Teamsters set Aug. 1 strike date v. UPS

More UPS-Teamsters stories: here
Related videos: "Teamsters vote to strike v. UPS", "Chicago Teamsters strike vote v. UPS"

Workers prepare to halt work, pay

A strike by United Parcel Service workers could hit the Chicago metropolitan area next week. Teamsters Local 705 will launch a strike a week from today against the world's biggest package delivery company if the two sides aren't able to reach agreement on a new contract, said the local's Secretary-Treasurer Steve Pocztowski.

The union represents roughly 11,000 drivers, package handlers and other part-time and full-time UPS workers in the Chicago area, where the hourly pay currently ranges between roughly $8.50 and $28, Pocztowski said.

Talks also are under way between UPS and Teamsters Local 710 in Chicago, which represents about 6,000 workers. But no strike authorization vote has been set by that local, according to UPS. The local couldn't be reached for comment.

Local 705 workers voted overwhelmingly Sunday to authorize a strike if a fair agreement isn't reached. It is seeking a $1-an-hour wage increase across the board and a $1-an-hour increase in benefits, sad Pocztowski, a former UPS driver.

UPS offered a 30-cent-an-hour increase, he said, an offer Pocztowski labeled "an insult."

Besides pay and benefits, remaining issues include subcontracting work and job security, Pocztowski said.

The six-year UPS contracts at Local 710 and 705 expire at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 1.

UPS spokesman Norman Black said it's not unusual for a strike authorization vote to be taken as a contract expiration nears. He said the company is confident "we're going to get a contract that rewards our people" at Local 710 and 705 and that is good for the company and its customers.

UPS negotiated a five-year national agreement last year covering roughly 220,000 workers elsewhere that boosted wages 2.7 percent and also increased benefits, Black said.

UPS and Local 705 are scheduled to meet again July 29 and 31, Pocztowski said.

"We are done with them at 4:30 p.m. on the 31st," he said, if an agreement is not reached.


Oklahoma tunes in to EFCA 'catastrophe'

More EFCA stories: here

Sneak attack against workplace democracy may not go unopposed

Q: What are your goals this year for The State Chamber?

Steve Turnbo, chairman of The Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce: We want to do a better job of explaining our organization and what we do. Many people believe, incorrectly, that we are focused on only two or three issues (lawsuit reform and worker's compensation overhaul), but that is not the case.

We also seek to improve our state by seeking resolution of other issues, including:

We must move Oklahoma to the "top 10" nationally in business tax climate. Taxes matter
to business and high taxes impact the state's ability to attract new business, to maintain existing businesses who seek to grow and expand.

Continue growing the Prosperity Project, which allows businesses, at no cost, to inform their employees (in a purely nonpartisan fashion) about what candidates are running for which offices in order to make informed decisions when they go to polls.

We will oppose a federal issue being pushed by the unions, known as "card check." Organized labor has come up with the Employee Free Choice Act, a law that would eliminate the secret ballot on union votes and deny employees the right to decide whether they wish to join a union or not. This is a catastrophic law for business advocates.

We will continue to seek resolution to the herculean task of closing the gap on affordability and access to health care. Also of grave concern to the State Chamber is the issue of the Oklahoma State University College of Medicine in Tulsa and its affiliation with a teaching hospital.Losing this institution means (long-term) possibly losing physicians in small communities throughout the state.

We strongly advocate creation of a more entrepreneurial environment, where ideas and small businesses can grow and prosper. How? By seeking elimination of rules and regulations that discourage, rather than encourage, starting a business and growing a business.

We believe very strongly in "brain gain," not brain drain for our state. That means keeping our young, bright Oklahomans.


Ohio LIUNA bigs busted by Feds

Related story: "Organized labor's crime-wave epidemic"

Union crime wave could explode in next administration

Two former top officers for Laborers' Local 500 who lost their jobs after it was revealed they used thousands of union dollars to pay for personal meals and strip-club visits are now facing federal criminal charges. Steven Thomas, 40, of Toledo (OH), was charged with two counts of labor union embezzlement. Thomas Leonard, 45, of Maumee (OH), was charged with one count of labor union embezzlement. Indictments against both men were filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo late Wednesday.

The federal charges follow a lengthy Department of Labor investigation and occur nearly two years after allegations of embezzlement emerged against the two men. In 2006, the parent organization of Local 500, Laborers International Union of North America, filed disciplinary charges against the men, who both were removed from office.

According to the indictment, Mr. Thomas, who was the construction union's business manager, used a Local 500 credit card to charge visits to two strip clubs - Scarlett's Gentlemen's Club in Toledo and Kahoots Gentlemen's Club in Columbus. Specifically, the indictment alleges that Mr. Thomas used the credit card to accrue $17,500 in charges at the clubs between December, 2003, and December, 2004.

Additionally, Mr. Thomas is accused of receiving cash advances for travel between September, 2001, and October, 2005, that equaled about $11,000, but "for which he did not provide receipts or for which he did not incur legitimate union expense."

Attorney Sheldon Wittenberg, who is listed as Mr. Thomas' attorney, could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Leonard's attorney, Jerry Phillips, confirmed yesterday that his client had been charged in the case. Mr. Leonard, who was the union's recording secretary, was charged with using Local 500 credit cards to charge about $4,386 in "unauthorized personal expenditures."

"He intends to meet with the authorities to discuss the case with hopes of resolving it," Mr. Phillips said.

No court dates were set as of yesterday. The statutory maximum sentence for each charge is $10,000 in fines and up to five years in prison.

The alleged thefts were occurring over a period of months when the union's membership dwindled, budget deficits ate up the union's shrinking assets, and Local 500 canceled $15 Thanksgiving and Christmas gifts to retirees. Local 500 supplies workers for construction projects such as roads, hospitals, and schools.

Since the discovery of the allegedly misspent funds, changes have been made that now require Local 500 business agents to complete daily-activity reports of to whom they talk and where they go. Additionally, credit-card usage is monitored.

Phil Copeland, who is the union's business manager and Mr. Thomas' cousin, said yesterday that he was not aware that federal indictments had been filed. He declined to comment on the charges, saying he intended to check with the leadership of the international union.


An SEIU windfall for Jill, or a ‘corrupt bargain?’

Related Jill Long Thompson stories: here

Jumbo gov't-union plows workers' dues back into electoral politics

Is this a timely windfall for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jill Long Thompson? Or has she been bought by an aggressive labor union hoping to reap the fruits of reinstated collective bargaining for state employees?

Thompson is expected to find thrust this fall from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has donated $900,000 of the $1.6 million she posted on June 30 and may spend millions more on her behalf. In doing so, it is exposing fissures with the Hoosier labor alignment, some of which has already splintered off to support Gov. Mitch Daniels.

SEIU's prolific involvement in the Thompson campaign may be coming at the expense of the UAW and AFSCME, which has battled for membership with the SEIU. At the Indiana Democratic Convention, the UAW refused to endorse Thompson. The SEIU's financial involvement with Thompson also drew a sharp rebuke from the Daniels’ campaign, calling it a "corrupt bargain."

Jerry Morrison, executive director of the Illinois-Indiana SEIU, said that the $900,000 is just the tip of the iceberg. SEIU will "do whatever it takes," he said, to get Thompson elected.

While the UAW and Thompson are at loggerheads over an endorsement concerning the extension of power to the locals, the SEIU was taking verbal swipes at the UAW. "We will have the best field operation in history," Morrison said. "There will be no shortage of resources.” Will SEIU give Thompson another million? Two million? Three million? "Whatever it takes," Morrison said.

In 2005, seven unions bolted from the AFL-CIO, led by the SEIU, and formed the Change To Win (CTW) federation. In 2006, CTW gave $7.7 million to 89 candidates running for governor or lieutenant governor, with $7.5 million of that going to Democrats. In 2006, the re-election campaign of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich received $2.2 million. According to a study by Linda Casey of the National Institute on Money in State Politics, SEIU has donated $23.25 million to state races in 2004 and $22.76 million in 2006.

Told of the $20 million campaign that Daniels has come to expect, Morrison said it doesn't matter. In fact, he said, TV doesn't matter. "People weren't moved by broadcast TV last cycle. Obama didn't beat Hillary because of TV. It will be more pronounced this election cycle. McCain will spend as much as Obama on TV and it won't matter."

The SEIU says it registered 4,500 new voters in the final two weeks before the May primary, most in Lake County for Thompson and Barack Obama; sent six direct mail pieces for Obama and Thompson; knocked on 60,000 doors; and made 789,584 phone calls. Volunteers from Wisconsin and Illinois knocked on 23,472 doors in the final weekend. Two hundred fifty volunteers knocked on 18,000 doors in half of Gary's precincts.

In the aftermath of the election, however, the Thompson campaign largely credited the United Steelworkers for putting them over the top in Lake County. The SEIU, it seems, was the campaign's stealth card.

Eric Holcomb, campaign manager for Daniels' re-election campaign, said, "Indiana has never seen a corrupt bargain of this magnitude before. It is apparent Jill Long Thompson has just sold her campaign to the highest out-of-state bidder in return for millions of dollars of future public employee dues."

Morrison invites the pundits to look at what SEIU did in 2007 during the Chicago City Council's aldermanic races where it spent $2.7 million and won nine races. There are four gubernatorial races that are competitive in 2008 - Indiana, North Carolina, Missouri and Washington - so the SEIU and the Democratic Governors Association will be targeting Daniels, who ended collective bargaining for state employees as one of his first acts in office.

Mo Davidson of the UAW has found himself at odds with the Thompson campaign, actually suing it for a pre-primary TV ad. He has simply asked Thompson to agree to reinstate the "92-12" order signed by Gov. Evan Bayh on July 8, 1992 for collective bargaining. "What we've asked Jill Long Thompson to do is to do what the three prior governors have signed. Give us life before Mitch Daniels,” Davidson said. To date, Thompson has refused.

Davidson said that if Thompson can't unify the UAW, AFSCME and others that organized the "Unity Team," the whole thing "will end up with huge organizing drives again.”

Thus, we find in the Thompson campaign one that isn't playing by the old rules. In part that was because Thompson found the party establishment aligned against her. It didn't move its campaign into the party's headquarters after the primary. It has supplanted the new union federation over the old one. It is playing under the radar this summer of the big city media. It has opted for populist issues (gas tax suspension, returning the state budget surplus to citizens) even though it could put her at odds with Obama (who believes the gas tax suspension is a “gimmick”) and Speaker B. Patrick Bauer (who has declined to comment on her surplus return).

As for how much money the Thompson campaign expects from SEIU, spokesman Jeff Harris simply said, "You'll have to ask SEIU."


Insider: SEIU's problems dwarf ACORN's

More ACORN stories: here

Organizer exposes ACORN's backers

I can honestly agree that there has been a sense of inequality amongst organizers up until recent years. I have been an organizer with ACORN for 3 years now and through whatever we have been through I can say I would not want to work anywhere else. I have organized for SEIU and other labor and community organizations. ACORN has the least of problems comparably.

Thank you imACORNc for answering most of the issues posted.

You complain about walking in dangerous neighborhoods alone? Come on. Honestly. So may be for a minute you understand what it’s like for our membership to walk home alone for just a minute. ACORN organizing is not for everyone. Not everyone can do it. But many of us can and have for years now. Yes, we work long hours, yes we get comparably lower wages, yes we have to work to fundraise for our office. Big deal! I hear so many complaints from staff from my office and other offices that they have to work for this and work for that. Come on people.

So many people pick out every little bad thing from ACORN and never see it for what it has done and can do.

- anonymous, July 23rd, 2008 at 6:46pm


Organizer in Chief?

More ACORN stories: here

Expert in American Leftism links Barack, ACORN

Republican presidential candidate John McCain, a war hero turned political leader, has traveled a familiar journey in pursuit of the White House. But his Democratic counterpart, in vaulting from the precincts and wards of American cities into a prominent national role, represents the first appearance in a presidential race of a relatively new political type: the community organizer. Barack Obama’s ascendance is a testament to community activists’ success in amassing political power since the mid-1960s, when the War on Poverty fueled their rise and changed the electoral calculus in many U.S. cities.

Community organizing’s roots stretch back to the 1930s and Chicago organizer Saul Alinsky, founder of the Industrial Areas Foundation and author of Rules for Radicals. But it wasn’t until President Lyndon Johnson’s ambitious plan to end poverty through massive federal spending that the Alinsky model—grassroots organizing, neighborhood by neighborhood—really took off. Starting in the mid-1960s, the federal government directed billions of dollars to neighborhood groups, convinced that they knew better than Washington what their communities needed. The federal funds, eventually supplemented by state and local tax dollars, helped create a universe of government-funded community groups running everything from job-training programs to voter-registration drives—far beyond anything Alinsky could have imagined. Some 3,000 local social-services groups were soon receiving government funding in New York City alone. Many were new, but the money also helped turn traditional charities that had operated on private donations into government contractors.

Those who led these social-services groups became advocates, unsurprisingly, for government-funded solutions to social problems. To defend and expand their turf, organizers began heading into the political arena, wielding the power they had accumulated in neighborhoods to build a base of supporters. In New York, operators of huge social-services groups like Pedro Espada in the Bronx and Albert Vann in Brooklyn won election to state and federal posts after heading up large, powerful nonprofits. By the late 1980s, nearly 20 percent of New York City Council members were products of the government-funded nonprofit sector, and they were among the most strident advocates for higher taxes and more government spending. In other cities, too, from Chicago to Cleveland to Los Angeles, the road to electoral success increasingly ran through the government-funded social-services sector. Spending directed to these groups boomed through both Republican and Democratic administrations. “The non-profit service sector has never been richer, more powerful,”former welfare recipient Theresa Funiciello wrote in her 1993 book Tyranny of Kindness. “Except to the poor, poverty is a mega-business.”

Obama began his organizing life in the mid-1980s in a community group whose progress mirrored that of the rest of the industry: the Developing Communities Project, formed on Chicago’s South Side as a “faith-based grassroots organization organizing and advocating for social change.” Though founded with resources from a coalition of churches, over time the DCP evolved, like many left-leaning religious organizations, into a government contractor essentially subsisting on tax money—with nearly 80 percent of its revenues deriving from public contracts and grants.

As a young college graduate immersed in the world of tax-bankrolled activism, Obama adopted the big-government ethos that prevailed among neighborhood organizers who viewed attempts to reform poverty programs as attacks on the poor. Speaking to an alternative weekly on the eve of his 1995 run for state senate, Obama said—in language that his wife, Michelle, would echo years later—that “these are mean, cruel times, exemplified by a ‘lock ’em up, take no prisoners’ mentality that dominates the Republican-led Congress.” He derided the “old individualistic bootstrap myth” of American achievement that conservatives were touting. Self-help strategies “have become thinly veiled excuses for cutting back on social programs, which are anathema to a conservative agenda,” he wrote in a chapter that he contributed to a 1990 book, After Alinsky: Community Organizing in Illinois. (He also depicted leftist community organizing as a harder task than similar efforts by the Christian Right, telling a reporter in 1995 that “it’s always easier to organize around intolerance, narrow-mindedness and false nostalgia.”)

To maintain that society was fundamentally unjust, Obama had to deny the significance of the black advancement that surrounded him in Chicago. Looking out over the world of local politics in a city that until recently had been governed by a black mayor and had a number of prominent blacks in power, Obama saw only efforts to undermine African-American progress. In 1990, he admitted “black achievement in prominent city positions” but added that it had only “put us in the awkward position of administering underfunded systems neither equipped nor eager to address the needs of the urban poor.” Still, Obama opted to head into politics himself, justifying the move as a third way between the limitations of local organizing and the narrow careerism that, he claimed, characterized local black pols. He, by contrast, would become the politician as community organizer.

Yet he wasn’t above using the hardball tactics of Chicago politics to jump-start his career. In his first race, he employed knowledge of the electoral system that he had gained from heading up a voter-registration drive to challenge, on technical grounds, the nominating petitions of his Democratic primary opponents. His effort eventually forced all of them off the ballot, including the incumbent Alice Palmer, who had tabbed Obama as her successor until she decided to run again. Observing the irony of someone who once ran an effort designed to expand ballot access now pushing rivals off the ballot, one of Obama’s opponents asked: “Why say you’re for a new tomorrow, then do old-style Chicago politics to remove legitimate candidates?”

Obama’s legislative achievements as a state senator were not extensive, but his supporters count among his biggest victories his work to expand subsidized health care in Illinois with social-justice groups like United Power for Action and Justice, an offshoot of Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation. Later, when he announced his run for president, Obama visited some of these groups and reminded them of their long struggles together. Meeting last November with the leaders of the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (Acorn)—the nationwide network of left-wing community groups that taps government money for a host of causes—Obama declared: “I’ve been fighting alongside Acorn on issues you care about my entire career,” including representing Acorn in a court case in Illinois. Acorn members apparently reciprocated by working hard to turn out voters for Obama’s Illinois campaigns, according to a 2003 piece in the magazine Social Policy by a Chicago-area Acorn organizer. After the candidate’s November appearance, Acorn’s affiliated political action committee endorsed Obama for president.

Obama’s nomination will be celebrated as a first for African-Americans. But the racial symbolism may obscure the importance of his presidential run to the tens of thousands of government-funded community groups that stand to benefit from an Obama agenda that’s right out of the 1960s. His presidential platform touts programs that would refuel the nonprofit sector, ranging from a commitment to boost money for federal relics like the ineffective and wasteful Community Development Block Grant program (see “America’s Worst Urban Program,” Spring 2005) to a plan for providing “a full network of services, including early childhood education, youth violence prevention efforts and after-school activities . . . from birth to college” to a series of “Promise Neighborhoods.”

Obama’s genius as a candidate, meanwhile, has not been lost on the community of activists from which he emerged. As a publication of the National Housing Institute, a social-justice group, has observed: “Barack Obama carries lessons he learned as a community organizer to the political arena. Both organizers and politicians would be wise to study them closely.”

- Steven Malanga is senior editor of City Journal and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He is the author of The New New Left.


AFSCME state bigs shot down by rank-and-file

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

GOP Gov. may have been set-up by union's bad-faith bargaining

Dennis Grilli knew the deal was in trouble 15 minutes after they began counting votes. After another 15 minutes, it was clear that Rhode Island’s largest state employees union had overwhelmingly rejected a contract proposal negotiated by its own leadership that included an estimated $10 million in concessions Governor Carcieri needs to balance the state budget.

Council 94, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, which represents roughly one-third of all state employees, voted 2,870 to 196 to reject the deal. The ballots were counted by hand yesterday afternoon in the basement of the union’s North Providence headquarters.

The Carcieri administration had spent months hammering out the details of the four-year contract with a group of key union leaders. Grilli, Council 94’s executive director, was among them.

“We did the best we could,” Grilli said of the union negotiators. “But we are a very Democratic organization. The members are tired of being abused by the governor. They felt this was the last straw.”

The deal gives no cost-of-living increase in the first year (but an 8.5-percent increase over the final three years) and forces higher health-care contributions that wipe out salary increases for some lower-paid employees.

In a statement issued after news of yesterday’s lopsided vote spread across Smith Hill, Carcieri noted that the agreement rejected yesterday had been brokered with labor-union leaders.

“I had hoped that Council 94 members would have chosen to be a part of the solution to the state’s financial difficulties,” Carcieri said. “The state’s economy is showing signs of worsening, adding even greater pressure to the budget, and I have an obligation to take whatever steps necessary to balance the budget.”

The governor would not clarify what steps he might take. He said he would decide on a course of action in the coming days.

Union leaders hope that Carcieri returns to the bargaining table, as was the case with the Almond administration when Council 94 members last rejected a contract in 1996. Grilli said that early next week Council 94 would send a formal letter to the governor requesting negotiations.

But Carcieri doesn’t need to negotiate anything, according to his chief legal counsel, Kernan F. King.

“The state has some options that it can take unilaterally, which would be interesting,” he said yesterday.

King declined to list those options, but noted that Council 94 is now essentially operating without contractual protections. The governor’s office last month issued contract termination letters to all state unions, effective June 30, the last day covered by their previous contracts.

“Basically, you don’t have a contract in effect. What happens then?” King said. “If they don’t ratify, they have unpredictability. It may not operate in their long-term advantage.”

King laughed when asked whether the governor might be willing to improve the deal rejected yesterday: “The governor, I would assume, would say, ‘We’re done with these guys. We’ve had 30 some meetings with these people, we’ve negotiated a deal, the state’s in difficult financial circumstances, the United States economy is in trouble. What do they want?’ ”

Among the highlights of the tentative agreement were: pay raises of zero, 2.5 percent, 3 percent and 3 percent during each of the next four years; a one-day pay reduction in the current year that employees can recoup as a paid leave day; and escalating increases in the percentage of premium the employees will be required to pay for their health insurance.

It was the same deal that went to 13 smaller unions that make up the other two-thirds of the state’s work force. At least six of the independent unions have voted to accept the four-year contract, while three have voted it down. The rest will vote in the coming days.

It was no secret that the tentative agreement faced resistance amongst Council 94’s rank-and-file — the secretaries, security guards, janitors and laborers who are among state government’s lowest-paid state employees.

Grilli said that 70 percent of his members make less than $40,000 each year. Council 94 is an umbrella organization that includes 24 local unions across state government, representing groups such as the security guards at Rhode Island College to food-service workers at the Rhode Island Veterans Home.

Each of the locals had voted separately on the contract in the days before yesterday’s vote tally.

“This was going to kill our membership,” said Cathy Paquette, president of Local 2882, one of Council 94’s locals that represents clerical staff and janitors at the Department of Human Services. “We were going to lose money for four years.”

She said her members understood that they’d be working without a contract if they rejected the deal.

“It’s something that they’re living with each day they go to work. They’re afraid they’re going to lose their job,” Paquette said. But “this [new deal] is not going to prevent more layoffs; that’s what we were told. That’s what you have to look at. He can still go ahead, even if we accept this package, and lay more people off.”

Council 94 president Michael Downey is among those who opposed the deal, largely because it changed employees’ health-care contributions from a percentage of their salary to a percentage of their health-care premium. The shift has a disproportionate effect on Council 94’s lower earners.

“It doesn’t work and it’s not fair,” Downey said. “Percentage of premium is a deal-breaker for me.”

Downey urged the governor not to give up on negotiations.

“We have proposals ready that would save the state money,” he said. When pressed, he said the alternatives may save the state less than the estimated $10 million the rejected contract would have saved.

Grilli warned the governor against unilateral action.

“If he attempts to do anything beyond negotiations, if he tries anything, we certainly will challenge that in court,” he said. “He should have his people sit down with us. We’re not unreasonable people.”


Steelworkers on strike in Ohio

Union members withhold work, forgive pay

Workers at Thomas Steel Strip walked off the job Thursday, still angry that retiree health benefits were changed three years ago. Workers want to guarantee that the steel processor must bargain with the union before changing retiree benefits again, said Dennis Brubaker, a staff representative for United Steelworkers of America.

Negotiations on that issue and others have been going on for a year. The 260 union members of USW Local 3253 had been working without a contract since their last deal expired Aug. 1, 2007.

Brubaker said negotiations took place frequently last year but became stalled in December. A mediator stopped arranging bargaining sessions because both sides were standing firm in their demands, he said.

A bargaining session was held last week, but “things kept falling apart,” Brubaker said. Union officials decided they wanted to strike in order to force action at the bargaining table, he said.

Someone answering the phone at the steel processor said the company was not making any comment.

Brubaker said workers are concerned about their health care benefits when they retire because of changes the company enacted in 2005. The company reduced benefits for retirees who were under age 65 and eliminated coverage for those who were 65 and eligible for Medicaid.

Retirees staged protests outside the plant when changes were made. The union tried to stop the changes but found that recent court cases prevented it from bargaining for retirees unless such negotiations are provided for in the contract.

Brubaker predicted in 2006 that the company was in for “quite a battle” during the next round of negotiations because of the health care changes.

The union also is not satisfied with the company’s pay offer. Thomas wants its total compensation rates to remain the same, so it is demanding that any raises be offset with concessions, Brubaker said. Thomas has proposed that these could come in reduced health care and pension benefits and a lower pay scale for new workers, he said.

The last contract provided a top wage of $15 an hour, plus production incentives.

Also, Thomas wants to change work rules and job classifications as other steel plants have done, Brubaker said. The union is willing to discuss those changes but wants the company to take the actions that other steel companies have done to reduce the number of managers who are overseeing workers, he said.

He said Thomas has a little more than two salaried workers for every hourly worker. WCI Steel, which gained a union contract that increased worker flexibility, has a ratio of four to one, he said.

He said company officials have said that the plant is losing money. One of its main products is battery casings.


Colorado voters seek special-interest curb

Petitioners want ethics: Gov't unions to collect their own dues, fees

A proposal to prohibit union dues and fees from being deducted from government workers' paychecks in Colorado was added Thursday to the November ballot. Supporters needed the signatures of 76,047 registered voters. Based on a random sample of 5 percent of the 126,874 signatures submitted, Secretary of State Mike Coffman projected that 87,771 were valid. Coffman certified the measure on the ballot as Amendment 49.

"Thousands of Coloradans are sending a strong message that they want their governments providing them with essential services, not collecting money for special interest groups," said Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, which is pushing the measure.

If approved by voters, the measure would amend the Colorado Constitution to ban state and local governments from allowing automatic payroll deductions for union dues or fees. Labor groups oppose the measure.

Amendment 49 is the fourth constitutional amendment to make the ballot and the second one aimed at unions. Amendment 47, the so-called "right-to-work" initiative, would prohibit payment of union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Unions are gathering signatures for their own ballot measures.

Protect Colorado's Future is pushing a measure that would limit conditions under which an employee could be fired and another proposal that would impose tougher sanctions on executives in corporate fraud cases. Meanwhile, the United Food and Commercial Workers union Local 7 is pushing a measure that would require employers with more than 20 workers to provide health insurance and another proposal that would allow injured employees to sue outside the workers' compensation system.


Does Democrat's union know him best?

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Competition makes politics more interesting

Despite recently losing the official endorsement of the union he once headed, state House candidate John DeFrancisco is hardly giving up the mantle as the candidate of organized labor. The Democrat, running against Republican Nick Miccarelli in Delaware County's 162nd Legislative District, has been touting his support from labor unions across the region, most recently during a large rally last week.

About 400 members from over 20 labor unions attended that rally, where they proudly proclaimed DeFrancisco to be "one of us." Major union leaders like Southeastern Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Chairman Steve Sarno and Philadelphia building trades head Pat Gillespie were in attendance.

"He's been a strong labor leader for a long time," Sarno said. "I know John, and I know that he would be excellent as a state representative."

The display of labor support comes after DeFrancisco's own former union, the United Aerospace Workers Local 1069, threw its official endorsement behind Miccarelli. DeFrancisco was a 24-year official at the union, which represents workers at the local Boeing plant, and he served as its president for the last seven years.

DeFrancisco's said the endorsement was nothing more than new union president Tony Forte grinding an old axe, and that the membership's rank-and-file would stick with him at the polls. Forte, in an interview with PolitickerPa.com dismissed the notion that there was anything personal involved in his endorsement.

The endorsement followed a unanimous vote by the union's board, Forte said. He said Miccarelli's role as chief of staff to retiring state Rep. Ron Raymond (R-Ridley Park), "always a friend of labor," made a difference.

"I don't have any personal grudge to hammer with him," Forte said. "I do resent the fact that he thinks this is personal. I've known him for 20 years. I consider him a friend. I just believe Nick Miccarelli is better suited for this position at the time."

His own union's endorsement aside, DeFrancisco seems poised to build on his labor support. Sarno said he would recommend that DeFrancisco receive the endorsement of the statewide AFL-CIO at a meeting Thursday.

"I am 100,000 percent behind John Defrancisco, and I will be carrying that endorsement to the state level," he said.

The district, which includes Tinicum Township, Ridley Park, Prospect Park and Sharon Hill, remains more blue- collar and conservative than most of Delaware County, which like all Philadelphia suburban regions has grown increasingly liberal in recent years. But with a retiring incumbent, the race could test just how far left the region will tilt.


Governator, SEIU fail to impress

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Latest Kabuki theater act opens to mediocre reviews

Dozens of state workers gathered outside Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office in San Francisco today to protest his proposal to reduce their pay to federal minimum wage. The governor has drafted legislation that could decrease the approximate 200,000 state workers' salaries to $6.55 per hour within days if the state budget is not approved to "make sure the state can pay its bills," according to Schwarzenegger's spokesman Aaron McLear.

In addition to decreasing the salary of exempt employees, the executive order would -- effective immediately -- introduce a state hiring freeze, end overtime for all employees and lay off 20,000 temporary workers, McLear said.

About two-dozen state workers part of the Service Employees International Union Local 1000 stood outside Schwarzenegger's San Francisco office to protest the proposal.

The workers held up signs that read, "Hey Arnie, was it my mistake? I'm not a pawn!" and "I am worth more than $6.55."

San Leandro resident Erlinda Arrieta, who works at the California Department of Insurance, said that as a single mother with three kids in college, she would not even be able to pay her train ticket to get to work every day if her salary is reduced to the federal minimum wage.

"There's no way we can survive on $6 an hour," Arrieta said.

Another state employee, San Francisco resident Marty Frum, who works for the California Coastal Commission, said the salary decrease would have a "snowball effect," causing workers who make less to spend less and therefore further damage the economy.

"The cutbacks are not going to make things easy," Frum said. "The governor may have caused something that will cost more in litigation."

But McLear explained that once the state has its budget set, employees will get their full salary back.

And even if Schwarzenegger goes ahead with the minimum wage proposal, its implementation would take about three weeks, according to McLear.

"So if we get a budget in the mean time, we don't have to go through with that," McLear said of the salary decrease.

"He knows this would not be a popular decision," McLear said. "He has a duty to make sure the state has enough cash."

McLear added that nothing is final yet. "We haven't announced any date or any decisions, (but) within the next few days we either have to have a budget or executive order to deal with the looming cash crisis," he said.


Wal-Mart subdued by Chinese unions

An embarrassment to U.S. unionists, leftists

Wal-Mart, the US retail giant known for fending off organised labour in its home market, has completed collective bargaining agreements with unions in two Chinese cities. The agreements reached with government-approved unions in Shenyang and Quanzhou come less than two years after the official All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) launched a high-profile campaign to organise workers and mark a new chapter in the development of the China's labour movement.

The agreement in Shenyang locks in an 8 per cent pay rise both this year and next for Wal-Mart employees, a company spokesman and union officials told the Financial Times yesterday. By comparison the average hourly wage in Wal-Mart's US stores, which are not unionised, has risen 12 per cent since January 2005, from $9.68 to $10.86.

Employees in Quanzhou, who formed the first Wal-Mart union in August 2006, secured a similar increase in an agreement signed on Wednesday. More than 48,500 people work at 105 Wal-Mart stores across China. All have been unionised over the past two years and their representatives are negotiating collective contracts with management.

"Shenyang was the first and Quanzhou was signed [on Wednesday]," Wal-Mart said. "By law [collective bargaining] is required and we respect the law wherever we operate."

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, for years successfully resisted the ACFTU's attempts to unionise its China operations. With that battle finally won by the ACFTU two years ago in Quanzhou, the union's focus is turning to collective bargaining with management as required by a new Labour Contract Law introduced in January.

Activists view official endorsement of collective bargaining as astep forward in the development of the country's labour movement. The government still frowns on strikes and the establishment of unions independent of the ACFTU remains illegal.

"Bargaining doesn't make sense without the right to strike," says Han Dongfang, Hong Kong-based director of the China Labour Bulletin. "The development of any country's labour movement never happens all at once. The movement needs to push the legal system to develop."

Mr Han was jailed and later exiled for his attempts to form an independent union in China during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.


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