Tides gave $ billions for 'justice charities'

Over 2 decades, Drummond Pike has expanded ACORN model into a non-capitalistic economic global network

"With projects across the country and around the globe, we operate with a unique set of business challenges; and, as a nonprofit, we have tight budgets and limited IT resources. We wanted a way to drastically improve our services to our projects and create a replicable model for the nonprofit sector without investing in implementing and maintaining a bunch of software applications," said Ellen Friedman, Executive Vice President of Tides. "Salesforce.com gave us exactly what we needed -- a cost-effective way to create a completely customized solution for our unique model."

Tides Center used Force.com to design and deploy a custom portal for potential new projects to initiate, manage and submit applications. The portal is integrated directly with Salesforce CRM, so staff has a complete view into the pipeline of new project applications in process as well as those that have been submitted for review. This insight helps Tides Center manage the application review and tracking process more effectively, and also keep applicants informed along the way.

Vendor contract management was another area Tides Center addressed with its Force.com deployment. The organization wanted to eliminate the myriad of emails, faxes and paper involved in managing vendor contracts for over 200 projects. With Force.com, Tides Center created a fully automated workflow and approval mechanism that significantly streamlined contract approvals and kept all relevant contract information in a single, central location.

Full integration of Tides Center's accounting system with the Force.com platform is expected to give staff and projects direct access to real-time financial information as well as more timely, accurate, and customizable financial reports. The full deployment is expected to enhance the projects' visibility into the management of their financial resources.

"Force.com has been a tremendous asset. We have been able to create our own applications, extend the value of our Salesforce CRM deployment, and easily add additional features from AppExchange that helped with our marketing efforts," said Tom Shaffer, Tides Center's CRM Program Director. "Looking to the future, we know we have the right platform in place to support our organization as our needs grow and change."

About the Salesforce.com Product Donation Program

The salesforce.com 1% Product Donation Program is a key component of salesforce.com's 1/1/1 Model where 1% Time, 1% Equity, 1% Product are given to nonprofits around the world to help them better serve their social missions. The 1% Product Donation Program provides qualified nonprofits with unprecedented access to state of the art, enterprise-class technology to fuel innovation in their organizations. Today, more than 4,000 nonprofits are using Salesforce to manage a wide range of organizational needs including managing constituent relationships, fundraising campaigns, volunteers, program delivery, and much more. Salesforce.com donates 10 licenses to qualified nonprofits. Additional licenses are offered at an 80 percent discount. For more information on this program, please visit http://www.salesforcefoundation.org/product.

Developers interested in creating applications for nonprofits can get started for free by joining the Salesforce Developer Network http://www.salesforce.com/developer/, which provides instant access to software development tools and information on how to develop on the Salesforce platform.

About the Force.com Platform and AppExchange

The Force.com platform (http://www.force.com/) reinvents the traditional development, deployment and distribution of any business application. Developers, customers and partners can use Force.com to easily create and deliver a new generation of Software-as-a-Service applications. Force.com allows applications to be easily shared, exchanged and installed with a few simple clicks via the Force.com AppExchange marketplace, enabling all the innovation that Force.com unleashes to be easily distributed to the entire Software-as-a-Service community.

The Force.com AppExchange economy continues to expand, with thousands of customers installing applications via the AppExchange. Customers of all sizes can quickly and easily extend Salesforce with additional Software-as-a-Service business applications available on the Force.com AppExchange, found at http://www.salesforce.com/appexchange/.

About Tides

Tides partners with philanthropists, activists, foundations, and organizations to promote economic justice, a robust democracy, and the opportunity to live in a healthy and sustainable environment where human rights are preserved and protected. Tides Foundation, Tides Center and Tides Shared Spaces have collaborated with over 15,000 individuals and organizations that have touched millions of lives across the country and around the globe. Founded in 1976, and with offices in San Francisco and New York City, Tides provides fiscal sponsorship to over 200 groups across the country, operates and supports green nonprofit centers and has granted more than $550 million since 2000 alone. For more information, visit http://www.tides.org.


Trustee takes over huge SEIU local

Related Tyrone Freeman stories: here

Stern protege resigns in disgrace

The head of California's largest union local has stepped aside in the wake of L.A. Times reports that the organization and a related charity paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to firms owned by his wife and mother-in-law.

Tyrone Freeman, president of a Service Employees International Union chapter in Los Angeles, said in a written statement late Wednesday that he was taking a leave of absence and that the local would be placed in a temporary trusteeship.

Related L.A. Times content

* U.S. investigates L.A.-based union's election
* Union boss under fire: A Times Special Report
* Union, charity paid thousands to firms owned by official's relatives

"In order to ensure that any investigation of the allegations is fair and free from any question of interference or influence, I am taking a leave of absence effective immediately for the duration of the investigation," the statement said. "I believe these steps will allow our union to continue to serve the best interests of our membership during this time."

The statement was released by the Washington, D.C., office of SEIU President Andy Stern, who nurtured Freeman's career as the 160,000-member local grew dramatically in recent years, largely through consolidations.

"These allegations are of serious concern to all of us and we support Mr. Freeman's decision to put the best interests of the members first," Stern spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette said in an e-mail.

In addition to the payments to his relatives' firms, Freeman's local, the United Long-Term Care Workers, spent nearly $300,000 last year on a Four Seasons Resort golf tournament, restaurants such as a Morton's steakhouse, a Beverly Hills cigar club and the William Morris Agency, the Hollywood talent firm, The Times reported earlier this month.

Altogether, the payments to Freeman and the home-based companies operated by his relatives, and to a former union employee totaled more than $1 million in 2006 and 2007, records and interviews show. That includes Freeman's salary and other union compensation. The workers whose dues fill the union's coffers make about $9 an hour caring for the infirm and disabled.

Freeman, who is also president of a 30,000-member affiliate, California United Homecare Workers, has denied any wrongdoing. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

His departure comes as several union staff members told of being pressured by Freeman's lieutenants to sign a petition in support of him. Some of those who initially refused were transferred to positions far from their homes, according to three staffers who asked not to be identified because they feared reprisals.

About 10 workers who balked at signing the petition had their union-provided cellphone service discontinued, the staffers said.

The petition cited recent "attacks" on Freeman and the local and said, "Let it be clear that we . . . proudly and firmly stand with President Freeman and the work of our local," according to a copy the staffers provided.

"It's essentially a loyalty oath," said one of the workers. He said the atmosphere at the union has been "very tense. . . . There's a lot of intimidation."

A Freeman spokesman did not return a phone call and e-mail message seeking comment.

The Times earlier reported that the union has paid $219,000 to a small video firm run by Brian Cheatham, a former employee. Freeman denied in an interview that Cheatham was a close friend of his wife, Pilar Planells.

But three former union employees said in interviews this week that Cheatham and Planells did have a close relationship, and that Cheatham is close to Freeman as well. They said Cheatham is pictured as a member of Freeman's wedding party on the website of a Hawaiian nuptials service, www.pacificaisles.com.

The former employees asked not to be named because they feared retaliation. Cheatham did not return a phone call and e-mail message seeking comment. Written questions submitted to Freeman through a spokesman were not answered.

Meanwhile, the chief executive officer of a Florida-based company said in an interview Wednesday that it has no record of receiving $82,000 that the union reported in U.S. Labor Department filings.

The financial reports describe the $82,000 paid to The Filming Inc. as a contribution to a nonprofit organization. The union also reported paying $23,650 to the firm for work on the golf tournament.

The local's financial statements said The Filming is based in Los Angeles, but it is located in Palm Coast, Fla. Tracey Hicks, the chief executive officer, said the company did receive payment for a video crew, but not the $82,000.

"We have no record of that," she said. "I would know, because we're a small company."

In an earlier interview, Freeman said he knew nothing about The Filming. "I suggest you track them down," he said.

The SEIU national office has said it is conducting an audit of the local as a result of The Times' reports. At the same time, the U.S. Labor Department is investigating complaints that the election of Freeman and his slate of officers was conducted in a way that made it nearly impossible for challengers to quality for the ballot, people familiar with the probe say.

Labor Department officials have declined to confirm that the election inquiry is underway, or to say whether they are investigating the union's spending practices.

Another Stern spokesman, Steve Trossman, has said the SEIU had received no allegations of financial irregularities by Freeman until The Times raised questions about the local's finances last month. But a source close to the union has said that Trossman was informed six years ago of some concerns about Freeman's spending habits and his having fathered a child with Planells, who was then a union staffer.

Trossman has said he remembers little about those reports, including whether he had alerted Stern to them.

Freeman has said the golf tournament netted $80,000 to $100,000 for both a charity he founded, the Homecare Workers Training Center, and a second nonprofit he helped launch, The Long-Term Care Housing Corp.

The local's financial reports show that it spent $418,000 on the tournament, or at least $123,000 more than it received in reimbursements -- not counting about $7,000 in unspecified lodging costs at the Four Seasons.

Freeman has said some reimbursements may be outstanding, more than a year after the tournament was held.

Last year, the local paid his wife's company, Lotus Seven Productions, about $178,000, the financial reports show. The firm received roughly $36,000 the year before.

Labor Department officials said that only after The Times raised questions about the payments to Lotus Seven did Freeman file disclosure forms that require union officers to reveal payments to entities in which a spouse has an interest.

Freeman has said Lotus Seven has produced 10 videos that promote the local's work and have been shown on lease-access cable channels. He and his wife have said that she did not personally profit from the payments to her company.

The Homecare Workers Training Center has paid nearly $100,000 a year to a day-care service operated by Planells' mother, Carmen Planells. The training center began itemizing the payments on its Internal Revenue Service reports in 2002, the year after Freeman and Pilar Planells had a daughter together, records show.

Freeman has defended the arrangement with Carmen Planells, saying her firm provides high-quality day care. His wife and brother-in-law, Hernando Planells Jr., are listed on state incorporation papers as officers in the company.

Under the trusteeship, the union's national office will take control of the local's finances and appoint an interim president, said Stern spokeswoman Ringuette, who added that she had no other details.


Union-backed voter fraud group in big trouble

More ACORN stories: here

Government begins to crack down on long-running abuses

A Milwaukee election official has asked prosecutors to investigate 32 more individuals regarding falsified voter registration cards they filed. There now are 39 paid workers from two liberal groups under scrutiny.

City Election Commission Executive Director Sue Edman says one of the groups alerted the commission staff about some questionable cards among the latest ones its workers collected. All of the workers being investigated are with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, or with the Community Voters Project.

Of the 32 workers referred to the Milwaukee County district attorney's office yesterday, Edman says 17 apparently filled out applications and signed the cards themselves. One card was for a voter who had died.


Another financial crime at Tides Foundation

Related story: "ACORN embezzlement covered-up by Drummond Pike"

Is embezzlement 'typical' in Drummond Pike's left-wing political charity network?

A former official at a San Francisco charity has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he stole more than $132,000 over three years, court records show. Jason Ramon Sanders, 37, of San Francisco, who has served as philanthropic adviser of the Tides Foundation, was named in an indictment handed down Tuesday by the grand jury in San Francisco.

He faces a single count of theft within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, because the charity is in the Presidio. The foundation has funded environmental and social justice projects since 1976 and also provides philanthropic advice, according to its Web site.

The indictment accuses Sanders of stealing $132,600 from February 2005 to March 2008.

In a statement Wednesday, Brian Byrnes, managing director of the Tides Foundation, said a review of internal records in March uncovered evidence that an employee had diverted $45,000 a year over three years for his personal use.

"Within two days of being discovered the malfeasance was confirmed, the employee was dismissed and a police report was filed," Byrnes said. An independent auditor determined that money from only one fund was involved, and the amount was "quickly restored" through Tides' operating reserves, he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy Thomas, who filed the charge, declined to comment Wednesday.

Reached by phone, Sanders paused before saying, "I don't know what you're talking about," then hung up. Sanders' attorney, Robert Shepard, confirmed that his client was fired from Tides earlier this year but declined to comment.

Sanders has coordinated the foundation's $10,000 Pizzigati Prize, an award given to honor those who excel in public interest computing.


Collective bargaining made me do it

Disgraced public safety official takes cover behind his union

Following an Aug. 20 jurisdiction hearing, a local judge must now turn to the scales of Lady Justice and decide if a suspended Beaumont (TX) police officer's constitutional rights outweigh a collective bargaining agreement. Officer Keith Breiner, suspended for having sex with prostitutes during a sting operation, claims Police Chief Frank Coffin Jr. wants to fire him for doing the job he was told to do.

To stay his scheduled Aug. 1 termination, Breiner filed a lawsuit and request for a temporary restraining order against BPD and the city on July 24 in Jefferson County District Court. Judge Gary Sanderson of the 60th Judicial District granted the restraining order that same day.

During Wednesday's jurisdiction hearing Breiner's attorney, Larry Watts of Houston, said Chief Coffin took it upon himself to "assassinate Breiner's character by sending his minions into the community" and to the media to label Breiner as a "rouge officer."

However, Chief Coffin testified that he believed the assertions making up Breiner's case to be inaccurate.

Watts argued that Chief Coffin's alleged actions diminished Breiner's future job prospects and violated his Texas constitutional rights for equal employment.

"If an action by an entity is to preclude employment, it is a constitutional violation," Watts said, adding that the punishment did not fit the crime since a similar incident transpired in the department in the past, but no corrective actions were taken.

Conversely, attorneys for the city argued Breiner is bound by a union authorized collective bargaining agreement that has been in effect since Oct. 1, 2007.

Under the agreement, Breiner was required to exhaust all administrative remedies and finish the arbitration process before filing suit, said Beaumont City Attorney Tyrone Cooper.

Court documents show Breiner had started the arbitration process but broke union ranks by pursuing a legal recourse.

While being questioned by Watts, Chief Coffin testified that Breiner had never personally signed any contract limiting his constitutional rights or waiving his rights to hire a lawyer outside the union.

Judge Sanderson is expected to make a decision within the week.

Several BPD officers attended the hearing in support of Breiner.


In his lawsuit, Breiner says he was contacted April 1 by an officer from the department's narcotics division "about performing an undercover operation at two houses of prostitution fronting as massage parlors."

Breiner claims he was told that an undercover officer would likely have to perform sex acts in order to make a Felony Aggravated Promotion of Prostitution case.

Breiner alleges he was selected for the task because other officers weren't "domestically able to do what was required," and the department believed Breiner and his wife "were so stable as to be able to make the necessary, temporary adjustments as a sacrifice for his job and the community's interests."

The suit lawsays that Breiner was told the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office had been consulted and that there was no violation of law involved.

He claims supervisors gave him $160 -- $60 for the massage and $100 for sex -- and sent him to the Sun Spa on April 8 and then again April 11.

"On April 15, 2008, it had been decided that the next step would require revisiting the massage parlors, secretly introducing tape recorders, and tape recording the sex acts," the suit says.

"It was also decided that in order not to cause Breiner to be assigned to engage in multiple sex acts required to make a felony charge, a second … officer would be enlisted, which led to the involvement of Lt. (David) Kiker in the operation."

Kiker is also currently suspended.

The suit continues by alleging that on April 15, both Breiner and Kiker were issued BPD funds for massages and sex acts, and with appropriate police cover, made the first team entry into Sun Spa.

The undercover officers each had a sexual encounter with a female employee, which each officer recorded. The suit claims the officers were debriefed by the department following the encounter and congratulated for not being identified.

The petition alleges the officers were repeatedly sent back to conduct sex acts on April 23, April 29 and again on May 7.

According to the petition, detailed affidavits from Breiner and Kiker were presented to a district judge in order to obtain search warrants.

In May, Beaumont police got search warrants for the VIP Massage Parlor and the Sun Spa in west Beaumont.

On May 12, Breiner claims a BPD captain verified that sex acts had been committed by him and Kiker in making the criminal case.

The suit states that the captain later said she hadn't known about what transpired, and notified Breiner that the chief of police was upset and she might be compelled to file complaints against the both of them.

According to the petition, on May 27, Breiner was notified that a complaint had been filed against him with BPD's Internal Affairs Division, alleging he'd acted unprofessionally while trying to make the criminal charges against the prostitutes and the massage parlors.

On May 30, Breiner was denied his request to take a polygraph he said would verify that he had been asked to perform the assignment and that he had been told that any sex acts performed by him as required to make the cases were expected, legal and permitted, the suit says.

Case No. B182-127


How much should gov't do for union politics?

More union dues stories: here

Supreme Court to decide about forced dues collections

Taxpayers across the nation will soon know whether states can prohibit local school boards from collecting political contributions for teacher unions, as the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing such matters in a case from Idaho.

In 2003, the Idaho Legislature passed the Voluntary Contributions Act, which banned the collection of political contributions through government payroll systems throughout the state. Nothing in the law prohibits union members from contributing to candidates by choice, and nothing in it prohibits unions from engaging in politics.

Policy experts view the law favorably. Noted Ben DeGrow, an education analyst with the Independence Institute, "Governments should be focused on performing vital services for taxpayers, not on acting as a bill collector for private groups--especially groups that are lobbying officials and funding political candidates."

But after the Idaho Legislature adopted the law, several unions sued, claiming the measure violated their free speech rights.

Unions Claim Speech Impeded

In November 2005, a federal district court ruled for the unions, saying the payroll ban unconstitutionally impeded union speech. The judge said a state could ban the practice for its own employees but could not mandate labor policies at the local level.

That decision rendered the law unconstitutional when applied to municipal governments, school districts, and other local government bodies.

The judge said payroll deductions are a preferred fundraising method because without automatic deductions employees could be subjected to union strong-arming. Unions would have to "engage in face-to-face solicitation, a technique fraught with the potential for coercion."

State Appealed, Lost

The State of Idaho appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which in October 2007 affirmed the lower court decision.

"The unique nature of the state's intervention therefore strongly suggests that the state's purpose here is exactly that against which the First Amendment protects--the denial of payroll deductions for the purpose of stifling political speech," concluded the Ninth Circuit.

The case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The unions claim the law burdens their free speech rights by forcing them to divert money toward fundraising and administration. The burden of collecting money, they say, reduces the funds available for political contributions.

Burden Shared By All

Legal analysts familiar with First Amendment issues disagree with the unions' claim.

"The unions' so-called 'burden' of political fundraising is shared by all political entities and candidates," said Jonathan Bechtle, legal counsel for the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. "Nothing in the First Amendment forces local governments to act as a union's political fundraiser."

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation, joined by the Independence Institute and American Legislative Exchange Council, filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court in support of the Idaho law.

"We argued that the Ninth Circuit's decision broke from well-established case law," Bechtle said. He noted unions are the beneficiaries of significant privileges, but there is no constitutional obligation requiring a state to bargain with a union. Accordingly, states have adopted numerous restrictions on unions' monopoly bargaining status.

Impedes States' Authority

Bechtle noted the unintended consequences of the Ninth Circuit's ruling. "The Ninth Circuit used the First Amendment to erect a wall between the state and local government bodies. If upheld, the ruling could undermine a state's ability to adopt many reasonable labor-management laws," he said.

Numerous courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have held unions have no constitutional right to government payroll deductions, as states owe unions no special obligation to collect their income.

The Idaho case, Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association, will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the fall.


LA Times: Stern covers-up corrupt protege

Related story: "Stern struggles to damage-control scandal"

Trail could lead investigators directly back to Andy Stern

Paul Pringler of the LA Times has running a great series of stories about the corruption of the LA local of SEIU. The most recent places them all in context. The basic idea is that the head of LA local, Tyrone Freeman, appears to be using union funds to route money back to his friends, family, and even spouse.

This story adds three important components. First, Freeman appears to run corrupt elections. Second, he is a "protege" of Andy Stern, the head of SEIU, and there is evidence that Stern and the (inter)national organization is covering up for Freeman. And, third, Stern has a strategy for using Freeman and his corrupt elections and embezzling to take over all of the California SEIU. If these facts hold up, it could lead to some very dangerous places for Stern and the SEIU.

The details from the story are all above the fold. The key point here is that these stories suggest a need to continue these investigations and examine both national and local SEIU expenditures much more closely.

The basic story is that Tyrone Freeman used funds from the local to pay his family lots and lots of money from the union treasury:
In addition to the outlays to the firms owned by Freeman's wife and mother-in-law, the union paid a combined $219,000 in 2006 and 2007 to a video firm whose principals include a former employee of Freeman. A now-defunct minor league basketball team coached by Freeman's brother-in-law received $16,000 for what the union described as public relations, according to records and interviews.

The union also paid about $106,000 to a firm called The Filming, for which no incorporation record, business license, address or telephone listing could be found.
In addition, he appeared to run corrupt elections:
The election of a Los Angeles union leader under fire for his labor group's spending practices is the subject of a government review that could force a new vote because of complaints that the contest was unfair to challengers.

The U.S. Labor Department is investigating allegations that Tyrone Freeman's union local made it nearly impossible for candidates not on his slate to qualify for the ballot, according to people familiar with the probe.

These are neat and good stories for demonstrating union corruption and why unions shouldn't have more power over the votes to unionize by giving them card-check.

But the real story is that this crook, Tyrone Freeman, is a central part of Andy Stern's plan to centralize power:

Trossman's efforts succeeded, the source said. Freeman's local continued to expand as part of SEIU President Andy Stern's much-celebrated campaign to organize entire industries state by state. The local and an affiliate ended up representing about 190,000 workers, most of them in the field of home healthcare. ...

Lichtenstein said the union clearly had an "investment" in Freeman, a Stern protege who has been a high-profile loyalist in the SEIU push to consolidate regional locals into statewide chapters. That effort is being resisted by a handful of dissidents, notably the president of a 150,000-worker Oakland affiliate.
Not only is Stern trying to give this guy Freeman power, but Stern appears to be covering up for him:
In response to the July inquiries, Trossman had issued a statement on behalf of Stern that said the union had received no allegations about Freeman's local. Freeman denied any wrongdoing.

The source, who said he was party to internal conversations about Freeman in 2002, told The Times last week: "The international knew that there were allegations of impropriety many years ago. This is not news to them."

Dems pimp for unions: Let me see your ballot

More EFCA stories: here

Ending secret-ballot elections proves a tough sell

Who are you voting for this fall? The answer to that question is none of my business. In fact, it is a fundamental American right to have your vote be as private as you wish. Unfortunately, Democrats and their financiers, Big Labor, want to abolish a worker’s fundamental, American right to a secret ballot.

Why are they doing this? Maybe because Democrats have openly admitted they owe their 2006 electoral success to Big Labor and have promised the elimination of the secret ballot as a return on investment. That is why during this Congressional session every Democrat in the House and Senate voted to abolish the secret ballot. Thankfully, Republicans in the Senate were able to stop this disastrous bill.

This is a moment when hyperbole is unnecessary. This unprecedented power grab by Big Labor and the willingness of Democrats to ignore such a fundamental American right threatens the very nature of our system of government.

Unions already spend hundreds of millions of dollars to influence elections. Imagine what they could do when entire industries are unwillingly coerced into joining a union and forced to pay dues – dues earmarked for the next election cycle.

In fact, alleged coercion for political gain is already occurring. Recently, The Wall Street Journal reported that the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation asked the Department of Justice to investigate the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The basis for the request centers on this fact:

“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.” (The Wall Street Journal, 7/28/08)

Can you name any other company or organization that could compel its membership to fund political organizations that rank and file membership may or may not agree with? As I said earlier, hyperbole is not needed on this issue. With November approaching, a potential Barack Obama administration promising to “play some offense for organized labor” and Democrats’ determination to eliminate the secret ballot, the need for a robust Republican presence in the Senate has never been greater.

So important is eliminating the secret ballot to Big Labor that a few weeks ago Democrat Senate candidates, Reps. Tom Allen (ME), Tom Udall (NM), and Mark Udall (CO), along with Kay Hagan (NC), Bruce Lunsford (KY), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), and Jeff Merkley (OR) all scurried to Chicago for a meeting when Union bosses beckoned. The three current Congressmen already voted to eliminate the secret ballot and likely, along with the other Democrat candidates in Chicago, pledged to eliminate secret ballot elections in the future as well.

Are such promises to Big Labor leaders representative of the will of the people? Absolutely not! Amazingly, Democrats don’t seem to care that their agenda flies in the face of public opinion. More than 85% of Americans oppose eliminating the secret ballot and even the media, across all political spectrums, has editorialized against such legislation.

“Abuses of workers’ true wishes not only are potential, they are guaranteed. There is no ‘free choice’ in this travesty, clearly a payoff to union leaders who contributed so handsomely to the Democrats’ November election victory.” (The San Francisco Examiner, 02/16/07)

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has decided to hold a vote this Wednesday on perhaps the most unpopular element of the Democratic agenda… Under the so-called card-check bill, a company would no longer have the right to demand a secret-ballot election to certify a union, thus stripping 140 million American workers of the right to decide in private whether to organize.” (The Wall Street Journal, 6/18/07)

Democrats continue to oppose the will of the people, instead working to reward Big Labor. In fact, this issue is so far out of the mainstream that even ultra-liberal former Democrat Senator and Vice Presidential candidate George McGovern has publicly opposed this legislation.

Additionally, elimination of the secret ballot will be the second payback for Big Labor, since Democrats already cut funding to the federal agency tasked with investigating union corruption. Without Republicans in the Senate to stop them, what fundamental right will Democrats eliminate next at the behest of their financial supporters?

This fall when you go to the polls, the choice is clear (and private); the choice is Republican.

- Scott Bensing


Teamster strike v. Ford: On again

Related stories: "Teamsters out on strike v. Ford", "Teamsters mini-strike kills Ford deal"

Militant union reverses course, back on picket line

Teamsters union members resumed a strike at Ford Motor Co.'s Kentucky Truck Plant yesterday, accusing the automaker of using United Auto Workers members to load new vehicles on railcars.

"Officials at Ford have proven themselves to be liars," Teamsters Local 89 President Fred Zuckerman said. "We could be here awhile." But Rocky Comito, president of UAW Local 862, said his members are not being trained by Ford to maintain, shuttle and load new Super Duty trucks and Ford Explorers for shipment to dealers.

UAW members have been driving the vehicles off assembly lines and parking them around both the truck plant on Chamberlain Lane and at the Louisville Assembly Plant on Fern Valley Road, he said.

Space to park the vehicles will be exhausted by Monday, Comito said, unless Ford hires a new hauling contractor suitable to the Teamsters, who have loaded new vehicles at both plants for decades.

Teamsters members did not resume picketing at Louisville Assembly yesterday because it begins a three-week shutdown after the shift ends today.

The last contractor employed to use Teamsters to ship new vehicles was Auto Port, of Flat Rock, Mich. But after wresting a $200-per-week pay cut from Teamsters in July, Auto Port declined to sign the Teamsters national contract that ensures job security and other labor protections, Zuckerman said.

After those contract talks broke down over the weekend, 435 Teamsters went on strike.

Ford apparently intervened in the dispute Tuesday, terminating its contract with Auto Port.

Negotiations with all parties, Ford spokeswoman Angie Kozleski said yesterday, "are private" and the automaker is working to make sure production isn't disrupted.

When Ford let Auto Port go, the Teamsters ended their walkout. But they returned to the picket line yesterday afternoon, after Zuckerman said that Martin Mulloy, Ford vice president of labor affairs, informed him that UAW workers would do Teamster work for the time being.

When Ford awarded the hauling contract to Auto Port to take over work performed by RCS Transportation in June, Teamsters were earning between $20 and $22 per hour. Concessions negotiated to keep those jobs lowered their pay to between $17 and $18 per hour, but maintained health-care and pension benefits.

Whether those pay cuts will remain is "the least of my problems now," Zuckerman said yesterday. "I have got 435 jobs that I am not going to let go."


Teamsters finalize Twinkie-maker workout

Related IBC/Teamsters stories: here

Deal with Clinton-crony Ron Burkle fell through, regulators eye Ripplewood's Tim Collins

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters said Wednesday it had brokered a deal between a financial firm looking to invest in bankrupt Interstate Bakeries Corp. and the company's lenders. The Teamsters, who had publicly criticized lenders Monday for holding up the negotiations, said the deal had been reached in late-night discussions Tuesday and early Wednesday.

They said Ripplewood Holdings, based in New York, will provide the cash for the Kansas City-based maker of Hostess Twinkies and Wonder Bread to exit almost four years of Chapter 11 reorganization.

"This deal is important in IBC's recovery from bankruptcy as we work to protect our members' jobs," said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa, whose union represents more than 9,500 of the company's 23,000 employees.

An Interstate Bakeries spokeswoman said the company was "encouraged to hear reports of progress and discussion between Interstate Bakeries' secured creditors and the Teamsters.

"At the same time, outstanding issues remain to be resolved before the agreement is final," spokeswoman Maya Pogoda said.

A spokesman for Ripplewood didn't immediately return a phone call for comment late Wednesday.

Richard Volpe, director of the Teamsters Bakery Workers Conference, said details of the plan would be provided in the coming weeks.

"This settlement is not without sacrifices from all parties involved," Volpe said. "But it will place the company on the best footing possible for its future success, and keep as many hardworking union men and women employed as possible."

The announcement came two days after the Teamsters said they held "little hope" of a reorganization plan being developed, blaming the lenders' "greed" for potentially threatening thousands of jobs.

A spokesman for JPMorgan Chase Bank didn't return calls or e-mails for comment. A spokeswoman for Monarch Alternative Capital said the company would not comment.

Interstate Bakeries filed for protection from creditors in September 2004.

It developed a reorganization plan late last year where Silver Point Finance LLC would provide $400 million in post-bankruptcy financing. But the company abandoned that plan in March when the company was unable to gain workplace and welfare concessions from the Teamsters.

In particular, the Teamsters have objected to proposed changes in Interstate Bakeries' distribution network that the company said would improve efficiency and profitability but that the union said would cost jobs.

During a bankruptcy court hearing on the plan, a Teamsters attorney said the union would prefer to see the company liquidated to accepting the concessions.

Instead, Interstate Bakeries began negotiating with Ripplewood, which the Teamsters said had proposed a reorganization plan that included concessions it could accept.

In April, Interstate Bakeries also negotiated a new financing package worth $250 million with JPMorgan, Monarch and three other lenders, due to expire Sept. 30.

The company also said it would begin developing a plan to sell itself whole or in pieces if it ultimately couldn't get a reorganization plan approved.


More workers questioning union dues

More decertification stories: here

Expert predicts more union decertification activity

The recent union decertification of an Oakland, California-based senior health care facility shows the growing sophistication of workers who, hurt by difficult economic times, are growing more dissatisfied with unions which promise much but deliver little, according to Vexillate, LLC, human resource and labor relations consultants.

John A. De Groot, Jr., a Vexillate principal who played a primary role in the nearly two-year St. Paul's Towers union decertification process, said a significant factor in the employees' decision-making process was the return on investment (ROI)—or lack thereof—from monthly union dues. "We feel that the St. Paul's Towers demonstrates that a growing number of employees are waking up to the fact that unions don't deliver what they promise," said De Groot. "Employees need every cent these days, and are more willing to trust management to provide a fair, safe and rewarding workplace than continue paying union dues with little or no return."

St. Paul's Towers is part of Episcopal Senior Communities, a group of five senior health care facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area. The United Healthcare Workers (UHW) had represented St. Paul's employees since the company's inception more than 40 years ago. The union decertification process took approximately 18 months. The vote to decertify passed by 12 votes among 120 votes cast, with decertification taking place at the end of July.

St. Paul's employee Connie Yuen, who helped lead the campaign to decertify the union, said employees simply lost faith in UHW. "They promised so many things, yet were never able to carry anything through," Yuen said. "People want to see results. All we got from the union was empty promises."
De Groot said both employees and St. Paul's will benefit without the union. Employees will save approximately $2,160 in union dues over a typical three-year union contract, and be able to communicate directly with management. St. Paul's will save an estimated $300,000 per year in direct costs by eliminating time-consuming union-related meetings and tasks, such as contract negotiations, questionable grievances, and costly arbitrations.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) oversaw the decertification process. During the campaign, the UHW filed numerous objections against St. Paul's; all were either dismissed by the NLRB or ultimately withdrawn by the union following preliminary rulings.

About Vexillate, LLC: A Standard in Human Resource & Labor Relations Consulting

Vexillate, LLC advises and empowers organizations large and small to take greater control of a company's greatest resource: its employees. The company specializes in organizational effectiveness and labor relations. For photos, contact Tim Polk by telephone at (707) 568-7322 or by email at tpcresults@gmail.com.


Barack racks up corrupt union's endorsement

Related story: "Corrupt Carpenters get more oversight"
More UBC stories: here

Leaders from throughout the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners today unanimously endorsed Barack Obama for president. "On all the fundamental issues that affect the lives and well-being of our members, the choice of candidates in this election is clear," said UBC General President Douglas J. McCarron in announcing the endorsement, the first the union has made in a presidential contest since 2000.

"More than 10 years ago our union undertook a comprehensive program of change in order to meet the needs of our members and the industry. It was difficult but necessary, and the results of that work are clear. Our union is growing and our members are enjoying the benefits of that growth.

"It is time that our country takes the same steps to change direction and address the serious problems that affect all working men and women. This administration leaves behind a staggering debt, a legacy of unfair trade deals, and a crumbling infrastructure that will cripple our ability to compete economically.

"We believe that Barack Obama recognizes the necessity for fundamental change in our nation's policies," McCarron said at the close of a meeting of union leadership in Washington, D.C.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters represents some 550,000 workers in the construction and forest products industries, including large memberships in key swing states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Nevada.


Workers, soldiers take over factories

Related story: "What a pro-worker government looks like"

Venezuela: A new model for collectivists

Hundreds of Venezuelan oil workers descended on cement factories around the country late Monday night after Mexico's Cemex SAB rejected a government bid and remained the lone holdout in Venezuela's latest wave of nationalizations.

Cemex, the world's third-largest cement maker, rejected a bid of $500 million for the company's Venezuelan assets, which the company said it valued at $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion, people close to the negotiations said. Venezuelan Vice President Ramón Carrizales said the assets were worth around $800 million.

At Cemex facilities at Anzoateguí state late Monday, Mr. Ramírez and a local governor led workers from state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela SA in singing the Venezuelan national anthem and ticking off the seconds until midnight. When the clock struck 12, workers took over the facilities. Petróleos de Venezuela workers and Venezuelan soldiers occupied other Cemex facilities around the country.

Meanwhile, Lafarge SA accepted a Venezuelan offer of $267 million for 89% of its local unit, and Switzerland's Holcim Ltd. accepted an offer of $552 million for 85% of its Venezuelan unit.

The cement takeovers are the latest attempts of Venezuela President Hugo Chávez to tighten the state's grip over what he calls key strategic industries. In the past two years, Mr. Chávez has bought the country's most important power and telecommunications companies. He has threatened to take over food-processing companies as well.

With these actions, the Venezuelan government will control 90% of the country's cement industry. In August 2007, Venezuela nationalized Cementos Andino, a subsidiary of Colombia's Cementos Argos SA. The two sides still are haggling over a compensation amount.

Mr. Chávez had blamed the cement companies for shortages he said were hampering government efforts to solve Venezuela's housing crisis. Among other things, Mr. Chávez charged them with exporting cement rather than producing it for local use. Cemex denies that charge, saying that in the past two years, 98% of the company's Venezuelan production was destined for domestic use. Critics said Mr. Chávez's restrictions on cement prices kept production low and created scarcities.

Mr. Chávez announced the cement nationalizations in April. Until then, Cemex had been among the most aggressive of Venezuela's foreign-owned firms in supporting the Chávez regime's socialist agenda by promoting housing subsidies for poor Venezuelans through three foundations.

Cemex opened a kind of microlending plan that offered low-cost building products and donated cheap cement to local block associations affiliated with the Chávez regime. A third Cemex project involved teams of "shock troops" who "invaded" neighborhoods to enforce sales of cement at official prices -- otherwise impossible to find in a sector where black market transactions are the norm.

Foreign multinationals don't always resist expropriation. At the right price, many see a Venezuelan takeover of their local operations as a viable exit strategy in a volatile country.

Last week, Mr. Chávez reached an agreement to pay Luxembourg's Ternium SA for the 60% share of steelmaker Sidor, owned by Ternium's parent, the Argentina steel-and-construction conglomerate Techint SA. Venezuela agreed to pay $1.65 billion, an Argentinian newspaper reported Tuesday.

In Cemex's case, the issue is complicated by assets the Mexican company acquired outside Venezuela but were owned by the Venezuelan subsidiary, which served as the holding company, including stakes in cement work in Panama, the Dominican Republic and Trinidad & Tobago. Cemex this year transferred those shares to a subsidiary in Spain, a transaction valued at about $450 million that Venezuelan officials said may have violated local securities law.

"We are currently reviewing the factual and legal considerations relative to this proceeding and will respond within the applicable legal time period," said Jorge Perez, a Cemex spokesman in Monterrey, Mexico.

Analysts said Mr. Chávez's seizure of Cemex is motivated by electoral concerns. He faces what is expected to be a tough round of elections in November in which he may lose control of a number of important states and cities. The president's popularity has been on the decline due to high inflation, widespread shortages of basic foods and his inability to control a wave of violent crime.

Cemex's American depositary receipts Tuesday fell 55 cents, or 2.6%, to $20.65, in 4 p.m. New York Stock Exchange composite trading.


GM workers reject gov't offer, stay on strike

Related story: "What a pro-worker government looks like"

U.S. union bigs look to Hugo Chávez for inspiration

Workers at General Motors plant in Carabobo state, central north Venezuela, rejected a proposal to lift a strike made by Vice Minister of Labor Abraham Mussa as a mechanism to advance in the discussion of the collective bargaining agreement.

Adán Tortolero, the secretary general of trade union Socialistas Vencedores (Socialist Winners) said that in a meeting of workers, the members of the union agreed to keep the protest until the collective bargaining agreement is signed by the parties.

After the refusal of the workers, the Mussa is attending a new union meeting Wednesday in the assembly plant, located in Valencia, to try to calm down the striking workers and convince them that the strike is not the best option to solve the conflict.


Union-only Big Dig in the hole

Related story: "Labor-state digs big union-only hole"
More Project Labor Agreement stories: here

Inflated costs were misunderestimated

Experts say the debt-ridden Massachusetts Turnpike Authority must spend more money for regular maintenance and long-term rehabilitation projects to keep Big Dig tunnels safe.

An independent panel appointed following a fatal ceiling panel collapse in 2006 wrote in a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick that the agency must revise its long-term spending estimates and find a reliable source of income to keep the tunnels from deteriorating.

The Boston Globe obtained a copy of the letter, which has not yet been made public.

The letter does not say how much money will be needed.

Officials from the panel that wrote the letter, the governor's office and the Turnpike Authority refused to comment on the letter's contents because it has not been made public.


Housing grant could be used for voter-fraud

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Labor-state officials look the other way at ACORN involvement

In a state beset by high housing costs, an infusion of federal money will provide a critical cushion for one of Vermont's most vulnerable populations: low-income people living with HIV/AIDS.

Vermont will receive its fifth three-year grant -- $1,430,000 -- under the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced.

Especially welcome, said Willa Darley Chapin, federal housing program manager for the state's recipient agency, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, is a boost in the number of people who will receive rental housing assistance -- from 28 under the last grant, to 40.

"A huge benefit," agreed Peter Jacobsen, executive director of Vermont CARES, one of four organizations around the state that will collaborate with the board in providing services.

The grant is part of $19,354,450 for housing assistance and support services awarded to 15 states and the Virgin Islands, according to HUD. "These grants are quite literally a lifeline for those struggling to find a decent home while trying to manage complex drug therapies," said Steve Preston, HUD secretary, in a news release.

To be eligible for the assistance, Vermonters must be connected to one of the four support organizations and have incomes less than 80 percent of the area median, Darley Chapin said.

Besides Vermont CARES, based in Burlington, the organizations are AIDS Project of Southern Vermont, IMAMI Health Institute, and ACORN.

In addition to rental assistance for 40 tenants, according to HUD, the grant will provide 171 households with short-term rent, mortgage and utility assistance; and supportive services to 259 people with HIV/AIDS.

The most recent tally by the Vermont Department of Health showed 460 people in Vermont with HIV or AIDS, Jacobsen said. The state is also believed to have about 150 more people who have not reported their condition.

Jacobsen said his organization faces the constant challenge of reaching out to people with HIV or AIDS who might be eligible for free services but who have not made contact with Vermont CARES because they're worried about the stigma.


Barack to Virginia unions

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