Sunday wrap

NYT: SEIU lobbyist authored Bam's union-payback executive orders ... Judging by the metadata of one file, one of the regulations was written by the SEIU's legal counsel, or associate general counsel, Craig Becker -- although he may have gone to work for the Administration. Remember all those headlines from eight years ago along the lines of "White House lets business lobbyists write the law?" What sense do these orders make? The Times frames the story as Obama taking a swipe at Bush, consistent with Obama presentation of them at the White House ceremony. Times reporter David Stout is discreetly silent about Obama's debt to organized labor. The orders are Obama's downpayment on the debt. (powerlineblog.com)

Organizers hide the facts from workers ... President Obama insists in public statements that his administration strives for openness and that his policies seek fairness for working families. Recent executive orders, on the other hand, value neither principle and instead favor the interests of organized labor. Among the directives issued by the White House on Friday, under the guise of trying to "level the playing field for workers and the unions that represent their interests," was an order that federal contractors are no longer required to inform employees that they can withhold dues used to support their bargaining unit's political activities. (lvrj.com)

U.S. Organizer-in-Chief Gets Right To Work

Bam tackles non-union workforce ... President Barack Obama's moves to enhance labor unions' ability to organize in U.S. workplaces is an "ominous message" to employers, a legal group says. In undoing the Bush administration's rules, federal contractors will no longer be reimbursed for trying to prevent their workers from unionizing, nor will they be required to post instructions on how employees could opt out of union dues earmarked for political purposes, The Washington Times reported Saturday. "President Obama has sent an ominous message to the 93 percent of private sector workers in America who, for whatever reasons, have chosen not to unionize: You're not welcome here," said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a Virginia legal non-profit. (timesoftheinternet.com)

Bush GOP legacy: Unchecked union political power ... When my father was Louisiana's Republican National Committeeman from 1988-1993, he and Morton Blackwell repeatedly tried to pass a resolution urging the Bush administration to codify the "Beck decision" that allowed workers to withhold (or get back) union dues taken from them and used for purely political purposes, rather than for benefits or collective bargaining services. The Beck decision was one of the greatest advances for worker rights in years (oddly, just this past week Barack Obama issued an executive order rescinding the younger Bush's Beck-related orders), but the first Bush administration, cowered by the unions that never were going to support the administration anyway, absolutely refused to do anything to implement Beck -- and the lickspittle, pathetic, obsequious RNC refused to let the Hillyer/Blackwell resolution even see the light of day. (spectator.org)

Steelworkers issue rolling strike notice ... A strike by about 24,000 refinery workers was averted, at least for now, as both sides agreed to extend negotiations for at least 24 hours. The union agreed to a rolling 24-hour extension, which allows the union to give the required one-day notice to strike. Thursday, union negotiators turned down the most recent offer of a 2.5 percent wage increase for each of the next three years, in addition to changes in medical coverage. The impasse comes with refiners already cutting back production and industry experts are divided over whether a strike would hit the pocketbooks of motorists. (journalgazette.net)

Local gov't unions plunder taxpayers ... The union membership rate for public sector workers (36.8 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private industry workers (7.6 percent). Within the public sector, local government workers had the highest union membership rate, 42.2 percent. This group includes many workers in several heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and fire fighters. Private sector industries with high unionization rates include transportation and utilities (22.2 per-cent), telecommunications (19.3 percent), and construction (15.6 per-cent). In 2008, unionization rates were relatively low in financial activities (1.8 percent) and professional and business services (2.1 percent). (theunionlabelblog.com)

How municipal unions raise costs ... Take, for example, the right to work. The reason our glorious country has attracted so many immigrants in its short history: In the U.S., you can find work. But in recent years, Anchorage City Hall has dampened the American dream of finding work by adopting rules that are nothing more than discriminatory at best and outright extortion at worst. Did you know there are provisions in place requiring nonunion contractors who want to do electrical work for the city of Anchorage to first agree to sign on with the IBEW, the electrical workers union? If nonunion contractors want to do city work, they have to give cash to the union. Contractors have to pay into the IBEW's pension fund, help pay for its training program and pay IBEW dues. Rebecca Logan, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors, an organization working to protect the rights of Alaska's nonunion workers, says this requirement, which duplicates benefit payments, costs the average nonunion company an extra $40,000 per worker, per year, per city contract. This obviously drives up the costs of city bids, meaning taxpayers are left with the bill. (adn.com)

Greedy fat-cat unions disorganize ... By another measure, though, Wednesday wasn't a good day at all for American unions. In Oakland, the Service Employees International Union -- with nearly 2 million members, the nation's most vibrant union and California's largest -- took direct control of one of its stellar locals, the 150,000-member United Healthcare Workers West, ousting the elected local officers, who in turn announced that they would seek to form a rival union to the SEIU. In New York, meanwhile, another of the nation's leading unions, UNITE-HERE, is engaged in all-out civil war. The union was created in 2004 through a merger of UNITE, which represented workers in the dying domestic apparel and textile industries, and HERE, which represented hotel workers. The logic behind the merger was that UNITE had limited organizing opportunities, but significant financial resources. HERE had considerable organizing opportunities but not enough money to exploit them. (latimes.com)

Union bigs: Greedy liars

CNN: Corruption-tainted Stern threatens Dem lawmakers ... The head of America's fastest-growing labor organization tells newly elected office-holders: Live up to your promises or face the wrath, and the money, of labor next time round. Andy Stern, president of the SEIU, says politicians must keep their campaign promises or lose labor support. Andy Stern, president of the SEIU, says politicians must keep their campaign promises or lose labor support. "We believe that democracy functions best when you hold people accountable for what they promise." (edition.cnn.com)

SEIU's Balanoff backs free-speech ban, defends union-only P2P ... In our latest feature article, Adam notes that Rod Blagojevich's removal from office could clear the way for some far-reaching -- and much-needed -- campaign finance restrictions in Illinois. On WTTW's Chicago Tonight yesterday, former state comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch echoed that sentiment. She highlighted the "window of opportunity" created by Blagojevich's departure and cited caps on campaign contributions as "essential." Watch it: Netsch's observation that "it can't just be legislators" pushing these sorts of reforms is very important. Grassroots and institutional support is going to be crucial. And to that point, I want to highlight the fact that SEIU Illinois is itself pushing for strict restrictions on campaign contributions, which bodes well for the cause. (hickeysite.blogspot.com)

Union-backed fraud group charged with RICO violations ... The ACORN 8 claim to represent "a new beginning for ACORN of the people, by the people and for the people." They believe that "ACORN can not change itself without your help, since 'Power concedes nothing without a demand, it never has and it never will" (quoting Fredrick Douglas). Their professed goal: "to reform ACORN to insure truth and transparency within the organization, and to our supporting sponsors, and our general membership." ACORN needs reform, truth and transparency...and its political and media allies should be exposed and inspected, not encouraged and protected. The ACORN 8 are complaining about the way ACORN has operated for years, in and out of court. The ACORN 8 recently filed a civil RICO suit alleging that they "have discovered that ACORN has become the victim of its Senior Staff and Executive Committee members through the course of an association-in-fact enterprise and RICO conspiracy." The ACORN 8 further allege: "The Defendants have engaged in these acts knowingly and intentionally with a common purpose of controlling ACORN its and its associated/affiliated entities and denying its membership the benefits of any true democratic process. Thus, there appears to be a pattern of misuse and/or conversion of funds, abuse of management authorization, concealment of assets and evidence of management collusion, throughout ACORN and related organizations.” (postchronicle.com)

Partisan Porkulus Package Advances

Stimulating illegality, thuggery ... There's a growing body of evidence that the latest economic stimulus plan, passed with Democrat votes only in the House and now before the Senate, will be another exercise in spitting in the wind. Financial guru Martin Feldstein calls it "an $800 billion mistake." Worse, however, are indications that Democrats are using the measure to bolster some of the very people who helped create the crisis and common lawbreakers. And no, we're not talking about Wall Street titans. (At least not this time). One provision would open the door to illegal aliens being given tax credits -- $500 per individual or $1,000 per couple. Even though "nonresident aliens" aren't said to be eligible, there's a loophole. Those who don't have Social Security numbers can use an alternative number. Then there's ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Already funded with millions of dollars in taxpayer money -- and responsible for bullying the financial sector to give people mortgages who couldn't afford them -- ACORN could receive up to $5 billion more in public money. And the rules regarding the use of this money are even less rigorous than those received in past extortions. This isn't a stimulus bill; this is a bill designed to reward illegality and thuggery, which just happens to be a very large part of the Democratic Party's base. (pittsburghlive.com)

All union dues are political ... The state’s labor unions pitched in heavily to the campaign coffers of legislative leaders in 2008, a year that saw some of labor’s top initiatives on the agenda. The Iowa State Education Association, which represents Iowa teachers and school employees, was a big donor to leaders, with their political action committee writing checks to them as large as $25,000 or $50,000. In total, the group’s PAC gave $370,000 to legislative candidates in 2008, according to reports compiled by a state database. Brad Hudson, a lobbyist for the ISEA, said they’ve worked to educate their 34,000 members about the importance of contributing to the group’s PAC. They ask members to donate $15 per year, and Hudson said participation has gone up dramatically in the last four years. No share of union dues goes to the PAC. “We’re just sharing with them that really every decision that impacts the classroom is a political decision,” Hudson said. (siouxcityjournal.com)

No-bid P2P corrupts South Dakota ... South Dakota law allows private businesses and individuals who make political contributions to governors' campaigns to hold state service contracts, including many contracts that are awarded without competitive bids. Critics say this no-bid system and connected donations gives the appearance of questionable pay-to-play arrangements, which have led to criminal cases in other states. The connection between donations and state contracts is troubling, reform advocate Sam Kephart of Spearfish said. "I'm not suggesting that anyone in this state is taking an envelope with cash and putting it in their pocket," Kephart said. "I'm talking about a systemic application, legally, of favors in exchange for consideration in campaigns. And we, as a culture in this state, have to decide if that's OK." Democratic Sen. Scott Heidepriem of Sioux Falls introduced a bill Friday in the South Dakota Legislature that would do just that. Heidepriem calls it an "anti-pay-to-play statute" fashioned after a law that just took effect in Illinois. It would prevent any service provider with a state contract worth more than $25,000 from donating to the governor and other state politicians or political action committee. "I'm tired of going through the list of no-bid state contracts and seeing the constant pay-to-play nature of transactions where people have contracts with the Rounds administration and also make thousands and thousands of dollars in donations," Heidepriem said. "I'm tired of it, and I think the people of South Dakota are tired of it." (rapidcityjournal.com)

International Collectivism

World turns to wealth destruction ... People are "depressed and traumatized," Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of News Corp. noted on the first full day of the forum, adding that worldwide some "$50 trillion of personal wealth" had vanished since the crisis worsened with the Sept. 15 collapse of Lehman Bros. Co. "The size of the problem confronting us today is larger than in the 1930s," said billionaire philanthropist George Soros. The scope of the decline was evident even among the gift bags that attendees — who pay thousands of dollars to participate — received this year. Instead of loaded personal digital assistants, fine Swiss chocolates and gadgets they got basic, blue-hued pedometers instead. Some of the biggest players contributing to the economic slide stayed away, some of them bankrupt or fired. So did top economic policy-makers in U.S. President Barack Obama’s new administration. Despite talk of more regulation and government intervention, there were pleas for free-market capitalism. "Don’t let’s lose sight of what creates wealth. It is open markets, it is capitalism," said Murdoch. (thechronicleherald.ca)

Latin anti-capitalists use cover of 'democracy' to gain traction ... Social movements in Latin America have been in the “trenches of resistance” against global capitalism, and now need to move to an “offensive,” taking concrete steps toward the creation of alternatives to capitalism, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez expressed during a speech to thousands of participants in the World Social Forum Thursday in Belém do Pará, Brazil. “Just like Latin America and the Caribbean received the biggest dose of neo-liberal venom, our continent has been the immense territory where social movements have sprouted with the greatest strength and begun to change the world,” said Chávez. Chávez expanded upon the traditional slogan of the World Social Forum, “Another world is possible,” adding, “another world is necessary, and another world is being born in Latin America and the Caribbean!” The Venezuelan president, who was joined by several allies in the region, Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva of Brazil, and Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, emphasized that the drive toward social justice has taken on a new character since leaders with leftist policies have been democratically elected over the past decade. “Revolutions are no longer guerrilla battalions, no! This is a new revolutionary wave,” Chávez asserted, requesting that social movements “step up their popular offensive toward revolutionary changes.” (venezuelanalysis.com)

Communist monarch bids for Bam's attention ... North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has hailed his troops as "invincible" as state media on Sunday warned of a possible military conflict with South Korea amid heightened tensions. Kim expressed confidence in his soldiers' ability to "shatter any surprise invasion of the enemy at a single blow" as he inspected an army unit, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said. "The KPA (Korean People's Army)... has grown to be the invincible revolutionary ranks all members of which devotedly defend the Party and the leader," it quoted Kim as saying, without giving a date for the visit. The KCNA dispatch came days after North Korea scrapped all political and military agreements with the South, further raising tensions between the two sides, which technically remain at war as the 1950-1953 Korean War ended without a peace treaty. "To our nation in an armistice, confrontation means an escalated tension which could lead to an inescapable and unavoidable military conflict and war," Rodong Sinmun, the North's ruling communist party paper, said Sunday. Rodong then warned of the South's "destruction" if Seoul keeps ignoring warnings from the North. (google.com)

Arab Street cheers Chávez ... A group of 15 gunmen took over the oldest synagogue in Caracas the night of Jan. 30, ransacking the sanctuary, desecrating Torahs and spray-painting walls with anti-Semitic slogans in what Venezuelan Jewish leaders called the worst attack ever on their community. A security guard was overpowered and tied up at around 10 PM; the gunmen remained in the temple until 3 AM. Slogans left on the walls read "Damn the Jews," "Jews get out" and "Israel assassins." A crude representation of the devil was also scrawled on a wall. The assailants broke down the synagogue's door and threw scripture books on the floor. When they left, they took away computers, files and documents, officials said. They did not cover their faces, but took the recordings from security cameras with them. "Never in the history of Venezuela's Jewish community have we been the target of such an aggression," Elias Farache, the president of Venezuela's Jewish Association, said. "The climate is very tense. We feel threatened, intimidated, attacked," he said. (ww4report.com)

Fascistic socialist criminalizes student protest ... Up to now, the only people who have figured out how to beat Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez have been kids. Since first winning the presidency in 1998, Chávez had never lost an election until December 2007, when he was stunned in a constitutional referendum that he had hoped would eliminate presidential term limits and greatly expand his socialist project. But his nemesis in that plebiscite wasn't Venezuela's feckless political opposition. It was instead a broad and unexpected university student movement that took to the streets, mobilized the victorious "No" vote and flummoxed Chávez. Chávez seems confounded no more. He's called yet another national referendum, for Feb. 15, to revisit the term limits question. And this time he's doing a more effective if sometimes controversial job of thwarting the youths who once thwarted him. "If they block a street, tear gas them good," he's urged his police. With the students neutralized, and with the regular opposition parties still unable to challenge Chávez on a national level, the leftist revolutionary is looking more likely to win this new bid for indefinite re-election. Chávez "is playing a more effective role against us," concedes student leader Juan Mejia, 22, an engineering major at Simon Bolivar University in Caracas. "But he's doing it mainly by criminalizing us." (time.com)

Putin cracks down on dissenters ... Russian security forces on Saturday arrested dozens of activists as the authorities forcefully broke up protests against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's handling of the economic crisis. Eduard Limonov, head of the banned National Bolshevik Party, was among those arrested by security forces when he was about to address an unauthorized protest meeting in central Moscow, an AFP correspondent reported. Plain clothes officers and regular police rushed towards Limonov with such force that he was pushed to the ground in front of a giant statue of the great Soviet poet Mayakovsky. He was arrested and taken into a waiting armoured truck before being driven to a detention centre. A dozen more activists were arrested at another Moscow demonstration organised by supporters of former world chess champion turned Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov, an AFP correspondent reported. Shouting "We need another Russia" and "Russia without Putin," around seventy people marched between metro stations in western Moscow. Clashes erupted with masked men brandishing truncheons, leaving one demonstrator's face covered in blood. The arrested activists were taken into waiting police cars. The Interfax news agency, citing a security source, said the leader of the opposition "We" youth movement, Roman Dobrokhotov, was also detained at a demonstration close to the government headquarters. (google.com)
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