Secret-ballot issue shows who's anti-worker

Related story: "Public opinion survey on card-check"
More EFCA stories: here

Union bigs' job-killing litmus test drags down Dems

The Democratic Party and its presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, like to pose as the friends of workers and their unions. In fact, they are the friends of the labor bosses, but are enemies of the workers and their unions. They blindly support the teachers' unions and their policies, which have assured that public education so often fails. This means that instead of being a real friend of the teachers and their unions, the Democratic Party assures pressure for school choice and pressure for less support of a failing public education system.

The teachers' unions and the Democratic Party are only assuring the continuous shrinkage of the public education system and jobs for teachers in that system. They claim to be friends of workers and their unions by supporting restrictions on trade, but history demonstrates that protectionism only means less trade, fewer jobs and a weaker economy. Right now it is our international trade that is most important in keeping our economy afloat.

And here's another example relating to the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). This legislation now being considered by Congress is one of the top priorities of the bosses of organized labor. But it is anti-democratic (with a small "d") in the most fundamental sense, as it would deprive workers of a secret ballot in deciding whether or not to form a union. That means also that it is deceptively named. There's no "free choice" in the act, but only the end of the secret ballot in union elections. This is one of the most common forms of fraud, courtesy of the U.S. Congress - giving a bill a noble sounding name, when it is actually designed for totally different and often totally undesirable ends. The bill should be named the Abolish the Secret Ballot in Union Elections Act.

To understand why the EFCA is anti-democratic and why it undermines a fundamental principle of our democracy, the secret ballot, you have to understand some background information on how unions come to be organized under the basic law governing unions - the National Labor Relations Act. If a union wants to organize a company, it has to get its employees to sign what are called union authorization cards. Once the union gets 30 percent or more of employees to sign these union authorization cards, then the union asks the employer for voluntary recognition of the union. Most employers refuse to do so on the basis of authorization cards only. Between 1998 and 2003, only 13 percent of employers recognized the union on the basis of union authorization cards.

Employers usually think that union authorization cards do not represent the real preferences of employees. The Heritage Foundation points out in a "Backgrounder" (Aug. 27, 2008) why union authorization cards are rarely taken at face value: "Public card signing exposes workers to pressure, harassment, and threats from the union. Even union organizing guidebooks state that a worker's signature on a union card does not mean that worker supports the union."

When the employer doesn't think that the union authorization cards truly reflect employee sentiment, the union organizers then submit the cards to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and requests an election. An election is called usually within six to seven weeks, at which time workers vote, using a secret ballot in the privacy of a voting booth.

If a majority of workers vote for the union, then by law the company must begin bargaining with the union. If a majority vote against the union, it must then cease organizing activity. The unions win over 60 percent of these elections.

This would all change if the EFCA becomes law. Just as the name of the law is deceptive, the law itself seems to be designed to be deceptive as well. It permits the union supporters to argue that the secret ballot is preserved, when in fact, for all practical purposes, the secret ballot is abolished.

Here's how that legislative deception is structured. The proposed law, the EFCA, requires the union to be recognized if a majority of workers sign authorization cards. This permits all kinds of pressure, harassment and threats, as the cards are entirely public, with the union knowing who signs and who won't sign. So that's the way the new law will operate in practice, with no secret ballot to register the true preferences of workers.

To create the false impression of the preservation of a secret ballot, the law permits the union to call for an election if it collects a minimum of 30 percent of workers' authorization cards. In that case, there would be a vote with the protection of a secret ballot. But the logic of the law clearly dictates that the election would never be called. The union would go for 50 percent authorization cards, which would eliminate the need for an election and a secret ballot. If they could not get that 50 percent, in a public process, there would be no sense in an election, as in that unusual case, the workers would have already expressed a clear preference for no union. There is no reason to think that preference would change if a secret ballot were involved.

Now this brings us to who really supports the EFCA and who benefits from it - the union bosses or the workers? Polls show that Americans strongly oppose the abolition of the secret ballot for elections. That secret ballot is a fundamental principle of democracy, one of our most cherished institutions. It is cherished by the public including workers, but apparently not by union bosses and the Democratic Party and Mr. Obama. They support this abolition of the secret ballot.

The unions' own organizational procedures clearly suggest the law was written to create the illusion but not the reality of the secret ballot. In fact, unions virtually never call for elections based on a 30 percent sign-up. According to the Heritage Foundation, organizers are now instructed to get 60 to 70 percent or more of the signatures of workers before going to the polls. Unions openly state that they want a supermajority before considering an election. Here are the details of the policies of three unions:

* International Brotherhood of Teamsters: "The general policy of the Airline Division is to file for a representation election only after receiving a 65 percent card return from eligible voters in a group."

* New England Nurses Association: "Have 70-75 percent of members sign cards; if unable to reach this goal, review plan."

* Service Employees International Union (SEIU): "...[T]he rule of thumb in the SEIU is that it's unwise to file for an election when fewer than 70 percent of the workforce has signed interest cards."

The Heritage Foundation reports that internal union studies find the odds of winning are not even until 75 percent of employees sign cards: "Unions will not go to the polls without majority support because they know they are unlikely to win and, if they lose, federal law bars them from calling for anther election for a year."

So when all the legislative deception of the name of the proposal and the structure of the proposal are seen through, the union-backed proposed law comes down to Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party striking a blow at a fundamental principle of American democracy - the secret ballot. Under the EFCA, there would be no elections. Union leaders even admit they would not be calling for elections under the new law, according to the Heritage Foundation: "United Food and Commercial Workers President Joe Hansen admits that 'We can't win that way anymore.' UNITE HERE President Bruce Raynor says that he sees 'no reason to subject the workers to an election.' SEIU Local 32BJ President Mike Fishman flatly states, 'We don't do elections.'"

If you read those comment, they suggest unions can't win elections fair and square. So they go to the Democratic Party and politicians like Mr. Obama to abolish the secret ballot, and create a system where workers can be bulldozed and improperly pressured into joining a union. The Heritage Foundation has documented fraud in getting union approval even under existing law.

This is how unions now mislead workers. They tell the workers to sign authorization cards and those cards will be used only to bring about an election. Then they go to the employer and on the basis of a 30 percent sign-up, try to pressure the employer to recognize the union. You'll recall that the employer can voluntarily (but need not) recognize a union based on cards alone. Heritage documents fraud in the organizing attempts of Kaiser Permanente, the MGM Grand and Trico Marine.

Just as the EFCA is deceptively named and deceptively structured, it is also being deceptively promoted. The EFCA propaganda claims the secret ballot is not being abolished. That is literally true, but what is not said is that the secret ballot would never be called into play as it is clear that unions would almost always be organized by getting a majority of workers to sign authorization cards.

If you want to know how radical and extremist the Democratic Party and its standard-bearer, Mr. Obama, have become, consider who is opposed to this bill - former senator and presidential candidate (1972) George McGovern. Even this old-line far left liberal objects to the bill as it abolishes the secret ballot. Mr. McGovern was roundly rejected by the American people in 1972 because he was considered too liberal. But the Democrats now and Mr. Obama are so radical and far left now that they make Mr. McGovern look like a conservative.

You can be sure of one thing. If the Democrats control the White House and Congress, the secret ballot will be abolished and unions will get all the other priorities on their wish list. You have to credit the Democratic Party and Mr. Obama for one thing. The nature of their programs, including the EFCA, is such that it would take them little time to destroy our economy, our health care delivery system, and our national security. Mr. Obama comes with the thinnest resume, the most anti-American and extremist associates, and the most radical agenda of any major political party nominee in history.

- Herb Denenberg is a former Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner, and professor at the Wharton School.


SEIU Members File Charges Against Stern, Burger

More Andy Stern stories: hereAnna Burger stories: here

Protesting Andy Stern's reign of error

The charges against SEIU President Andy Stern and Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger stem from their involvement in a campaign of retaliation against UHW that is designed to silence the voices of members and elected union leaders who have opposed Stern and Burger's policies, and intimidate those who might also speak out.

The charges, filed under Article XVII, Section 1 of the SEIU Constitution, outline a series of inappropriate actions taken by Stern and Burger, including collaborating with anti-union employers to undermine UHW's contract bargaining, spreading lies and propaganda about UHW's leadership to SEIU members both within UHW and throughout the International Union, and imposing an unjustified and oppressive "monitorship" over UHW as a prelude to an unlawful trusteeship. More details about the retaliatory campaign against UHW can be found here.

Cover letter regarding the charges [PDF]
Summary of charges [PDF]
Full list of charges [PDF]


Ugly ACORN worthy of federal probe

More ACORN stories: hereWade Rathke stories: here

Cracked ACORN: Union-backed voter-fraud group

ACORN -- the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- describes itself as "the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities." How nice.

We prefer the definition provided by journalist Stanley Kurtz, who calls ACORN "the most politically radical large-scale activist group in the country." We also prefer Michelle Malkin's characterization of ACORN's social work -- using billions in government subsidies "to organize for the purpose of registering dead people to vote, shaking down corporations and using the race card as a bludgeon."

Sadly, ACORN's mix of welfarism and left-wing troublemaking has been a cancer in our cities for 38 years. Its latest scandal revolves around the embezzlement of nearly $1 million by the brother of its founder, Wade Rathke.

Though the theft was discovered by ACORN in 2000, senior executives did not reveal it until they were forced to by a whistle-blower in May.

Now, two ACORN board members are suing the organization to force the release of financial documents and make Mr. Rathke - who supposedly resigned after the theft was exposed - stay away from ACORN management.

It's all very ugly. But not half as ugly as ACORN itself, which now has more than 300,000 families organized into chapters in 110 cities. But ACORN is worthy of only one thing - a thorough federal investigation.


ILWU members accept dues refund

More union-dues stories: here

ILWU in $1.7 Million payout to worker-objectors

The Seattle office of the National Labor Relations Board has released final figures on the payout by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to its nonmember "B" workers as part of a 2007 settlement of allegations that the union had overcharged the "B" workers for dues. Although the union informed workers that they could choose to reject their payback as a show of support for the union, most of them went for the money.

Final figures show that $1,672,642.28 was received by 3,644 individuals - 84.9 percent of the $1.97 million the union agreed to set aside for the refund. There were 4,910 longshore "B" workers eligible for the refund. The average payback for those who took it was $459. The average for those who turned it down was $235.


Employee Free Choice Act explained

More EFCA stories: here

Mom to picket against striking teachers

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

Counter-protest an unlikely response to typical labor-state school year start

Striking Saucon Valley (PA) School District teachers will be met today on the picket line by at least one woman who will be voicing her displeasure. Township resident Lanita Lum will be out picketing to oppose the strike.

"I've decided it's time that not only the community needs to show support for the board, but also I want to send a message to the teachers union that they have to stop," Lum said Sunday night. "Our teachers' union needs to know we're not going to tolerate its ridiculous demands any longer. The union needs to STOP holding our kids, taxpayers and community hostage!"

Lum said she feels the district's teachers have been asking for too much in their contract negotiations. She said she feels "enough is enough." "The teachers just continually ask for increases and benefits," she said.

Lum, who has two children at Saucon Valley High School, said the district's offer of 4.7 percent is more than generous.

"I believe anything between 2 and 4 percent is fair," she said. "I think they should take it and run."

Lum will be out today from 7:30 to 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 4 p.m., she said. Lum said she will also be speaking at the 7 p.m. public forum.

After today, Lum said she will be doing as much as she can, possibly picketing on her lunch hour and staying up on the news of the strike.

Even though she's opposing the strike, Lum said she respects the job the teachers do.

"There are some excellent teachers there," she said. "I don't want to come across as being anti-teacher because I can't do what they do."


Michigan elections officials eye ACORN fraud

More ACORN stories: here

Union-backed voter fraud group looms over November ballot

Several municipal clerks across the state are reporting fraudulent and duplicate voter registration applications, most of them from a nationwide community activist group working to help low- and moderate-income families.

The majority of the problem applications are coming from the group ACORN, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which has a large voter registration program among its many social service programs. ACORN's Michigan branch, based in Detroit, has enrolled 200,000 voters statewide in recent months, mostly with the use of paid, part-time employees.

"There appears to be a sizeable number of duplicate and fraudulent applications," said Kelly Chesney, spokeswoman for the Michigan Secretary of State's Office. "And it appears to be widespread."

Chesney said her office has had discussions with ACORN officials after local clerks reported the questionable applications to the state. Chesney said some of the applications are duplicates and some appear to be names that have been made up. The Secretary of State's Office has turned over several of the applications to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The U.S. Attorney's Office on Friday declined to confirm whether an investigation was taking place.

In recent years, ACORN's voter registration programs have come under investigation in Ohio, Colorado, Missouri and Washington, with some employees convicted of voter fraud.

ACORN officials said they were looking into the problem.

"We'll do an investigation to see what's happening," said David Lagstein, a spokesman for the Detroit office. "If it's really as many as that, it warrants further investigation."

In Pontiac, where several thousand applications have been submitted by ACORN in the last few weeks for the November election, the clerk's office is finding that numerous applications are sometimes filed under one name.

"What it causes is a slowdown of our operations," said Pontiac City Clerk Yvette Talley. "They're steadily coming in, and we are finding a huge number of duplications."

Talley said she could not provide an exact number.

Clerks are required to check their records against a statewide database of all registered voters within their jurisdiction, so it would be unlikely that duplications would allow voters to cast their votes more than once, Talley said.

"We catch them all, but it's taking up a lot of our time," she said.

In Oak Park, clerk Sandra Gadd said they have been seeing "lots of duplication" from ACORN in recent months but were reassured by ACORN officials that the group was working to correct the problem.

"They've been very cooperative," Gadd said. "I spoke with them this week. They called me, and they're willing to go door-to-door to do whatever they have to do to take care of this."

ACORN is the nation's largest community organization for low- and moderate-income families. Created more than 30 years ago, it has branches in 100 cities and claims 350,000 families as members. It works to help create affordable housing and health care, and to improve job conditions and neighborhood schools.

Lagstein said ACORN's Detroit office has hired dozens of employees for the voter registration program and that any problems likely stem from sloppiness or incompetence -- not an intent to let people vote more than once.

"We're proud of our efforts to increase voter registration, and we have aggressive training for our staff to make sure the cards are filled out appropriately," he said.

ACORN has a method to track the workers who filled out individual registration cards, which will allow investigators to question the workers, Lagstein said.

"We certainly do our best to keep the duplications as low as possible, so we'll have to evaluate what's happening here," he said.


Barack paying ACORN unit for voter-fraud

More ACORN stories: here

Union bigs, labor-backed Dem want every fraudulent vote to count

The Michigan branch of Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), located in Detroit, is being investigated after several municipal clerks reported fraudulent and duplicate voter registration applications coming through.

The majority of the fraudulent and duplicate applications are coming from the liberal ACORN group based in Detroit, Michigan, which now has ACORN investigating the problem once again as well as the Secretary of State's Office turning over some of those applications to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

According to the report by Freep.com, the spokeswoman for the Michigan Secretary of State's Office, Kelly Chesney, says there is a "sizeable number of duplicate and fraudulent applications. And it appears to be widespread." ACORN has registered 200,000 voters statewide in recent months with the use of paid, part time employees.
In recent years, ACORN's voter registration programs have come under investigation in Ohio, Colorado, Missouri and Washington, with some employees convicted of voter fraud.
Examples of the problems they are finding with some of the ACORN submitted applications are numerous applications filed in one name, described as a "huge number," and some with names that appear to be made up.

A spokesman for the Detroit office of ACORN, David Lagstein, claims the problem stems from "sloppiness or incompetence -- not an intent to let people vote more than once."

More information about ACORN and their previous history of voter registration problems can be found at Wikipedia.

Recently ACORN was in the news when the Milwaukee Election Commission started an investigation because of voters that ACORN was trying to add to voter rolls were dead, imprisoned or imaginary people.

The Pittsburgh Tribune also reported the Barack Obama campaign recently amended their Federal Election Commission report to reflect $800,000 to an offshoot of the liberal ACORN group, called Citizens Services Inc., which is a subsidiary of the ACORN group.
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign paid more than $800,000 to an offshoot of the liberal Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now for services the Democrat's campaign says it mistakenly misrepresented in federal reports.

An Obama spokesman said Federal Election Commission reports would be amended to show Citizens Services Inc. -- a subsidiary of ACORN -- worked in "get-out-the-vote" projects, instead of activities such as polling, advance work and staging major events as stated in FEC finance reports filed during the primary.
FEC spokeswoman, Mary Brandenberger, says it is not unusual for campaigns to amend reports regarding large sums of money.

The Pittsburgh Tribune article details much more information about ACORN and Obama's prior associations as an organizer for Project Vote, an ACORN offshoot, and represented ACORN in legal actions, which was reported by various media outlets as well as the Associated Press.

Coincidentally, The Pittsburgh Tribune was discussed in a report here yesterday about the papers owner, Richard Mellon Scaife and his most recent meeting with what has been called his "archenemy," Bill Clinton.

Scaife, once called the "Funding Father Of the Right, by Washington Post in 1999, spent millions of dollars to "unearth damaging information" regarding Bill Clinton during his presidential term.


Forced union fees unfair to gov't workers

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

In November, Colorado voters can liberate workers from forced payments to unions

For a few days last September, Pueblo public school librarian Becky Robertson was so busy attending to her family that she missed a brief window of opportunity. Her husband had been forced to take a medical retirement due to early on set Parkinson’s, which caused a drastic fall in their household income. Her son struggled with juvenile diabetes and Hibernia disease.

During this trying time, Robertson forgot to mail a letter allowing her to opt out of paying union dues for the year. She never has been a union member, but the school district contract with the union required nonmember teachers to submit a letter every year in order to be exempt from the fees. She had opted out for the past five years.

Automatic deduction

Although the money clearly was needed to care for her family, the funds were automatically deducted from her paycheck as a service provided to special interest groups by the government. Amendment 49 would prohibit the government from taking automatic payroll deductions for special interest groups, and would have saved Robertson hundreds of dollars.

Colorado governments employ thousands of people. Each time these employees are paid, taxes are withheld: Social Security, Medicare and income taxes. However, many governments also withhold money for special interest groups like unions.

Dirty money, dirty hands

When the government is the bag man for special interest groups, it creates an ugly circuit of dirty money and dirty hands. The circuit starts with the government removing the money from an employee’s paycheck. Oftentimes, as with the teachers’ unions in Colorado, the removal of dues isn’t exactly voluntary.

In Pueblo County, for example, it is required that union fees are removed from each teacher’s salary, regardless of union membership, unless the teacher fills out a revocation form by mid-September. If she fills out the form a few days later, it’s too late; the money will be deducted from her paycheck for the next 11 months until next September rolls around.

At the union’s mercy

If she files an appeal, as Robertson did, she is at the mercy of the unions, which have a record of rejecting even the most earnest pleas. Being able to access those hundreds of extra dollars would have made a huge difference in her ability to care for her family.

Last fall, Colorado Springs teacher Mary Woldruff also missed the opt-out window. Woldruff intended to withdraw from a union she said “no longer represents the best interests of students, teachers and education,” but her appeal was rejected. Woldruff was forced to pay around $720.

Mandatory fees pay for the special interest groups’ political activism and contributions to public office candidates. Government employees have little control over which candidates receive the money from their paychecks. With such a well-funded support base, the special interest’s candidate often wins. And usually, he’d like to get re-elected.

Conflict of interest

There is a clear conflict of interest: the same elected officials who vote on the collective bargaining contracts impose the unreasonable mandatory fees on government employees. When a school board official votes to approve a union contract with burdensome opt-out provisions, the union is then able to collect fees and give a de facto kickback to the candidate when it is time for re-election.

Robertson and Woldruff, among others, were victimized by a system that their fellow citizens unknowingly had allowed to persist. Taxpayers are paying for the government to collect money for special interest groups that use the money to perform lobbying and campaigning services.

There is, however, a solution that every voter can help to instate. A proposal on the ballot in November can break the corrupt cycle. Amendment 49 protects government employees from the kinds of automatic payroll deductions that can be so harmful and so difficult to escape.

Matter of principle

It’s a matter of principle: making sure county, city and school administrators are doing what we, as taxpayers, are paying them to do. It’s a matter of protecting employees who could use a little more of their own salary in their own pockets. It’s a matter of responsible government, and making sure that an overzealous government doesn’t overstep its bounds.

As voters we have the chance to hold our government to a higher standard. Protecting those who work for our country is a change we have to make.

- Lisa Lewis was an intern at the Independence Institute during summer 2008.


Barack tainted by controversial union's cash

More SEIU stories: hereembezzlement stories: here

SEIU weighed down by embezzlement, fascistic crackdown on dissent

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama raised a record $66 million in August, his highest monthly figure and almost $20 million more than Republican rival John McCain. Obama's total since entering the race in early 2007 is now more than $450 million - a figure that confirms his standing as the most successful fundraiser in U.S. political history.

Obama has surpassed President George W. Bush as history's most prolific political fundraiser. Bush raised $270 million for his re-election campaign four years ago, and $95 million in 2000, for a combined total of $365 million.

Additionally, the Democratic National Committee and other committees established by the DNC and the candidate raised $17.3 million in August.

The Obama campaign said $10 million came in during the days after Aug. 29, when McCain selected Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has his vice-presidential nominee.
The Republican National Committee took in $23 million in August. With McCain's $47 million, the two sides will have entered the final two months with combined bank accounts of roughly the same size.

Political scientist Anthony Corrado, a campaign finance expert at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, predicted that Obama, McCain and their political parties would spend $220 million to $240 million each between now and Nov. 4.

"They have built an infrastructure like we've never seen," Corrado said of the Obama campaign, pointing to the $20 million Obama has poured into a Hispanic voter-registration drive and field operations in the battleground states.

Obama's latest receipts counter talk that his fundraising had tailed off. Corrado said such talk reflects a lack of understanding of how Obama has built his fundraising operation.

He relies on high-end donors to give the maximum $2,300 directly to his campaign account, but has more than 2 million donors overall, many of whom give small amounts regularly over the internet.

Obama has several large-dollar fundraisers in the coming days, including one Tuesday at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif. Donors are expected to give $28,500 to the Democratic National Committee. Barbra Streisand will headline a separate event at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills that same evening.

Additionally, former President Clinton has promised to campaign for Obama and is sure to raise millions more. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigned for Obama yesterday in Ohio.

Meanwhile, organized labor and others launched multimillion-dollar ad campaigns in battleground states. The 2 million member SEIU announced yesterday that it was spending $2.1 million on pro-Obama advertising.

The union already has spent $21 million on the presidential campaign, including $9.7 million since June when Obama locked up the nomination, Federal Election Commission disclosures show.

The latest ad is airing in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Iowa. It depicts a mother discussing the strain placed on her family by the tough economic times.

The announcer then says, "John McCain said, 'I know a lot less about economics. . . . I still need to be educated.' . . . No wonder he said we're better off than we were eight years ago."

Also yesterday, the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund announced it would run the first ad to specifically target Palin. Running in Ohio, the ad focuses on her support for aerial hunting of wolves and shows gruesome footage of a hunt and a mortally wounded wolf.

"Sarah Palin not only condones the aerial hunting of wolves and bears, she actively promotes it," the organization said in a statement. "She has even gone so far as to propose a bounty of $150 for every severed left foreleg of a wolf the hunters can produce."

McCain's campaign did not respond to a request for comment about the ad and Palin's stand on wolf hunting.

So far, independent groups have spent $52 million on the presidential race since last year. A new nonprofit group, American Issues Project, spent $2.8 million last month on ads attacking Obama over his relationship with former Weather Underground activist William Ayers. The group is preparing a new round of ads attacking Obama. The National Rifle Association has spent $230,000 to defeat Obama.


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Barack pledges to re-unionize America

More EFCA stories: here

Organizer-in-Chief wants to force unions on disinterested workers

John McCain and Barack Obama differ on many things, but no difference is starker than on the one proposal that will rise or fall depending on who next occupies the White House. Touted by organized labor and reviled by business, the Employee Free Choice Act is likely to be among the first pieces of legislation the new Congress will approve next year.

Obama has pledged to sign the bill into law, while McCain has vowed to veto it as President George W. Bush promised to do earlier this year.

The measure would make it much easier to form unions in the workplace, and both sides of the debate agree it could add millions of workers to union rolls while boosting wages and benefits. Its passage would go a long way toward reviving the labor movement, while its defeat would be a victory for many businesses.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are already being spent on the measure, including TV ads by anti-union groups that depict union thugs using an actor from "The Sopranos."

Advocates, chiefly Democrats and unions, say it would restore workers' voices on the job and expand the middle class. St. Louis labor leaders anticipate being able to add to their rolls thousands of hotel and restaurant workers, nurses, gambling-boat employees and small-business workers.

"It's going to make all the difference in the world," said Bob Soutier, president of the St. Louis Labor Council, which represents 175,000 workers. "I think the impact in St. Louis would be more than elsewhere because there's more exposure to unions."

In Illinois, which has 1 million union members, the legislation could lead to 10,000 new members a year for the next five years, says Bob Bruno, director of labor education programs at the University of Illinois.

Opponents, mostly Republicans and business groups, counter that the act would raise prices, reduce employer flexibility and drive corporations overseas. Small companies would take an especially sharp hit, they say.

"It's one of the biggest threats to small business that we've seen in a long time," said Brad Jones, Missouri director of the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents 9,000 small firms in the state. "If you're going to subject union salaries, union benefits and union dues on companies whose profit margins right now are absolutely razor thin, you're definitely going to put some of those guys out of business."

McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, has promised to veto what he calls an "abysmal" piece of legislation. Obama, his Democratic rival, is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Opponents focus on a provision of the bill that would eliminate the requirement for a secret ballot when workers decide on whether to form a union. Instead, if more than half the workers at a job site signed cards asking for a union, they would have one.

"We must protect this right to ensure workers are able to privately cast their vote on whether or not to organize — free of intimidation and coercion from union representatives, employers and other employees," said McCain spokeswoman Wendy Riemann. "This legislation is designed to facilitate union organization."

Obama has said he believes the bill would "make the process of organizing less vulnerable to employer lawbreaking ... I am convinced that millions of Americans would join a union if given a fair opportunity."

Backers add that workers would still have the option of a secret ballot, while at present only employers have both options.

Last year, the House passed the bill, 241-185. The Senate also favored it, but by only a 51-48 margin, meaning the bill couldn't survive a filibuster, nor could supporters have overridden Bush's promised veto.

Labor leaders say that a pick-up of a few Senate seats by Democrats, combined with some legislative maneuvering on the bill, would mean everything will come down to who is president.


Ain't it a shame?

Related story: "Going Negative: Barack calls in union 527s"

SEIU spends union dues to attack GOP for Barack

A powerful service workers union backing Democrat Sen. Barack Obama has begun a $2.1 million ad campaign attacking Republican Sen. John McCain on the economy.

The Service Employees International Union is running a TV commercial in in Pennsylvania and five other states that could be competitive in the presidential election. The others are Ohio, Michigan, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Iowa.

The union's efforts are independent of Obama's presidential campaign, but the ad strikes many of the same themes.


EFCA: It's still a pig

More EFCA stories: here

Barack, labor bigs want to force workers into unions without elections

Putting lipstick on a pig. Those are politically charged words in the presidential race these days, but they are apt ones to describe one of the great misnomers on a piece of legislation that stands to disrupt the nation’s business-labor balance and tilt it fully toward unions.

It’s called the “Employee Free Choice Act,” but it is no such thing. What the act would effectively do is deprive workers of the right to decide by secret ballot whether they want to join a union or not. It would instead replace that vote with a card check system that would be binding if union organizers get more than 50 percent of workers to sign them. And, under the law, once a union is authorized through a card-check campaign, it would require binding arbitration to set the terms of the first two years of a contract if the business and the union do not reach agreement through collective bargaining within 90 days.

The act would effectively end the long practice of having elections under the watch of the federal government’s National Labor Relations Board to determine whether a workplace is unionized or not. It would, at its heart, deprive businesses across the country from giving their side of the story on the implications of a unionized workplace. When they have that opportunity, businesses usually prevail in keeping their workplace union-free about 40 percent of the time.

Instead of a democratic process with a secret ballot, a worker would have to stand up to union organizers and workplace friends if they want to decline to sign a pro-union check card. It would give rise to an unprecedented level of workplace coercion.

There is reason behind the push of organized labor for the Employee Free Choice Act, of course. Unions are in decline. From their hey-day in the 1950s when unions represented about one in every three workers, they now represent 12.1 percent of the entire workforce and less than 7.5 percent of workers in the private sector. The number of representation elections held last year was down again, continuing a 10-year decline.

National labor unions have organized a major push — some call it a last gasp — to try to reverse those trends and the EFCA is at the heart of it.

EFCA passed the House on a vote of 241 to 185 in March, 2007, but it failed to overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate and President Bush had vowed to veto it.

But with tahe fall elections, that landscape could change. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is one of the Senate sponsors of EFCA, while GOP presidential candidate John McCain opposes it. As November nears this could well become a major issue in the presidential race. An Obama win coupled with the loss of a handful of GOP Senate seats could put EFCA over the top.

We agree with former Democratic presidential candidate and long-time labor supporter George McGovern who opposes EFCA and last month warned that it is a “disturbing and undemocratic overreach not in the interest of either management or labor.”

McGovern, in a commentary published in the Wall Street Journal, praised the good done by unions, but warned Democrats, “we cannot be a party that strips working class Americans of the right to a secret-ballot election. We are the party that has always defended the rights of the working class. To fail to ensure the right to vote free of intimidation and coercion from all sides would be a betrayal of what we have always championed.”

There is not enough lipstick to pretty up this ill-considered piece of legislation.


Employers, workers prep for brave new world

More EFCA stories: here

'EFCA Defense Kit' Now Available To Employers

Jackson Lewis LLP and Projections, Inc. are pleased to announce the availability of an Employee Free Choice Act "Defense Kit" for employers. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is the most significant piece of proposed employment legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

If enacted, EFCA would effectively take away the right of employees to vote on union representation in a National Labor Relations Board supervised secret-ballot election, substituting a system in which the important issue of union representation is decided by a majority card count. In contrast to elections held under current Federal law, in place since 1935, there would be no pre-election period to provide employees the opportunity to learn the facts about union representation. Instead, signed cards would decide this very important issue, irrespective of whether employees had access to accurate or complete facts.

If passed, EFCA would require enlightened employers to communicate with employees frequently and proactively to ensure employees are prepared to make an informed decision.

Billed as the "Ultimate Union-Free Solution," the EFCA Defense Kit includes 6 DVDs and a Power Pack of printable materials, designed to address the information gap in upper management, employees, and supervisors regarding organized labors' current legislative agenda and the need for immediate training and education.

This ground-breaking kit offers the unprecedented bonus of a 526-page book, "The Employer's Guide to Union Organizing Campaigns", and a $100 discount off Jackson Lewis' "How To Stay Union Free," a 2-day intensive management education seminar.

Michael Lotito, Partner at Jackson Lewis, said, "This is a very exciting opportunity for us to help employers feel empowered in a time of political uncertainty. It's a strategic approach to the Employee Free Choice Act that includes everything employers need to create an issue-free workplace that will, in turn, make unions irrelevant."

Walter Orechwa, CEO of Projections, Inc. commented, "30 years of experience has shown that providing the right resources - the specific tool, in the right format - can do more than just meet employee communication needs. Our tools help employers create the strongest workforce in their industry. Projections is pleased to be able to offer a comprehensive approach to the EFCA that addresses all levels of the company, and we are looking forward to working with Jackson Lewis to help companies solve real business problems and produce measurable results."

To learn more about the EFCA Defense Kit and what it will accomplish, employers can visit the website at http://www.EFCADefenseKit.com

Please note that the EFCA Defense kit is a communication tool providing general information only. It is not legal advice or legal services. Purchase or use of this kit will not form an attorney-client relationship with Jackson Lewis LLP, and the protections of that relationship do not exist as a result of such purchase or use. No offer or solicitation to perform legal services is hereby made or intended.


Carpenters ordered to pay contractor $10 mil.

More UBC stories: here

Collecting judgment from corrupt union will be a challenge

A Wauconda contractor has been awarded more than $9 million in an arbitration ruling that found the Chicago Carpenters Union targeted the company, intending to destroy the business.

Since 1998, the carpenters union regularly engaged in strikes and picket lines targeting Prate Installations, a roofing, insulation and siding contractor, to "achieve the union leadership's ultimate goal: the destruction of" Prate Installations, arbitrator James Martin found.

Company owner Michael Prate filed a grievance claiming the union violated a provision of its collective-bargaining agreement by not allowing the company to pay its union carpenters on a per-job basis, while allowing other companies to do so.

Union attorney Terry McGann said the arbitration decision disregarded "the plain reading of the collective-bargaining agreement."

McGann said the union will go to federal court to try to vacate the arbitration award.


NYT: Nation turns to felons to elect Barack

To leftists, the ends justify the means

Striding across a sweltering strip-mall parking lot with her clipboard in hand, Monica Bell, a community field organizer in Orlando, Fla., was looking for former convicts to add to the state’s voter rolls. Antonious Benton, a gold-toothed 22-year-old with a silver skull-shaped belt buckle, a laconic smile and a criminal record, was the first person she approached.

“I can’t vote because I got three felonies,” Mr. Benton told Ms. Bell. He had finished a six-month sentence for possession of $600 worth of crack cocaine, he said. But Ms. Bell had good news for him: The Florida Legislature and Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, changed the rules last year to restore the voting rights of about 112,000 former convicts.

“After you go to prison — you do your time and they still take all your rights away,” Mr. Benton said as he filled out a form to register. “You can’t get a job. You can’t vote. You can’t do nothing even 10 or 20 years later. You don’t feel like a citizen. You don’t even feel human.”

Felony disenfranchisement — often a holdover from exclusionary Jim Crow-era laws like poll taxes and ballot box literacy tests — affects about 5.3 million former and current felons in the United States, according to voting rights groups. But voter registration and advocacy groups say that recent overhauls of these Reconstruction-era laws have loosened enough in some states to make it worth the time to lobby statehouses for more liberal voting restoration processes, and to try to track down former felons in indigent neighborhoods.

“You’re talking about incredible numbers of people out there who now may have had their right to vote restored and don’t even know it,” said Reggie Mitchell, a former voter-registration worker for People for the American Way. In Florida, “we’re talking tens of thousands of people,” he said. “And in the 2000 election, in the state of Florida, 300 people made the difference.”

A loose-knit group of national organizations working to restore voting rights includes the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn (Ms. Bell’s employer); the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; and the Brennan Center for Justice.

Two other groups, the Sentencing Project and the American Civil Liberties Union, said they had given briefings to officials for Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign about how to register former felons. But the Obama campaign has been reluctant to acknowledge any concerted effort.

An Obama spokesman, Bill Burton, said via e-mail, “We are trying to register voters across the country and follow the state laws wherever we are.”

Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a Harvard law professor and senior adviser to the Obama campaign on criminal justice issues, said he had briefed campaign officials about felony disenfranchisement issues and the various and often-confusing state requirements to restore voting rights to former convicts.

Campaign volunteers get briefed on specific state laws governing voting rights restoration in case they come across former felons during general voter registration drives, Mr. Ogletree said, “but it’s not as if the Obama campaign said, ‘Here’s a plan for felony disenfranchisement.’ ”

None of the felony voter registration organizations contacted for this article could recall hearing from Senator John McCain’s campaign. And a campaign spokesman said there had been no effort to reach out to former prisoners specifically.

Last month, Obama campaign workers took down a sign at their headquarters in Pottstown, Pa., that said “Felons can vote,” because it might have sent the wrong message.

“The fear is that it might cost them more votes to be portrayed as the candidate of the felons than it could gain them,” said Anthony C. Thompson, a New York University law professor and Obama campaign adviser. “This is a mistaken belief, in my view, when there are tens of millions of citizens with criminal records.”

In fact, felony voter restoration efforts have received bipartisan support in many states including Alabama, Florida, Indiana and Maryland. Still, surveys have shown that about 70 percent of former convicts lean Democratic, according to Christopher Uggen, a University of Minnesota criminologist who said that had led some to believe that Democrats benefited from felony voter restoration more than did Republicans.

“That’s because of the high rate of incarceration among African-Americans, who have strong Democratic preferences,” Mr. Uggen said, “and because many people who have committed felonies are working class, relatively young, unmarried and in particular individuals with less than a high school education. These are all demographics that traditionally align themselves with the Democrats.”

Muslima Lewis, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union in Florida, said: “Really, you’re not having a full participatory democracy if you disenfranchise so many people. It weakens the whole system and, in particular, communities of color.”

All of Us or None, a prisoner-advocacy organization in San Francisco, held a rally last month about restoration of voting rights in California. Also last month, the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition successfully lobbied the Denver County jail system to begin registering felons upon their release.

The A.C.L.U. is also advising lawyers’ groups planning to deploy to polling places in November to enforce the rights of former convicts who have restored their voting privileges.

According to the A.C.L.U. only two states, Maine and Vermont, allow prisoners, parolees and probationers to vote. Thirteen states allow parolees and probationers to vote, eight states reinstate probationer voting rights, and 20 states restore voting rights to people who have completed their sentences, although each state has different processes, exceptions and limits on eligibility requirements. Kentucky and Virginia permanently disenfranchise nearly all felons.

Florida’s felony voter registration law divides applicants into three categories based on the seriousness of their crimes: nonviolent criminals, the biggest group, need not apply for restoration of voting rights and just need to re-register. Violent criminals, but not murderers or rapists, must apply to the clemency board. The board either grants those rights immediately or investigates on a case-by-case basis. The most violent criminals are subjected to a more rigorous investigation and must attend a hearing of the clemency board, which meets only four times a year, before their rights can be reinstated.

Despite the state’s liberalization of felony voter procedures, only 9,000 out of a potential 112,000 former convicts in Florida registered to vote in the last year, according to a report last month in The Orlando Sentinel. Part of the reason is that thousands of notifications sent by the state went to the wrong addresses because of poor data and former prisoners’ high mobility.

Fred Schuknecht, the director of administration for the Florida Clemency Board, acknowledged in an interview that there was a backlog of 60,000 former felons who could potentially have their rights restored, but must first be reviewed by the agency. Despite the fact that 3,500 newly released prisoners are added to the caseload every month, the Legislature cut 20 percent of the staff devoted to felony voter restoration cases, Mr. Schuknecht said.

Further, Ms. Bell said that many former convicts shun attention, even if that means abdicating their voting rights.

“You might want them to fill out the registration form, but they have an outstanding warrant,” she said. “And in order to help them, I need to ask what their crimes are, but they might not want to say.”

Cheria Murray, 24, of Orlando, regained voting rights this year, after serving a two-day jail sentence with two years’ probation for grand theft in 2003. Ms. Murray lives in a housing project where, she said, many people had been stripped of their rights because of their records.

Her companion, Duane Miller, 28, recently returned from serving a sentence for illegal firearm possession, and has not applied to reinstate his voting rights.

Ms. Murray said she thought about restoring her voting rights only recently, inspired by the presidential campaign.

“When I saw Barack Obama, that’s when I got excited to get my rights back,” she said. “I wanted to vote for history.”

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