Obama to throw workers under Big Labor bus

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
More EFCA stories: here More card-check stories: here

A Labor Dilemma For President Bam

The financial crisis has unfortunately deflected attention from our next major meltdown: ordinary labor markets. The early days of an Obama administration will likely see passage of othe so-called Employer Free Choice Act—which will put a union noose around the neck of every US business, large and small.

Union membership has dropped relentlessly from about 35 percent of the PRIVATE work force in 1954 to about 8 percent today. The main factor is the massive attrition in failed unionized industries such as steel, automobiles and rubber. A chorus of labor advocates falsely attributes this collapse to management's alleged unfair labor practices of management in union elections, about half of which labor wins anyway.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

The true explanation lies in a simple fact: Unions are a bad deal for most workers. They get some added bargaining leverage, but pay heavy dues, give up prospects for advancement in the firm and face higher odds of layoffs by hamstrung employers who can't compete in ever-more competitive global markets.

The false diagnosis leads to the bill's two-part "cure" to the nonexistent problem:

* It eliminates the need for a union to win an actual election to become the workers' representive. Instead, gaining a simple majority of the targeted work force—in the form of signatures on cards—would make the union the official bargaining agent for all workers, including those who had no knowledge of the union's activities.

* Worse still, the act lets a government-created arbitration panel impose the first two-year contract over the employer's objections if the two sides don't reach agreement within 130 days after union certification.

Barack Obama is a strong supporter of this effort to turn all US workers into civil-service employees. But he never admits how the law would wreck the small businesses he has sworn to promote.

EFCA allows aggressive unions like the Serviceworkers Employees International Union to pick their targets and ambush them. E.g.: Imagine a new firm preoccupied with product development, credit arrangements, inventory control and marketing—suddenly approached with this chilling message: "Our signed cards let us represent for two years all your employees, including future hires."

The hard-pressed employer has to hire immediately professional legal counsel to steer it through a legal thicket that could end in work rules and layoff restrictions that make liquidation or bankruptcy the firm's only viable alternatives.

Why bother to go into business at all—if a few card checks, even when obtained by intimidation or misrepresentation, can make a union your involuntary partner at the most vulnerable time of your business?

The unions pooh-pooh these objections by claiming that card checks and compulsory arbitration work for public unions. Not so. The only sense in which these arrangements "work" is to substitute surrender for strikes.

In fact, mandatory arbitration dooms many public employers to offering the same wretched or overpaid service in the future that they have offered in the past. Innovation is out of the question, because a dominant union can veto any intelligent structural or wage reform.

And private businesses don't operate the same kinds of protected niches as public unions—they face real competition. The employer groups that I've represented know full well any private firm that succumbs to unionization won't be strong enough to survive adversity or nimble enough to advance. Yet EFCA would enable labor unions to muscle their way into an involuntary partnership with the firm's owners.

So a future President Obama will face a hard choice: Show abject fealty to the labor unions, which have done so much to promote his candidacy. Or avoid decimating the small businesses he has promised to help.

With the economy wobbly, we don't need a massive government intervention to disrupt the balance between management and labor.

- Richard A. Epstein is a professor of law at the University of Chicago, a visiting professor at NYU Law School and a Manhattan Institute adjunct fellow. This piece was originally published by the New York Post, 10-21-08.


Obama mandates job losses, union gains

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
More EFCA stories: hereMore card-check stories: here

Supply glut of community organizers anticipated in 2009

I interviewed two plumbing company owners over the weekend about Barack Obama's economic proposals for small business. One has 15 employees and 12 trucks. The other has 52 employees and 34 trucks. They're Joe the Plumber, writ large.

Both owners had the same reaction to Obama's proposed new taxes and mandates. To not have their bottom lines reduced by government fiat, both said they'd be forced to lay off employees.

Specifically, here's what the owner of the larger firm said regarding six of Obama's key proposals for the small-business sector: The average wage at his company, figuring the 52 paychecks of his office staff, installers and service workers, is $31,200, $15 an hour.

First, "Barack Obama and Joe Biden will require that employers provide seven paid sick days per year," states the Obama campaign's Web site. "I give three paid sick days," explained the business owner. His extra cost for this one new regulation would be $24,960 (4 extra days, 52 employees, at an average of $120 per day). "That's one of the women in the office," he said. "I can make up that cost by letting one of the office people go."

Second, Obama states that employers will be required to pay 100 percent of the cost of health insurance premiums for 100 percent of their employees or face a tax penalty. "I pay 75 percent of their coverage," explained the owner. "The family policy is about $11,000. For single guys, it's about $5,000." At an average annual cost of $7,000 per policy, his additional cost for 52 employees to cover the 25 percent of the premiums that he currently doesn't pay is $91,000. "That's the price of three installers," he said. "Just to stay even with where I am, I'd have to fire three more people or raise some prices and fire two."

The result is more unemployment or more inflation, or both.

Third, with the estate tax, Obama is calling for a top tax rate of 45 percent on estates valued above $3.5 million, producing an estimated "death tax" of $675,000 on an estate of $5 million. "You're kidding," he said. "They took half my income on the way up and now they want another half when I die?" He estimated that his business is already valued at more than $3 million, in addition to the value of his home and investments. "Why," he asked, "would I want to grow to 100 employees? What'll stop them from changing it to 75 percent?"

The cost in jobs that will never be created in the U.S. economy because of this single disincentive to growth? Incalculable.

Fourth, Obama's economic plan calls for a hike in the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour within three years. The business owner's reaction? "That's bad for two reasons. I don't have anyone at minimum, but raise the bottom by $3 and a guy making $15 wants $18. Plus it's bad for productivity when people think their pay raises are coming from government instead of from their own individual effort."

Fifth, saying he'll "play offense for organized labor," Obama is proposing that workers should be denied the right to a private ballot at work in deciding whether to unionize. "That'll never be," said the plumbing entrepreneur. "I'm in business because I'm independent, not to take orders from a grievance chairman. I'd shut down."

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

Sixth, the increase in taxes on this small business owner from Obama's proposed hike in the income tax rate from 36% to 39.8% on incomes above $200,000 and the proposed increase in Social Security taxes comes to $32,000 per year. "That's another employee," he said, referring to the termination of another installer in order to just stay even.

And the jobless plumbers? They can be re-socialized to work for ACORN.

As Obama explained in July: "We cannot continue to rely on our military to achieve the national security objectives we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded."

As "well funded" as our Armed Forces personnel comes to $119 billion per year in paychecks for "community activism," a lot of money for registering dead voters, caulking windows, making sure that all the guns are locked up at the municipal buildings, and monitoring the airways to make sure that conservatives don't have too many talk shows.

Bottom line, Obama's economic plan doesn't hold water. Neither will our pipes.

- Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur.


Obama to force unions on disinterested workers

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
More EFCA stories: hereMore card-check stories: here

Taking a lurch toward labor-union fascism: banning secret-ballot union elections

There's an old saying that politics in America is played between the 40 yard lines. What this means, for those unfamiliar with football, is that we're a centrist country, never straying very far to the left or the right in elections or national policies. This has been true for decades. It probably won't be after today's election.

For the first time since the 1960s, liberal Democrats are dominant. They are all but certain to have a lopsided majority in the House, and either a filibuster-proof Senate or something close to it. If Barack Obama wins the presidency today, they'll have an ideological ally in the White House.

A sharp lurch to the left and enactment of a liberal agenda, or major parts of it, are all but inevitable. The centrist limits in earlier eras of Democratic control are gone. In the short run, Democrats may be constrained by the weak economy and a large budget deficit. Tax hikes and massive spending programs, except those billed as job creation, may have to be delayed.

But much of their agenda -- the "card check" proposal to end secret ballots in union elections, the Fairness Doctrine to stifle conservative talk radio, liberal judicial nominees, trade restrictions, retreat from Iraq, talks with Iran -- doesn't require spending. And after 14 years of Republican control of Congress, the presidency, or both, Democrats are impatient. They want to move quickly.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

Democrats had large majorities when Jimmy Carter became president in 1977 (61-38 in the Senate, 292-143 in the House) and when Bill Clinton took office in 1993 (56-44, 258-176). So why are their prospects for legislative success so much better now?

The most significant change is in the ideological makeup of the Democratic majorities. In the Carter and Clinton eras, there were dozens of moderate and conservative Democrats in Congress, a disproportionate number of them committee chairs. Now the Democratic majorities in both houses are composed almost uniformly of liberals. Those few who aren't, including the tiny but heralded gang of moderates elected to the House in 2006, usually knuckle under on liberal issues. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bosses them around like hired help.

In the past, senior Democrats intervened to prevent a liberal onslaught. Along with Republicans, they stopped President Carter from implementing his plan to pull American troops out of South Korea.

They forced him to accept a cut in the tax rate on capital gains and an increase in defense spending. A bloc of Democrats also helped kill a bill designed to broaden picketing rights and a labor-law reform measure to strengthen labor's hand in organizing and negotiating with employers, the top priorities of organized labor in the 1970s.

With President Clinton in the White House, the chief goal of liberals was passage of national health-care legislation. Success seemed likely until numerous Democrats balked, including the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

There are no strong-minded liberal renegades such as Moynihan in Congress now, and few Democrats inclined, much less willing, to question liberal dogma. And most committee chairs in the Senate and House are liberals.

Another important change is the enhanced power of liberal interest groups. The influence of organized labor, environmental activists, militant pressure groups like MoveOn.org, left-wing civil libertarians, teachers, trial lawyers and feminists is stronger than it has ever been in Washington. Democrats are leery of bucking them on even the smallest issue.

This was clear in 2005, when the House voted on the innocuous Central America Free Trade Agreement (Cafta). Though the treaty was unlikely to have any impact on American jobs or wages, organized labor opposed it fiercely. Democrats were threatened with union-funded primary opponents if they voted for it. Cafta barely passed, 217-215, with 15 Democrats backing the treaty.

The so-called Cafta 15 survived the 2006 election, but that wasn't the end of their ordeal. They're still constantly pilloried at labor gatherings. The attacks have worked, both as a lesson in political harassment for the 15 dissidents and as a warning to other Democrats. Any lingering free-trade sentiment among congressional Democrats has been snuffed out.

An even more telling reflection of labor's new power in Washington is lockstep Democratic support for card check, which the union movement wants to organize reluctant workers. Card check is overwhelmingly unpopular with the American public. But as a lavish funder of the Democratic Party and the biggest source of manpower in Democratic campaigns, labor expects Democrats to vote for it anyway. And union leaders care a lot more about the issue than the public does.

We saw the results last year. In the House, only two Democrats (out of 230) voted against card check. In the Senate, every Democrat but one voted to halt a Republican filibuster of card check (the filibuster prevailed). That lone Democrat, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, was absent due to illness.

There's still another change in Washington that shouldn't be overlooked: a mainstream media that's become reflexively liberal. It's true the national press corps has been monopolized by liberals for years. The difference now is that the media's liberal tendencies are unleashed and permeate reporting on national affairs.

Of course journalists point to the many times they've taken on liberal politicians, especially Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and, at times, Sen. Obama. But their criticism is of a special type. They point out political mistakes, clumsy tactics, bad decisions on timing and process failures. They don't raise doubts about liberalism itself or the liberal agenda. Conservatives aren't so fortunate. The media challenges their basic principles.

When Republicans hold power, the media routinely becomes part of the political opposition. When Democrats ruled in the past, the press was more evenhanded but rarely hostile. In the new Washington run by liberal Democrats, much of the media is likely to become a liberal claque -- or already has.

What might bar liberals from running wild in Washington? A wave of vetoes by President John McCain, should he upset Mr. Obama today, would slow them down. Enough Senate Republicans to continue the filibuster strategy that succeeded in blocking liberal legislation the past two years would also work.

But these are long shots, and so is Democratic self-restraint. Mr. Obama has been quietly letting it be known that, if elected, he doesn't want to overreach. It's unclear what he has in mind, if anything. And Mrs. Pelosi said last week that bigger majorities in Congress will cause Democrats to be bipartisan. No one in Washington believed her, and no one should have.

- Mr. Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard and co-host of "The Beltway Boys" on Fox News Channel.


ACORN vote crime furor gains traction

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Union-backed crime makes a good argument for banning 3rd party voter registration

The furor over ACORN's national voter registration drive exploded with new controversies Friday, including a call by Barack Obama for an independent prosecutor, a Supreme Court ruling over voter access and the disclosure of a death threat against an ACORN worker.

What remains unclear is whether the campaigns of Obama and John McCain will reach a truce over voter access to the polls by Election Day or whether their legal and rhetorical battles will persist to the finish line — or beyond.

Republicans allege that the Association for Community Organizations for Reform Now is engaged in rampant voter fraud, but they've offered no proof of such a systematic effort. The GOP does have evidence that some of the group's 13,000 canvassers submitted fraudulent applications, but ACORN says it alerted authorities to most of the phony forms.

Democrats counter that the GOP is trying to whip up fears of voter fraud so it can knock students and low-income minorities off the voter rolls to enhance McCain's chances of victory.

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled an attempt by Republicans to challenge the validity of 200,000 voter registrations in Ohio, saying that the party lacked the standing to sue.

The Republicans had sued to force Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, to provide county election officials with lists of registrants whose personal information did not exactly match Social Security or driver's license data, a step that would leave those voters vulnerable to eligibility challenges.

Tensions began to escalate Thursday with disclosures that the FBI is investigating ACORN and the possibility that it's engaged in a vote-fraud scheme.

On Friday, Obama's legal counsel, Robert Bauer, wrote Attorney General Michael Mukasey, charging that the inquiry is politically motivated and that it risks repeating the 2007 scandal over the Bush administration's politicization of the Justice Department.

Bauer asked Mukasey to broaden a special prosecutor's investigation to examine the origin of the ACORN inquiry.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, except to say: "We will review the letter."

Earlier Friday, ACORN told McClatchy that one of its senior staffers in Cleveland had received a death threat and that its Boston and Seattle offices had been vandalized sometime Thursday, reflecting the mounting tensions over the group's role in registering 1.3 million mostly poor and minority Americans to vote.

ACORN attorneys drafted a letter alerting the FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division of the incidents, said Brian Kettenring, a Florida-based spokesman for the group.

Kettenring said that a senior ACORN staffer in Cleveland, after appearing on television this week, got an e-mail that said she "is going to have her life ended." A female staffer in Providence, R.I., got a threatening call from someone who said words to the effect of "We know you get off work at 9," then uttered racial epithets, he said.

McClatchy is withholding the women's names because of the threats.

Separately, vandals broke into the group's Boston and Seattle offices and stole computers, Kettenring said.

The incidents came the day after McCain charged in the final presidential debate that ACORN's voter-registration drive "may be perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history" and may be "destroying the fabric of democracy."

McCain's comments provoked a response from ACORN.

"I would not say that Senator McCain is inciting violence," Kettenring said, "but I would say that his statements about the role of this manufactured scandal were totally outlandish."

Kettenring said that the debate comments seemed to have tipped the atmosphere "to a scary point, where raising allegations of voter fraud went from a cynical campaign ploy to really inciting racial violence." He called on McCain "to tamp down the fringe elements in his party."

McCain Campaign Manager Rick Davis didn't directly address the threats, but said he sent a letter inviting Obama campaign manager David Plouffe to join an Honest and Open Election Committee "to ensure that there is a total confidence level in the American public for these elections."

"We believe that these are important historical elections and nothing should mar the outcome, regardless of whether we win or lose," he said.

Since McCain's remarks, ACORN's 87 offices across the country have received hundreds of hostile e-mails, many of them containing racial slurs, Kettenring said. "We believe that these are specifically McCain supporters" sending the messages, he said.

The e-mail to the Cleveland employee was traced to a Facebook Web page in the name of a Baltimore man. It featured a photo of a McCain-Palin sign.

Kettenring said that the bulk of the e-mails had been either "flat-out racist" or had racial overtones. Most of the group's 400 members and about 80 percent of the 13,000 voter-registration canvassers are African-American or Latino.


Update: Voter fraud in Indiana

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Only Senate can stop Big Labor wrecking ball

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
More collectivism stories: hereMore EFCA stories: here

Collectivist agenda sets sail in U.S. Congress

Election Day 2008 gives us little reason for optimism or good cheer. The economic news is bad and is getting worse. The unambiguous winner from this nonstop maelstrom is Barack Obama, who will likely sail through to the presidency. His meteoric rise is a once in a lifetime phenomenon.

Obama deserves top marks for running an astute campaign that revealed his personal steadiness under fire. He handled the inflammatory race question with tact and discretion. He should stand acquitted of the guilt-by-association charges with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers. What remains are the profound symbolic gains of his anticipated victory. Many will genuinely rejoice that his administration marks a new age in American life, free of the defensive hostility in the last years of an ever-more embattled Bush administration.

But let's not tarry over congratulations. The key question on Election Day is whether Obama's overall performance merits the endorsement of a consistent libertarian. One point in his favor is that John McCain cannot claim a clean bill of health on that issue. The Evangelical base of the Republican party puts its priority on a socially conservative agenda that spells intolerance on lifestyle issues that leaves this libertarian most unhappy. And McCain has unwisely curried favor on Main Street by denouncing the greed on Wall Street, and bashing the pharmaceutical industry. His wobbly personal performance and weak running mate, Sarah Palin, make it unwise to support or endorse his candidacy, which I don't.

It is, however, a sign of the isolation of libertarianism that a thumb down for McCain does not give Obama the nod in a two-man race. Can't be done. Sadly, on all mid-level issues Obama's program is vastly inferior to the McCain platform. Just wince at the list of his favored initiatives: bailouts and stimulus programs for everyone; another round of windfall profit taxes on oil; subsidies for solar and other alternative energy sources; ethanol subsidies; steeper progressive taxes on the rich and handouts mislabeled tax cuts for everyone else; extensive nationalization of the health care industry; a misnamed Employee Free Choice Act that will ravage labor markets for big and small business alike with its toxic combination of card-check authorization plus mandatory arbitration. I can't bite my tongue hard enough to say yes to such a misguided program.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

So where, then, is my passion on this election? Answer: in the senate. The success of an Obama presidency depends on his being unable to implement his warped economic agenda. And to do that he must be lucky enough to lose a filibuster-proof Senate. Let there be 60 or more Democrats in the Senate and our battered Republicans can do nothing to prevent Obama and the Democrats from wielding a wrecking ball of New Deal proportions to our economic system.

Two different explanations fuel my dread of one-party domination. The first is global. Mark Twain got it right when he said that no person's liberty or property is safe so long as the legislature is in session. We need strong priors before examining particular legislation. I cast my lonely vote with the founding fathers who adopted the complex voting rules of our Republic precisely because of their abiding fear of the leveling tendencies of strong democratic rule (small "d") by simple majority vote.

Globally, therefore, we should welcome any division of power that slows up legislative action. So getting more than 40 Republicans in the Senate--lame, halt or blind--is the first order of business. Three cheers for divided government!

Locally, this global instinct is backed by the grim particulars about the catastrophic Obama initiatives. Obama lives in a moral universe in which his direct perception of hardship and injustice unfailingly triggers a Herculean response. But in each case, his committed view of government assumes that his legislative program--intended to rectify some perceived injustice--cannot kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Not so. He has got to learn that indirect consequences count, and only economic theory identifies them. Until that happens, we should take steps at the polls to see that he cannot road test his destructive regulatory agenda. So begs the libertarian.

- Richard Epstein writes a weekly column for Forbes.com.


Card-check tsunami heads for U.S.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
More collectivism stories: here EFCA: here card-check: here

There is still time to avoid a repeat of the 1930s

It is an open question whether the history books will call this the "Panic of 2008". This stampede to the exits certainly looks like panic. Markets are pricing in catastrophes beyond modern experience.

Corporate bonds, for example, are trading at levels consistent with default rates of about 50 percent. If half of US firms default on their debt, we might need to find a word that is worse than "depression".

But it is far scarier if markets aren't panicked, but rather are functioning well and properly discounting the probability that the economy will be horrific.

A look at the academic literature on the Great Depression suggests that if Democrats adopt the policies they have advocated on the campaign trail, they will be repeating with eerie precision the mistakes made by both parties that gave us the 1930s depression.

Economists generally have concluded that two policy errors helped to worsen the Great Depression.

The first was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which imposed tariffs on more than 20 000 goods and set off a trade war that cut world commerce by about a third. The second was the rapid expansion of unionisation and cartelisation that followed the National Industrial Recovery Act (Nira) and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

A 2004 study by the University of California, Los Angeles economists Lee Ohanian and Harold Cole found that 60 percent of the difference between actual output and its long-run trend during the Great Depression was attributable to Nira and the NLRA.

Cartelisation - the co-ordinated raising of prices by businesses that US president Franklin Roosevelt allowed after unions organised an industry, helped deepen the Depression. But perhaps the key negative component was the massive increase in unionisation, from 13 percent of the workforce in 1935 to 29 percent in 1939.

Greater unionisation led to a doubling of the number of strikes and an increase in their effectiveness because new rules let workers use tactics that shut plants.

As the US heads to the voting booths, two of the centrepieces of the Democratic platform threaten to repeat these policy errors. On trade, there is the Fair Currency Act, which targets the supposed currency manipulation of the Chinese and empowers the president to "proclaim increased duties or other import restrictions" to combat unfair trade.

Senator Barack Obama, a co-sponsor of this protectionist bill, has argued that it is necessary to level the playing field. One would guess that a President Obama would happily impose tariffs mentioned in the bill. If he does that, in these troubled times, then a trade war could easily ensue.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

The key labour policy parallel to the 1930s is "card-check" - a method by which union organisers can forgo secret ballot procedures when they receive signed union-authorisation cards from a majority of employees. Opponents of card-check argue that the new procedures wouldn't protect employees against coercion from union organisers.

Supporters of card-check are presumably willing to accept the possibility of coercion because they believe the end - a large increase in unionisation - justifies the means. But if that end is achieved, it is likely to lead to a surge in labour costs and reduction in competitiveness for US companies at just the wrong time.

Should Democrats deliver on these promises, we will have a trade war and a reorganisation of the workplace on a par with that of the 1930s. Then financial markets will have been right all along.

- Kevin Hassett, the director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute,


Out-of-state union cash subdues Oregon voters

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Fat-cat, partisan labor-state government unions look out for #1

Public employee unions have spent more than $15 million on Oregon's statewide ballot measures this fall, supplying the money for a flurry of fliers and TV ads about those proposals.

Unions have donated the money in large chunks. Of 48 contributions of $100,000 or more made to Oregon candidate and measure campaigns since the May primary, 30 have been union contributions to an effort to defeat most of the Nov. 4 measures.

Most of the large contributions have gone to the Defend Oregon coalition and its related committees. That includes $7.7 million from the 48,000-member teachers union, the Oregon Education Association, and its parent organization.

With contributions of $100,000 or more totalling $16 million, $12.7 million of that went to the union-led coalition. The coalition opposes five initiatives placed on the ballot by prolific initiative author Bill Sizemore, and it also is fighting two other proposals from Kevin Mannix, a Salem attorney and former legislator. The coalition's Don't Silence Our Voice PAC opposes Sizemore's Measure 64, which would prohibit the use of public resources for political purposes, including public employee unions' collection of political action money via payroll deduction.

Ten of the large contributions since May came from Loren Parks, totalling $1.8 million. Parks is the owner of a medical equipment company in Aloha who moved to Nevada in 2002, and he paid for nearly all of the signature-gathering that placed the Sizemore and Mannix measures on the ballot. He also has supplied nearly all of the money for the campaigns for those measures, including the Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance, which supports the Mannix proposals.

The 10 largest campaign contributions reported to the state Elections Division since May are:

1. Oregon Education Association, $2.1 million to Defend Oregon, Sept. 26.
2. Oregon Education Association, $2 million to Defend Oregon, Aug. 8.
3. National Education Association, $1.5 million to Defend Oregon, Oct. 21.
4. National Education Association, $1 million to Defend Oregon, Oct. 15.
5. Oregon Education Association, $1 million to Defend Oregon, Oct. 20.
6. Oregon Nurses Association, $500,000 to Don't Silence Our Voice, Sept. 10.
7. Loren Parks, $500,000 to Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance, Sept. 15.
8. Service Employees International Union, $500,000 to Defend Oregon, Aug. 28.
9. Service Employees International Union, $455,000 to Defend Oregon, June 2.
10. Service Employees International Union, $400,000 to Defend Oregon, Oct. 22.


Union bigs buy NFL season tix with dues

More UFCW stories: hereMore union-dues stories: here

Fascistic union is a fierce opponent of worker-choice ballot measure

According to reports filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, over the past two years the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 union spent more than $150,000 of its budget on “entertainment” that included season tickets to Denver Broncos home games.

Since 2006, the UFCW has spent $61,600 on football tickets, about half of which was on two years worth of season tickets to Broncos games. Now who do you think is getting access to the seats? While the cashier at your local grocery store - most likely required to pay union dues as a condition of employment - has ponied up for the tickets through mandatory dues, we're guessing he hasn't gotten to enjoy the view from Invesco Field.

Broncos tickets range from about $39 to $110 per game depending on the location of the seat, and ticket prices were increased in February.

That UCFW cashier's dues have also been used to build a $3 million war chest to fight Amendment 47, a ballot measure that union President Ernest Duran admits would substantially hurt the UFCW’s membership. If passed, Amendment 47 would prohibit requiring mandatory union dues as a condition of employment.

"There are a lot of ways union officials waste the money they take from their members," said Patrick Semmens, director of legal information for the National Right-to-Work committee. "The people are forced to pay dues as a condition of their jobs, if they see their dues being wasted they should be allowed to stop paying. That is why you need a right-to-work amendment [like Amendment 47]."

As Face The State has also reported, many UFCW members often do not have a choice about joining and paying dues. Former member Dominic Brazzale worked at a local Safeway for 4 ½ months earning minimum wage. Two months into the job, Brazzale's boss told him that he had to sign a union contract. The UFCW then tried charging Brazzale $250 for representation and benefits he says he never received.

During these tough economic times, the UFCW should learn to tighten its belt and say goodbye to season tickets. Instead, Duran and his fellow union bosses are fighting to make sure the till that funds their expensive tastes stays filled with the money of its hard working members.


Shame on gay-baiting AFSCME

More AFSCME stories: here

Militant jumbo gov't union's partisan politics go way out-of-bounds

As the election staggers to a close this week, mud-slinging and innuendo continue, and not just on the campaign for the White House. In Kentucky, a Republican senatorial incumbent has become the target of a radio ad and a leafleting blitz based on homophobia and the insinuation that the senator was kicked out of the Army in 1967 for gay sex.

Page One News reported on the story Oct. 31, noting that a union for public servants--the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees--had paid for an ad that hinted strongly at a military discharge for homosexual conduct, though without offering any evidence for the charge. Instead, the ad merely asked why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had refused to make public the full contents of his military record.

The radio ad mentions a number of facts and stats about McConnell, before resorting to the implication of a discharge for gay sex.

Page One News posted a transcript of the ad, which says, "Now, people in Kentucky are asking why Mitch McConnell won’t release his entire military records.

"The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that McConnell was discharged after serving less than six months. But McConnell won’t discuss the full details," the ad declares.

Continues the ad, "What is he hiding?"

The ad’s slogan puns on the issue of sexuality, with the announcer asking, "Isn’t it time for Mitch McConnell to be straight with us?"

That same wordplay was the basis of a leafleting action in which a Photoshopped image of McConnell as all of the members of the 1970s disco band The Village People was situated beneath a headline that demands, "Tell Senator Mitch McConnell To Be Straight With Kentucky!"

The story on the leaflets was a follow-up that appeared at Page One News on Oct. 31.

Beneath the image of McConnell as The Village People appeared text reading, "Was Mitch McConnell discharged from the United States Army in 1967 for committing homosexual acts with another soldier?"

Asked the leaflet’s text, "Why won’t Senator McConnell release his complete military records?"

At the bottom, the leaflet adds, "Kentuckians deserve straightanswers from their leaders."

Anti-gay ads and leaflets are nothing new to political campaigns seeking to smear their opponents. What irritates GLBT citizens and fair-minded heterosexual voters alike is the underlying assumption that homosexuality is somehow wrong and that voters will react to such campaigns by voting for someone other than the purported homosexual candidate.

One of the most outrageous examples of such homophobic campaign literature hit the news earlier this year when Oklahoma politician Brent Rhinehart, at the time engaged in a re-election battle to retain the office of the Oklahoma County Commissioner, self-published a crudely drawn comic book depicting Satan and his minions--a gaggle of gays--as his enemies. In the graphic opus, God appears with his angels as allies in the fight to keep Oklahoma from the forces of darkness.

The climax of the story sees an angel cheering on a Reinhart win at the ballot box. In real life, Rhinehart lost the primary in July and was scheduled to be arraigned on charges of illegal campaign finance activity in September.

In other news in Indiana, Democrat Andy Schemenaur’s campaign mailed out an anti-gay flier to voters in the state’s house district 33.

Schemenaur, who is running for state congress, appeared on the flier in a number of photographs showing the candidate and his family, with the mailer’s text, titled Faith and Family: A Hoosier Way of Life, broken down into several paragraphs with sub-headings like, "My Church," "My Faith in God," and "The Sanctity of Life."

All those things are important to many gay and lesbian families as well as to heterosexual households, but among those blocks of text was one that took aim at non-heterosexual families: "The Sanctity of Marriage and Family."

The text of that paragraph read, "We must defend the sanctity of marriage as the pillar of family life."

While many gay and lesbian couples would agree with the general sentiment of that opening sentence, the text then took on an anti-gay tone, reading, "I support a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as existing only between one man and one woman."

Meanwhile, in a science fiction twist with a heavy dose of homophobia, a "letter from the future" distributed to voters by the anti-gay group Focus on the Family envisioned America four years from now as a place where churches were shuttered and talk radio had been forced off the air while network TV became a 24/7 loop of hardcore pornography... all because Barack Obama had been elected president.

The "letter from the future" warned evangelical voters that under an Obama administration, Christians would be jailed, denied adoption rights, and barred from working in certain jobs, such as education and health care, while a gay-friendly Supreme Court caused the disbanding of the Boy Scouts.

For gays and lesbians, those claims had a ring of déjà vu: Republicans in decades past have sought to bar openly gay and lesbian professionals from being employed as teachers and physicians.

The so-called Briggs Initiative, named after Republican sponsor Jim Briggs, sought to criminalize gay teachers in the state of California in 1978, and during the 1988 elections the George H. W. Bush campaign sent out a mailer supporting the criminalization of openly gay doctors.

Groups such as the FOF continue even today to support legislative attempts to ban gay and lesbian adoption.

The campaign of South Carolina senatorial candidate Mick Mulvaney was reportedly behind an automated call from a fictitious group called "The Alliance for the Advancement of Gays and Lesbians."

The robo-call from the nonexistent gay rights group hailed Mulvaney’s Democratic opponent, Mandy Powers Norrell for, among other things, promoting "homosexual unions and abortion rights."

Similar robocalls have been used in past elections to spread disinfomation: in 2000 John McCain was the victim of one such campaign, and in another instance of Kentucky politics resorting to homophobia, that state’s Democratic candidate for governor, Steve Beshear, was targeted by a robocall claiming that Beshear had been "proudly endorse[d]" by "the homosexual lobby."

In the case of the slurs against Senator Mitch McConnell, even bloggers who wanted to see McConnell lose the election decried the union’s ad suggesting that McConnell’s military career ended after half a year due to gay sex in uniform.

At The Debate Link a story on the ad included a personal note from the author that read, "I want to beat McConnell. I don’t like him, and the thought of a 60 seat Senate majority makes me giddy.

"But not like this."

Sam Stein, writing at The Huffington Post reported that according to a 2002 story in the Lexington Herald-Leader, McConnell was discharged from the Army due to a recurring eye condition.

Even so, renewed rumors have been seized on in the race, with Kentucky state representative Greg Stumbo, a Democrat and the state’s former attorney general, saying,
"Elections should be about informed choices."

Added Stumbo, "He’s obviously not proud of his record, Sen. McConnell isn’t, or he would have shown it by now.

"Something isn’t correct about it that might cause a lot of people, including veterans, to take a second look at him."

- Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.


Teamsters give scabs a free pass for now

More Teamsters stories: hereMore strike stories: here

To militant Michigan strikers, revenge is best served cold

Replacements hired, Metalworks strike in sixth day. Replacement workers were inside the Metalworks factory this morning while dozens of striking union workers again paced along the factory’s boundaries on Sixth Street and Conrad Industrial Drive this morning.

Ludington Police Chief Mark Barnett said the replacements came to the plant at 6 a.m. and their arrival did not cause problems. “It went very smoothly, the pickets were very professional and orderly and the management was the same,” he said.

Being replaced was not a surprise to the striking workers.

“We knew that was coming. They said they were going to replace us with permanent replacements. It was more of a betrayal of all the time we’ve put in and what have we to show for it. They’re making money and we’re not,” Charles Ray, one of the 146 striking Teamsters Union Local 406 workers said about the replacements while holding his picket sign today.

In a letter dated a week before the union workers voted 127-17 to reject Metalworks’ contract offer and walk off their jobs, the company announced to the workers and their families that it would hire replacement workers — and possibly permanently replace some of the strikers.

“I don’t think that shows a lot of respect for the employees who put in a lot of years, but I guess they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do,” said Trenton Lynn, chief steward for the local.

Ray, a 13-year employee, said he now has no income flow because he’s striking and will have to use savings to make his house and car payments and to pay his utility bills.

Strikers may eventually receive union benefits for their time spent picketing at a rate that is equal to about 10 hours of work each week. Those payments won’t begin until after the workers are out for 11 days.

The company did not return phone calls from the Daily News this morning.

What happened

Metalworks’ union employees rejected the company’s five-year contract offer by a 137-2 vote Oct. 8 and said no again Wednesday by a 127-17 vote and began picketing that afternoon.

Thomas Freyling, a Teamsters’ representative from its Grand Rapids office who was involved in the negotiations, said Wednesday that the main issue of disagreement is money. He said the company wants to offer $1,500 bonuses to workers after year’s end during the first two years and then provide 2-percent increases during each of the next three years starting with the employees’ 2008 wages.

The union workers, Freyling said, wanted a three-year contract with raises of 4 percent, 3 percent and 3 percent.

He said the union also has a problem with the company’s proposal to bring new workers in at a lower wage scale than used to pay current workers and to keep a difference between their pays. The union agrees with a lower starting wage but wants to include the new workers on the existing scale in time, he said.

Steve Saya, who walked the picket line this morning, said those weren’t the only issues.

“We want the public to know it’s not just about wages,” he said, adding that the workers also disagreed with proposed changes to seniority rights, use of subcontractors and the company estimating costs for health insurance coverage and co-pays.

“I don’t think we would be on strike if wages was the only issue,” said Saya, a Metalworks employee for 22 years. “The vote should tell the public a lot. When it gets turned down 127-17, it’s more than wages. A lot of the small things over the years have brought this to where it is.”


Many of the striking workers unzipped their jackets while picketing in this morning’s sunshine as they carried signs and waved to passing motorists who honked their horns in support of the strikers.

“We’re doing good,” Lynn said today. “We’re getting a lot of the community support.”

Lynn said the past few mornings have been cold on the picket line, but said the weather has not affected the strike.

“We’re all used to the outdoors, we’re hunters and fishermen and used to the cold,” he said.

Lynn also doesn’t want the public to think the strike is only about differences over wage increases, but added, “five years with no increase is hard to swallow.”

He said the proposed wage increases would be only enough to cover the proposed health care cost increases.

Ann Fortin, a 22-year employee, said it was a nice day to picket today.

“And it was real nice for Bill Paine (who bought the company in 1966) to give all that money to Manistee for the swimming pool,” Fortin also said.

Bill and Martha Paine announced in fall 2007 that they would donate money to build a community pool at Manistee High School.


ACORN's multi-level fraud for Obama

Wade Rathke stories: hereMore ACORN: herefraud: here

Founder Wade Rathke also founded SEIU, the jumbo militant gov't union

The 1.3 million "new voters" that ACORN announced that it had registered was inflated, by a factor of three. The real number: more like 450,000 according to its partner, Project Vote. About 400,000 registrations were rejected by election officials. The remainder? Voters changing addresses.

Is it too much to ask that Project Vote and ACORN update their website data? Note that ACORN now claims that it always talks about voter applications, but in this October article by ACORN's Executive Director the word used over and over is registrations. I quote: "[W]e helped register over 1.3 million low-income, minority, and young voters in a total of 21 states." If you're "registering" people, the implication is that these are new voters. I hate revisionist history.

Republicans have tried to paint ACORN as a dangerous, left-wing organization. There are truths about the organization that are far more troubling than over-the-top rhetoric about voter fraud or wild-eyed claims that ACORN helped cause the current financial crisis. More troublesome than my heartburn over refusal to admit when you are wrong.

Project Vote and ACORN

Project Vote, a federally-exempt nonprofit [501(c)3], has "hired" ACORN to drum up the voter registrations since 2004. ACORN is chartered in Louisiana as a nonprofit membership organization, not bound by the same restriction on political activity as Project Vote, the NY Times reported 21 October. A June internal ACORN report by DC attorney Elizabeth Kingsley outlined concerns about relationships among ACORN affiliates, possible partisan use of non-partisan money, insufficient affiliate governance (no Board meetings, no minutes), and an insular ACORN board (staff and members) without external audits.

As someone who was once a member of the American Society of Association Executives and a Certified Association Executive, I'm boggled that an almost 40-year-old multi-million dollar organization could be so poorly run. No wonder the organization has issues with back taxes.

Among other things, ACORN pays employees to collect new voter registrations; helps organize unions; and advocates for a "living wage" for Americans.

Exploiting Employees

However, the organization doesn't always walk its talk. According to a 2006 article in the Wall Street Journal, in 1995, ACORN sued California to try to exempt itself from paying the state minimum wage, which was higher than the federal minimum wage. (It lost).

In 2001, Seattle employees tried to join the Industrial Workers of the World; ACORN locked them out. After firing Texas workers for unionizing efforts, in 2003 the National Labor Relations Board " ordered Acorn to rehire and pay restitution to three employees it had illegally fired for trying to organize a union."

In 2004, ACORN was requiring 54-hour work weeks from employees in New Mexico.

A big whammy for me: the NY Times reported in July that ACORN hid a $1 million embezzlement from both its board and law enforcement for eight years! The embezzler, Dale Rathke -- brother of the organization's founder, remained on the ACORN payroll until the embezzlement became public. Why the silence? The "family agreed to repay the amount embezzled in exchange for confidentiality." As of July 2008, the family had reportedly paid about 20% of the debt.

The mission of ACORN is a noble one. It's a shame that it couldn't be more like Real Change, a Seattle-based organization that "create[s] opportunity and a voice for low-income people while taking action to end homelessness and poverty." Of course, it's a 501(c)3 organization, so there is limited politicking. And, as far as I know, no exploiting of workers.


Forensic Catholic accountants probe ACORN

More ACORN: hereVoter-fraud: hereWade Rathke: here

All eyes turn to Obama booster and Alinskyite Wade Rathke

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has hired forensic accounting specialists to investigate more than $1 million in church funding to voter-registration group ACORN, fearing the money may have been spent in partisan or fraudulent ways that could jeopardize the church's tax-exempt status.

The investigation is "thorough, serious and ongoing," according to a July 11 letter to more than 200 bishops from New Orleans Bishop Robert Morin, chairman of the committee that oversees the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

The CCHD sent $1,037,000 to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in 2007, including a $40,000 grant to an ACORN affiliate in Las Vegas that was raided last month by the Nevada attorney general's office in a voter-fraud probe.

The Catholic aid agency has given more than $7.3 million to ACORN over the past decade for about 320 projects, according to the Catholic News Service.

In June, the Catholic Church froze a $1.2 million grant for 38 ACORN chapters after the community-organizing group was accused of voter fraud in 15 states.

State elections officials and the FBI are questioning ACORN workers who submitted voter registration forms signed by Mickey Mouse and members of the Dallas Cowboys football team in their efforts to register voters in low-income neighborhoods, many of whom tend to favor Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

Mr. Obama once worked with ACORN as a community organizer and lawyer in Chicago.

"While there is value in registering low-income voters, I am concerned that the whole ban on partisanship has been violated," Ralph McCloud, the new executive director for the CCHD, said Monday.

Mr. McCloud said he could not reassure Catholics that the funds donated before 2008 were not used in voter fraud.

"There is no way we can tell," he said. "All our applications go through a rigorous screening, and we ask each organization to commit to being nonpartisan. The overwhelming reality is most of the groups we fund do tremendous work."

The CCHD draws $9,439,000 a year in "second collections" from Catholic churches, the next one slated for Nov. 23. CCHD funds go to groups that fight poverty, interfaith associations, peace and justice groups, immigrant aid groups, environmental coalitions, cooperatives, housing coalitions and labor rights groups.

Although Bishop Morin said USCCB money was not knowingly misused, the CCHD grants were doubled from $465,000 in 2006 to the $1 million in 2007, according to the National Catholic Register, paralleling ACORN's dramatic rise in its efforts to register 1.3 million voters.

The group ended up registering about 450,000 voters, mostly among poor and minority communities in battleground states.

Charles Jackson, communications director for ACORN, said no one from the Catholic Church has contacted his group.

"We've had no communication from Catholic investigators," he said. "ACORN's board has started its own forensic audit to look into all these matters."

In June, ACORN disclosed the embezzlement of $948,607 from the organization in 1999 and 2000 by Dale Rathke, brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke. The embezzlement was kept secret from most of ACORN's board members until a whistleblower publicized the matter, and Dale Rathke subsequently was dismissed from the national board.

He still organizes ACORN's international nonprofit arm.


Charity expert cracks ACORN open

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Vote fraud is just one of union-connected group's many illegal practices

Massive, exhaustively documented electoral fraud is but a line-item on the radical left-wing direct-action group ACORN’s political balance sheet. In fact, the antics of the hyper-aggressive Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — which has taken in at least $126.4 million in donations and tax dollars since 1993 — cry out for a probe under federal racketeering laws.

ACORN and its affiliates are not only reliable cheerleaders for higher taxes, but also longtime tax deadbeats. More than 200 federal, state, and local tax liens adding up to more than $3 million are associated with ACORN’s national headquarters in New Orleans. (See Foundation Watch, November 2008.)

The IRS won’t say what kinds of taxes are owed, but accounting experts say they’re probably payroll taxes. This means ACORN, while aggressively advocating social and wealth-redistribution programs, in practice has been undermining those programs by stiffing Uncle Sam.

ACORN uses a complex system of interlocking directorates to control its far-flung network of affiliates. Well, actually they’re not that far-flung. An intrepid blogger discovered that 294 ACORN affiliates operate out of ACORN’s building on Elysian Fields Avenue in New Orleans.

ACORN lawyer Elizabeth Kingsley raised the alarm about interlocking directorates and the dangerously close ties between ACORN and Project Vote in an internal report, the New York Times reported on October 22. There is so much overlap that “we may not be able to prove that 501(c)3 resources are not being directed to specific regions based on impermissible partisan considerations,” Kingsley wrote in a reference to the tax code provision regulating charities.

Capital Research Center discovered that ACORN moves money around its network with a boldness and agility that Pablo Escobar would have admired.

ACORN affiliate Project Vote paid ACORN $10,861,825 (2000–2006), Citizens Services Inc. (CSI) $1,206,942 (2005–2006), and $1,266,967 to ACORN affiliate Citizens Consulting Inc. (CCI) (2000–2004). Incidentally, Project Vote, ACORN, CSI, and CCI all share the same address in New Orleans.

Other ACORN affiliates with the same Big Easy address swap funds all the time.

Since 2000, the American Institute for Social Justice Inc. (AISJ) has paid ACORN at least $8,563,303. AISJ has paid CCI $362,464, and ACORN Associates Inc. $258,593. Since 2000, ACORN Housing Corp. Inc. paid its roommates, CCI and ACORN affiliate Peoples Equipment Resource Center $1,566,228 and (at least) $58,003, respectively.

In 2002, AISJ gave a $9,637 loan to ACORN affiliate SEIU Local 100. The same year, AISJ received a $50,000 interest-free loan from the Tides Foundation and a $4,000 interest-free loan from liberal mega-funder George Soros’s Open Society Institute.

These examples are just a few of ACORN’s unusual financial transactions. (More are listed in the Foundation Watch article mentioned to above.)

Don’t count on Barack Obama to investigate the ACORN network’s forensic accounting make-work project if he becomes our next president.

Obama’s ties to ACORN go back to at least 1992, when he ran a voter-registration drive for Project Vote. Obama helped train ACORN leaders, and he represented ACORN in a ballot-access case. The socialist “New Party,” which served as ACORN’s electoral arm, endorsed Obama, who was one of its members, when he ran for the Illinois state senate in the mid-1990s.

Last year, Obama promised a meeting of community organizers he would meet with ACORN after winning on Election Day. “Before I even get inaugurated, during the transition, we’re going to be calling all of you in to help us shape the agenda. We’re going to be having meetings all across the country with community organizations so that you have input into the agenda for the next presidency of the United States of America.”

The month before, Obama said: “I’ve been fighting alongside ACORN on issues you care about my entire career. Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drives in Illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work.” And during the primaries, the Obama presidential campaign paid $832,598 to ACORN affiliate CSI for get-out-the-vote activities.

ACORN’s political action committee has endorsed Obama, as has the officially nonpartisan ACORN itself.

In a video posted on YouTube on October 22, ACORN’s interim chief organizer Bertha Lewis thanked “everyone out there for defending ACORN against the scurrilous right-wing attacks and smears.” She told the audience to “vote for the community organizer Barack Obama.” (See the video here.)

Let’s see ACORN try and spin its way out of this one.

- Matthew Vadum


ACORN devours Milwaukee

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Swing state gets a free pass on union-backed voter fraud

Last week Mike Sandvick, head of the Milwaukee Police Department's five-man Special Investigative Unit, was told by superiors not to send anyone to polling places on Election Day. He was also told his unit -- which wrote the book on how fraud could subvert the vote in his hometown -- would be disbanded.

"We know what to look for," he told me, "and that scares some people." In disgust, Mr. Sandvick plans to retire. (A police spokeswoman claims the unit isn't being disbanded and that any changes to the unit "aren't significant.")

In February, Mr. Sandvick's unit released a 67-page report on what it called an "illegal organized attempt to influence the outcome of (the 2004) election in the state of Wisconsin" -- a swing state whose last two presidential races were decided by less than 12,000 votes.

The report found that between 4,600 and 5,300 more votes were counted in Milwaukee than the number of voters recorded as having cast ballots. Absentee ballots were cast by people living elsewhere; ineligible felons not only voted but worked at the polls; transient college students cast improper votes; and homeless voters possibly voted more than once.

Much of the problem resulted from Wisconsin's same-day voter law, which allows anyone to show up at the polls, register and then cast a ballot. ID requirements are minimal. If someone lacks any ID, he can vote so long as someone who lives in the same city vouches for him. The report found that in 2004 a total of 1,305 "same day" voters gave information that was declared "un-enterable" or invalid by election officials.

According to the report, this loophole was abused by many out-of-state workers for the John Kerry campaign. They had "other staff members who were registered voters vouch for them by corroborating their residency."

The investigative unit believed at least 16 workers from the Kerry campaign, and two allied get-out-the-vote groups, "committed felony crimes." But local prosecutors didn't pursue them in part because of a "lack of confidence" in the abysmal record-keeping of the city's Election Commission.

Pat Curley, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's chief of staff, told me he was very upset by the surprise release of the report. "I don't believe all of the facts are necessarily accurate," he said. Which ones? He only cited the report's interpretation of state policy on homeless voters. He denies the mayor's office had any role in disbanding the unit.

Mr. Sandvick says the problems his unit found in 2004 are "only the tip of the iceberg" of what could happen today. His unit has found out-of-state groups registering their temporary workers, a college dorm with 60 voters who aren't students, and what his unit believes are seven illegal absentee ballots.

"The time to stop voter fraud is prior to when the questionable ballot is mixed in with all the valid votes," he says. Former police captain Glenn Frankovis agrees: "This issue could be solved if [the police chief] would assign police officers to the polling locations as was customary about 20 years ago." But election monitors are now viewed as "intimidating" in minority precincts and have been withdrawn.

Mr. Sandvick's report concluded "the one thing that could eliminate a large percentage of the fraud" it found would be elimination of same-day voter registration (which is also in use in seven other states). It also suggested that voters present a photo ID at the polls, a requirement the U.S. Supreme Court declared constitutional this spring.

But weeks after the vote fraud report was released, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold introduced federal legislation to mandate same-day registration in every state. He claimed the system had worked well in Wisconsin and if "we can bring more people into the process, [it] only strengthens our democracy." Democrats tell me his bill is a top priority of the new Congress.

"They say voter fraud isn't a problem," notes Mr. Sandvick, "but after this election it may be all too clear it is." Now that Mr. Sandvick is resigning from the force after a long, honorable career, let's hope someone else is allowed to follow up on the spadework he's done.

- John Fund is a columnist for WSJ.com.


News Union takes dues hit in labor-state

Related: "The 28 labor-states" • "Spotlight: The Newspaper Guild"
More union-dues stories: here

Tree-killers beset by paper-stream waste, leftism

The Seattle Times Co. announced more cutbacks Monday, including a reduction of 130 to 150 staff positions through a combination of buyouts and layoffs. The reduction amounts to a little under 10 percent of the remaining work force and comes seven months after a similar round of cutbacks.

In a memo to staff, Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen and President Carolyn Kelly blamed the moves on industry changes and the worldwide financial crisis. They said the company had needed to adjust to structural changes that have reduced advertising revenue in all media.

Even the growth of online revenue — previously a bright spot for the company — has stalled during the worldwide economic slowdown, Blethen and Kelly wrote.

The company hinted there might be more cutbacks to come: "As the 2009 budgeting process continues, there will be additional expense reductions, which may include additional layoffs," the memo stated.

Company spokeswoman Corey Digiacinto said the newsroom would lose 35 to 45 positions from a total of about 260. She said that as of Oct. 8, The Times had 1,599 employees.

Newsroom staff said they were told at an afternoon meeting that the paper would also continue to combine or eliminate sections — the daily Business section was folded into the A section in October — and reduce the total amount of space devoted to news stories.

The company has given staff one week to accept a buyout offer based on their years of service, according to those who attended the meeting.

Yoko Kuramoto-Eidsmoe, local president of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, said the company has a history of trying to protect its employees and the newspaper but has been forced to make difficult decisions. She said the union would closely monitor any layoffs to ensure they conformed to the terms of the contract.

In their memo, Blethen and Kelly pointed out that The Times was one of the few metro newspapers in the U.S. to increase circulation between 2000 and 2007, and that the company's online network continues to perform well compared with its peers.

"As difficult as these operating decisions are, it is important to remember we have been here for 112 years, weathering many ups and downs, and these budget actions are necessary to respond to the current economic conditions and to position our newspaper and online operations for many more years of success and community service," wrote Blethen and Kelly.

The Times Co. has been trying to sell some of its assets, including four Maine newspapers and two South Lake Union properties. So far, no sales have been announced.


Newspapers across the country have been laying off thousands of workers and slashing budgets this year as they struggle to adjust to falling revenue. For The Seattle Times and many other newspapers, a sharp drop-off in classified advertising — as people turn more to the Internet to sell refrigerators or used cars — has been a big part of the problem.

Circulation numbers have also been falling. Last month, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported the combined weekday circulation of 507 newspapers across the country fell 4.6 percent from a year earlier.

The Seattle Times saw average weekday circulation decline 7.7 percent to about 199,000, while the Seattle Post-Intelligencer dropped 7.8 percent to about 118,000. The circulation for the Sunday paper — which bears both the Times and P-I mastheads — fell 9.1 percent to 382,000, the bureau reported.

Under a joint-operating agreement, The Times handles business operations of The Hearst Corp.'s P-I. Both papers maintain separate newsrooms.

P-I Associate Publisher Ken Bunting said the P-I has no immediate plans for layoffs. He said there has been a significant reduction in staff the past two or three years through attrition and, over the past 18 months, an ironclad hiring freeze.

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