12/5/08

Friday wrap

Prez Bam's Unpopular Forced-Choice Act ... President-elect Obama faces first major test will be the union’s top goal – card-check legislation. Obama’s problem: It’s polling poorly among Americans. How poorly? Well, 81% in a recent poll said they didn't want card-check in their workplace! According to a new poll by Public Opinion Strategies of 800 general election voters, a majority of both Republican and Democratic voters oppose the Employee Free Choice Act. The poll found that 59 percent of all voters oppose the elimination of the secret ballot in union organizing elections and 53 percent oppose binding arbitration in contract negotiations. The poll was conducted on November 4, 2008. But when asked their preference if a union tried to organize in their workplace: 81 percent preferred a secret ballot, with only 14 percent preferring the card-check process. (examiner.com)


Obama: Surprise - you're unionized! ... I'd like to see an ad made about what would really happen if the Employee Free Choice Act is passed unamended. There's a provision in the act now that would essentially strip away secret-ballot elections in many cases. If unions get a majority of workers in a company to sign union cards, which are meant only to express an interest in unionizing, then, under this act, POOF! there's a union. No election necessary. (dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com)


Forced-choice "Job-Killer Act" explained ... If signed into law, the Act would require an employer to recognize a union if a majority of workers in a proposed bargaining unit signed forms indicating that they wanted representation. The Act would also provide that when a newly formed union and an employer are unable to agree on an initial contract within ninety days, either party could request mediation. If such mediation proved unsuccessful after thirty days, the parties would then be subject to binding arbitration. Finally, the Act would strengthen penalties against companies that break laws during organizing campaigns and the negotiations of a first contract. It would impose civil fines of up to $20,000.00 per violation on employers who willfully or repeatedly violate workers’ rights. It would also require employers to pay triple back pay damages to workers who have been illegally fired or discriminated against during union campaigns. (wiredprnews.com)


Teamsters strike v. 'bastards', day 73 ... Now in their 73rd day of striking, workers and retirees of Oak Harbor Freight Lines rallied today to protest what they call the "unfair labor practices" of their Auburn, Wash.-based employer. The crowd of roughly 100 people outside Oak Harbor's Portland terminal late this afternoon included Teamsters Union leaders and employees either negotiating with Oak Harbor or directly affected by that negotiation's outcome. Also there were other groups, like the Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council and Jobs with Justice. "History is full of stories like yours - of people suffering, digging in the dirt to beat bastards like these guys," said Al Hobart, head of negotiations for Teamsters. "We're gonna win this thing." (wweek.com)


Public opinion against Card-Check exposed ... When presented with neutral language that describes the two main components of the Employee Free Choice Act, solid majorities of those who voted in this year’s elections oppose the proposed egislation. A couple of important themes arise in this survey data. First, the more familiar voters are with the Employee Free Choice Act, the more opposed they are to it. Secondly, voters do not see this as a partisan or ideologically driven issue. Both a majority of Republican and Democratic voters oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, as do conservatives and liberals alike. Additionally, voters in the political middle – the battleground states where McCain and Obama won with less than 55% of the vote – oppose this legislation by very significant margins. And, in a clear warning sign to those newly elected (and re-elected) Democrat U.S. Senators, a solid majority of voters in your states oppose both components of the Employee Free Choice Act. (workforcefairness.com)


Unions halt problematic economic growth ... A 2001 state report warned Massachusetts was a “celluloid pariah” in Hollywood because the hostile tactics of the Teamsters union toward film producers scouting locations here. Seven years later, and history is starting to repeat itself, this time in biotech. At Genzyme’s opening of its $250 million life sciences center in Framingham, union workers greeted guests with a picket line and a giant, inflatable rat. The union’s complaint boiled down to this: 54 percent of the project was built with union labor, but that’s not enough. While state officials roll out the red carpet for biotech companies, labor unions are resorting to intimidation and bullying to demand 100 percent of construction work. (masshightech.com)


Alphabet soup line of union fat-cats jet overseas to oppose energy use ... This year, the U.S. union delegation will have a broad representation of AFL-CIO, affiliates: AFSCME, ATU, IUE-CWA, IAM, IBB, IBEW, USW, TWU, Utility Workers, UMWA and the Industrial Union Council. The meeting in Poznan, set to run through Dec. 12, is the 14th meeting of the worldwide parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change since it was negotiated in 1992. Under the Kyoto Protocol, negotiated in 1997 as an amendment to the 1992 treaty, industrialized nations agreed to legally binding reductions in greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide. However, the United States has never ratified the Kyoto Protocol (blog.aflcio.org)


Corrupt Carpenters Union shafts members ... "Mr. Prate would be a very unlikely candidate for work as an adviser to a charm school. . . . However, his record in this matter is truly impressive: years of fighting the union, at great cost and with little success, and an indomitable determination not to be walked upon." Martin found "Mr. Prate to be true and honest," with a mound of evidence to back him up. The union leadership, he determined, "vindictively makes Prate unequal" to other companies. After 18 days of testimony, Martin awarded Prate an unheard of $10 million in damages and gave permission for it to, once again, pay piecework. Why? Because the Carpenters Union didn't police its own contract, played favorites with Prate competitors, and in the end shafted its own members who not only got less pay but, as a consequence, less money was socked away in their trust fund. (suntimes.com)


Workers fight against Andy Stern for union's survival ... The internal union fight is about tactics and power. UHW boss Sal Rosselli heads a local with at least 140,000 members. He touts grass-roots organizing and grouping contracts by region so gains in one part of the health care industry can be used as leverage on others. Andy Stern heads SEIU International, which represents more than 2 million members. He supports union organizing by industry in order to achieve national contracts with nursing homes and hospital chains. Now, Stern is proceeding with action against UHW on two fronts. (sacramento.bizjournals.com)


Left-wing billionaire for union-backed fraud ... The local chapter of ACORN helped get Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project approved. Now, the developer is helping out the non-profit housing group. An ACORN spokesman says Forest City Ratner gave it half a million dollars, and is loaning the group another $1 million at a difficult financial time. (wnyc.org)


News Union takes dues hit in Indianapolis ... Indianapolis Star Publisher Michael Kane told staffers yesterday the equivalent of 52 full-time staffers are being laid off to shore up the company's bottom line. Twenty full-time positions in the newspaper's editorial department were terminated, including Susan Guyett, who pens the Talk of our Town column; cultural writers Whitney Smith and Chris Lloyd; and Abe Aamidor, a 20-plus-year veteran features writer and head of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild. Aamidor said he was one of four staffers who volunteered to be laid off. Officers of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, which this month begins contract negotiations for about 225 editorial and building services employees, will meet next week to select a replacement for Aamidor. (cms.ibj.com)


Secret Ballots Are Good ... Randy Zook, president of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, told Northwest Arkansas business leaders Wednesday that the bill in Congress would extensively change how unions are formed. He's part of a coalition called Arkansans for the Secret Ballot that's working to defeat the proposed act. "Our view is that the bill is mistitled. This does not present a free choice for employees,"Zook said. "That choice exists today with a secret ballot." (nwanews.com)


Chicago Tribune: No on Card-Check ... The Employee Free Choice Act passed the House last year, but not the Senate. It will be reintroduced next year, when Democrats will have strengthened their majorities in Congress. Defeating the bill is a top priority of business leaders, though, and the law will most likely still face a tough time getting a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. The inaptly named Employee Free Choice Act would be good for labor bosses. But it wouldn't be good for laborers. (chicagotribune.com)


Rebuild the middle class by denying fundamental rights? ... The act would strengthen the hand of labor organizers but could open workers to reprisals if they publicly and knowingly to other workers refused to sign cards. Even the fear of retribution, ostracism at work or outright threats could coerce workers to sign the cards. The intimidation could easily come from labor rather than management. The election process also gives workers a chance to hear both sides of the issue before deciding on seeking union representation. It is one thing to sign a card in public, but workers currently are free to express their choice without fear from either side in a secret ballot. They should not be denied that fundamental right. (watertowndailytimes.com)


SEIU probes top official's role in ex-boyfriend's deal ... Early last year, Alejandro Stephens' long tenure as president of one of California's biggest union locals came to an end after the labor organization he headed merged into a larger local. The Service Employees International Union sweetened Stephens' exit with severance payments and other compensation that totaled nearly $180,000, said union spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette. A condition was that Stephens give up the salary he was receiving from Los Angeles County, Ringuette said. Under an agreement between the union and the county, taxpayers covered the salary of the head of the union local. The separation deal has since become the focus of an internal SEIU investigation into whether Stephens' former girlfriend, Annelle Grajeda, a top officer in the union's national organization, inappropriately used her position to help him remain on the county payroll in 2007. She has denied wrongdoing and is currently on union leave. (latimes.com)


SEIU smarts from workers' secret vote ... For the second time this year, registered nurses at three St. Rose Dominican hospitals in Henderson and Las Vegas have shown a strong desire for changing their representation to join the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, and leave behind Service Employees International Union Local 1107. With 11 contested ballots still in dispute, the count in the latest election tallied early Thursday morning stood at 392 for SEIU Local 1107 to 390 for CNA/NNOC. (sev.prnewswire.com)


No sacrifices from UAW fat-cat thugs ... I haven't heard anything about UAW leaders making their own pay concessions. I haven't encountered one hint about union dues being reduced for workers. I haven't witnessed one little mention about any union curtailing its payments to political action interests. Just exactly who is sacrificing whom here? There is no question that the UAW played its own part in creating this auto industry mess. All the while, they were getting quite fat and sassy through the process. If you want some constructive sacrifices made, which could improve the American auto industry's outlook, I say we might make a good start by unceremoniously dispatching some well-paid and shiny suited UAW fat cats. (walletpop.com)


Dues objector sues Teachers Union ... An Ohio teacher has filed suit against two teacher's unions over the fact that her compulsory union dues are used to promote abortion. Kathy Hart, a fourth grade teacher from the Coldwater Exempted Village School District filed the lawsuit in federal court. Hart sued the state’s largest teacher union for forcing her to pay compulsory union fees to fund the union whose activities violate her religious faith. (lifenews.com)


Union-backed community organizers offend the South ... ACORN'S initiative would expand the law to include ammunition, and may even include a requirement for bullet permits. "The problem with the law is that it allows criminals to have access to bullets. And it's the bullets that's killing us," according to Whitley. But gun shop owners disagree. They feel it's just another way organizations are trying to take away their Second Amendment rights. "We have to make it clear we are not talking about gun control, we're talking about bullets," said Durham City Council Member Howard Clement III. (durhamcounty.mync.com)


The Crown Prince of Collectivism? ... As one pundit observed, there is no such government position as “The Office of the President-Elect.” Yet, it is a measure of Barack Obama’s hubris (and vanity) that for a time he held press conferences whose locus was a lectern bearing the splayed federal eagle encircled by the fictive and powerless title, a knock-off of the Presidential Seal. The title is as phony as a three-dollar bill. Or, for that matter, as a dollar bill, since the dollar bill is just a piece of paper declared to be the sole legal tender of the land, backed by nothing but the fictive “credit“ of the U.S. government, which is currently on a spending spree. (familysecuritymatters.org)


Ohio struggles to preserve Depression Era wage discrimination law ... Ohio GOP lawmakers have backed off a plan to revise rules on when to use union-scale prevailing wages on state construction projects. Gov. Ted Strickland's administration on Thursday agreed to negotiate rules that both unions and developers could live with. Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, the state's development director, had been scheduled to testify Thursday morning in defense of guidelines issued by the administration last summer. Republicans have criticized the guidelines, saying they would expand the use of higher union-scale wages and would depress economic development in Ohio. (wlwt.com)


Workers seek to decertify union, keep jobs ... A decertification vote will tell the union's future on Friday. Some employees feel the vote is a lose-lose situation, and guess jobs will be lost regardless. PGW supplies automotive glass products to struggling car manufacturers. As a result of the economy, Evansville production has been cut about 30 percent. A PGW representative says future layoffs or pay cuts do not reflect the union, rather the company's effort to stay competitive. (tristatehomepage.com)


AFSCME takes dues hit in Philadelphia ... In an effort to eliminate 111 positions, city library officials are laying off 49 people today and leaving 62 positions vacant. The library workers are among the first victims to feel the ax of Mayor Michael Nutter’s $108 million budget cuts in response to the latest economic woes. Under Nutter’s plan, the library system is taking a 20% hit to generate $8 million in city savings by June 30th 2009, and $40 million over the next five years. (whyy.org)


AFSCME prevents dues hit ... Gov. Martin O’Malley is planning to make most state workers take off the Fridays after Christmas and New Year’s Day, giving them two four-day weekends. “Our primary goal is to avoid layoffs,” O’Malley said Thursday. “It’s better to do these sort of furloughs as early as possible, rather than waiting until you only have three months to spread the pain over.” Representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees met with the governor’s staff Thursday to start negotiations in the middle of their two-year contract covering more than 30,000 employees. AFSCME Executive Director Patrick Moran said he was concerned that certain services and certain needs were going to have to be met. (baltimoreexaminer.com)


Gov't overspending: It's for the children ... Investigation and discussion are still in the early stages, but Serio said the department is looking into what costs, if any, could be saved if the custodial and cafeteria services were contracted out to private companies. Serio stressed that this is only being considered, and no final decision has been made. “There's absolutely no guarantee we would go private,” Serio said. “Who knows, it might be more expensive.” Mark Lavoy, vice-president of the Local 2747 American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, said the Billerica schools employ 40 custodians, all of which are full-time. Along with their duties during the school year, the custodians also maintain the classrooms during the summer. “We strip the floors, re-sand the gym, wash the walls, you name it,” Lavoy said. Some of the custodians have been with the schools for as long as 25 years. They are civil service employees, as are custodians in several of the surrounding towns. “A lot of people feel we’re part of the community,” Lavoy said. “The children know us, they recognize us.” (wickedlocal.com)


AFSCME fights to preserve dues income ... Mike Ferrero, a representative for the AFSCME union, said while city employees understand the position Morgan Hill is in - one that's not unlike other cities in the state - they are concerned about the future of the city, their jobs and families. "The last thing we want to do is eliminate jobs," Ferrero said. "It's a lot harder to find alternative employment (than before). We want to work with you to help put the situation back together." To alleviate the need for layoffs, city officials have started talks with employees to take an early retirement. Also in the recommendations, city management will not be accepting raises for the next five years, and proposes opening a discussion with the three city unions on forgoing their raises, too. (morganhilltimes.com)


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