ultimately settled for a more generous two-tier plan.

Due to a clause in the city's labor contracts that require equal retirement benefits for all bargaining groups, the two-tier plan never went into effect for any of the five labor organizations, completely wiping out the city's projected savings.

City officials say they need the sales tax to avoid drastic cuts to city services. For the past two years, the city has funded a run a deficit, which it has funded through reserves.

(dailybreeze.com)

Labor-state boasts bad business climate

Unchecked union political power makes a difference

New Jersey must restructure its business tax, fund more university research, reform health benefits and make other changes to attract and retain industry, according to a survey released Thursday.

The study was notable for its dour tone, the result of phone interviews with 249 entrepreneurs and executives. But it detected one bright spot: A majority, 58 percent, would recommend North Jersey over any other part of the state as a place to set up shop.

"It's location, location, location," said Sara Bluhm, executive director of the New Jersey Policy Research Organization, which commissioned the report. That organization is affiliated with the 23,000-member New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

The survey found many of the same strengths and weaknesses cited in prior, unrelated reports, with complaints about New Jersey's cost of living, taxes and shortage of skilled workers.

Such findings have given the state a national reputation as inhospitable to industry. In 2007, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council rated New Jersey last among states to foster small-scale operations. This year, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation said the state was second to last on its tax-climate index.

The survey released Thursday was funded in part by six corporations, including AT&T, Continental Airlines and Pfizer. It was compiled from November to May, and involved phone surveys of 249 business owners or employees in the state, and lengthier interviews with 29 business and government officials from New Jersey and other states.

Half the respondents were from North Jersey, 30 percent from the central part of the state and 20 percent from the south.

Overall, the respondents were somewhat sour on the state.

Eighty-one percent said the availability of workers was somewhat or very important, but just 51 percent said New Jersey rated good or excellent when it came to meeting that need. Seventy-three percent said the affordability of health coverage was high on their list, but only 28 percent said New Jersey fulfilled that need. Sixty-six percent said the affordability of living was important, but only 23 percent said New Jersey was on target.

Forty-two percent said the state will continue to deteriorate under current policies.

"It is not about the broader economy. It is about the poor choices New Jersey has made," said Philip Kirschner, president of the business association.

Kirschner said Governor Corzine and the Legislature "ought to get high marks" for trying to take on many of the problems.

Corzine came to office saying he wanted the state to operate more like the private business world, where he made his personal fortune. He created a Cabinet-level position within the Office of Economic Growth, appointed an economic council and created two multimillion-dollar funds to encourage technology research and direct businesses to cities.

Kirschner said some of the study's five suggestions would involve little or no money. Compiling information on an existing Web site, for instance, would create a clearinghouse for permitting, licensing and other tasks.

As for legislation and policy reform, he said, New Jersey could adopt other states' successful models.

North Carolina's economy, for instance, grew from agriculture and manufacturing to include tourism, technology and finance, some well-served by research universities. Unlike New Jersey, it is a "right-to-work" state - in which union membership is not compulsory - and has low rates for workers compensation and unemployment insurance. Potential employees get free training in community colleges and technical schools.

(northjersey.com)

Teamsters strike expands upstate

Related story: "Teamsters still on strike in NYC"

Construction shut-down in labor-state capital

Concrete truck drivers went on strike Wednesday morning, throwing a wrench in the Capital Region’s construction business as it kicks into high gear. Nine days after their four-year contract expired, about 100 members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 294 struck for the first time since 2000. The strike, which hinges on wage and pension contribution issues, threatens to hamper work on everything from home foundations to swimming pools.

“Everything that has to do with concrete is just shut down,” said Peter Goesinya, a Cranesville Block Co. driver and union representative.

Goesinya and three other drivers were picketing outside a Cranesville yard lined with old concrete trucks in Glenville.

The Amsterdam-based Cranesville also has operations in Albany, but concrete drivers at its headquarters are not organized.

Other businesses directly impacted by the strike include Clemente Latham Concrete in Albany and Bonded Concrete in Watervliet.

“It is having an impact, from day one,” said Pam Krison, executive officer of the Capital Region Builders and Remodelers Association, an Albany trade organization. She said the strike forced one Saratoga County home builder to contract with an alternative concrete supplier, while a remodeler made his employees hand-mix concrete for a home addition in Clifton Park.

The Teamsters first rejected a contract proposal July 1. Union and management representatives met Monday, but talks stalled, according to Local 294 President John Bulgaro.

“Certainly, [the strike] is going to be reflected in the building community, but that’s not our primary concern,” Bulgaro said.

The strike comes during the peak summer building season and at a time when the construction industry is reeling from the nation’s economic downturn and housing slump. But drivers said they need to take drastic actions to address rising energy and food prices.

“We’re one of the lowest-paid trades, but all we’re asking for is for them is to negotiate in good faith. And throwing dimes on the table won’t do it,” said Goesinya.

He said inflationary pressures are making annual raises around 5 percent necessary, though Bulgaro would not specify the size of wage increases the union is pursuing.

Cranesville President John Tesiero Jr. said he has about 20 drivers on strike. Although they are delaying shipments, he said, “they’re good people” with a right to strike.

“The current strike has not had a significant impact on our ongoing projects,” said Mark Breslin, vice president and general manager of the Turner Construction Co. in Albany. “Provided that the strike is quickly resolved, we would not see any significant impacts to our future projects.”

Bulgaro said no more negotiations are planned for a three-year pact favored by the union.

Local 294’s strike is not connected to the strike Teamster concrete drivers in New York City launched before the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

In May, the 210 Local 294 members at Sysco Food Services of Albany narrowly averted a strike. Those Teamster warehouse workers and truck drivers approved a three-year contract hours before they were slated to walk out of the Halfmoon plant.

Negotiations for that pact were hung up more over health care issues than wages.

(dailygazette.com)
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