Labor bigs all-in for revival of Fascistic Era

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Workers forced to back of bus as union bigs put at least $1 billion of members' fees into '08 presidential politics

Barry Fields is a union president and watches the financial collapse as closely as the next guy. But he also is one of 250,000 union campaign volunteers, backed by hundreds of millions of dollars in financing, and his concerns don't end with the economy.

Beyond the presidential race, unions are pushing hard for candidates - especially for the U.S. Senate - who have pledged to support the Employee Free Choice Act, federal legislation that would make it easier for unions to represent workers and negotiate contracts.

"As far as political legislation, it's labor's No. 1 issue," said Fields, president of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union Local 6 in Philadelphia.

Fields was on hand earlier this month when a converted bus, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO's roving campaign quarters, dropped by the Stroehmann Bakery on Ridge Pike in Norristown to leaflet workers about labor issues, including the Employee Free Choice Act.

Not surprisingly, business interests are mobilizing in opposition. "I think businesses are very worried about it," said Glenn Spencer, executive director of the Workforce Freedom Initiative, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's well-funded campaign to defeat the bill and other labor efforts.

"This bill has been flying under the radar screen even though it would change the economic and political landscape of the country," said Spencer, who would not specify how much his group was spending in its fight.

"There is no doubt that the workplaces that have unions in them are not as flexible as nonunion companies," Spencer said, talking about the economic effect.

"Companies establish their pay policies based on what keeps them competitive in the marketplace," and unions interfere with that, he said.

"You are talking about a vast increase in unionization," he said. "And if it means that it is easier to organize, that means unions wouldn't have to put as much money into organizing and can put more into politics."

Organized labor is indeed pouring millions into politics, with every major union endorsing Sen. Barack Obama, a Democrat, who is supporting the bill. Obama's Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, opposes the measure.

The bill would set up a National Labor Relations Board-supervised alternative to the NLRB's usual secret-ballot union-voting system, allowing unions to be named as bargaining agents if a majority of workers sign cards or petitions seeking representation.

The petition, or card-check, process already is legal if companies agree.

For example, the United Steelworkers union gathered signatures and now represents employees at the Gamesa Technology Corp. Inc., of Fairless Hills, because the Spanish owners of the company said they believed it would lead to a productive relationship with the union.

Unions say the measure is needed because management often draws out the secret-ballot process so it has more time to dissuade workers. Companies sometimes fire union activists; even though it is illegal, federal penalties are light.

Businesses stress the necessity of a private vote because, they say, workers can face pressure from peers to sign union petitions or be persuaded by union organizers.

An important, but less-discussed, provision of the bill is a section that would require both sides to promptly negotiate a first contract or face binding arbitration.

This is important to unions because they often win organizing drives, but then fail to obtain first contracts. Sometimes management may, as a tactic to avoid unions, refuse to bargain in good faith, as required by law.

After a year of delays, disgusted workers may decide to file an NLRB petition to drop the union.

Businesses do not like the arbitration section because the whole process can move too quickly, from union petition to binding two-year contract.

With stakes high, both sides have run extensive television and print campaigns, particularly in states where there are key Senate races - among them Colorado, Oregon and New Hampshire.

Labor, through an organization called American Rights at Work, bought a television spot pushing the bill and touting worker empowerment through unionism.

"It's part of the whole picture of [the] middle class losing economic power," said Karen Ackerman, who heads the national political effort for the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation.

In trying economic times, she said, unions provide a voice for workers, and union jobs generally pay more. She said unions also wanted improved health-care and trade policies that would help U.S. workers.

The AFL-CIO and its affiliates are spending $200 million to $225 million on political efforts. The nation's second-largest labor federation, Change To Win, which includes the Teamsters and Service Employees International Union, has $180 million to spend.

During Tuesday's presidential debate, organizations called UnionFacts.com and Employee Freedom Action Committee, both of which oppose the bill, fired back with a television advertisement featuring George McGovern. The former Democratic presidential candidate spoke in favor of the secret-ballot process.

Beyond the bill itself, these organizations point to the disadvantages of unions. One print advertisement, headlined "The New Union Label," shows "closed" sign hanging on a shackled factory gate.

Upping the ante is the increasing likelihood of the bill's passage. For years, it was a perennial loser in Congress, with President Bush vowing to veto it.

In 2007, though, the bill passed the House and had thin majority support in the Senate, even though it did not have the 60 votes necessary to move it to a vote.

"I think if Obama is elected, it will pass," said Jonathan Kane, a management lawyer and a partner in Pepper Hamilton L.L.P.'s Berwyn office.

Kane said his corporate clients would be unpleasantly surprised by what happened to them if the bill passed - although, he said, he probably would be able to increase his billable hours.

"We will see organizing that we've never seen before," he said.

"I'm going to get a high-end sailboat - just have to pick between the maroon and the black hulls," he said. "It'll be good for me, but it's bad for the economy."


Obama, Dems peddle bogus 'Free Choice'

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Check the fine print when Congress and Organized Labor collude

Next spring, a U.S. House controlled by the Democratic Party will pass a bill along to a U.S. Senate that may boast a veto-proof majority of Democrats, which will forward the measure to a Democratic president who vows it will be a top priority.

It is known as "card check," or, officially (and ironically) the Employee Free Choice Act. It is a measure coveted by unions, for which they have shelled out over $48 million this year to help elect Democratic candidates. What is "card check"? Despite all the Democratic interest, it is, without question, the most undemocratic federal proposal in the history of American labor relations. It is the antithesis of "free choice."

And nearly every Democrat in Arizona running for Congress, including newcomers Ann Kirkpatrick and Bob Lord, is foursquare behind it.

The right of workers to organize is anchored in a universal principle. Union leaders such as George Meany, Walter Reuther and Crystal Lee Jordan - the real-life "Norma Rae" - fought for it, sometimes literally.

That principle is the private vote. The privately logged choice to organize or not. A choice made without anyone looking over their shoulders - neither company thug nor union goon.

When the vote is secret, no one can leverage you. No can call you names or threaten you or your family. The history of union organizing in America is nasty, bloody and infuriatingly imperfect. But, in the end, labor leaders could claim they etched in stone the same right for workers that U.S. voters enjoy: the secret ballot.

That's all about to change.

Under the Employee Free Choice Act, unions will be able to organize workers - and, no small matter, collect dues - once they have collected signed cards from 50 percent of a company's workforce. Currently, the National Labor Relations Board allows an election if 30 percent of workers sign union cards. Now, the cards are deemed simply a "show of interest" - an informal method of getting to the heart of the matter, which is a vote. The EFCA effectively disposes of that bothersome provision.

The EFCA would enact other measures intended to strengthen the union hand, like imposing binding-arbitration requirements in the initial stages of the organizing process. But no part of the bill impacts workers like the card-check provision does.

Card-check advocates somehow manage to delude themselves that union organizers who are desperate to expand membership would not use coercive methods to strong-arm the last hold-out employees standing between them and an organized shop. They kid themselves into believing that card check is all about the best interests of workers.

It is in the best interests of unions, certainly. But not even current union members consider that the same thing: 78 percent of union workers oppose any form of voting that does not afford them privacy and anonymity, according to a 2004 Zogby poll.

Despite that, Democratic District 1 candidate Ann Kirkpatrick (over $100,000 in contributions from unions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics) is committed to supporting card check. So is District 3 Democrat Bob Lord (over $124,000 in union contributions). And so, too, is District 5 incumbent Harry Mitchell (over $219,000 from various union and organized teacher groups). Raul Grijalva in District 7, likewise.

Lord contends he is supporting card check because he knows people "who have faced threats and intimidation at work."

And having their names, addresses, phone numbers and positions regarding unionization known to union leaders and company managers alike helps eliminate threats and intimidation exactly . . . how?

You want threats and intimidation? Just wait until those workers find themselves as the last hold-outs in the "unsigned" column of a union card-check list.

- Doug MacEachern


Unionist: Abolish worker-choice 100%

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Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Organized labor seeks a federal bailout from plague of disinterested workers

The chances of independent candidate Ralph Nader winning the presidency are as remote as ever in this, his fourth try. But he has important things to say about vital matters that mainstream contenders virtually ignore.

Democrat Barack Obama professes to be - and undoubtedly is - a strong supporter of organized labor. Like most other Democratic office seekers, he's endorsed the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, which is designed to reverse the steady decline in labor's fortunes,

But neither Obama nor any of labor's other Democratic allies has called for the step beyond enactment of the Free Choice Act that is essential if labor is to grow and prosper. Ralph Nader demands it: "Repeal Taft-Hartley!"

That's the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 -- aka in labor circles as "the slave-labor bill" - which was passed by Congress over the veto of President Harry Truman in response to the great labor militancy that followed World War II. Nader says its passage was "one of the great blows to American democracy." He calls it an employer-written law that has "fundamentally infringed on workers' human rights" -- most importantly, their right to unionize.

Taft-Hartley drastically amended the National Labor Relations Act, which was enacted during the Great Depression to encourage unionization. Taft-Hartley reversed the act's intent by authorizing employers to engage in what Nader notes as "an array of anti-union activities."

Most significantly, it allows employers to intervene in union organizing campaigns. Rather than remaining neutral as before, employers can demand that workers vote on whether to unionize. That enables employers to wage anti-union campaigns that include requiring workers to listen to their arguments against unionization during working hours, often at mandatory meetings.

Taft-Hartley seriously limits workers' ability to act in solidarity with other workers by prohibiting union members from waging sympathy strikes -secondary boycotts -- in support of striking members of other unions.

Another key provision outlaws the closed shop, which required workers seeking jobs with unionized employers to join the union representing their workers before being hired. The law does allow the union shop, which requires workers to join the union only after being hired, but allows states to enact so-called right-to-work laws that outlaw the union shop.

Twenty-two states have such laws, greatly weakening unions by allowing workers to reap the benefits that unions get in negotiating contracts with unionized employers, but without having to help pay the unions' costs by joining and paying dues.

Taft-Hartley denies union rights to workers designated as "supervisors" -- an "ever-expanding" designation, as Nader says, that includes steadily increasing numbers of workers. What's more, employers can fire supervisors who nevertheless try to unionize.

Employers can also use a wide assortment of legal devices to delay for months, sometimes for years, negotiating contracts with unions that win representation elections. They also have the right to call for elections to try to decertify unions that have won such elections.

Unions calling strikes with potentially great national impact face the prospect of the federal government moving in to require an 80-day cooling off period while mediators try to bring about a settlement.

There's more, none of which is designed to further unionization, but rather to hinder it. The Taft-Hartley Act, notes Nader, "sent a message to employers: It was OK to bust unions and deny workers their rights to collectively bargain."

New laws such as the Employee Free Choice Act that pro-union reformers have proposed are not enough to nullify the message. Only outright repeal of Taft-Hartley will do that.

- Dick Meister is a San Francisco-based journalist who has covered labor and political issues for a half-century.


Federally-funded ACORN fraud exposed

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The United States of ACORN

James Terry, Chief Public Advocate for the Consumers Rights League, today issued the following statement supporting the calls of House Republican Minority Leader John Boehner, Minority Whip Roy Blunt and Senator John Ensign to investigate the activities of ACORN as well as suspend taxpayer funds to the organization in light of mounting evidence of fraudulent activity in Nevada, Missouri and Ohio. CRL also expressed outrage over ACORN's willingness to accept rampant fraud as the cost of doing business.
James Terry, Chief Public Advocate, Consumers Rights League:
"ACORN says they don't take federal money, but AHC takes millions and from 2004 to 2006 on funneled 4.6 million to ACORN. They have been able to get away with it due to a convoluted, Enron kind of accounting but this must stop. Congress must cut off funds, investigate and prosecute those who are found to be willfully using taxpayer funds to support fraudulent political operations and put in place transparency, reporting requirements and firewall requirements to prevent future abuses.

"Senator Ensign and Congressmen Boehner and Blunt are right -- enough is enough. With ACORN standing to reap millions in taxpayer dollars from the financial crisis it helped create, this multi-national, corrupt organization needs to be investigated, not further rewarded. Now, with 40 Members of the House of Representatives and two House leaders calling for an investigation, along with Senator Ensign calling for an immediate suspension of taxpayer dollars to ACORN, it is time the Congressional leadership and the appropriate federal authorities to take action to ensure taxpayers are protected.

"Not a single additional cent should be doled out to ACORN with its growing list of questionable practices. And the public money already flowing to this organization should be suspended immediately.

"ACORN's admission in Ohio that fraud is acceptable is stunning in its gravity and their reasoning is simply not credible. It is difficult to swallow the notion that an organization spending an estimated $50 million plus on a voter registration project would cite lack of resources as an excuse to accept fraudulent practices.

"The fact is, year after year, ACORN has consistently displayed contempt for the law and a willingness to accept rampant fraud as a simple cost of doing business. Unfortunately, voter registration is not the only area of ACORN's operation to disregard the law. This organization has a long history of fraud, embezzlement and misuse of taxpayer funds. With an estimated $110 million annual budget, there is more than adequate resources to allow for proper oversight. But there seems to be a culture of corruption that pervades the organization that should be investigated not rewarded with millions more of taxpayer dollars."

James Terry testified at a joint House Administration and House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on "Federal, State and Local Efforts to Prepare for the General 2008 Election," where he highlighted "corruption at every level of ACORN including embezzlement, cover-ups, misuse of taxpayer funds and voter fraud. The testimony can be viewed here: http://www.consumersrightsleague.org/uploadedfiles/JamesTerryACORN9-24.pdf

CRL's report on ACORN

About The Consumers Rights League:

The Consumers Rights League is a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization dedicated to protecting consumer choice and access to the marketplace. Through investigative analysis, CRL produces quality research that thoroughly documents the real-world choices and challenges consumers face and reports on the benefits enjoyed by an overwhelming majority of consumers. Learn more about CRL's mission at www.consumersrightsleague.org.


Ohio (ACORN 2008 version)

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Judge sustains ACORN fraud in Ohio

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ACORN flack demonstrates Alinsky rules

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Connecting Ayers, ACORN, Obama

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Bill Ayers brings Hugo Chávez into the discussion

At The Corner, Andy McCarthy focuses on the Bill Ayers that Barack Obama can't deny knowing--Bill Ayers the education "reformer," with whom Obama worked closely and whose "reform" projects Obama generously funded (with other people's money, of course):
Ayers's prior terrorism, while highly relevant, is not the essential point. The real issue is Ayers's revolutionary leftism (at around the time Ayers and Obama began working on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, by the way, Ayers described himself as "a radical, Leftist, small ‘c’ communist”).

Obama is clearly lying when he claims ignorance about Ayers's terrorism, but even if you wanted to pretend otherwise, it is impossible that he was in the dark about Ayers's revolutionary leftism: Ayers has never made a secret of it and can't seem to help himself from mentioning it about every 30 seconds. Obama not only knew about Ayers's views in this regard; he obviously subscribed to them: was a member of the Chicago New Party begun by the Democratic Socialists of America; he worked closely with Ayers on "education reform" for years, he approved of Ayers's similarly fringe-Left views of the criminal justice system's treatment of juvenile crime, and, we are learning, he was tightly aligned with ACORN, which he and Ayers funded and whose practices fit comfortably with the Ayers view of "participatory democracy."
McCarthy quotes Ayers' speech to Chavez and his comrades at length; here are couple of high points:
[M]y comrade and friend Luis Bonilla, a brilliant educator and inspiring fighter for justice … has taught me a great deal about the Bolivarian Revolution [i.e., Chavez's movement] and about the profound educational reforms underway here in Venezuela under the leadership of President Chavez. We share the belief that education is the motor-force of revolution, and I’ve come to appreciate Luis as a major asset in both the Venezuelan and the international struggle—I look forward to seeing how he and all of you continue to overcome the failings of capitalist education as you seek to create something truly new and deeply humane….

[I’ve] learned that education is never neutral. It always has a value, a position, a politics. Education either reinforces or challenges the existing social order, and school is always a contested space—what should be taught? In what way? Toward what end? By and for whom? ...

Venezuelans have shown the world that with full participation, full inclusion, and popular empowerment, the failing of capitalist schooling can be resisted and overcome. … [W]e, too, must build a project of radical imagination and fundamental change. Venezuela is poised to offer the world a new model of education—a humanizing and revolutionary model whose twin missions are enlightenment and liberation.
These are the views that Barack Obama funded in Chicago and with which he chose to ally himself. No wonder that a study later found that the many millions of dollars that Obama funneled to left-wing groups led to no improvement in the quality of education!


ACORN to set Obama transition agenda

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ACORN issue breaks through

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Obama surges in ACORN states

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Partisan ACORN doesn't pay workers

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Obama's collectivist cred checks out

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ACORN shapes Obama agenda

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Voter fraud fears sweep U.S.

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Can America escape ACORN?

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ACORN: CBS News reports

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ACORN paid cash, cigarettes to voter

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Shame on The Denver Post

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Colorado's partisan pro-union news organ

It’s a shame. The Post philosophically supports Amendment 47. You acknowledge that Gov. Bill Ritter started this labor-business fight. You note that Amendment 47 will do no harm and that its opposition is promoting a campaign of misinformation. And most importantly, you empathize with workers who are forced to pay union dues against their will — something Amendment 47 will fix.

Yet there is no endorsement? I’m baffled.

The editorial says that healing the “business-labor rift” is more important. But why should the proponents of Amendment 47 sacrifice their principled fight to appease an opposition that was the catalyst for what we are seeing today?
Amendment 47 deserves a “yes” vote this election for all the reasons The Post stated in its editorial. It’s just too bad The Post is not willing to fight for what’s right if it’s not politically expedient.

Shirley McClintock, Englewood


Striking Teamsters face replacements

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

Barack Obama wants to outlaw permanent striker-replacments

After a week with workers on the picket line in front of the Advanced Food Products plant in Visalia, there's still no movement on a settlement. About 100 members of Teamsters Local 517 walked off the job Monday to protest their company's latest contract offer.

The workers say they aren't looking for raises, just trying to keep the same benefit co-payment and hiring and firing practices that have been in force at the plant for years.

"The company hasn't talked to us," said Scott Lupo, a Teamsters spokesman. "They sent out a letter to their employees giving them step-by-step instructions on how to cross the picket line, but we haven't heard from them."
Replacement workers

Calls to the plant's management and to the Pennsylvania-based Advanced Food Products' spokesman, Gregg Kenitz, were not returned Friday.

The company has placed a classified ad in the Times-Delta looking for permanent replacements for striking workers.

With the company's latest offer, workers would pay 20 percent of their benefits package by 2010, an increase from $15 a month to more than $200 month. The first increase — to $110 a month — will take place next month. The workers are covered by a health plan administrated by the Teamsters. While the cost of the plan has increased in recent years, workers say the switch from a company to a union plan saved Advanced Food Products more than $1 million a year.

The employees are also at odds with management over sick leave, uniforms and a new rule that states if an employee is found to be responsible for a mistake costing the company $10,000 or more, the employee will be fired.

The company, which began as Real Fresh, has grown from 13 employees in 1952 to more than 120 today, and now produces and packages four main product lines — puddings, soups, cheese sauces and nutritional beverages.
Longtime employees

Many of the employees have been with the company for decades, but only nine employees have crossed the picket line and gone back to work, Lupo said.

The workers have been without a contract since April 1. This is the first job action at the Visalia plant.


Teamsters subdue Bud-InBev

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Militant union cuts the cost-cutting Brazilians down to size

Too seldom are we able to report that an American union faced with a critical problem developed a sound strategy and flawlessly executed it to win a major victory for its members. This is however the case with the campaign of the Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to protect its members faced with the acquisition of Anheuser Busch by the global brewing giant InBev.

On October 3 the Teamsters announced that the Conference, the national bargaining committee, and all Teamster locals involved in negotiations with Anheuser Busch unanimously recommended the ratification of a five-year contract that met all of their major goals in protecting the jobs and benefits of Teamster members at Anheuser Busch. The key feature is a contractual commitment to keep all 12 U.S. breweries operating during the term of the agreement. The proposed agreement also provides for substantial wage and pension increases, while protecting health and welfare benefits for employees and families.

The agreement is the result of a well constructed campaign that included member mobilization, patient bargaining and a substantial component of international solidarity from unions representing InBev workers throughout the world. Brewery union leaders from Canada, Belgium and Brazil, in coordination with the IUF, met with Teamsters in St. Louis to plan strategy and participated in a large public support and solidarity rally.

The Teamsters Brewery Conference is employing a similar strategy as it opens negotiations with SABMiller, InBev’s major competitor as a global brewing giant. The Teamsters represent 1200 members at three SABMiller breweries in Eden NC, Fort Worth TX and Irwindale CA. Contract negotiations began at the Eden plant on October 7. Union leaders from IUF-affiliated SABMiller brewery unions in South Africa, Poland and Peru are touring the Eden brewery this week and meeting with local union representatives from all three U.S. breweries represented by the Teamsters. Negotiations at the other two breweries commence over the next several months. The Teamsters expect that a major bargaining issue at all three breweries will be the cost of health benefits, which SABMiller is seeking to shift onto the employees.

In the past American unions too often invoked assistance from foreign unions only after they encountered major obstacles in organizing or bargaining with a TNC. The leadership of the Teamsters Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Conference understands that international labor solidarity is not a vague slogan or concept, but an integral component of any organizing and bargaining campaign within a global company. International solidarity is not a magic button to push and positive results cannot be guaranteed, but it can provide a useful supplement to the union’s grassroots strategy.

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