5/22/09

Friday wrap

More Stimulus corruption exposed ... The good news: Perkins is receiving money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for its new wastewater treatment plant. The bad news: ARRA funds come with strings that will increase project costs by 25 percent. City Manager Pete Seikel said he is taking heat from residents who don’t understand why their sewer rates have to be increased if the city is getting federal grants to build the new wastewater treatment plant. Seikel said projects completed using ARRA funds have to accept a number of restrictions and requirements to get the money. He said two examples of the requirements are: ARRA requires that projects use American-made materials rather than the lowest cost materials and pay workers based on a prevailing wage survey that can result in higher than average wages in certain areas. (thejournalok.com)


We're all Fascists now ... "Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power." Benito Mussolini. Some members of the Republican National Committee have recently wondered aloud what others of us wonder privately. What name do we give to the direction in which Democrats and the Obama administration are taking America? In 20th Century Italy and Germany, particularly during 1933-1945, fascism merged the self-interests of despotic, single-party rulers with large corporations for whom big war offered big profits. Mussolini called it Corporatism. In 1937, when thoughtful people were examining the major economic systems queuing up to fight another world war, British philosopher E.B. Ashton wrote, "Summed up...a Fascist economic structure might read as follows: organization of the national economy into independent bodies along trade or industrial lines; within these bodies equal rights to employers and employees in determining wages and working conditions, with any sort of struggle strictly forbidden and the state installed in every organizations superior authority." (americanthinker.com)

Bonus links:
Summary of Saul Alinsky's 'Rules for Radicals'
• More Saul Alinsky stories: here
'Rules for Radicals' at amazon.com


The Truth About Unions and the Middle Class ... What do unions do? The AFL-CIO argues that unions offer a pathway to higher wages and prosperity for the middle class. Critics point to the collapse of many highly unionized domestic industries and argue that unions harm the economy. To whom should policymakers listen? What unions do has been studied extensively by economists, and a broad survey of academic studies shows that while unions can sometimes achieve benefits for their members, they harm the overall economy. Unions function as labor cartels. A labor cartel restricts the number of workers in a company or industry to drive up the remaining workers' wages, just as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) attempts to cut the supply of oil to raise its price. Companies pass on those higher wages to consumers through higher prices, and often they also earn lower profits. Economic research finds that unions benefit their members but hurt consumers generally, and especially workers who are denied job opportunities. (heritage.org)

Related video: Rebuilding the middle class




Typical union big scapegoated ... Brian M. McLaughlin, a former New York State Assemblyman and labor organization leader, was sentenced Thursday to 120 months in prison for racketeering and making a false statement on a loan application. McLaughlin had previously entered a plea of guilty on March 7, 2008. McLaughlin functioned as the highest ranking official of the J Division of Local 3 of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (”IBEW”), which represents electrical workers in New York City. Members of the J Division typically install and maintain street lights and traffic signals in New York City. McLaughlin stole money from a J Division bank account; accepted payments from union contractors; secretly maintained an interest in a company doing business with union employers, using his position as a union official to advance that company’s, and thus his own, financial interests; and directed activities of J Division members for his own personal gain and profit. For example, McLaughlin misappropriated over $275,000 from a J Division account that was maintained for the benefit of the J Division and its members. The account was funded largely by deductions from union members’ paychecks, as well as by contributions from contractors to support the union. McLaughlin used those funds for his personal benefit. He also accepted payments from contractors that employed J Division union members, and also accepted vehicles and other personal benefits. McLaughlin also served as the president of the New York City Central Labor Council (the “CLC”), a chartered affiliate of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, from which he misappropriated approximately $268,000. Prosecutors say McLaughlin had the CLC hire one person, who did little or no substantial work, as both a consultant and an employee. That person funneled his pay from CLC back to McLaughlin, who used it to help pay personal expenses. McLaughlin was also a New York State Assemblyman, representing the 25th Assembly District in Queens, from 1993 through 2006. (northcountrygazette.org)


Unionist explains worker-choice ... I choked on a bite of toast as I read the letter "Worker-friendly public" (May 20 and TribLIVE.com) by one Kimberly Freeman, acting executive director of American Rights at Work, a nonprofit advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. Talk about fiction! I have spent 40 years of my life working in union shops. All but 12 of those years were spent here in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is referred to as a "closed shop" state. That simply means that you do not work in a union shop without being forced to pay union dues. This is not negotiable or optional and, more importantly, not blocked in any way, shape or form by the company that supplies the jobs for those union workers. I spent 12 years working in a state that was considered a "right-to-work" state. The company there did not block the union from forming. The only difference was that a worker had the option of joining or not. If a worker did not join, the union still represented that worker if that worker filed a grievance. In all instances in the places that I have worked, there was a secret ballot for union elections. I suggest that Ms. Freeman spends too much time in Washington and not in the real world. Her letter simply repeated the same tired line that most union advocates push -- the company simply wants to exploit the poor worker. I have spoken with many former employees and none of them felt comfortable with the idea of an open ballot; they all spoke of being more easily intimidated by thuggery. The Trib needs to send reporters out into the field to get some spontaneous answers to the question of whether the rank-and-file workers want to retain secret union ballots or not. It serves only one purpose to give credibility to the likes of Freeman. (pittsburghlive.com)


Private ballots have never been part of democracy ... It's been off the radar screen of national news outlets for a while now, but efforts are still under way in Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. EFCA is one of those labels that often gets attached to bills in order to make them sound warm and fuzzy to the electorate. The Employee Free Choice Act is one such bill. Truth be told, it is anything but warm and fuzzy. It is downright dangerous — to both those who support unions and oppose them. News coverage of the Employee Free Choice Act has been dominated by the provision that would eliminate use of a secret ballot. Workers would no longer be able to keep their votes private — away from those who had lobbied them. They would simply mark a card yes or no — a card that would have no confidentiality associated with it. The hypocrisy of those who support moving from a secret ballot to a public card-check system is scary. It is akin to eliminating the privacy of the polling booth for local and national elections. (fosters.com)


White House 'recovery' plan: Lay off more workers, Pay off union bigs ... It is now clear exactly what type of "recovery" the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry has in mind: layoffs and more layoffs. On top of the long list of factory closings that have ravaged autoworkers over the last years, General Motors and Chrysler suddenly announced they would soon close 2,600 and 800 dealerships, respectively. Employing on average 50 workers, that means 170,000 workers are at immediate risk. (pslweb.org)


Chicago political dynasty: Corruption exposed ... Representative Jesse Jackson Jr.’s congressional campaign organization has paid his wife at least $247,500 since 2001, including at least $95,000 after Sandra Jackson joined the Chicago City Council two years ago, according to federal election records. Jackson’s political committee also gave at least $298,927 in cash and in-kind contributions to Sandra Jackson’s campaign fund, which bankrolled her races for a city council seat that pays more than $100,000 per year and an unpaid position on the Cook County Democratic Committee. Sandra Jackson, known as Sandi, received the $95,000 for political consulting after pledging during her campaign to give “my full attention” to the alderman’s post. (bloomberg.com)


Change deep in the heart: Texas nurses move to oust oppressive, out-of-state union ... Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center is a fairly small hospital — only 181 beds — but its nurses made history last year when they joined a union. It was a close election — 119 to 111 — but the victory made Cy Fair the only private-sector unionized hospital in Texas, a development that understandably attracted the attention of Houston’s larger medical community. But as in many elections, some of the workers on the opposing side weren’t happy to be represented by the California Nurses Association. Fast-forward a year, and the wounds seem just as raw. The same dissident group of registered nurses — who dub themselves UB144 after the number of votes they estimated they would need to defeat the drive — recently launched a campaign to throw out the union. (chron.com)


D.C. Culture of Corruption: Top Hilldog to appeal conviction ... Longtime fundraiser Norman Hsu was convicted Tuesday of violating campaign finance laws in a case that became an embarrassment to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other prominent Democrats he courted. A jury in federal court in Manhattan deliberated less than three hours over two days before returning the guilty verdict. Hsu, already jailed following an earlier guilty plea, showed no reaction as he was led out of court. "I think he expected it because it was quick," said his attorney, Alan Seidler. The lawyer said there would be an appeal. Prosecutors played a voicemail recording of Clinton, then a senator, effusively praising Hsu for his loyal support. "I've never seen anybody who has been more loyal and more effective and really just having greater success supporting someone than you," she told him. "Everywhere I go, you're there. If you're not, you're sending people to be part of my events. You know, we're going to win this campaign, Norman, because you single-handedly are going to make that happen." After Hsu's 2007 arrest, the senator returned more than $800,000 to donors whose contributions were linked to him.(washingtonexaminer.com)


Workers reject Stern, Burger, SEIU ... For the last month, Andy Stern's SEIU has been trying to stop worker activists at Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo from organizing to win an election and build their own union, NUHW. Today they counted the votes. 158 workers voted for NUHW. 24 workers voted for SEIU. There's a story behind this David vs. Goliath victory, and it has implications for everyone who cares about the labor movement and grassroots efforts to build workers' power. Let me tell you why... (dailykos.com)


SEIU organizer downplays Sin City rejection ... The union leader representing workers at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals said he doesn’t expect the loss of the nurse group to another union to harm future negotiations. Until last month at St. Rose’s nurses were members of the Service Employees International Union. After much public wrangling and a vote, the 1,100 nurses became members of the California Nurses Union. Eddie Burke, executive director of SEIU Nevada, said he expects the loss of the nurses to the other union to have little effect when his union heads for the bargaining table in about three years. (lasvegassun.com)


Fog City workers demand apology from SEIU organizer ... A couple dozen members of Service Employees International Local 1021 who work at the Hall of Justice called a news conference Thursday afternoon to explain their side of the ongoing saga over whether the union will agree to contract concessions. The union rejected the contract changes that would have saved the city $38 million, prompting the mayor to announce pending layoffs of 1,000 workers. But reporters weren't the only ones who showed up to hear the members' explanations. So did Gilda Valdez, chief of staff for SEIU 1021. Union members are clearly peeved at their leaders for not adequately explaining the concessions the group voted down last week - and for not communicating about the idea of a revote next week either. "We pay your salary!" one member told Valdez. "We already said no! Why should there be a revote?" called out another. After a heated back-and-forth, Valdez apologized to the group and promised to send a union leader to the Hall of Justice to explain any new concessions. (sfgate.com)


Rep. Norm Dicks placed on Dirty Money Watch ... WHO: Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act, (aka Card Check). WHAT: Communication Workers of America (PAC) $7,500 in 2008 election cycle. American Federation of Government Employees (PAC) $2,500 in 2008 election cycle; $1,000 in 2006 election cycle. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (PAC) $10,000 in 2008 election cycle; $9,000 in 2006 election cycle. The Service Employees International Union (PAC) $3,000 in 2008 election cycle; PMA Group (PAC) $10,000 in 2008 election cycle. WHY IT’S DIRTY: : Multiple officers and members of these unions, including division presidents, secretary-treasurers and business managers, have been convicted since 2001 of felonies ranging from embezzlement, falsifying official reports to government, mail fraud and conspiracy. The Communication Workers of America and the American Federation of Government Employees have had eight convictions, The Service Employees International Union has had nine convictions and The Boilermakers have had 10 members convicted, while the IBEW has had 14 members convicted. The amounts of embezzled funds range from over $5,000 to over $100,000. PMA Group (Paul Magliocchetti and Associates) is primarily a defense lobbying group based in Washington D.C. that was raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) last year. In total, PMA Group's employees and its political action committee have given current members of Congress $3.4 million since 1989, with 79 percent of that going to Democrats, according to OpenSecrets. WILL DICKS GIVE IT BACK: Dicks did not respond to The Examiner’s request to comment. THE SCORE: Number of Democrats who have given it back: 0 • Number of Republicans who have given it back: 0 • YOUR TURN: You can reach Rep. Dicks’ Washington D.C. office at 202-225-5916. (washingtonexaminer.com)


Leftwing Dems dodge a bullet ... The Republican National Committee passed a resolution at a special session Wednesday condemning President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress for leading the United States toward socialism, a victory for the party's beleaguered chairman who sought the toned-down language in the measure. RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele adamantly had opposed the initial version of the resolution that had - presumptuously, some Republicans thought - called on the Democrats to rename themselves "the Democratic Socialist Party." (washingtontimes.com)


International Collectivism

Unions 'euphoric' as Latin Prog seizes more private property ... President Hugo Chávez on Thursday ordered the nationalization of iron companies that include Japanese capital, part of a drive to build a socialist state in the OPEC nation. Chávez, who has already nationalized many of Venezuela's largest industries, named iron briquette makers with Japanese investors among the companies to pass into state hands. "Nationalize the iron briquette sector, there is nothing to discuss," Chávez said to euphoric union members during a televised speech in which he also announced a wage rise for thousands of workers and a cut in management salaries. Iron companies Comsigua, Orinoco Iron, Matesi are affected by the announcement along with the local unit of transnational Tenaris, manufacturing steel pipes for the oil industry. More than 60 percent of Comsigua is owned by Japanese companies Kobe Steel Ltd , Marubeni Corp, Sojitz Corp and Mitsui & Co, and much of the region's iron production is sold to the United States. "We've just heard about the nationalization plan and hope to gain more information," said Gary Tsuchida, a spokesman at Kobe Steel, the top shareholder. (in.reuters.com)

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