2/7/09

Saturday wrap

Bam Labor pick adds to Culture of Corruption ... When in the last election Democrats spoke of a "culture of corruption" in Washington, few realized they were making a promise. The Obama Administration is not yet three weeks old but already features a growing collection of ethically challenged officials. The late night comics have noticed. "There was a huge scientific breakthrough today," said Jay Leno. "Researchers say they are very close to finding someone from Obama's Cabinet who's actually paid their taxes." Rep. Hilda Solis, (D., Calif.), the nominee for secretary of labor, apparently violated House rules by failing to disclose she was an officer of a group lobbying Congress. The Charlotte Observer endorsed Barack Obama for president, but is having second thoughts: "Two weeks into the Obama presidency, we like his campaign better than his administration," the Observer said Wednesday. "While some of his appointments are outstanding, others were either badly botched or reflect a half-hearted commitment to the change principle central to his ballot box success." (toledoblade.com)


No confidence in Bam's unqualified Cabinet picks ... Using the buzz words, "hope" and "change," Obama spent $750 million in his 21-month run for the White House and won with 52.9 percent of the popular vote. Two weeks into his administration, we are beginning to get inkling as to what he means by "hope" and "change." A quick look at how his "inner circle" is shaping up helps. Hilda Solis, our new Secretary of Labor, stated during her confirmation hearing that she didn't feel qualified to answer questions on the "right to work laws" and was noncommittal when questioned about the Employee Free Choice Act. One would think she would at least see herself as qualified or she wouldn't have taken the job! (dailyherald.com)


Bam orders Feds to discriminate against non-union workers ... Teamsters General President Jimmy Hoffa praised President Obama today for signing an executive order allowing the federal government to require project labor agreements (PLAs) on large-scale construction projects. Such agreements are efficient, save money and promote safety and labor standards. "This is yet another reason for working families to be grateful that we have a champion in the White House," Hoffa said. "Project labor agreements are a win-win for everyone involved. Contractors get highly trained, skilled labor with fixed costs, and workers are fairly compensated with their rights and safety protected." But the Associated Builders and Contractors, a trade group, said the order would unfairly steer federal construction contracts to unionized contractors despite the fact that 84 percent of U.S. construction workers do not belong to labor unions. ABC president Kirk Pickerel said the effect would "drive up costs for American taxpayers" by reducing competitive bidding on projects. (newsblaze.com)


Card-Check double-standard grieved ... As manufacturers, we are writing to urge you to vote against the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act, and protect our workers' right to a private ballot, and help keep the workplace in the control of the employers and employees. The so-called Employee Free Choice Act is a "lose-lose" situation for businesses and employees, and threatens the fundamental rights of the very workers that the unions claim to want to protect. The erroneously named Employee Free Choice Act would strip employees of the privacy and protection of a private ballot, and replace it with the hostile approach of the "card check recognition system." By removing the workers' privacy, they will be forced to make their decision on whether to unionize in front of co-workers and union organizers. This is undemocratic and frankly, un-American. My employees have the right to unionize. And they should also have the right to a federally-supervised election process under the National Labor Relations Board. Under card check, they would have nothing more than a process that is designed to allow pro-union workers and union organizers to intimidate, harass and coerce employees into joining a union. The U.S. government has denounced this type of process in other countries, and called for honest and private elections to ensure fairness. We should expect nothing less in our own country. (mansfield.htnp.com)


Bam's Unpopular Pay-to-Play Porkulus Package: Pure Kickbacks ... For the record the Wall Street Journal said "about 12 cents of every $1, is for something that can plausibly be considered a growth stimulus."• $4 billion for ACORN, who have yet to be prosecuted for voter fraud in Ohio despite more than 8,700 suspected cases of fraud and multiple people admitting to being paid to register twice. It should come as no surprise the only businesses getting bailouts are those whose unions gave money to Obama's campaign. Oddly, the majority of public transit that is receiving stimulus money - like Amtrak, which is receiving $1 billion, are ones with state and federal employee unions who, surprise, are big donors. Here is an odd one I don't know that I should even mention in passing: $83 billion in tax refunds for people who pay no taxes. I guess it's not really a refund but a handout, but I guess they need it right now; we all do. We need it more then ACORN does. "Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before." - White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in November. (news-leader.com)

Related video: Take Stimulis



Worker-choice crimps Dem-Labor P2P ... South Carolina continues to have one of the least-unionized work forces in the nation, with membership decreasing in 2008 despite a slight uptick in the number of organized workers nationally. The U.S. Department of Labor reported last week that 12.4% of the nation’s work force belonged to a union in 2008, up from 12.1% the previous year. The total number of workers belonging to a union rose by 428,000 to 16.1 million. South Carolina joins five other states with union membership rates less than 5%. In 2008, 3.9% of the work force belonged to a union, or about 70,000 people total. That decreased from a unionization rate of 4.1% in 2007 but is up slightly from 2005, when 2.3% of the work force belonged to a union. An additional 35,000 workers in South Carolina were represented by a union in 2008, even though they did not officially belong to a union. Any contract agreed upon between a union and a company must apply to all workers, not just dues-paying members. In South Carolina, a right-to-work-state, contracts mandating union membership for employment are against state law. (charlestonbusiness.com)


Big Apple affirms union-only Pay-to-Play ... A legal challenge to the campaign finance reform law that dramatically curtailed campaign contributions by lobbyists and other people who do business with the city has failed. The 44-page decision, which came out late this afternoon, granted the city's motion for summary judgment and rejected a request for a temporary injunction to block the new contribution limits sought by the plaintiffs, which included former Council Minority Leader Tom Ognibene, former Deputy Mayor Fran Reiter and the state Conservative Party, among others. US District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swan rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the new law is overbroad. She also shot down the allegation that the law sets up different classes of contributors by not imposing similar contribution limits on labor unions, who engage in collective bargaining agreements with the city and also benefit from decisions made by officials on everything from development projects to the awarding of program contracts. (nydailynews.com)


Defunding the Left ... From the rich and famous to electrical workers in Binghamton, the Bernard Madoff scandal has had surprisingly far-reaching tentacles. Among those invested with the disgraced fund manager were IBEW Local 325 and a client of Binghamton accounting firm Piaker & Lyons, who lost "a ton of money," according to the firm's CEO. The extent of Local 325's investments with Madoff could not be learned on Friday. A man at its Emma Street office said the union's business manager, Jim Collins, was in a trustees' meeting and could not be reached. He said the union was still trying to sort out the effect on its investments. Local 325 wasn't the only union invested with Madoff. The Empire State Carpenters Union Local 747 was also on the list. (pressconnects.com)


Blackout lifted on Andy Stern's SEIU corruption ... Los Angeles County has fired the former head of one of California's biggest labor organizations, accusing him of refusing to return to his government job after a lengthy paid leave arranged by his ex-girlfriend, a union president. Alejandro Stephens had been president of a Service Employees International Union local that represented county workers. He lost his union post in 2007, after the local was merged into a larger one whose president is Annelle Grajeda, his ex-girlfriend. Grajeda, who also is one of the SEIU's highest-ranking national officers, went on leave in August after the union opened an inquiry into whether she abused her position by helping Stephens, a county healthcare marketing representative, remain on the public payroll. She is still on leave, and the internal investigation is continuing, an SEIU spokeswoman said. Stephens, who could not be reached for comment, has appealed his firing through Grajeda's SEIU chapter, Local 721, which represents about 80,000 social workers, nurses, sanitation drivers and other government workers. A civil service hearing is pending. (latimes.com)


Fat-cat unions disunited ... The general president of New York City-based Unite Here has filed suit against his co-president and seven others for allegedly trying to take over the union, placing a marriage that five years ago appeared destined to boost the strength of organized labor on the brink of collapse. In a suit filed late last month in the U.S. District Court in New York, General President Bruce Raynor accused the man he shares power with — John Wilhelm — and seven others of violating the union’s constitution. The Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees merged with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union in 2004 to create a nearly 450,000-member organization that was supposed to dramatically increase workers’ ability to organize. As part of the deal, Mr. Raynor and Mr. Wilhem, whose official title is President/Hospitality Industry, were to share power. But that’s not what is happening, according to the complaint. In the suit, Mr. Raynor alleges a faction of former Here officials is seeking to seize power and take control of the union’s financial resources. Unite was a wealthy union, with assets including real estate in New York City and the Amalgamated Bank, which has nearly $5 billion in assets. Here had little in the way of financial assets, but added 250,000 members to the union’s ranks at a time when the dying textile industry threatened Unite’s membership. (crainsnewyork.com)


Typical union thugs authorize strike v. AT&T ... Communications Workers of America members overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike on behalf of more than 20,000 unionized AT&T Mobility employees if concerns about compensation, employment and working conditions are not adequately addressed in upcoming negotiations over a new contract. The CWA executive board must still ratify the strike vote. The final step is approval by the CWA president, who would set a strike date. Walt Sharp, a spokesman for AT&T Inc. (the parent company of the nation’s No. 2 wireless provider), said the strike authorization vote is not a surprise since it is a typical part of the collective bargaining process. The CWA is a major force in politics, having accounted for more than $2 million in campaign donations to mostly Democratic candidates in the 2008 elections that gave the party control of the White House and strengthened its hold of the House and Senate. (rcrwireless.com)


Union bigs get wrist-slap for dues embezzlement ... Another leader of the Glass Molders and Plastics Union Local 285 has admitted to stealing money from the union. Jeffrey C. Harris, 48, listed in 2007 as the union’s vice president, was charged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana with a single count of embezzlement of union funds in excess of $5,000. He is the fourth leader of the union local to be charged with stealing from the group’s coffers. Late last year, the union’s former president, Janette McFarland, was ordered to pay more than $7,000 in restitution after she admitted to embezzlement. Prosecutors believe McFarland was in cahoots with another union official, Frederick W. Jones, who admitted to taking more than $10,000 from the union. Another union leader, Michael D. Updike, was sentenced to probation in 2005 after he, too, admitted to taking money from the union. (journalgazette.net)


An Invitation to African Americans from the Communist Party ... "I was early convinced that socialism was an excellent way of life, but I thought it might be reached by various methods …Today I have reached a firm conclusion: Capitalism can not reform itself; it is doomed to self-destruction. No universal selfishness can bring social good to all. In the end communism will triumph. I want to help bring that day." - W.E.B. DuBois requesting membership in the Communist Party USA, 1961. Join the Party of change, struggle and commitment to freedom and equality, the CPUSA. Our country is facing its greatest crisis since the 1930s. At the same time, the moment is filled with great hope and possibility. The crisis was caused by capitalism and Wall Street greed. The solution to it is being born in today's unprecedented mass movement for change. Capitalism breeds racism, unemployment and war, but it also creates the possibility for solving these problems, but not without struggle involving millions of working-class people. The Communist Party understands this and has a program that calls for fundamentally transforming our society and using its great wealth to meet human needs. Today we believe that all people – Black, Latino, Native American, Asian and white – must unite and fight for an economic recovery that puts peoples needs before corporate greed. This recovery must be one that places affirmative action and good paying union jobs at its center. (cpusa.org)


Collective bargaining protects teachers raises ... The Rochester teachers union says it would be illegal for the group even to consider a proposed districtwide salary freeze at this time. Rochester Education Association President Kit Hawkins says the Public Employees Labor Relations Act prohibits negotiations away from the bargaining table. Superintendent Romain Dallemand floated the idea of a salary freeze for all the district's employees, saying it would save $2.6 million and stave off large-scale job layoffs. On Tuesday, the district is set to cut between $8.5 million and $15.7 million from its budget. As it stands, dozens of teachers are expected to be laid off. On Jan. 28, Dallemand said he would expedite meetings with district bargaining groups. Board members publicly questioned how that could happen so quickly. Quite simply - it can't, according to the teachers union. (news.postbulletin.com)


Mideast analyst: Bam's vanity shines through ... President Barack Hussein Obama's first major international interview, given to Al-Arabiya, the Middle East television network, did not come as a surprise. Nor was it a surprise that the new occupant of the White House, displaying his rhetorical skills, attempted to placate the Arab streets and Arab leaders by indicating the Obama administration will restore "respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago." It is only a leader as vain as Obama, surrounded by a sycophantic and genuflecting mainstream media, who would indulge in such sophistry. Thirty years ago another Democrat, Jimmy Carter, was in the White House when an anti-American revolution rent asunder Iran under the Shah and pushed the entire region in the direction of Islamism, with the situation gone from bad to worse. There was the invasion of Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union, an Islamist bid to overthrow the Saudi monarchy with the siege of Mecca, the Lebanese slide into civil war, the murder of Egypt's president Anwar Sadat by Islamists, and American diplomats held hostage in Tehran for over a year by Iran's clerical regime. Since 1979 America has paid more attention to the Middle East than any other region of the world. It has to do with a host of reasons, but one not readily discussed is what Abdelwahab Meddeb -- a Tunisian scholar resident in Paris -- termed the "malady of Islam." (winnipegsun.com)


International Collectivism

Putin sets up Chávez ... Russia's prime minister has approved a draft agreement with Venezuela to jointly establish a bank to finance bilateral energy and other projects. The bank, to be founded by major Russian banks VTB and Gazprombank and Venezuela's treasury and state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., is to be headquartered in Moscow and have a branch in the Latin American state. There have as yet been no reports on its charter capital or the founders' stakes. The bank is to provide services to corporate clients, mainly those engaged in oil and gas production in Russia and Venezuela, as well as in the petrochemical and power industries, metal production, machine-building, infrastructure projects. Prime Minster Vladimir Putin has ordered the Finance Ministry, Gazprombank, VTB and other involved agencies to finalize the agreement and sign it with Venezuela. (en.rian.ru)


Start it up: Russian nukes energize Iran ... The Bushehr nuclear power station being built in Iran by Russia is nearly complete and should be launched within the year, Iran's ambassador to Moscow said in an interview published Friday. "Ninety-five percent of the work has been completed," Ambassador Mahmoud Reza Sajadi told the daily Gazeta. "The Russian and Iranian sides will be ready to launch the plant in the second half of 2009." The Iranian envoy's comments coincided with remarks Thursday from Sergei Kirienko, the head of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom), who also forecast the launch of the Bushehr facility would take place this year. (newsmax.com)


Democracy threatens leading Latin socialist ... Oscar Schemel, director of polling company Hinterlaces, said on Friday that according to surveys made late in January, the "No" vote in an impending referendum on indefinite reelection is five points ahead of the "Yes" vote. Schemel added that between January 23 and January 31, the "Yes" vote stagnated, even though last December the polls found that rejection of the indefinite reelection was in decline (from 27 percent to 11 percent). Schemel stressed that the number of Venezuelans who see themselves as "chavistas" (supporters of President Hugo Chávez) has declined to 28 percent. Meanwhile, voters who are not government supporters or dissenters increased to 51 percent. (english.eluniversal.com)


Bolivarian socialist model driven by 'Labor Organic Law' ... Reforms and special decrees, together with labor conflicts, have undermined the private sector stability and, sometimes, laid the foundations for state intervention and the creation of a different production model. Pressure on companies began with fire freezing upon the grounds of preserving jobs amidst political and economic turmoil in 2002 and subsequent years. Initially a way to prevent layoffs, after continuous seven years in force, the decree became a formula to lower unemployment rates, which last year ended at 6.1 percent, according to the data provided by the official National Statistics Institute (INE). However, as from 2006, the government started to tighten the nuts through a number of decrees and legal reforms that toughened labor standards. The first order was the certificate of labor good standing. It is a document that companies must have to make business with the state, have access to US dollars at the official exchange rate and take part in bidding, among others. Few months later, came the reform of the Regulations on the Labor Organic Law, setting standards apropos mass layoffs. Therefore, before opting for this alternative, companies could be asked to enter into partnership with their workers in order to lead the business through co-management. (english.eluniversal.com)
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