9/5/08

Barack likened to Hugo Chávez

Both use class warfare as a technique for gaining power

Compare the method and similarity between Obama’s proposed spending of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to help the poor and Socialist Hugo Chávez’s proposed programs in 1992 when running for President of Venezuela.

Obama repeatedly states he will tax U.S. businesses and higher income Americans to give “low income Citizens relief from paying taxes.” Relentlessly Obama states that if elected president, he will ask Congress to spend billions of your U.S. Taxpayer Dollars on a multitude of government programs for the poor. While that sounds humanitarian, Obama has failed to disclose how his “billion dollar spending programs” may cause widespread inflation, increase unemployment and weaken the U.S. economy — injuring the low income Americans he asked to vote for him.

Compare the method and similarity between Obama’s proposed spending of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to help the poor and Socialist Hugo Chávez’s proposed programs in 1992 when running for President of Venezuela: You may decide if there is similarity.

In 1992, Hugo Chávez was in dire need of votes to win the Presidential election. So Chávez promised the poor that if elected President, he would spend billions on welfare and social-programs to help improvised Venezuelans. Chávez said his government would pay for these programs—by taxing working Venezuelans and businesses: and the rest would come from oil sales. Hugo Chávez only then came from behind to win the Venezuelan Presidential election when huge numbers of poor that normally did not vote voted for him.

Is Obama using “Hugo Chávez’s election strategy” to get elected U.S. President? Obama like Hugo Chávez, speech after speech, promises to spend—billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars on welfare and other programs for America’s poor—paid for by increasing income taxes against specific Americans and businesses? Like Hugo Chávez, Obama has successfully tapped millions of poor Americans to vote for him that otherwise might not vote.

One must wonder if Obama has a clue about economics or running a business. Obama said he has an economic plan to help the U.S. economy. Then proposes increasing taxes charged against Americans and businesses’ income to pay for his proposed social programs: doesn’t that translate into more unemployment? Obama’s plan to reduce or eliminate investment tax incentives is synonymous with chasing away investment capital needed to start and expand businesses that otherwise would employ workers. Under Obama’s economic plan, retailers and other businesses could become dependent on an Obama inflationary welfare state for consumers thus creating inflation.

(cleveland.indymedia.org)

MM takes on 'community organizing'

More ACORN stories: here

Barack's troubling tie to corrupt union-backed voter fraud group

Rudy Giuliani had me in stitches during his red-meat keynote address at the GOP convention. I laughed out loud when Giuliani laughed out loud while noting Barack Obama's deep experience as a "community organizer." I laughed again when VP nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin cracked: "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."

Team Obama was not amused. (Neither were the snarky left-wingers on cable TV who are now allergic to sarcasm.) They don't get why we snicker when Obama dons his Community Organizer cape. Apparently, the jibes rendered Obama's advisers sleepless. In a crack-of-dawn e-mail to Obama's followers hours after Giuliani and Palin spoke, campaign manager David Plouffe attempted to gin up faux outrage (and, more importantly, donations) by claiming grave offense on the part of community organizers everywhere. Fumed Plouffe:

"Both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin specifically mocked Barack's experience as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago more than two decades ago, where he worked with people who had lost jobs and been left behind when the local steel plants closed. Let's clarify something for them right now. Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies."

Let me clarify something. Nobody is mocking community organizers in church basements and community centers across the country working to improve their neighbors' lives. What deserves ridicule is the notion that Obama's brief stint as a South Side rabble-rouser for tax-subsidized, partisan nonprofits qualifies as executive experience you can believe in.

What deserves derision is "community organizing" that relies on a community of homeless people and ex-cons to organize for the purpose of registering dead people to vote, shaking down corporations and using the race card as a bludgeon.

As I've reported previously, Obama's community organizing days involved training grievance-mongers from the far-left ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). The ACORN mob is infamous for its bully tactics (which they dub "direct actions"); Obama supporters have recounted his role in organizing an ambush on a government planning meeting about a landfill project opposed by Chicago's minority lobbies.

With benefactors like Obama in office, ACORN has milked nearly four decades of government subsidies to prop up chapters that promote the welfare state and undermine the free market, as well as some that have been implicated in perpetuating illegal immigration and voter fraud. Since I last detailed ACORN's illicit activities in this column in June (see "The ACORN Obama knows," June 19, 2008), the group continues to garner scrutiny from law enforcement:

Last week, Milwaukee's top election official announced plans to seek criminal investigations of 37 ACORN employees accused of offering gifts to sign up voters (including prepaid gas cards and restaurant cards) or falsifying driver's license numbers, Social Security numbers or other information on voter registration cards.

Last month, a New Mexico TV station reported on the child rapists, drug offenders and forgery convicts on ACORN's payroll. In July, Pennsylvania investigators asked the public for help in locating a fugitive named Luis R. Torres-Serrano, who is accused "of submitting more than 100 fraudulent voter registration forms he collected on behalf of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now to county election officials." Also in July, a massive, nearly $1 million embezzlement scheme by top ACORN officials was exposed.

ACORN's political arm endorsed Obama in February and has ramped up efforts to register voters across the country. In the meantime, completely ignored by the mainstream commentariat and clean-election crusaders, the Obama campaign admitted failing to report $800,000 in campaign payments to ACORN. They were disguised as payments to a front group called "Citizen Services, Inc." for "advance work."

Jim Terry, an official from the Consumer Rights League, a watchdog group that monitors ACORN, noted: "ACORN has a long and sordid history of employing convoluted Enron-style accounting to illegally use taxpayer funds for their own political gain. Now it looks like ACORN is using the same type of convoluted accounting scheme for Obama's political gain." With a wave of his magic wand, Obama amended his FEC forms to change the "advance work" to "get-out-the-vote" work.

Now, don't you dare challenge his commitment to following tax and election laws. And don't you even think of entertaining the possibility that The One exploited a nonprofit supposedly focused on helping low-income people for political gain.

He was just "organizing" his "community." Guffaw.

(familysecuritymatters.org)

ACORN defends against GOP jabs

More ACORN stories: here

GOP fails to credit union-backed group for collectivist gains

ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) President Maude Hurd issued the following statement after presumptive Republican V.P. nominee Sara Palin and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani made disparaging remarks about community organizing at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night.

"ACORN members, leaders and staff are extremely disappointed that Republican leaders would make such condescending attacks on the great work community organizers accomplish in cities throughout this country. The fact that they marginalize our success in empowering low- and moderate-income people to improve their communities further illustrates their lack of touch with ordinary people. Every great movement in the history of the world has community organizing."

ACORN has been building organizations and developing leadership among low- and moderate- income residents in neighborhoods throughout the United States for 38 years. During that time, ACORN chapters have worked individually and collectively to organize innovative grassroots campaigns on a number of critical issues. As the nation's largest grassroots community organization with more than 400,000 member families, ACORN employs 400 organizers that carry a huge responsibility of helping disenfranchised people in their communities.

In the past 10 years, ACORN has helped more than 30 million American families through our various organizing campaigns: better schools, financial justice, living wages, community improvement, immigration, healthcare, predatory lending, voter engagement and utilities.

The total monetary value of recent victorious ACORN campaigns was quantified in a 2006 report entitled, "ACORN Wins". Over the last decade, ACORN's victories amount to $15 billion, an average of $1.5 billion per year going directly into low- and moderate-income communities to help strengthen working families.

(marketwatch.com)

Todd Palin's union dues used against GOP

More union-dues stories: here

Most workers are unaware of their Beck rights

Many of you probably watched Sarah Palin accept the Republican Party's Vice Presidential nomination last night. Ironically, her husband - a member of the United Steelworkers (USW) union - is actually funding efforts to smear and defeat her.

Today, National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix released an open letter (.pdf) to Todd Palin, informing him that he has the right to cut off the forced union dues being used to defeat a McCain-Palin ticket. Here's the key quote:
We understand you are a member of the United Steelworkers of America union. While I'm sure you're excited by your wife's candidacy for high office, you may be discouraged to learn that the union dues you pay are already being used to defeat her.

When USW union bosses endorsed Barack Obama in June, they pledged to support his campaign using funds collected from union members. Steelworker dues will pay for a variety of political activities throughout the electoral season, and a significant portion of those activities will be aimed at defeating the McCain-Palin ticket.

In fact, at the USW's 2008 convention, union officials adopted a resolution "vowing to play a key role in electing Obama," thus pledging workers' dues to the effort to defeat your wife's candidacy. Moreover, a top USW official whose paycheck you help fund is viciously ridiculing your wife's candidacy on the Steelworkers' website, calling Governor Palin's selection "cynical" and claiming that by choosing your wife "McCain has clearly shown he lacks the judgment to be president.
Here is USW Legislative Director Holly Hart's (the top USW official cited in the letter) response to Todd Palin's wife's candidacy:
Presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain, on his 72nd birthday, announced a selection that revealed the depths of his cynicism and the shallowness of his judgment - and his disregard for women's intelligence.

After looking into a pool of vice presidential candidates deep with qualification, he plucked out the least experienced person.
While Alaska does not have a Right to Work law which would make payment of union dues strictly voluntary, under the Foundation-won Supreme Court precedent Communications Workers v. Beck, employees can stop paying forced union dues unrelated to collective bargaining, such as union electioneering.

Unfortunately, millions of other workers are unaware of these rights. Workers wanting to know how to exercise their rights may obtain information and free legal aid here.

(nrtw.org)

Members may withhold dues, fees for politics

More union-dues stories: here

You don't have to be trodden by unions

On Labor Day, many Americans will get a much deserved day off. But as we celebrate the free-enterprise system and the value of hard work, union officials are mounting an unprecedented, billion-dollar campaign effort to grab more forced unionism power. Their goal is to elect a president and a filibuster-proof Senate that will give them even more tools to force workers to join or pay dues to a union.

Throughout the United States, more than 12 million American workers are already compelled to pay dues or fees to unions as a condition of employment. And millions more workers are required by law to accept a union's so-called 'representation,' even if they would rather negotiate with their employer themselves on their own merits. Today, union bosses are going all out to obtain even more special privileges to help bolster their forced-dues-paying ranks.

Organized labor is intent on passage of several sweeping bills -- including the Card Check Forced Unionism Bill, which would make workers even more vulnerable to union intimidation during union organizing drives, and the Police and Firefighter Monopoly Bargaining Act, which would force hundreds of thousands of America's first responders into union collectives by federal fiat. The National Right to Work Committee is mobilizing its 2.2 million members to combat these and other bills intended to corral even more workers into forced unionism.

Meanwhile, many workers feel they have little choice but to pay for organized labor's billion-dollar 2008 election campaign, and many workers are unaware of their right to object. That's why the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is providing free legal aid to thousands of employees nationwide seeking to get their money back. In fact, in October, Foundation attorneys will argue their 14th case accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court -- a case which defends the right of workers to refuse to pay for union activism using their mandatory union dues.

This Labor Day, we commend those courageous American workers who are standing up to union intimidation, harassment, and even violence as they defend their cherished freedoms of conscience, speech and association. And we work toward the day when no American is forced to pay tribute to an unwanted union.

- Mark Mix is president of The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

(news-leader.com)

GOP congressman aids union thuggery

More EFCA stories: here

He that lieth down with Dogs, shall rise up with Fleas

An editorial in the Trib stated, "Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, wants to help Big Labor do by coercion what it could not do by persuasion" ("Aiding union thuggery," Sept. 1 and PghTrib.com).

This conclusion results from Rep. Murphy's support for the deceptively titled Employee Free Choice Act, which supports outlawing the secret ballot for determining support (or lack thereof) for union representation.


It can only be presumed that he is taking this position to curry the favor of a certain segment of the voters for his re-election. He is probably assuming that the vast majority of the voters will be unaware of or not understand the disadvantage imposed on them by this legislation.

If this legislation is successful, maybe Murphy will support legislation to eliminate the secret ballot at the election polls. This could work to the advantage of the incumbent running for re-election.

Let's hope that Murphy re-evaluates his position on this legislation and decides to support the broader interest of his constituents by removing his support for the act.

- Don Harrison, Bethel Park, is a Republican councilman in Bethel Park.

(pittsburghlive.com)

Class warfare should backfire on Dems

More collectivism stories: here

Not a cure for whatever ails us

For smart guys, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were pretty dumb in Denver. Either that or they will hop on any misleading irrelevancy to build the case about middle-class misery and how Democrats are on the side of its alleviation while Republicans aren’t.

No better example pops up than Obama’s excoriating John McCain for saying the middle class consisted of people earning less than $5 million. It was a joke, for heaven’s sake - an explicit joke after which McCain said, “I am sure that comment will be distorted.” And it was, on national TV by a candidate who says we should never question his character.

This same candidate had some pandering to do to no less than 95 percent of all working families. This bunch of voters will get tax cuts under his administration, he said. He has elsewhere made it clear that the lousy 5 percent at the top of the heap will have the financial stuffing kicked out of them.

The Democratic hero and his pal Bill just hate it that President Bush gave tax cuts to this group. They apparently don’t know that people with low and middle incomes got a big break and that the total share of taxes paid by the rich shot up.

Clinton even came up with the line that in the Bush years, we witnessed the biggest increase in inequality since the 1920s. To bad for him there’s a tool called the Gini index used to measure inequality, and that it shows the situation worsening under Clinton and changing scarcely at all under Bush.

Obama also made a Clinton vs. Bush comparison, telling us how incomes grew under the Democratic president and went down under the Republican one. He seems to have used a discredited model of calculation, even then got his numbers wrong and left out mention of a recession that began during Clinton’s last year in office.

In point of fact, most of us have been getting richer - during both the Clinton and Bush years - and this is why the middle class has been shrinking, not because of a tumble to decrepitude.

Obama fretted that home values “continue to plummet,” and yes, we can all regret the sad consequences for some. But the best way to increase the number of homeowners is to bring prices down and make mortgages affordable, not to have people get into deals that smell sweet and taste awful.

He wants to create jobs through government programs, but that will entail taking money from the private economy, costing us jobs.

He said McCain’s health-insurance proposal would “tax people’s benefits,” which is a fabrication; it would shift tax credits from employers to individuals, enabling them to go elsewhere if they don’t like a company plan.

His answer to high tuition is to provide more money to students, which will make tuition go still higher.

Taken as a whole, the speech was a collectivist-inspired maelstrom that proffered not one solution nearly as sure of curing what ails us as recent news delivered by the Department of Commerce. Second quarter growth was a blessed 3.3 percent, largely a consequence of exports facilitated by trade agreements Obama railed against during the primaries.

- Jay Ambrose

(news.bostonherald.com)

Leftists: Unions boost economy

More EFCA stories: here

People's Weekly World backs EFCA

The labor movement’s nationwide drive to get a minimum of 1 million signatures in support of the Employee Free Choice Act is close to the 75 percent mark. It has caught on like wildfire. In less than six months, almost 750,000 people have signed cards to tell the next president and Congress that workers want them to enact the EFCA.

This is good news because it is only possible to turn America around if we take an indispensable first step. That first step is to restore the free choice of working people to come together in unions and bargain for better wages and benefits and a real voice on the job.

The EFCA, which requires employers to recognize a union as soon as a majority of their workers sign cards indicating they want that representation, will do precisely that. Enactment of the bill will end company-rigged “elections,” mandatory anti-union propaganda sessions and harassment and firing of workers who support union organizing drives.

Existing labor law does not offer these protections. The attack on unions has resulted in stagnating wages, spiraling prices and massive joblessness while CEO salaries and corporate profits soar.

With less and less money in the hands of the majority, less of what is produced can be purchased, and the whole capitalist economy breaks down, hurting millions of people in its wake.

The right wing is working overtime to kill the EFCA. The business lobby is running TV ads warning people that enactment would mean loss of their right to vote in secret. This is nonsense. People join organizations by signing up for them. Why should it be any different for joining a union? The anti-EFCA campaign is nothing more than the fat cats wanting to hold onto their power, their tax breaks and their government handouts while they pay the rest of us as little as possible.

Unions don’t get either the tax breaks or the government handouts that big business and Wall Street financiers get. Restoring the right of the majority of our people to choose unions will restore fairness and it will restore the balance our economy needs so that it can actually work for everyone, rather than the privileged few.

(pww.org)

EFCA: Full employment act for union organizers

More EFCA stories: here

UAW big Gettelfinger has some swamp land for sale, too

America observed Labor Day on Monday during an extremely difficult period for workers and our families. Wages have fallen, tens of thousands have lost their homes and health care, food and fuel costs are sky high, and prospects for finding a good job are melting faster than the polar ice.

It's time for a change.

According to an April poll by CNN, 81 percent of those surveyed believe our country is on the "wrong track." Fortunately, Americans are not inclined to sit idly by when we see a problem. Instead, we're rolling up our sleeves to make things better. Across the country, union members, young people and new voters are getting involved in the political system as never before.

For the past eight years, our public policies have been skewed to benefit corporate America and the wealthy few at the expense of workers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, real income for the median American family dropped 1 percent between 2000 and 2006. Meanwhile, between 1989 and 2006, earnings for those in the top 1 percent of the income scale increased more than 200 percent.

Incredibly, some in Washington argue that we should "stay the course" by continuing the top-down economic policies followed by President Bush.

"More of the same" won't get the job done. To respond to America's real needs, the next president and Congress must address rising costs and falling incomes for middle-class families. There is no way to accomplish this without addressing the imbalance of power that exists in America's workplaces.

Workers who have had the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively created an upwardly mobile society and made our nation the envy of the rest of the world. This is the model that fueled robust economic growth throughout much of the last century. And it's the only way our way of life will survive and flourish.

But even though a solid majority of workers say they would join a union if they had a chance, a much smaller percentage -- less than 10 percent in the private sector -- enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining. The problem is that employers use their power -- including the power to grant raises, transfers and promotions as well hire and fire -- to prevent workers from exercising free choice in the workplace.

That's why a bipartisan majority in Congress -- including Sen. Barack Obama -- support the Employee Free Choice Act, which would protect workers' fundamental right to form and join unions and bargain over wages, benefits and working conditions. Sen. John McCain is among a minority of senators who oppose this important reform; a Republican filibuster earlier this year blocked it in the Senate.

Corporations and their front groups will continue to try to prevent workers from joining unions, seek lucrative tax breaks that bleed the public treasury and cut corners on environmental, consumer and public health protections.

We will hold elected leaders accountable by a simple standard: What have you done to help working families?

Union members stand up for each other not just on Labor Day and Election Day, but every day -- in our workplaces and in our communities. We will work to protect and preserve the American Dream for all people. That's our legacy and mission. This is the time, and we're ready to go.

- Ron Gettelfinger is president of the United Auto Workers.

(detnews.com)

Workers reject Teamsters using secret-ballot

Why Hoffa wants to eliminate union recognition elections

Workers for U.S. Foodservice in Arizona voted against organizing with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a union organizer said Thursday. The campaign to unionize U.S. Foodservice's warehouse employees, drivers and fleet maintenance workers began in April, said Kathy Tiihonen, an organizer for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 104.

The vote, tallied Thursday, was 120 for unionizing and 124 against, Tiihonen said.
Those who had pushed for the employees — including about 20 drivers in Tucson — to organize were disappointed with the result, she said.

Tiihonen said that within the next week, the Teamsters will file charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that U.S. Foodservice conducted unfair labor practices that violated workers' rights during the union's campaign.

According to Tiihonen, those violations included surveillance and unfair treatment of employees who supported unionization, including job threats.

If the board finds that U.S. Foodservice acted unfairly and led the Teamsters to lose support, another election can take place, Tiihonen said. If not, the union has to wait 12 months for another election.

U.S. Foodservice officials said they could not immediately comment on the unionization effort or the union's complaints.

U.S. Foodservice is divided into four regional divisions nationwide, and it has more than 27,000 employees working in roughly 70 distribution centers. The company provides food and related products to the food-service industry.

(azstarnet.com)

Striking teachers picket PA school district

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Typical start to school year in labor-state

Day two of the teachers strike in the Souderton Area School District has brought no progress toward resolving the dispute between the district's school board and the Souderton Area Education Association, the teachers union still picketing district schools.

"We did not have another meeting to negotiate today," said SAEA head Bill Lukridge,

"Jill Rivera, the state-appointed mediator, called Gary Smith, our negotiator, and asked if we could, and we're willing and able to meet at any time," he said.

That mediator has also been in touch with school district negotiator Jeffrey Sultanik, but he agreed Wednesday morning that no meeting dates have been set.

"I was actually expecting another phone call from the mediator today, but I spoke with her a few minutes ago and so far there is no meeting today," Sultanik said.

While the two parties have found no time or place to negotiate face to face, both sides had a thing or two to say about why the district's sports teams are still playing games while school district classes are not in session.

"First of all, you have to understand that people who are coaches are not all union members, and they're not all teachers, so they would not be bound by a work stoppage," said Sultanik.

Last month, the school board approved supplemental contracts totaling more than $135,000 for 37 coaches and instructors.

Nineteen of those contracts are for district employees from Souderton Area High School and four more are employed at Indian Crest Junior High School.

"We would prefer that they not cross the picket lines, obviously," said Rob Broderick, spokesman for the SAEA.

"Certainly people can interpret that as sports being more important than academics, and that is unfortunate, but it's totally the district's call," he said.

School district Superintendent Charles Amuso said that the district's intention is to offer every thing possible to students, noting the contracts for sports coaches and directors are separate from the bargaining agreement with the union.

"That's settled, and those contracts are signed, so it's up to the coaches. We're not going to shut out students from (sports) programs they want to participate in," Amuso said.

All of the district's athletic programs are still being offered because enough coaches are available and willing to handle those programs, Amuso said.

"I would like to offer as much as we can for our students; they want to get back involved in school activities, and the sports aspect, those contracts are settled differently from the teachers contracts," he said.

Requests for comment from high school athletic director Tom Quintois were not answered by press time on Wednesday, but Sultanik had a different take to share.

"I think the teachers union should be the one addressing that issue," Sultanik said, "and I think the question becomes whether or not certain students should also be hurt if their coach is one of the ones who is there and ready to coach children."

The district's strike contingency plan announced on Monday states that all decisions on sports will be made on a case-by-case basis.

"Remember that many of those students may be eligible for scholarships and the like, and could get hurt as much as students in the educational process if they're deprived of scholarship opportunities for their sports," Sultanik said.

Broderick, the SAEA spokesman, disagreed that the teachers were the only group making sports decisions.

"The board is in total control of this agenda, and we don't think they should have these activities going on while there's a strike going on, but there's no law that prevents that," he said.

Meanwhile, the debate on the strike rages on at The Reporter's Web site. The online comment section has seen more than 60 reader comments posted since last Thursday night's school board meeting, 26 of those coming since the strike began at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

(thereporteronline.com)

Editorial: Ohio dodges the job killers

Was Dem Gov. blackmailed by SEIU?

The same folks who tried to wreck the lives of Cuyahoga County's most vulnerable citizens have backed away -- for now -- from their plan to do the same to Ohio's economy. Gov. Ted Strickland deserves great credit for convincing the Service Employees International Union to pull from the Nov. 4 ballot an issue that would have made Ohio the only state in the union to require employers to provide employees paid sick leave.

The SEIU deserves no credit. This is the same union, using the same hacks as political consultants, that five years ago spent lavishly on a despicable campaign urging voters to reject a county human-services levy to see to the special needs of the most fragile among the young, the aged and the mentally challenged.

Voters saw through the SEIU's lies and they would have done so again on Nov. 4. Early polls notwithstanding, Ohioans were not about to let the SEIU inflict further damage to this state's reeling economy.

(blog.cleveland.com)

SEIU corruption exposed by L.A. Times

Top aide to Andy Stern's protege steps down

The Service Employees International Union today announced that it had placed a senior manager at its biggest California local on leave and that two lower-ranking staffers had lost their jobs, because of allegations that other employees were retaliated against in connection with a widening spending scandal.

The Times reported last month that some workers who did not immediately sign a letter of support for the Los Angeles local's president, Tyrone Freeman, who is at the center of the scandal, had their union cellphone service canceled and were transferred to distant jobs. One staffer who balked at signing the letter was later fired, according to co-workers.

During a subsequent staff meeting, some employees threatened to retaliate further against anyone who provided information to The Times about Freeman, several of those in attendance said.

In a statement today, SEIU President Andy Stern said, "Any acts of intimidation or retaliation against our members, staff or leaders are deeply offensive to our core values as a union, and we will move immediately and aggressively to bring disciplinary action, including termination if necessary, against any responsible parties."

A union spokeswoman said the fired Bay Area staffer has been rehired, the transfers have been revoked and the cell service has been restored.

The alleged retaliation and threats are part of a federal criminal investigation into the local's spending practices, people familiar with the probe say.

The manager placed on leave, Matthew Maldonaldo, is a top aide to Freeman, who stepped aside last month; he could not be reached for comment.

The two lower-ranking employees also could not be located for interviews. SEIU spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette said one was fired and the other resigned.

Neither Ringuette nor Stern offered details on the alleged conduct that prompted the union to take action against the three.

"There have been some steps in the right direction," said one of the employees who complained of being retaliated against. He asked not to be identified. "There is a wait-and-see attitude, because there are still some loose cannons floating around."

In addition to Freeman, two other leading SEIU officers have stepped aside in the aftermath of Times reports. The SEIU has demanded that a fourth official return thousands of dollars in what union spokespersons say were improper payments made by another local he used to head.

Freeman's local and a related charity have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to home-based firms owned by his wife and mother-in-law, as well as $16,000 to a now-defunct minor league basketball team coached by his brother-in-law, The Times has reported.

The local also has paid $219,000 to a small video company run by a former staffer, Brian Cheatham. Three other former employees have said that Cheatham is a close friend of Freeman and his wife, Pilar Planells.

The local spent at least $300,000 last year on a Four Seasons Resorts golf tournament, a Beverly Hills cigar club, restaurants such as Morton's steakhouse and a consulting contract with the William Morris Agency, the Hollywood talent shop.

And the union has paid $82,000 to a Florida video firm, an outlay described as a contribution to a nonprofit, according to the local's financial filings with the U.S. Labor Department. The firm is not a nonprofit, and its chief executive told The Times that the company never received the money.

The 160,000-member local, United Long-Term Care Workers, represents low-wage caregivers who tend to the elderly and infirm.

(latimes.com)

Barack takes sides in labor strike

Related story: "SEIU strike tees up diplomatic win for Mayor"

Labor-backed Obama runs with labor-backed Mayor

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama announced his support on Thursday for airline service workers on strike at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), saying their demands "aren't unreasonable."

"Today, I stand with the airline service workers on strike at Los Angeles International Airport. The demands they're fighting for aren't unreasonable -- access to health care, adequate training, proper equipment, wages that can support a family -- that's what America's workers deserve," Obama said in a statement.

But the announcement came six days after the workers put down their picket signs and returned to work.

The employees who provide "curb-to-cabin" services for major airlines at LAX returned to work last Friday, one day after they went on strike over issues of wages, benefits and allegedly unfair labor practices.

The return to work was part of a three-week "cooling-off" period, during which time the Service Employees International Union Local 1877 agreed to refrain from picketing the airport.

A spokesman for Obama's campaign was not immediately available to comment on the timing of his support.

"Their efforts send a strong signal that it's not good for workers, passengers or the industry when business fails to live up to its end of the bargain," Obama said.

The 2,500 airline service workers, who earn about 10 U.S. dollars an hour, are not employed by the airlines, but by several sub-contractors like Aero Port Services, Air Serv and American Building Maintenance.

(news.xinhuanet.com)

SEIU-UHW corruption

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