Teachers strike compared to extortion

Related: "The 28 labor-states" • "#1 in the nation for teacher strikes"

Labor-states experience more work stoppages

A teacher strike is tantamount to legalized extortion. Thirty-seven states have banned teacher strikes, and it is high time for Pennsylvania to pull itself into the 21st century and face up to the economic, educational and social impact that teacher strikes have. The first unions were badly needed; today they are out of hand. Teachers hold our children hostage to get what they want financially.

I have no idea whether local teacher salaries and benefits are on a par with others. Those issues are better left to the school boards. But when property owners pay their taxes, they expect educational services to be delivered according to a calendar that is set in advance.

When teachers go on strike and working families have to scramble and high school students miss out on education that is important for entrance to college, taxpayers just have to put up with it in Pennsylvania. It's time for that to change.

- Polly Beste


Expanding scope of union-backed voter fraud

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

ACORN-related group: New name, same fraud

Vote suppression and registration fraud are among the claims flying in El Paso County, where an intense, every-vote-counts battle is taking shape just weeks before the election.

Wednesday morning, both political parties held press events 30 minutes apart to publicize their claims - a reflection of the importance that swing state Colorado plays in national politics this year.

The state Republican Party said a "liberal" voter registration group submitted several questionable registration forms to the El Paso County clerk's office.

Meanwhile, Democrats accused El Paso County Clerk Bob Balink, a Republican, of attempting to suppress voter registration among students at Colorado College by disseminating false eligibility information on the liberal arts campus. Balink's office said it made an honest mistake.

Political observers say such accusations are common in important elections and will continue during the next six weeks.

"We're in this tit for tat . . . where it's assumed politically that you can't let any attacks stand. You've got to come back and counterattack right away," said John Straayer, political science professor at Colorado State University.

One accusation stems from information sent in March from El Paso County elections manager Liz Olson to the president's office at Colorado College.

Among other things, Olson's office said out-of-state students whose parents claim them as dependents on tax forms are not eligible to vote on campus, a view that turned out to be erroneous.

County clerk slammed

State Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, accused Balink of illegally trying to stop students from voting.

"For some reason, our county clerk is focused on making sure people can't vote," Morse said.

Balink, a delegate to the Republican National Convention, has voiced strong opinions about voter eligibility. In the past, he's supported a policy of asking voters to show proof of citizenship to vote, which isn't required by law.

He could not be reached Wednesday for comment but issued a press release that said in part, "It is my first duty as a Clerk and Recorder to facilitate the enfranchisement of every eligible elector in El Paso County. My staff and I are committed to ensure that this goal is attained."

Olson said her office found out Tuesday from lawyers that it had misinterpreted the law about out-of-state students. She called accusations of attempting to suppress student voters "ridiculous."

On the Republican side, allegations of voter fraud surfaced Monday. That's when Balink's office told the media about an investigation into what appear to be falsified voter registration forms.

Olson said her office discovered alleged irregularities on 16 forms.

The state GOP said the forms were submitted by the Community Voters Project. It said the group is connected to others that support Barack Obama.

Ayodele Carroo, national director of the project, said the group has registered more than 12,000 in the El Paso County area.

Carroo said her director in Colorado Springs discovered about a dozen questionable forms in July during routine reviews. She said the person who turned in the forms was fired and the group told the clerk's office about the problem.

She said her organization had not been informed of any other problem forms.

"We have a zero-tolerance policy for fraud and have implemented extensive measures to prevent and to catch falsified forms," she said.

"I just really hope that Colorado Springs residents are not deterred from registering to vote because of this," Carroo said.

kimm@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-2361 The Gazette contributed to this report.

Investigation sought

The El Paso County clerk's office has asked law enforcement to investigate 16 voter registration forms submitted by the Community Voters Project.

* The Community Voters Project is a national organization associated with the Progressive Future Education Fund and the Center for Public Interest Research.

* It seeks to register 365,000 minority voters in Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin for this election.

* Employees: 168 full-time staff members and 1,340 canvassers

* In Colorado, the group opened an office in May at 125 N. Parkside St., No. 101, Colorado Springs, CO 80909. (719) 227-7167.

* So far, it has signed up 12,000 voters in the Colorado Springs area and 220,000 nationwide.


ACORN: Stealing Elections

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

ACORN reformers hail Congressional probe

Related: "Reforming ACORN from within?"
More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

National pattern of voter fraud blamed on ACORN bigs

Gregory Hall of Truth To Power, the recently launched progressive group dedicated to reforming the corruption of top officials at the community organizer entity ACORN, released the following statement regarding today's joint hearing by House Judiciary and Administration committees on ensuring a clean election in 2008:

"Today, Congress did the right thing by investigating allegations of voter registration fraud by ACORN and Project Vote. We are all harmed when an organization endangers the sanctity of our votes everywhere from Connecticut to Florida, and from Wisconsin to New Mexico.

"This is clearly a nationwide pattern that can only be the result of a political machine directed from the top. The notion that 'rogue' canvassers and organizers have run amok is just absurd.

"We hope legislators will remember that there's a huge difference between the top executives of ACORN who have put this broken system into place and the group's hard-working community organizers and canvassers.

"Whether it's the recent revelations of $1 million embezzlement by top ACORN insiders or the wrongful reputation of fraud by being associated with ACORN's alleged voter fraud, ACORN's community organizers are being hurt and that's just not right."

"Congress needs to investigate top ACORN officials, but they need to be careful not to blame organizers for the alleged sins of a few fat cats running the group."

On a personal note, Hall added: "As a resident of North Carolina, where ACORN is under investigation for dozens of faulty registration cards, I hope elections officials will thoroughly investigate ACORN's actions. Just remember: don't blame the organizers for the executives' bad machine."

About Truth to Power:
Truth To Power is a national campaign to reform and strengthen our movement of social-justice organizers from the bottom up. With our allies, supporters, and members we are going to earn respect on the job and reform and strengthen our organizations at the same time.

Contact: Gregory Hall
Email: gregory.hall@speakingtruth2power.org
Phone: 919-721-7363
Web site: http://www.speakingtruth2power.org/acorn/


SEIU members protest fascistic Andy Stern

More SEIU stories: here • Andy Stern stories: here

Stern regime loots, pillages big state affiliate

For weeks, UHW members have been hearing the buzz. From their "war room," we've heard, SEIU International staff are preparing to force a bogus trusteeship and phony vote, take control of our union away from us, and hand UHW over to a crony of International President Andy Stern. On Wednesday, more than seventy UHW members visited that "war room" to tell SEIU that this is our union, and that we are going to fight for what is ours.

We crowded into SEIU's regional office on the seventh floor of an Oakland office building. You would have thought we were invading a foreign country rather than walking into the office of our own International union. That we are engaged in a war for the control of the direction of our union is becoming increasingly apparent.

We demanded to see someone who could give us a straight answer. The person we got was
International staffer David Kiefer. As flash bulbs flashed and our cameras rolled, he asked what he could do for us. We said we wanted to know why the SEIU International is trying to take over our local union. Kiefer talked about protecting SEIU's financial strength by "following procedure" and investigating the conduct of UHW's leadership. That prompted Mell Garcia, a 31-year UHW member, to tell Kiefer, "stop the smear campaign, stop the persecution, stop trying to take our union away from us."

"Back off," she said, "because a purple storm is coming!"

Roy Chaffee, a longtime UHW member leader, asked Kiefer point-blank whether Andy Stern had designated him to lead the trusteeship of UHW, as we had heard. Kiefer denied it, claiming that he was in Oakland to "focus on organizing long-term care workers." But even as he denied that he was hand-picked to take over our local, he defended the International's maneuver, insisting that the upcoming trusteeship hearing will be "fair." We told him we are putting the International on notice that we will not go away. Chants of "Whose union is this? OUR union!" erupted, reverberating through the office halls for several minutes.

­When the chants died down, JuanAntonio Molina, a San Francisco homecare worker, came forth with an impassioned plea. "This is our union. We have a voice. Listen to UHW's members, you can't just move us around like pieces of furniture." Kiefer remained impassive, arms crossed, and replied, "I appreciate your input, and it will be put to a vote." Amidst loud booing, a member demanded, "how can an election be 'fair' if both options lead to the same result – the SEIU International taking over our union and taking away the members' control?" That's because the International has proposed a sham "vote" how to reorganize long-term care workers in California, with just two options: one is to dismantle UHW by taking away 65,000 members, and another is to reoganize UHW entirely out of existence.

With that, member Nancy Stengel put Kiefer on notice again that we won't sit by quietly and let our union be taken away.­With our chants echoing through the office building, we walked out, single-file, to the parking lot, where we started to plan the next phase of what looks like it will be a long war to keep this union democratic, to keep it member-run – to keep UHW ours.

- Gary Allen


Florida officials grapple with voter fraud

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Barack's fortunes rise and fall with the union-backed group ACORN

On the eve of a potentially historic presidential election, Florida's elections office says it has been swamped by thousands of would-be voters and needs counties statewide to help handle the flood.

"In the last 10 days, we have received an unusually high volume of voter registration applications," state Division of Elections Director Donald Palmer wrote in an e-mail to Florida's 67 election supervisors Wednesday.

Despite hiring an extra 25 staffers, Palmer wrote, the agency can't handle the volume -- it received 25,000 new registrations in one day this week -- and "will need to forward many of these applications to the counties of registrants to ensure they are timely processed."

The move comes as both presidential campaigns stepped up their interest in Florida's registration efforts and Republicans accused a local voter-registration group of "quasi-criminal" actions because of mistakes on two forms submitted to Seminole County.

The state's voter rolls have swelled by more than 476,000, to 10.74 million voters, since the start of the year. More than 89,000 new registrations were processed in August alone, and registered Democrats now exceed Republicans by 500,000 -- 4.45 million compared with 3.95 million.

But many county election supervisors were annoyed Wednesday that the state was asking them to try to help process the voter applications.

"They're trying to push down on us the work they should have been doing all along," said Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall.

Before 2006, when the responsibility for maintaining the state's voter-registration file was transferred to the state, county supervisors maintained their own voter-registration lists. Critics say the state is unprepared to handle the deluge of new interest sparked in a presidential election cycle.

"They tried to have one staff in Tallahassee take over what 67 staffs around the state were doing," said Leon County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho, who said his office received 2,000 applications in one day this week and doesn't have the time to help the state. "They can't handle the load they've gotten. But every county in the state is going to be slammed, too, with voter registrations -- so good luck."

Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said his office is prepared to take on some of the state's work before the Oct. 6 registration deadline.

"This is not the first time they got overwhelmed," he said, adding that "ultimately they're going to be Orange County voters that have to be entered in our rolls."

Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Michael Ertel said his office will have to "staff up" or pay overtime to get the extra work done.

"If they say they have 25,000 registrations from around the state, that doesn't mean a whole lot to me," McFall said. "We had 3,000 from Bethune-Cookman on Friday alone" -- in advance of an appearance at the university Saturday by Democrat nominee Barack Obama.

The state's new "No match, no vote" law requires that new voters provide drivers license or Social Security number information, increasing the likelihood for error on the application, she said.

The late-season surge comes as the Obama campaign launched a new voter-registration drive on college campuses across the state. On Saturday, candidate spouses Michelle Obama and Jill Biden will do the same at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.

Meanwhile, Republican National Committee officials lashed out at a group that helps register primarily poor, urban minorities because Seminole County reported that two applicants on forms submitted by the group said they did not fill out the applications. Ertel said he has notified 50 other applicants of possible irregularities and that five have come forward so far to correct their forms.

RNC spokesman Danny Diaz accused the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, of being aligned with Obama's campaign and "engaged in a systemic effort to undermine our election system" across the country. General Counsel Sean Cairncross called ACORN a "quasi-criminal" outfit that has been sanctioned in other states during past elections.

"They're trying to create an atmosphere of confusion at the polls . . . and break down election administration procedures," he said.

ACORN officials said they've submitted 135,000 voter registration cards in Florida and promised "decisive and appropriate action" against anyone submitting phony applications -- including firing one worker. ACORN's Florida director, Brian Hettenring, dismissed the Republicans' remarks.

"They're scared as hell of these new voters," he said.


Florida: Where there's smoke, there's fire

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Union-backed voter fraud group ACORN alters '08 election dynamic for Barack

Two suspicious Seminole County voter registration cards became a flash point Wednesday in the Republican effort to suggest the community group ACORN is committing fraud in its historic Florida get-out-the vote efforts.

An ACORN spokesman said the group spotted what appeared to be forged registration cards weeks ago and fired a worker over them. But the Republican National Committee blasted the housing and wage advocacy group in a nationwide conference call with reporters, saying it wasn't an isolated incident.

ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has become a force in the Florida race, signing up 135,000 new Florida voters since January in just three counties: Miami-Dade, Broward and Orange.

That's a fifth of all new voters. More than 58 percent are Democrats, who now outnumber Republicans by almost 500,000 voters -- providing Barack Obama a potentially crucial edge in the neck-and-neck race in Florida.

ACORN's voter-registration drives have come under fire from Republicans for being sloppy and allegedly fraudulent in North Carolina, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico and Colorado, said Republican National Committee chief legal counsel Scott Cairncross.

Cairncross noted that ACORN in Washington state had to file an agreement with prosecutors to improve procedures after seven workers were charged with criminal voter-registration fraud.

''This organization is not new to this game. They are a quasi-criminal Democrat-affiliated organization that harms the elections process,'' Cairncross said.

ACORN's Florida coordinator, Brian Kettering, said the organization is non-partisan. He dismissed the attacks saying the Republicans are trying to ``reduce the size of the electorate.''

''What's criminal is the way the McCain campaign is drumming up lies and misrepresentation to try to suppress minority voter participation,'' Kettering said. ``It's clear they are willing to use mistruths and exaggerations to try to create an atmosphere of chaos.''

Plus, he said, voter-registration problems don't equal vote fraud, such as someone showing up to the polls with a false I.D.

However, Secretary of State Kurt Browning, pointed out that unregistered voters could be signed up without their knowledge and then have absentee ballots fraudulently cast on their behalf in rare cases. Browning said he had a good working relationship with ACORN when he was Pasco County's elections chief until 2006.

ACORN is a massive nationwide association that made its presence felt in the 2004 elections when it signed up 212,000 people to vote in Florida, where it now has 15,000 members.

Republicans said ACORN wasn't just working on the successful ballot initiative boosting the minimum wage in Florida -- it wanted to help Democrat John Kerry. Kerry lost by about 381,000 votes. Since that election, ACORN says it has signed up 382,000 of the 442,800 new voters in Florida.

This year, ACORN's political action committee endorsed Obama, a former community organizer who had done work for ACORN.

''These are friends and allies of Barack Obama,'' said Republican spokesman Danny Diaz, who accused ACORN of ``undermining our election system.''

The Obama campaign says it works separately from ACORN. It reports signing up about 100,000 new voters of its own since January.

The registration drives have paid off in Miami-Dade for Democrats, where more than 63,000 Democrats have been registered compared to 12,138 Republicans and about 24,000 independents. That has increased the percentage of Democrats by nearly two full points, ---- to 44 percent ---- on the Miami-Dade voter rolls.

''Miami-Dade could be huge for us,'' said Obama's campaign manager, Steve Schale. ``This is a numbers game, and having tens of thousands of more votes makes us even more competitive in Florida.''

But the Republican Party of Florida has heard it all before: The big registration gains, the buzz, the anti-Bush talk. Yet the Republican presidential candidate, except in 1996, has won every time in the past three decades.

Nationwide, ACORN has signed up 1.15 million new voters. And, as a result, mistakes can pop up, Kettering said.

Kettering said the group pays card-gatherers by the hour and requires them to get working phone numbers to spot-check registrations. Bad card-gatherers and those who don't supply enough phone numbers for checking are fired.

The card gatherer in one of the Seminole County cases was fired in August, Kettering said, because the worker submitted too many cards without phone numbers.

In the other case, he said, ACORN warned the card gatherer to be more careful. Kettering said ACORN contacted the woman listed on the card, Sacha Thomas, who said she suspected her friend had signed her up. She wouldn't comment to The Miami Herald.

The man listed on the other card, James Stanley, couldn't be reached by The Herald.

Kettering said ACORN can't destroy cards, even suspicious ones -- which it flags with a sheet labeling it ''problematic.'' He said that happened in this case when the forms were submitted to Orange County, where the registrations were collected.

The paper-work was forwarded to Seminole County but the problematic-card note didn't make it. Orange County officials say they can't find the problematic card sheets. They have rapped ACORN for submitting too many cards too quickly. In six cases, ACORN submitted multiple duplications for voters, including one man who had 21 registrations filed on his behalf.

Orange's election supervisor, Bill Cowles, said he had a ''good working'' relationship with ACORN, as did Miami-Dade's Lester Sola and Broward's Brenda Snipes.

Seminole's election supervisor, Mike Ertel, had little bad to say about ACORN, either, though he was concerned about the two registrations.

''The story here is that the system worked,'' said Ertel, who had nothing bad to say about ACORN. ``We check 100 percent of these, and this rarely happens. I'm not sure this is a widespread issue. And we saw two this weekend that gave us pause. It gave me great concern. I don't want anybody disenfranchised.''


Barack engages ACORN for voter fraud

Related: "Barack paid ACORN unit at least $850K"
More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Union-backed group promotes dead voters and ballot box stuffing

The Democrat primary revealed that Obama operatives would commit fraud and perpetrate dirty tricks to get their candidate elected. For example, numerous volunteers working in the caucuses across the Mid-West were aware of ‘outsiders’ participating in the caucuses they were assigned were voting multiple times for Obama. Ballot reviews and subsequent investigations of selected precinct results determined very high percentage numbers of Obama absentee ballots were mysteriously cast by dead voters. In addition, reports were also received from election officials indicating that far more ballots were cast than listed on the official voter roles suggesting that corruption played a part in the results.

Paid large sums of reported and, undoubtedly, unreported ‘donations’ by Barack Obama’s election committee the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, ACORN, ensured that he won the Democrat’s primary. Armed with the largest war chest, Obama had early caucus wins in the sparsely inhabited Mid-West but was unable to pull off wins in major states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. In just over six weeks, the specter of a primary ACORN replay could be perpetrated in key contested states like Colorado, Florida, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Recognizing the potential for an ACORN type replay on election day, New Hampshire officials expressed concern on September 22rd (1.) about ‘padded’ numbers of new registered voters.

Faced with the distinct possibility that Barack Obama’s paid and unpaid zealots will try to steal the presidential election as they stole the Democratic primary, the American people must prevent a replay. To this end, it is strongly recommended that digital cameras and cell phones be on hand at all times in and around voting precincts to record any suspicious activity. For example, bus and vans transporting suspicious ‘outsiders’ need to be photographed and the license plates of the vehicles carrying them need to be recorded and reported to authorities. In the event local authorities are not interested in ‘getting involved,’ send pictures to Fox News.

Predicated upon the radical positions Barack Obama has taken supporting “infanticide” and gun control, pro-life and Second Amendment supporters may want to coordinate their efforts. Specifically, there are more than enough Catholics and pro-gun enthusiasts across America to help ensure skunks do not steal the upcoming presidential election.

It is a sad state of affairs that Obama’s “Corrupt Chicago Machine Politics” are being forced upon the American people.

- John Ross


DP cheers Big Bedfellows against workers

Related story: "Big Bedfellows oppose worker-choice"
More worker-choice stories: here

Nobody cares about the little guy

Business leaders are scrambling to raise $6 million to finance a deal with organized labor that would remove four union-backed measures from the November statewide ballot, according to people familiar with the situation.

Colorado Concern, an alliance of business leaders heading up the negotiations with labor, has secured pledges for $2 million, a source said Wednesday. Alliance chairman Walter Isenberg and Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce president Joe Blake have been calling businesses in the past week, seeking contributions, as the Oct. 2 deadline to withdraw measures from the ballot approaches.

The money would be used by business to fight Amendment 47, which seeks to ban forced union-membership dues in Colorado, and two other measures that unions oppose.

The problem Blake and Isenberg are facing is that many businesses are in favor of those measures, particularly Amendment 47.

Blake is asking companies that contributed to the chamber's issue committee — formed to oppose only the labor-backed measures, not Amendment 47 — if they would be willing to shift their money to fight the pro-business measures. The committee has raised $2.2 million.

Unwilling to finance fight

Tim Jackson, president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association and executive vice president of the Metro Denver Automobile Dealers Association, has told Blake that his members would not be willing to finance the fight against Amendment 47.

"Although it's not finalized yet, my belief is that we would not allow our money to be forwarded to a campaign that would be opposed to what we would call the pro-business ballot measures," Jackson said Wednesday.

The metro Denver auto group has given $500,000 to the chamber's issue committee, while the state auto group has contributed $100,000 to the Amendment 47 right-to-work campaign.

Jackson said right-to-work "would actually be good for Colorado" but stressed that his members did not contribute to the effort to place Amendment 47 on the ballot.

That charge was led, in large part, by the Coors family.

Jackson said he told Isenberg this week that he thought businesses are being asked to pay a "pretty steep" price as part of the potential deal with labor.

"If it was something less, like $3.5 million, would you be inclined to support it?" Isenberg asked Jackson on Tuesday, according to Jackson.

"I don't think we would be inclined to support it," Jackson responded.

Isenberg has not returned phone calls seeking comment.

Amendment 47 has divided the Colorado business community and is at the heart of a looming ballot battle Isenberg and Blake are working furiously to defuse.

Amendment 47 ad launched

Unions filed four measures in response to the right-to-work initiative, with hopes that Amendment 47 backers would withdraw their measure.

Not only have they declined to do so, the Amendment 47 campaign launched its first TV commercial Wednesday.

Unions such as the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, the Teamsters and those under the AFL-CIO umbrella are financing the four labor measures. Among other things, the measures seek to require companies with 20 or more workers to provide health-care coverage and limit a business' ability to fire employees except for "just cause," such as incompetence or substandard performance.

Unions have raised more than $8 million to fight business-backed initiatives and promote their four amendments.

Business leaders have said the labor measures would give Colorado an anti-business reputation and devastate the state's economy as companies move elsewhere.

Blake and others have also said Amendment 47 is unnecessary because Colorado's existing Labor Peace Act provides balance for businesses and unions. State labor laws require unions to hold a second vote after organizing a workplace to create an all-union shop where membership fees would be mandated as a condition of employment.

Jess Knox, head of a coalition of unions behind two of the four measures, said Wednesday that negotiations are ongoing but declined further comment about a possible deal.

Sources have said labor wants the business war chest to go beyond what unions spent to get their initiatives on the ballot and to aggressively attack Amendment 47.


EFCA: Anabolic steroids for organized labor

More EFCA stories: here

Dems help Bigs eliminate workers' right to a secret ballot union election

OK, you want to talk issues. You're tired of talking personalities, character, experience and Sarah Palin's eyewear. You've had it contemplating whether Barack Obama's or John McCain's campaign ads are more full of lies and distortions. You're above all this bunkum. You want to talk about some substantive difference between the two presidential candidates that could shape the way we live -- that could alter some basic American value -- in the decades to come.

So here's the issue. It's a big one that's below the surface and not getting a lot of attention, and it's not the racial issue. It's called card check.

Right now, when some workers are interested in having a union represent them, a private ballot election is most often held. These elections are overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, which established procedures to ensure that the elections are fair and free of fraud and employer-employee coercion.

Organized labor and its allies would like to change this and force workers to "vote" in front of union organizers and work colleagues who favor unionization. Their reasons are all too obvious. Their means of achieving this is the card-check election and the misnamed "Employee Free Choice Act."

The legislation would abolish a worker's right to a federally monitored ballot election with secret ballots. Instead, a union would be allowed to organize if a majority of a company's workers sign a card. Who would monitor the "card check" process? Nobody, really, though a worker's vote would be made public to the employer, co-workers and union organizers.

Gone would be an individual employee's privacy. Gone would a worker's right to make a decision on unionization without fear or favor. You'd have to sign the card or not in front of a fellow worker. You'd have to reveal to one and all your thoughts on joining a union. So much for the secret ballot.

Peer pressure, intimidation, the desire to get a signature gatherer off your back -- any of this could prompt a worker to sign on the dotted line and make a decision he or she might not make in the privacy of the voting booth.

Question: How can this legislation be called the Employee Free Choice Act anywhere this side of George Orwell's "1984"?

In fact, the Employee Free Choice Act's "card check" would do more than put an end to the secret ballot for workers. It would in some sense disenfranchise many people in their workplace's decision to unionize. Union organizers would have to come up with the signatures of only half of all workers. In this rolling referendum, once union organizers have enough signatures on the authorization cards, the decision's made. The process is over.

And guess who keeps the signed authorization cards until the majority mark is reached? Union organizers.

On these issues, there's more than a dime's worth of difference between the two presidential candidates this year. Obama supports card check. "We're ready to play offense for organized labor," he told the AFL-CIO. McCain opposes it. He calls it "a poorly disguised attempt by the labor unions to swell their ranks at the expense of workers' rights and employers."

And, whether you favor card check or the private ballot, the two presidential candidates' differences on this one issue could have a profound and tangible impact on American business, labor and politics for years to come.

Many congressional Democrats and friends of organized labor seem to understand the importance of the private ballot and the risk of worker intimidation in its absence -- when it comes to Mexico. "We understand that the private ballot is allowed for, but not required by Mexican labor law," Rep. George Miller and 15 other members of Congress, including Dennis Kucinich, Bernard Sanders and Barney Frank, wrote to Mexican officials in 2001. "However, we feel that the private ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they may otherwise not choose."

What's good enough for Mexican workers should be good enough for U.S. workers -- unless, of course, beefing up organized labor is your only goal. Now, there's an issue for you.

- David Reinhard


Firefighters win in binding arbitration

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

Misnamed "EFCA" would submit collective bargaining to binding arbitration, too

Last October, when Wilkes-Barre (PA) firefighters learned city officials had increased the yearly compensation for police officers and not firefighters, they filed a grievance. On Saturday they won an arbitration award that could cost the city at least $737,300.

According to the 17-page opinion and award from arbitrator Robert E. Light, provided by firefighters union president Tom Makar upon request, a July 12, 2002, "memo of understanding" between the city and the Police Benevolent Association union during former Mayor Tom McGroarty's administration states police officers' yearly compensation would be increased.

Each police officer was paid an additional $1,300 from 2002-2003 and $1,500 from 2004-2008 as long as they met requirements, including completion of state-mandated classes and employment by the city one year prior to the date of the payment. Since city officials did not do the same for firefighters, the action violated their collective bargaining agreement, according to Light's opinion.

The arbitrator ruled on Sept. 20 that in order to the make the union "whole for the city's violation," city officials must immediately increase the annual wages of union members by $1,500 and pay wage increases withheld since 2002. City officials also are required to adjust the pensions of firefighters who retired on or after Oct. 15, 2002, to reflect the compensation increase.

"This award just affirms that both sides are obligated to go by the collective bargaining agreement," Makar said. "The McGroarty administration gave this to the police officers which, according to our contract, should also have been given to the firefighters. The union only asks that the firefighters be given what they were entitled to and the neutral arbitrator agreed."

Makar said, "The city should have been up-front in 2002 and advised the firefighters of this bonus they handed out."

Neither Mayor Tom Leighton, Christine Jensen, director of human resources, nor Bridget Giunta, the city's administrative coordinator, could be reached for comment Monday.

According to the opinion and award, Jensen testified at a June 20 arbitration hearing that police officers are required to undergo 754 hours of instruction to obtain Act 120 police training certification and are required to be recertified every two years with 24 hours of training per year. She said there are no similar state-mandated training requirements for firefighters.

At the hearing, Makar said he lives next door to a retired city police officer who gave him papers he no longer needed. Makar said he "stumbled" upon the 2002 memo of understanding which increased police officers' wages.

In their grievance, the firefighters requested a "make whole remedy" for wage increases that city officials "secretly" awarded to police officers.

The firefighters' written position states that "what the city did here was, in reality, a 'shell game' and that the city hid the wage increase from the union for five years until the president of the union inadvertently came upon it as a result of a discussion with a retired police officer."

City officials, however, argued that the grievance should be denied since it was filed too late and their action did not violate the collective bargaining agreement.


Biden at AFL-CIO

Hoffa: Add corrupt union pensions to bailout

More Hoffa stories: here

Ordinary taxpayers should bear the cost of union corrpution

Organized labor wants Congress to add to any bailout plan more protections for workers' pensions battered by the market meltdown.

James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, whose second-biggest pension plan covers more than 200,000 retirees and has racked up billions of dollars in losses this year, sent a letter to Congress on Tuesday. He asked that pension plans be allotted more time to make up funding shortfalls caused by huge investment losses and the recent market turmoil.

The financial crisis has left many pension plans for unionized workers in a precarious position. Such plans, which are negotiated by employers and union officials, are typically defined-benefit plans paying workers a fixed monthly amount upon retirement. By law, companies must fund their pension plans to meet future pension liabilities, or risk monetary penalties. Many of those pension funds assumed a 7% annual return on their investments, but have lost money instead. Union pension plans held more than $800 billion in assets in 2005, the latest figures available, according to a July report by the Hudson Institute.

"The failure and weakening of major financial institutions in the last weeks and months has the potential to destroy the foundation of many pension funds," Mr. Hoffa's letter said. The Teamsters and other unions want the government to forgo penalties and give companies an extension to meet pension funding requirements. Without the change, unions say companies could be forced to cut pension benefits or negotiate concessions on wages or other benefits to make up for increased funding for pensions.

Business groups want to keep the pension-funding issue out of the debate over the bailout plan. "We wouldn't support revisiting the funding rules in this rush to address the broader economic problems," said Randy Johnson, vice president of labor policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In recent years, many unions have agreed to concessions in wages and health-care benefits in order to protect pensions, and don't want to see those pension gains wiped out by the credit crisis. "It would be like taking a second hit," said Chris Chafe, executive director of Change to Win, an umbrella federation, which represents about six million workers, including the Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union and the Laborers' International Union. The federation, too, is lobbying Congress for more time to make up for pension-funding shortfalls.

The extent of current investment losses in union pensions is unknown. The Teamster's $24 billion Central States Fund, which covers workers in 25 states, lost $3 billion in assets in the first six months of this year, according to Ken Paff, national organizer for Teamsters for a Democratic Union, an activist group that closely tracks the union's pension funds. "They've clearly lost more since," says Mr. Paff, who doesn't have figures for the past two weeks.

A spokesman for the fund, which is jointly administered by union and employer representatives, couldn't be reached to comment. Leigh Strope, a Teamster spokeswoman, said 1.5 million active and retired union members are covered by 200 multiemployer pension plans with $75 billion in assets. "The funds are down just like all portfolios across the board," she said. "That's why we're asking for relief from Congress."

Unions generally oppose the financial-recovery plan proposed by the administration, and support changes proposed by Democrats, including limiting the pay of chief executives involved in the plan and aiding homeowners with a freeze on foreclosures.


Andy Stern throws corrupt protege under the bus

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SEIU to police its own embezzlers

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall, the outside hearing officer for the trusteeship hearing for United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW-W), Monday night set a multi-week schedule for rendering his report on the proposed trusteeship of UHW-W. The hearing is slated for September 26 and 27.

The objective of the hearing process is to provide a report to the Service Employees International Union President who will in turn ask the International Executive Board for a final determination on whether a trusteeship is warranted at UHW-W. The process for the trusteeship hearing follows long established internal union practices and is designed to ensure a fair hearing that includes the opportunity for UHW-W leadership to address the allegations in the Notice.

On September 26-27, Secretary Marshall will hear evidence presented by the International President's representative on the allegations in the Pre-Trusteeship Notice as well as UHW-W's response. These allegations include charges that the UHW-W local leaders "appear to have engaged in financial malpractice and a series of misrepresentations to their members and to the International Union involving expenditures of millions of dollars of union treasury monies."

Secretary Marshall will provide a 30-day period to allow both sides ample time to submit post-hearing briefs. During this period, members who did not have a chance to give their views will also be able to submit written statements for the record.

Following the close of the record, Secretary Marshall will review the record, including written evidence, testimony and briefs, and in accordance with the SEIU Constitution, will then make his recommendation to President Andy Stern.

President Stern has determined that he will ask the International Executive Board to make the final determination on whether to impose a trusteeship on UHW-W.

Based on the seriousness of the allegations, SEIU announced on August 25 the intention to hold a trusteeship hearing for UHW-W when an official Pre-Trusteeship Notice was issued to the local. While International Executive Board members usually serve as hearing officers in trusteeship matters, President Stern announced on September 8 that former U.S. Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall would be serving as the hearing officer in the UHW-W trusteeship.

With 2 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare, and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers, not just corporations and CEOs, benefit from today's global economy.


IAM-Boeing strikers try to shift the blame

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"Nation gets a preview of Barackonomics" • "Trickle down strike-onomics"

Union Bigs duck responsibility for walkout

Boeing Machinists are trying to make a case to federal labor officials that Boeing broke the law in its negotiations tactics for a failed contract with the union.

About 27,000 Machinists have been on strike against the aerospace company since Sept. 6, after the union and Boeing couldn't agree on a new three-year labor contract. The walkout has shut down Boeing's jet factories around the Puget Sound area. Union officials and members, however, are busy providing statements to the National Labor Relations Board on the Machinists' unfair labor complaint.

Boeing officials deny any wrongdoing in their negotiations with the Machinists.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers filed an unfair labor practices complaint in late August against Boeing, just as members were preparing to vote on the company's final contract offer. The union alleged that Boeing engaged in an "unlawful secret strategy to avoid the union and deal directly with employees." Direct dealing with workers represented by a union is prohibited by the National Labor Relations Board.

District 751 President Tom Wroblewski already has testified before the labor board on the union's allegations. And this week, "hundreds of members" have been testifying about the complaint, Connie Kelliher, union spokeswoman, said on Wednesday. The members claim Boeing managers interrogated them on contract proposals or put pressure on them to accept the company's offer. The labor board is investigating to determine whether to go forward with the case.

Boeing officials have not been asked to testify with the labor board, said Tim Healy, Boeing spokesman.

"The National Labor Relations Board will contact us when they want our response," Healy said.

Should the board uphold the complaint, it would prevent Boeing from hiring permanent replacements for the striking Machinists -- an unlikely scenario anyway, given the skills and training required for Machinists' positions. A win with the labor board could help striking Machinists who are seeking unemployment benefits. State unemployment officials have said workers on strike do not qualify for unemployment, under Washington law.

The union will distribute the first of $150 weekly strike checks to area union members on Saturday at the Evergreen Fairgrounds in Monroe.


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