Why don't workers want unions?

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EFCA would force unwanted unions on workers

Alabama, Tennessee and Michigan were under recent consideration as prospective locations for a new manufacturing facility to be built by VW ("Volkswagen mulls Southern plant," Business section, July 8). Since that article ran, Tennessee was announced as the site of the new plant, and Alabama would have been the second choice, because both are "right-to-work" states and Michigan isn't. Southern workers are much less likely to unionize than are workers in Michigan, a state with the highest unemployment rate.

Why don't companies want unions? The major reason is survival in the global economy. Manufacturers and employees must work together, maintaining high levels of production and quality, with minimum levels of waste, in order to compete. They must also be able to react quickly to changes in the marketplace, retaining flexibility to modify products to meet evolving customer demand. Unions present obstacles to such goals, creating impediments to teamwork, flexibility and efficiency.

Unions foster an adversarial atmosphere of us versus them, encouraging conflict between management and employees. Additionally, they oppose concepts that make companies competitive, such as promotion of superior workers into jobs on the basis of demonstrated skills and performance, rather than seniority; termination of slackers with poor work ethics or attendance; incentive programs, and timely modification of processes or products. Such resistance adds appreciable costs to employers, making them less competitive.

Southerners are not ignorant -- elitist views notwithstanding -- and they've observed the historical effect of unionization in formerly industrialized Northeastern and Midwestern states. Understanding that true job security comes from working for a profitable employer, rather than from union protection, they've resisted union attempts to replace declining membership elsewhere with Southern workers.

Unions won 97 percent of representation elections in 1935 and, by 1945, represented 35.5 percent of all workers in the U.S. private sector. Today, they lose as many elections as they win, with representation at just 8 percent of the private workforce (4 percent in Virginia). They argue this decline is due to companies' unfairly resisting unionization.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees may request a representation election by signing cards authorizing a union to represent them. If one-third of covered workers sign such cards, an election may be held, but unions usually won't ask for one unless they have cards signed by more than 50 percent of affected workers. They know that many who have signed cards won't actually vote for union representation.

Why is that? First, because cards are often signed under duress, with employees badgered, harassed or intimidated into signing them by militant union pushers, sometimes family members or friends. Second, because companies may hold meetings with employees before election dates, informing them about negative aspects and fallacies of unionization that proponents haven't shared with them.

Unions think this process is unfair.

Catering to their special-interest group, the AFL-CIO, Democrats have sponsored "The Employee Free Choice Act" (HR 800), an Orwellian misnomer if ever there was one. Instead of allowing employees to accept or reject a union in a federally supervised secret ballot election, this bill would require unionization based solely upon having a majority of employees sign authorization cards. Whatever happened to the Democrats' alleged credo of "every vote counts"? Nancy Pelosi's House passed this undemocratic aberration on to the Senate in 2007, where only a Republican-led refusal to vote for cloture prevented it being pushed to a vote.

Where does Barack Obama stand on this blatant elimination of basic rights for American workers? As president, would he sign such a bill, should one be passed by a more heavily Democratic House and Senate next year? If so, isn't he being hypocritical to rail against employers fleeing this country, while threatening to raise corporate taxes -- at 35 percent, already second highest among industrialized nations -- and making it more difficult for them to be competitive here by forcing increased unionization though this sort of contrived legislation?

Let's see: Denying workers their basic right to vote in order to solicit votes from Big Labor in national elections. That doesn't seem like the sort of "change we can believe in" to me.

- Trevor Roe, of Ferrum, is a retired corporate human resources director for Trinity Packaging Corp. in Rocky Mount.


Economic Justice series launched at IBD

More collectivism stories: here

Folks need to learn Barack's socialist code words

Before friendly audiences, Barack Obama speaks passionately about something called "economic justice." He uses the term obliquely, though, speaking in code — socialist code. During his NAACP speech earlier this month, Sen. Obama repeated the term at least four times. "I've been working my entire adult life to help build an America where economic justice is being served," he said at the group's 99th annual convention in Cincinnati.

And as president, "we'll ensure that economic justice is served," he asserted. "That's what this election is about." Obama never spelled out the meaning of the term, but he didn't have to. His audience knew what he meant, judging from its thumping approval.

It's the rest of the public that remains in the dark, which is why we're launching this special educational series.

"Economic justice" simply means punishing the successful and redistributing their wealth by government fiat. It's a euphemism for socialism.

In the past, such rhetoric was just that — rhetoric. But Obama's positioning himself with alarming stealth to put that rhetoric into action on a scale not seen since the birth of the welfare state.

In his latest memoir he shares that he'd like to "recast" the welfare net that FDR and LBJ cast while rolling back what he derisively calls the "winner-take-all" market economy that Ronald Reagan reignited (with record gains in living standards for all).

Obama also talks about "restoring fairness to the economy," code for soaking the "rich" — a segment of society he fails to understand that includes mom-and-pop businesses filing individual tax returns.

It's clear from a close reading of his two books that he's a firm believer in class envy. He assumes the economy is a fixed pie, whereby the successful only get rich at the expense of the poor.

Following this discredited Marxist model, he believes government must step in and redistribute pieces of the pie. That requires massive transfers of wealth through government taxing and spending, a return to the entitlement days of old.

Of course, Obama is too smart to try to smuggle such hoary collectivist garbage through the front door. He's disguising the wealth transfers as "investments" — "to make America more competitive," he says, or "that give us a fighting chance," whatever that means.

Among his proposed "investments":

• "Universal," "guaranteed" health care.

• "Free" college tuition.

• "Universal national service" (a la Havana).

• "Universal 401(k)s" (in which the government would match contributions made by "low- and moderate-income families").

• "Free" job training (even for criminals).

• "Wage insurance" (to supplement dislocated union workers' old income levels).

• "Free" child care and "universal" preschool.

• More subsidized public housing.

• A fatter earned income tax credit for "working poor."

• And even a Global Poverty Act that amounts to a Marshall Plan for the Third World, first and foremost Africa.

His new New Deal also guarantees a "living wage," with a $10 minimum wage indexed to inflation; and "fair trade" and "fair labor practices," with breaks for "patriot employers" who cow-tow to unions, and sticks for "nonpatriot" companies that don't.

That's just for starters — first-term stuff.

Obama doesn't stop with socialized health care. He wants to socialize your entire human resources department — from payrolls to pensions. His social-microengineering even extends to mandating all employers provide seven paid sick days per year to salary and hourly workers alike.

You can see why Obama was ranked, hands-down, the most liberal member of the Senate by the National Journal. Some, including colleague and presidential challenger John McCain, think he's the most liberal member in Congress.

But could he really be "more left," as McCain recently remarked, than self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (for whom Obama has openly campaigned, even making a special trip to Vermont to rally voters)?

Obama's voting record, going back to his days in the Illinois statehouse, says yes. His career path — and those who guided it — leads to the same unsettling conclusion.

The seeds of his far-left ideology were planted in his formative years as a teenager in Hawaii — and they were far more radical than any biography or profile in the media has portrayed.

A careful reading of Obama's first memoir, "Dreams From My Father," reveals that his childhood mentor up to age 18 — a man he cryptically refers to as "Frank" — was none other than the late communist Frank Marshall Davis, who fled Chicago after the FBI and Congress opened investigations into his "subversive," "un-American activities."

As Obama was preparing to head off to college, he sat at Davis' feet in his Waikiki bungalow for nightly bull sessions. Davis plied his impressionable guest with liberal doses of whiskey and advice, including: Never trust the white establishment.

"They'll train you so good," he said, "you'll start believing what they tell you about equal opportunity and the American way and all that sh**."

After college, where he palled around with Marxist professors and took in socialist conferences "for inspiration," Obama followed in Davis' footsteps, becoming a "community organizer" in Chicago.

His boss there was Gerald Kellman, whose identity Obama also tries to hide in his book. Turns out Kellman's a disciple of the late Saul "The Red" Alinsky, a hard-boiled Chicago socialist who wrote the "Rules for Radicals" and agitated for social revolution in America.

The Chicago-based Woods Fund provided Kellman with his original $25,000 to hire Obama. In turn, Obama would later serve on the Woods board with terrorist Bill Ayers of the Weather Underground. Ayers was one of Obama's early political supporters.

After three years agitating with marginal success for more welfare programs in South Side Chicago, Obama decided he would need to study law to "bring about real change" — on a large scale.

While at Harvard Law School, he still found time to hone his organizing skills. For example, he spent eight days in Los Angeles taking a national training course taught by Alinsky's Industrial Areas Foundation. With his newly minted law degree, he returned to Chicago to reapply — as well as teach — Alinsky's "agitation" tactics.

(A video-streamed bio on Obama's Web site includes a photo of him teaching in a University of Chicago classroom. If you freeze the frame and look closely at the blackboard Obama is writing on, you can make out the words "Power Analysis" and "Relationships Built on Self Interest" — terms right out of Alinsky's rule book.)

Amid all this, Obama reunited with his late father's communist tribe in Kenya, the Luo, during trips to Africa.

As a Nairobi bureaucrat, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., a Harvard-educated economist, grew to challenge the ruling pro-Western government for not being socialist enough. In an eight-page scholarly paper published in 1965, he argued for eliminating private farming and nationalizing businesses "owned by Asians and Europeans."

His ideas for communist-style expropriation didn't stop there. He also proposed massive taxes on the rich to "redistribute our economic gains to the benefit of all."

"Theoretically, there is nothing that can stop the government from taxing 100% of income so long as the people get benefits from the government commensurate with their income which is taxed," Obama Sr. wrote. "I do not see why the government cannot tax those who have more and syphon some of these revenues into savings which can be utilized in investment for future development."

Taxes and "investment" . . . the fruit truly does not fall far from the vine.

(Voters might also be interested to know that Obama, the supposed straight shooter, does not once mention his father's communist leanings in an entire book dedicated to his memory.)

In Kenya's recent civil unrest, Obama privately phoned the leader of the opposition Luo tribe, Raila Odinga, to voice his support. Odinga is so committed to communism he named his oldest son after Fidel Castro.

With his African identity sewn up, Obama returned to Chicago and fell under the spell of an Afrocentric pastor. It was a natural attraction. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright preaches a Marxist version of Christianity called "black liberation theology" and has supported the communists in Cuba, Nicaragua and elsewhere.

Obama joined Wright's militant church, pledging allegiance to a system of "black values" that demonizes white "middle classness" and other mainstream pursuits.

(Obama in his first book, published in 1995, calls such values "sensible." There's no mention of them in his new book.)

With the large church behind him, Obama decided to run for political office, where he could organize for "change" more effectively. "As an elected official," he said, "I could bring church and community leaders together easier than I could as a community organizer or lawyer."

He could also exercise real, top-down power, the kind that grass-roots activists lack. Alinsky would be proud.

Throughout his career, Obama has worked closely with a network of stone-cold socialists and full-blown communists striving for "economic justice."

He's been traveling in an orbit of collectivism that runs from Nairobi to Honolulu, and on through Chicago to Washington.

Yet a recent AP poll found that only 6% of Americans would describe Obama as "liberal," let alone socialist.

Public opinion polls usually reflect media opinion, and the media by and large have portrayed Obama as a moderate "outsider" (the No. 1 term survey respondents associate him with) who will bring a "breath of fresh air" to Washington.

The few who have drilled down on his radical roots have tended to downplay or pooh-pooh them. Even skeptics have failed to connect the dots for fear of being called the dreaded "r" word.

But too much is at stake in this election to continue mincing words.

Both a historic banking crisis and 1970s-style stagflation loom over the economy. Democrats, who already control Congress, now threaten to filibuster-proof the Senate in what could be a watershed election for them — at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

A perfect storm of statism is forming, and our economic freedoms are at serious risk.

Those who care less about looking politically correct than preserving the free-market individualism that's made this country great have to start calling things by their proper name to avert long-term disaster.


Collectivist barons coach Barack

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Union-backed Dem to use taxes, spending to turn economy leftward

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Monday blamed "irresponsible decisions" by the Bush administration and Wall Street for the country's economic woes as the White House said the budget deficit would soar to record heights next year.

Turning to domestic problems after a week's tour of the Middle East and Europe, Obama met with more than a dozen economic advisers, appearing with them briefly before retreating for a two-hour closed meeting. The new deficit numbers were the latest sign of an economy in decline, with foreclosures rising, home prices falling, energy prices soaring and nearly a half-million job losses since January.

"It was not an accident or a normal part of the business cycle that led us to this situation," Obama said. "There were some irresponsible decisions that were made on Wall Street and in Washington."

Obama said the economy needs both short- and long-term fixes, including another "stimulus" from Congress, and a longer-term focus on renewable energy to curb high gas prices and on universal health care to trim costs. He said he would move "rapidly and vigorously" to respond.

"We are also going to have to provide some short-term relief," Obama said. "People are hurting right now. We need to respond rapidly and vigorously to problems, and to anticipate the problems that may be on the horizon."

Present at the meeting were AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, former head of the Wall street investment firm Goldman Sachs. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett joined via speaker phone.

Republican John McCain blamed the deficit on wasteful spending by the Bush administration.

"There is no more striking reminder of the need to reverse the profligate spending that has characterized this administration's fiscal policy," McCain said in a statement.

"As president, I have committed to balancing the budget by the end of my first term," McCain said. "Today's news makes that job harder but should not change our resolve to make the tough decisions and the genuine effort to reach across the aisle that are needed to ensure a lasting solution to the spending problem that threatens the very stability of our economy."

Obama didn't name the Bush administration, but his implication was clear.

"We can't afford, I believe, to keep on doing the same things we've been doing," he said. "We have to change course, and we have to take immediate action."

Obama has called for an aggressive course from Washington to stimulate the economy, and while he offered few details about his plans, he said the economy would be the focus of much of his attention in the three months until the election.

"This is an emergency we feel not only when reading The Wall Street Journal, but when we travel across Ohio and Michigan, New Mexico, no matter where you meet people day after day who are one foreclosure, one illness, one pink slip away from economic disaster," he said.

The states Obama mentioned, as he read from prepared text, are key battleground states in November. He fueled speculation Monday as he headed to a three-hour closed meeting at the building that houses the law offices of Eric Holder, who is leading Obama's search for a running mate. Campaign aides would not say who would be at the meeting or what would be discussed, but Obama is expected to announce his selection before the Democratic National Convention in Denver late next month.

"Some guys," Obama said as he left the building and reporters asked whom he had met with. He then attended a fundraiser in Arlington, Va., where he spoke to about 40 people who each agreed to raise more than $100,000.

Earlier Monday, Obama warned his economic advisers that the current crunch was "a direct result of putting off tough decisions for too many years. I believe that more action is going to be necessary. The economic emergency is more and more severe."

The Illinois senator said he would convene his economic advisers routinely during the campaign to get advice. It's also a way of putting the focus on domestic issues, where polls have shown him running strongly against McCain, an Arizona senator.

"I've laid out an economic strategy in this campaign that I think will provide short-term relief and long-term growth," Obama said. He planned to focus on the economy this week and during stops in Missouri, Iowa, Texas and Florida.


SEIU overpays Dem candidate, public sours

Related story: "An SEIU windfall for Jill, or a ‘corrupt bargain?’"
More Jill Long Thompson stories: here

Spending too much union-dues on politicians can backfire

A battle among organized labor is costing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jill Long Thompson money and volunteers in her bid to upset incumbent Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Although Democrats traditionally garner the support of major union groups, the United Auto Workers union and AFL-CIO - which supported Long Thompson's opponent in the primary - have refused to fully endorse her candidacy. Long Thompson's ties to another major union - the Service Employees International Union - also are complicating factors. The SEIU has contributed nearly $1 million to her campaign.

“Organized labor in Indiana is the strong right arm of the Democratic Party and in that sense they do bring a lot of contributions and a lot of people power to the table,” said Ray Scheele, political science professor at Ball State University.

But this year, the unions can't seem to get on the same page.

The Indiana AFL-CIO - American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations - is an alliance of 800 local unions in Indiana belonging to 50 International Unions, such as the United Auto Workers union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

AFSCME Council 62 and the Unity Team - UAW/AFT Local 9212 in Indiana - are the two unions that have primarily represented state employees in the past.

They supported Democrat Jim Schellinger in the May primary for governor, giving him hundreds of thousands of dollars and providing volunteers.

The UAW even filed a last-ditch-effort complaint against Long Thompson just days before the election, but the complaint went nowhere.

Then on the same day as the state Democratic Convention, UAW leadership voted not to endorse Long Thompson.

The executive board of the state AFL-CIO did endorse Long Thompson the first week of June.

“We are proud to give our full support to Jill Long Thompson in her campaign for governor,” Indiana AFL-CIO President Ken Zeller said in a written statement. “She has a long record of standing up for working families. Her experience and commitment to growing the economy and creating good-paying jobs for all Hoosiers will help put Indiana back on track.”

But David Warrick, executive director of AFSCME Council 62 and a member of the state AFL-CIO executive board, said a problem came up shortly after the announced endorsement.

So on June 27 at the AFL-CIO's convention where official endorsements are made, the state executive board and the delegates to the convention voted overwhelmingly not to fully endorse Long Thompson until she clarifies and settles one key issue.

Meanwhile, the SEIU has been taking up the slack, pouring $900,000 into her campaign to unseat Daniels.

Ball State's Scheele said the UAW and AFL-CIO have weakened since the SEIU split and the groups are now battling each other for membership and dues.

This appears to be at the heart of the problem for Long Thompson.

In the early 1990s, then-Gov. Evan Bayh signed an executive order allowing state employees to collectively bargain. After a long organizing drive in which a number of unions sought to represent the employees, the Unity Team won the election to serve four different sectors of employees, and AFSCME won the right to represent several other sectors.

Bayh then issued a second executive order recognizing the unions and the units they represented.

Democratic Govs. Frank O'Bannon and Joe Kernan renewed those executive orders after taking office. But Daniels stripped those rights on his first day in office.

Long Thompson has pledged to restore collective bargaining rights for state employees, but the AFL-CIO and UAW want her to go further and promise to recognize the two unions that were elected previously to bargain for state employees.

If not, a new organizing effort would have to be undertaken and other unions - including SEIU - could win the right to represent the 20,000 state employees.

“The primary is over and it's time for everybody to get together,” said Mo Davison, director of UAW Region 3, which includes Kentucky and Indiana. “We're ready to do that if we feel she does the right things for our members. We have met with her personally. She understands the issue. The ball is in her court.”

Travis Lowe, campaign manager for Long Thompson, said he couldn't speak to the disagreement between the unions.

“Jill has stated many times that she strongly believes in employees, whether private or public, having the right to collectively bargain and has pledged to restore that right. She still stands by that and is absolutely going to do that,” he said. “But it is not Jill's choice who those employees are represented by - it's the choice of the employees.”

Lowe also noted that many individual members of these unions - if not the leadership - are strongly behind Long Thompson.

“Even now on a daily basis we receive contributions from members,” he said. “The support for Jill is wide and deep among organized labor.”

Orval E. Plumlee, president of UAW Local 2209 in Fort Wayne, said he expects the disagreement to fade soon.

“It's a matter of timing and working out the details,” he said. “I can guarantee you we will not be endorsing Mr. Daniels.”

Five calls to the state AFL-CIO last week seeking comment were not returned.

Genie Kastrup, political director for SEIU, said her union is excited to support Long Thompson. The SEIU has 5,000 members in Indiana, mostly hospital workers and public employees living in northwest Indiana.

Her group plans to not only spend money in its effort to get Long Thompson elected but will also assign 17 full-time members to voter registration and other duties.

“When we talk to our members in Indiana, they are ready for a change, and Jill has a strong record supporting union and working family issues,” Kastrup said.

As for the behind-the-scenes union politics, she said Long Thompson has committed to reinstate collective bargaining rights, which is all that is within her authority.

“She can't just give us the state employees. She can restore them, and it's up to the state workers to decide if they want a union and which union they want to represent them,” she said. “I think eventually the unions will come together. State workers are a small piece of all the unorganized workers out there. I would hope that we would all be on a united front because we've seen what the alternative is for the last four years.”

Meanwhile, Daniels has garnered some union support of his own, including individual leaders in various building trades, the Professional Firefighters Union of Indiana and the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police.

“This campaign is a coalition unlike people have seen in recent years in Indiana,” said Cam Savage, spokesman for Daniels' campaign. “There is plenty of room in this movement for anyone who wants Indiana to get on track and succeed.”

And he noted the biggest reason behind their union success is that people see Daniels is creating jobs.

“We have tried to be as open as we could possibly be. He reached out to groups of all kinds, not just unions. I think that is going to pay off. Whether that means endorsements I'm not sure,” Savage said.

Scheele said Long Thompson shouldn't be too concerned because most union members would not consider voting for a Republican over a Democrat, even if she hasn't completely toed the line.

“I think the rank and file will end up voting overwhelmingly Democratic even if the leadership controls the money and volunteers,” he said.


SEIU politics are a 'shakedown racket'

Related story: "Andy Stern: Master of forced-labor unionism"

Where did the SEIU get $150 million for politics? That’s a question the Wall Street Journal asks, and the Justice Department wants answered. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has requested an investigation into the practices of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), specifically to its mandatory contribution policies. The SEIU has forced locals to guarantee a per-member minimum contribution to their political action committee apart from its dues, and that may violate federal law:
The union adopted a new amendment to its constitution at last month’s SEIU convention, requiring that every local contribute an amount equal to $6 per member per year to the union’s national political action committee. This is in addition to regular union dues. Unions that fail to meet the requirement must contribute an amount in “local union funds” equal to the “deficiency,” plus a 50% penalty. According to an SEIU union representative, this has always been policy, but has now simply been formalized.

No other major institution could get away with its bosses demanding that every single one of its workers step in line behind its political preferences. This is the sort of imposed political obeisance that infuriates so many workers and turns them away from unions.
The SEIU political mandate may also violate federal law. Union and corporate PACs are supposed to rely on “voluntary” contributions, and it is illegal for them to use money secured by the “threat” of “financial reprisal.” It’s hard to see that an SEIU mandate enforced by financial penalties of 50% isn’t a “threat” or would qualify under any definition of “voluntary.”

There’s more. As many workers who would rather not join a union realize, employees can be required to join a union or to pay dues as a condition of employment. It is illegal, however, for a union to take these compelled union dues and use them to affect federal elections.

Combine this with the EFCA legislation, otherwise known as Card Check, and voters can draw their own conclusions about the direction of the SEIU and Big Labor. They want to expand their pool of mandatory contributors to their PAC, and the Democrats have worked hard to deliver it. Card Check would make it easy for union organizers to intimidate workers into voting for the union by eliminating the secret ballot, and then the SEIU and other unions could force more cash from workers into the pockets of Democrats.

As the Journal explains, SEIU chief Andy Stern is no stranger to illegal influence in elections. Stern helped found America Coming Together in 2004, when it acted as a Kerry support group. The 527 raised over $26 million, much of it coming from George Soros and the SEIU, while violating campaign finance laws. ACT got a $775,000 fine from the FEC for those violations, but that happened well after the election, and after any undue influence had already occurred.

Now the SEIU suddenly has $150 million, from which they’ve already committeed at least $85 million specific to Democratic candidates. That money got squeezed out of the locals under duress, in obvious violation of the spirit and letter of federal law. The union knows how to protect itself and its interests, and the lockstep nature of their support for Democrats should awaken voters to the threat their policies comprise. This is nothing more than a closed-feedback loop for Democrats, and Card Check is the prize that will ensure its rapid growth. The Department of Justice needs to put an end to this shakedown racket immediately.


Gov't construction doesn't cost enough

More Davis-Bacon Act stories: here

Ancient racial discrimination law subsidizes labor unions

Seven contractors in Louisiana have been found by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division to owe $11,289 in back wages to construction workers who were not properly paid in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"Those workers who contributed their labor to the hurricane recovery effort must be paid according to prevailing federal wage laws," said Cynthia Watson, the Wage and Hour Division's regional administrator in the Southwest. "We are pleased that these employees will receive the wages they are owed."

The seven companies failed to pay employees the proper prevailing wage rates and/or fringe benefits that they were entitled to receive under federal contracts. Additionally, some employees were not paid overtime compensation when working in excess of 40 hours per week.

The companies are: Merrick Construction in Cottonport; Phylway Construction in Thibodeaux; New Line Environmental in New Orleans; Bucktown Contractor & Co. and Grillot Construction, both in Kenner; Clark Construction Enterprises in St. Martinville; and Economy Grass in Ethel, La.


Bruce Lunsford, Kentucky DINO

More EFCA stories: hereMore card-check stories: here

Democrat wants to end secret-ballot elections

In a further sign that Kentucky's U.S. Senate race will feature extensive campaigning from special interest organizations, a new one-minute radio ad began airing late last week targeting candidate Bruce Lunsford (D-Louisville) for his support of so-called "card-check" legislation.

The Employee Freedom Action Committee - a 501 (c) (4) group based out of Washington, DC - is the organization behind the newest salvo in the increasingly active Senate competition between Lunsford and incumbent U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Louisville).

"Union bosses have new scheme that makes it easier for them to harass and intimidate workers into paying costly union dues," says the ad.

"Outraged? You should be. Because Bruce Lunsford supports their new scheme meaning you and millions more may be pressured into a union against your will," it continues.

The ad also hammers on past embezzlement and racketeering charges against labor leaders and says the policy will "take away your right to a private vote."

The ad is an effort by Employee Freedom to target advocates of policy related to union certification in workplaces. "Card-check" legislation - which was formalized in the failed Employee Free Choice Act of 2007 - would remove an employer's option of calling for a secret ballot vote on unionization and permit certification when a majority of employees have signed union membership cards.


Scabs break AFL-CIO strike v. Auto Nation

Related story: "AFL-CIO goes on strike v. Auto Nation"

After eight weeks of picketing along El Camino Real with no pay, striking service writers and mechanics at BMW of Mountain View have come to an agreement with owner AutoNation.

The workers were forced to make a compromise when an overwhelming number of replacement workers began crossing the picket line to take the union jobs. The replacement workers will stay, but many who stood faithfully on the picket line will have to go -- a total of 22 mechanics and three service writers. Needless to say, many of the union workers were infuriated by the situation.

"I walked on the sidewalk for eight weeks without a paycheck and I got a contract for those guys inside," said mechanic Mike Romano.

The new contract was voted in last Tuesday by a slim margin among the 66 workers, with some wanting to continue the strike and hold out for a better deal. But shop foreman Gary Jones said he and others "didn't have the heart" to see more jobs lost to the replacement workers, who the workers often refer to as "strike-breakers" or "scabs."

The contract is a major improvement on what AutoNation had been offering previously, Jones said.

"If they would have offered us this deal in the first place maybe we wouldn't have had to go through all this," he said.

While there may be slight raises for top level mechanics, the new contract brings substantial increases in health care costs, cuts to holidays and sick days, and a controversial flat rate pay system where mechanics are paid per assignment. The system already exists at all the rest of AutoNation's 300 dealerships nationwide.

Workers had voted 66-0 to go in strike, partly to preserve the dealership's hourly pay system which they said allows mechanics to take the time to do quality work.

"This was the last of the hourly shops, we were the final ones to hold out," Romano said. "This was Custer's last stand."

Flat rate also has been blamed for causing tension among mechanics when it comes to deciding who gets assignments when work is slow. When there is no work, the company doesn't have to pay the mechanics.

Two weekends ago, union negotiators and AutoNation representatives spent 16 hours coming up with the contract, starting at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and not taking a break until it was all over at 8 a.m. Sunday. Union members ratified the deal the following Tuesday.

On Aug. 4 the workers will return to the dealership, where there likely will be tension between union men and those who crossed the picket line.

"I have to work there with I don't know how many scabs," Romano said. "Now they will be a part of the union."

There is also some anxiety about who will assign work in the new flat rate shop between the strike-breakers and loyal union workers. Unless a good system exists for distributing the work fairly, Romano said, mechanics might stay late into the evening or arrive early in the morning to catch work that comes in after hours.

Workers displaced by the strike-breakers may get jobs at other dealerships, said Jones, but it is uncertain. Jones and Romano blamed the situation on changes to federal labor law during the Reagan era.

"It doesn't seem fair to me that someone can cross the line and get a job and somebody with a lot of seniority is out on the street," Jones said. "There is something wrong with that picture."


Urban League taps ex-ACORN activist

More ACORN stories: here
Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Left-wing labor-state group blind to ACORN's tainted reputation

David Oguamanam has been named the Minneapolis Urban League's interim president and CEO, the nonprofit said Monday. A Minneapolis native, Oguamanam will replace Clarence Hightower, who resigned last month to become executive director of the St. Paul-based Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington counties.

A search is under way for a permanent leader.

HIS BACKGROUND: Oguamanam has been with the organization since 1997 and has spent the last three years as its program services director.

A lawyer by trade, he's also credited with helping the Urban League and housing advocacy experts ACORN create the Sustainable Homeownership and Anti-Foreclosure Response Center, which provides foreclosure prevention and mortgage counseling for residents.

Working on a new three-year strategic initiative, the Urban League provides access to education, jobs, housing and health care for about 20,000 people of color annually throughout the city.


Labor strikes v. Verizon loom

Related story: "CWA, IBEW approve strike v. Verizon"
More strike stories: here

Union members have already voted to walk off the job

Verizon officials and union workers were still in contract negotiations Monday as a strike deadline approached. Union workers have voted to strike if an agreement is not reached by the expiration of the current contract at midnight Saturday. One of the major disputes is what union officials say is the outsourcing of many jobs to non-union subcontractors.

Union bargainers are also objecting to plans to increase worker payments for healthcare coverage and to require all workers who retire after Jan. 1, 2009, to pay for their own healthcare, according to the union.

Bob Master, spokesman for Local 1101 of the Communications Workers of America, the union that represents many of the workers, cited what he said were $5.5 billion in Verizon profits and $82 million paid to its top five executives in 2007 as evidence the company can afford what workers are asking for.

"We really believe that, in light of those numbers, they can afford a fair contract that protects people's health care and preserves good, family-supporting, union-represented jobs," he said.

Master said Local 1101's bargaining unit has seen the elimination of more than 13,000 jobs in the last five years.

Verizon spokesman John Bonomo declined to comment on the negotiations.

"As far as the issues, we really do not discuss them publicly," he said. "They are things that are being discussed at the negotiation table, and we think they're better left at the negotiation table."

The timing of a strike could be bad for Verizon, which just began rolling out its new fiber-optic FiOS service in the region, meant to offer an alternative to cable TV and to ameliorate the loss of land-line customers.

Bonomo said a strike would not affect customer service.

"We have contingency plans in place," he said. "Obviously, we hope we don't get to them. Both sides are talking. We both know how important this is, and we certainly would hope that we can reach an agreement before the deadline."

Master was not quite so sanguine.

"I think it would have a significant impact," he said. "It's the thousands of CWA members who, day to day, maintain that network and fix the problems, and if the company can't turn to that work force, it's going to have a hard time ensuring the quality work that customers demand."

The strike could involve as many as 65,000 workers from New England to Virginia.

Verizon employs about 600 people in the region.


Union vote-blockers fall short

Can't kill all citizen-backed measures in the crib

When they step into voting booths this November, most Coloradoans probably won't have the state's right-to-work ballot initiative at the forefront of their minds. Nor will most Ohioans come to the polls just to vote on an initiative to ensure paid sick leave.

But although it's unlikely that state ballot initiatives will pack a dramatic turnout punch in a year when record numbers are already expected at the polls, their potential to shape the terms of debate in battleground states means both presidential campaigns will need to keep an eye trained downballot.

Some election observers are already paying attention: The Colorado and Ohio ballot initiatives are among those listed on the plain white poster board mounted in the conference room at the progressive Ballot Initiative Strategy Center in Washington. At the top of the handwritten list, printed in bold red marker, is the title "Ballot Measures that Matter to the Election."

"The presence of an initiative makes the differences between candidates more tangible," said Kristina Wilfore, the center's executive director. Wilfore said that although ballot initiatives historically don't create turnout spikes in presidential election years, the presence of issue campaigns can have an important "priming effect" that makes voters more amenable to a particular candidate's message.

Some Democrats hope Ohio's Healthy Families Initiative provides just that kind of boost for Barack Obama in the Buckeye State. The measure, expected to be approved for the November ballot, would mandate that all companies with more than 25 workers provide seven paid days of sick leave to employees. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 71 percent of Ohioans support the sick leave requirement, which is almost identical to a measure in Obama's proposed economic plan. Republican John McCain opposes the measure.

To veterans of the 2004 presidential campaign, the perceived impact of ballot initiatives -- especially in Ohio -- is all too familiar. After President Bush's squeaker win in Ohio, a flurry of analysis emerged crediting the victory to a bloc of evangelical voters mobilized by a state ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage.

That, says University of Florida professor Daniel Smith, is overstated. "It's the main thing that political pundits get wrong," said Smith, whose study of 2004 returns found no evidence that conservative turnout spiked in Ohio as a result of the initiative, or in any of the other 10 states that voted on the measure. Despite the perception that the marriage referendum won Bush the presidency, the turnout effect of such measures in presidential election years is negligible, Smith contends.

Alumni of the 2004 race agree. Bush-Cheney political director Terry Nelson said of the marriage initiative, "There's no clear-cut evidence that it was the major driver of turnout in those states, nor did it guarantee a victory by George Bush." Kerry-Edwards pollster Mark Mellman called the notion of ballot-fueled turnout "a huge mythology." Asked how much direct impact ballot initiatives could have on the Obama-McCain race, Mellman is quick with a prediction: "About zero."

But, despite the small chances that a ballot measure will turn into a game-changer, campaign gurus cannot risk ignoring them because such initiatives help set the tone of the debate in key battlegrounds. "You definitely have to be aware," Nelson said. "You have to make decisions -- when some of these states have numerous initiatives -- about which ones are politically important."

"They can cause fits," agrees Mellman, who adds that candidates must expect to be confronted by voters and reporters at every turn about local voting issues. "The way in which you deal with the issue contributes to the overall image that the candidate has for either being decisive or wishy-washy, liberal or moderate."

A host of controversial ballot measures could complicate the candidates' messages in Colorado, where the threshold for ballot placement is particularly low and media time is relatively inexpensive, thus encouraging outside advocacy groups to throw their advertising dollars around.

One initiative likely to reach the Colorado ballot is backed by African-American Republican activist Ward Connerly, whose campaign to overturn affirmative action measures will also appear in Arizona and Nebraska. (Connerly's effort to make the ballot in Oklahoma and Missouri failed, and the signatures submitted in Colorado are currently under scrutiny.)

The issue has already proved sticky for McCain, who was accused of flip-flopping this week after announcing his support for Connerly's measure on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos. Democrats -- who had anticipated a potential problem for McCain around the issue -- eagerly circulated a quote by the senator from 1998, when he derided a similar ballot measure as "divisive."

Some voters may see the move as politically opportunist, which would hardly be good news for a candidate running on a platform of "Straight Talk." But experts note that Democrats, too, could be harmed by an energetic anti-affirmative-action campaign. "It can put Obama in a tough position," Smith said. "Especially in a downturn of the economy, white voters may be looking for someone to blame for job losses or their poor financial situation."

Another set of dueling measures in the Centennial State pits labor against business interests in an amendment war over union regulations. That could prove thorny for Obama, who has built a loyal labor coalition nationally but stands to gain little from taking a pro-union stand in a state with a small union presence and a high percentage of centrist swing voters.

Both proposals are on the BISC's list of important initiatives, as is another controversial Colorado measure -- one that Democrats hope might trip up McCain. On the November ballot, an anti-abortion group will ask voters to grant to fertilized eggs the legal status of "personhood," a first step to challenging abortion rights. The proposal has proved controversial even among abortion opponents, possibly creating a narrow needle for the presumptive Republican nominee to thread.

Measures like Colorado's personhood proposal -- as well as high-profile initiatives on same-sex marriage in California and Florida -- could lose their bite in a year when the economy looks poised to drown out the social-issue battle cries of years past. And even some Republicans note that the same social-issue amendments that propelled Bush to victory in 2004 could backfire against his aspiring successor. "John McCain doesn't do well in the gray areas," one GOP operative says. "If it appears that he's not as enthusiastic about the social conservative standpoint on those issues, it will again serve as a reminder of the historical problems he's had with social conservatives."

In the maze of hypothetical pros and cons, Republicans and Democrats alike concede that, when it comes to a voter's decision for president, the tangle of proposals on state ballots are mere drops in the bucket. But for those who have watched national races won and lost by mere thousands of votes, every drop might count.

"The truth is, 80 percent of everything that happens in a campaign is meaningless," quips Mellman. "The problem is that we don't know which 80 percent. So we pay attention to everything."


Mrs. Clinton in S.F. to thank her union backers

AFSCME showered union-dues on Dem up to the end

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is set to join a small cadre of politicians speaking before a large gathering of state and local government employees meeting this week in San Francisco.

Clinton (D-New York) is scheduled to appear before American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union delegates on Thursday, organizers said. The senator is also expected to use the trip to the Golden State to do some fundraising to help retire the debt accumulated from her recent hard-fought bid to become the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. Joining Clinton - via satellite - will be the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee, Barack Obama.

Rounding out the week's keynote political speeches will be an address by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley scheduled for Friday.

Global warming czar Al Gore is also scheduled to speak to the union delegates, but members of the media have been told they will be barred from attending the speech at the request of the former vice president.


Bad-faith AFSCME blames GOP Gov.

Related story: "AFSCME state bigs shot down by rank-and-file"
Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Rhode Island’s largest state employees’ union has formally accused Governor Carcieri of violating state law by refusing to negotiate a new contract, the latest move in an escalating labor dispute that threatens tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer savings.

The clash centers on a key legal question: have the two sides already “negotiated” or simply “discussed” a new deal? The controversy will be investigated by the state Labor Relations Board, which received the complaint yesterday from the state’s dominant public employees’ union, Council 94, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees.

The issue has broad implications for Rhode Island’s finances and the salary and benefits of more than 10,000 state workers.

The governor thought he had secured a deal with labor unions to save $35 million to $40 million this year alone. But Council 94’s rank-and-file rejected the agreement last week, exposing a divide within organized labor in the state and throwing Carcieri’s budget plans out of whack.

Because state labor law requires a formal “collective bargaining” process, union leaders argue that the Republican governor must return to the bargaining table to negotiate a new deal.

Carcieri has refused.

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it’s a duck,” said Carcieri communications director John Robitaille. “They can try to play silly games with semantics if they so choose, but as far as the governor is concerned, we negotiated in good faith for a long period of time, and it’s incredulous that they could be making these statements right now.”

Both sides acknowledge there was a series of closed-door meetings — as many as 30 — between January and mid-June that produced a memorandum of settlement outlining a four-year contract that included no pay increase in the first year and increased employee health-care contributions.

The memorandum was signed June 20 by top Carcieri officials and two Council 94 leaders — state Vice President Johnathan Braddock and Executive Director Dennis Grilli.

Grilli, who joined other Council 94 leaders in California this week for AFSCME’s national convention, maintains the meetings that led to the settlement were not negotiations.

“What we agreed to in the beginning of these talks back in January was that they were considered discussions, not negotiations,” he said late last week. “Everybody understood that if they didn’t produce an agreement, that wouldn’t preclude us from going through formal negotiations.”

An e-mail exchange obtained by The Journal reveals that the governor’s office was trying to arrange formal negotiations with Council 94 the same time that Carcieri officials were holding meetings with union leaders.

An e-mail sent May 20 by Carcieri negotiator Michael F. Kraemer urges Grilli to meet later that month to negotiate. Ironically, Kraemer makes the same argument for meeting that labor leaders are making now:

“Council 94 has a contractual obligation to meet with the state, as well as a statutory obligation,” Kraemer wrote. “Refusing to meet and bargain in good faith is an unfair labor practice under Rhode Island law.”

The timing of Council 94’s formal complaint is unclear.

The state Labor Relations Board will first hold a hearing to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to issue a complaint against the governor. If so, the board will initiate a formal hearing process.

Either side can appeal the ultimate finding to Superior Court.

Time is of the essence. The new contract, as outlined in the settlement, was supposed to take effect by tomorrow.Robitaille dismissed the rationale behind Council 94’s argument as “insanity.” Further, he said it wouldn’t stop the governor from taking unilateral action against union members who rejected the contract.

Council 94, which is a collective of 24 local unions, represents 4,100 employees, roughly one-third of the state’s work force. The rest are represented by 13 independent unions. So far, at least seven have voted to ratify the new four-year deal. Three have joined Council 94 in voting no.

“There are some things the governor can do and he is reviewing those things right now as we speak,” Robitaille said. “I know that the governor’s goal in all of this is to get a signed agreement and to balance the budget. That’s what he’s focused on and he will take whatever steps he can lawfully take to make that happen.”

Robitaille would not be more specific. He said the governor would likely outline a course of action later in the week.

Council 94 President Michael Downey said he refused to join other Council 94 leaders in signing the settlement because it required members to pay a percentage of their health-care premiums, instead of a percentage of their salary. The change disproportionately hurts lower paid workers, according to a union analysis.

Over the course of the four-year deal, an employee who makes $40,000 would gain a total of $938, taking into account the increased health-care costs and a cumulative 8.5 percent pay hike. A worker who makes $80,000 would gain $4,248 over the four years, however.

“I never agreed to this in my life. The president of the council never signed anything,” Downey said. “I would never sign this.”


Denver Post dumps on worker-choice advocate

Colorado's leading tree-killer a reliable advocate for forced-labor unionism

The stubborn adherence to principle that drove John Coors to walk away from a career path leading to the top job at Adolph Coors Co. is a trait borne by his oldest son, Jonathan, the force behind the controversial right-to-work initiative.

John Coors, a devout Christian, was groomed to lead the Golden beer company founded by his great-grandfather, according to his uncle Bill Coors, former chief executive and chairman of the brewery.

But John Coors left the brewer, where he had worked for 13 years in various management positions, after a "falling out" with the image-conscious company over equal employment rights in the early 1990s.

"The gay issue was a factor," Bill Coors recalled. "The born-agains, the so-called Christians, have no use for homosexuals."

Now, the company that John Coors runs, CoorsTek, is the chief financial backer of Jonathan Coors' Amendment 47, a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to say that union membership and the payment of dues cannot be mandated as a condition of employment.

CoorsTek has given $395,000 thus far to A Better Colorado, the group headed by Jonathan Coors that's pushing the measure.

The measure, which will be on the ballot in November, has divided the Colorado business community and spurred several competing pro-labor initiatives.

At 28, Jonathan Coors has rebuffed pressure from Gov. Bill Ritter, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and business leaders to halt his efforts to make Colorado a "right-to-work" state.

"It's clear that this young man is not driven by popularity or acceptability," said Colorado Springs developer Steve Schuck, a proponent of Amendment 47 who met privately with Jonathan Coors a month ago to discuss the effort. "He's driven by his own beliefs."

Neither father nor son responded to requests for interviews.

Joe Blake, president and chief executive of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, said Jonathan Coors' support of Amendment 47 fails to address the turmoil that could result if voters pass the measure, let alone the labor-backed countermeasures all but certainly destined for the ballot.

"Data compiled by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. clearly shows that under Colorado's unique law — the Labor Peace Act — our competitiveness and job growth are equal to or better than states with which we compete for jobs," Blake said. "Ideology must not trump the economic health of this state."

After leaving the brewery in 1992, John Coors, the youngest son of Joe Coors Sr. and brother of Pete Coors, joined a subsidiary that eventually became CoorsTek.

The company manufactures high-tech ceramics and plastics that are used in a number of products, including cars and coal-fired power plants.

John Coors, 52, and his family took the company private in 2003, buying out shareholders for more than $300 million. The company's managing group includes himself and three of his four brothers: Pete, Jeff and Joe Jr. His fourth brother, Grover, works as the company's chief scientist. Jonathan handles government relations.

"He's doing a great job as CEO of Coors Tek," said Joe Coors Jr., declining to comment further about his "dearest brother."

In 2007, CoorsTek reported $145 million in revenue and 2,900 employees, according to business-information website ZoomInfo.

John Coors has said his Christian faith has helped him lead the company.

"These values are timeless and are not influenced by the latest trends in thinking or in business," Coors told Ceramic Industry, a trade publication, in 2005. "I think that stability is helpful for an organization."

CEO's religion runs deep

John Coors has four children with his wife, Sharna, and five adopted children. He holds a doctorate in engineering from Technical University of Munich, home to the world's oldest brewery and recognized for its brewing studies.

John Coors works closely with Circle of Light, a nonprofit he founded to help provide power to African villages.

"Once on one of our trips to Kenya, he sat and described his vision for bringing light and cooking to African countries, and he just teared up," said Jill Richman, a longtime family friend who serves on the nonprofit's board. "John is just passionate about helping people in countries that are not as fortunate as we are in the United States."

His is a close-knit family, with all of his children participating in Circle of Light, Richman said.

And he is involved in their endeavors. John Coors paid $1.65 million for 284 acres near St. Mary's Glacier in 2005, a site his son Michael plans to develop into a ski area.

"Philosophically, they're very close," said Bill Coors, 91, who is against Amendment 47. "If you were a child of John, you'd have to be."

A 1998 graduate of Faith Christian Academy in Arvada, Jonathan earned a bachelor's in political science from Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., in 2003.

Jonathan Coors says on a website that his friends would describe him as "happy-go-lucky." According to his Classmates.com profile, his favorite indoor activities are playing music and sleeping; outdoors, he likes to cycle, fish and golf.

A break with Calif. governor

Jonathan Coors worked on the advance team for Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger from 2004 to 2005, preparing events and appearances.

"At such a young age, he showed great maturity and enthusiasm to whatever he did," said Eddie Kou youmdjian, who worked on the advance team with Coors. "He was very personable. He had a very endearing self-view."

Coors worked his way up the team, garnering more responsibilities as the campaign proceeded. He traveled to Beijing with Schwarzenegger for a trade mission in 2005.

But he never tried to capitalize on his famous family name, Kouyoum djian said.

"Even with his family background, he was such a humble guy," Kouyoumdjian said. "You wouldn't even know that he was a Coors unless he introduced himself as Jonathan Coors."

Coors apparently grew frustrated with Schwarzenegger's political mindset.

"We had an extensive discussion about his experience with the Schwarzenegger administration, and that told me a lot," said Schuck, a Republican who made an unsuccessful Colorado gubernatorial bid in the 1980s.

"He explained his frustration with Schwarzenegger abandoning principle and being a pragmatic, sort of everyday politician."

Jonathan Coors moved back to Colorado in 2005 after getting married and enrolled at the University of Denver in September 2006 for a master's degree in business administration.

In recent weeks, Coors has worked to garner financial support and endorsements for Amendment 47. That was at the heart of his meeting with Schuck, who said he set up an editorial-board meeting today with the Colorado Springs Gazette for the campaign.

Opponents such as United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 president Ernest Duran question Coors' motivation, wondering whether there is a bigger force at play.

"Smart business minds across the state are against 47, and it makes no sense why Jonathan Coors would risk the hard-earned wages and benefits of millions of Colorado's workers," Duran said.

Molson Coors Brewing Co., the parent of the Golden-based beer company and the newly created Miller Coors, does not back Jonathan Coors or Amendment 47.

"(Jonathan Coors) is not affiliated with our business, and his views do not reflect our position," said Molson Coors spokeswoman Kabira Hatland.

Schuck, 72, compares Coors' crusade for Amendment 47 to Douglas Bruce's work with the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, or TABOR.

"He (Coors) speaks his principle regardless of the resistance and the pressure in the opposition," Schuck said. "It's in his DNA.

"I don't think it's any more than that. I don't think there's some hidden self-interest. He's doing it because he believes this is right."


Governator wimps out, nobody surprised

Powerful SEIU had been threatened

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday postponed his plan to eliminate about 22,000 temporary, part-time and contract workers and impose a hiring freeze because of the state budget impasse.

As more than 100 SEIU union workers picketed outside the state Capitol, the governor opted not to sign an order to implement the cuts immediately. Instead, he's hoping legislative leaders are making progress on the overdue state budget, which has a $15.2 billion shortfall.

The order also would stop most overtime and allow him to roll back salaries for nearly 200,000 state workers to the federal minimum wage of $6.55 an hour. The workers' full pay would be reinstated once a state budget is approved.

Schwarzenegger issued the threat last week after he grew frustrated with lawmakers' inability to reach a budget deal for the fiscal year that started July 1. He wants one in place by Friday, the first of August.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the governor would sign the order Thursday if no state budget is in place by then.

“Thursday marks the first day of the state pay period, and Governor Schwarzenegger will use his executive authority on Thursday to prevent a cash crisis,” McLear said.

Democrats want to close California's $15.2 billion deficit for this fiscal year through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. They want to raise $8.2 billion by boosting taxes on the wealthiest Californians and corporations, and say another $1.5 billion can come to the state through an amnesty on tax scofflaws.

Republicans oppose any new taxes but have yet to offer their own budget proposal, said Assembly Budget Committee Chairman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz.

“It's time for the legislative Republicans to tell the public how they would balance the budget,” he said.

Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines, R-Clovis, said Democratic leaders who are involved in the budget talks know exactly where Republicans stand. He said negotiations hinge on long-term reform of California's budget system.

“Privately, the four of us are working very well together,” Villines said. “We want to make sure we do something responsible that has structural reform, and make sure that we're not delaying, but working towards closure.”

Structural reform refers to solving the long-term imbalance between the amount of money the state takes in and its spending on programs and services. Schwarzenegger has said he will not sign a budget that fails to include such reforms.

Administration officials have said that if a budget is not in place by the start of August, they will have to start negotiating costly loans to bridge the gap.

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, canceled a vote scheduled for Tuesday on the Democratic budget plan, saying it would disrupt the progress legislative leaders are making in their negotiations.

“I know the state is facing a cash crunch, and I am doing everything possible to pass a budget that fixes the state's fiscal problems, which every year get worse,” he said in a statement.

The legislative leaders had no meetings scheduled Monday, however.

Outside the Capitol, workers in purple shirts reading “Value Me” chanted for a budget deal.

They were members of the Service Employees International Union Local 1000, which represents nearly half the 200,000 workers who would be affected by the governor's executive order.

The union set up 121 cots – with a name tag for each legislator and the governor. Union president Yvonne Walker said lawmakers should be forced to stay in the building until they reach a compromise on the spending plan.

Schwarzenegger has himself mused that he would like to hold the four legislative leaders captive to force them to work out a deal.

Even if Schwarzenegger signs the order Thursday, it's not clear that most state employees would see their wages rolled back.

Controller John Chiang, who issues employees' checks, has said he will not comply, and the union is likely to seek an injunction stopping the action.

It would take effect for checks issued at the end of August.


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