3/3/09

Tuesday wrap

Age of Obama: 'Middle Class' really means 'Union-only' ... More than half of all Americans - about 160 million - think of themselves as middle class, according to a 2008 Pew survey. But recent events suggest officials in Washington have a much narrower definition, encompassing only the 16 million workers represented by a union. This definition gives new perspective to last week's first meeting of the Middle Class Working Families Task Force in Philadelphia. Headed by Vice President Biden, the task force certainly seems to be a high priority for the White House. But under close review, it becomes apparent that the administration's policies are not friendly to most of the middle class. In just its first month, the new administration has already sided several times with union interests at the expense of hardworking members of the middle class who may or may not be in unions. (philly.com)


Welcome to the 1930's ... In the three months since the election, the broadest measure of the stock market's value, the Wilshire 5000 Index, has plunged more than 30%, slicing over $3 trillion from Americans' wealth. Investors have walked away from investing, while businesses shut down factories and offices and slash jobs. This is both highly significant and dangerous. Capital, bluntly put, has gone on strike. Those who own wealth are pushing it to the sidelines, as a young and inexperienced president tries to jam through the most sweeping economic changes in over 70 years. The prospect of these changes becoming law has already radically altered our nation's economy. Entrepreneurs and CEOs who once created new products, new services, jobs and trillions in wealth for America's workers and retirees now find themselves vilified and punished for their success. (ibdeditorials.com)


Control the Whole Board



Nationwide anti-socialism protests set for April 15 ... Welcome to the Tax Day Tea Party Planning HQ. Building upon the success of the February 27th "Chicago Tea Party" Rallies, many of the organizers are now working to develop an even larger day of protests set to happen on April 15th, 2009. These protests are known as the Tax Day Tea Party rallies. Our goal with this website is to try and help pull a lot of the Tea Party event organization in to one easy to navigate and user friendly place on the web. We learned, after much feedback, that one of the biggest frustrations was the difficulty in finding information. Our hope is that this website will solve a lot of these problems. Planning a Tax Day Tea Party? Contact us so we can post your information and contact details on the site. (taxdayteaparty.com)

At the D.C. Tea Party protest



Capitalists cling to hope ... Over 600 people attended a series of events in North Carolina, as Americans for Prosperity began its nationwide “Save My Ballot Tour” in opposition to the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act, also known as “card check,” which would strip workers of their right to a secret ballot in union-organizing elections. “We have sent a clear message that the right to a secure and secret vote is a fundamental individual right that must not be taken away by Congress or Union organizers,” said Dallas Woodhouse, state director of Americans for Prosperity- North Carolina. “The Employee Free Choice Act is just the beginning of government’s stranglehold on American businesses,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity. “Binding contracts issued by government bureaucrats would remove the right of union members to vote on their wage levels and working conditions. Where is the ‘Free Choice’ in that?” One attendee involved in the construction and siding business, Ed Jones, claimed that card check legislation would make it difficult to create new jobs: “We do not need another barrier to creating good jobs in North Carolina,” said Jones, founder of Eastern Surfa-Shield & Facelifters. “This is a bad piece of legislation-- it is wrong for North Carolina and it is wrong for America.” AFP’s Save My Ballot Tour will continue in Virginia this March and visit nearly 40 cities across the country in the upcoming months. (americansforprosperity.org)


Why P2P Dems hoodwink, bamboozle ... The approval ratings for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson have plunged to record lows, several months after an alleged pay-to-play scandal prompted him to withdraw his name as President Obama's pick for Secretary of Commerce, according to a recent poll. The poll, released last week by SurveyUSA, shows Richardson's approval ratings plummeted from a May 2007 peak of 74 percent to an all-time low of 41 percent, according to The New Mexico Independent. In early January, the historically popular Democrat withdrew his name for the cabinet position under scrutiny from a federal grand jury. The investigation centered on allegations that a California-based financial firm contributed to his political action committees, and then received a government contract with the state of New Mexico. CDR Financial gave $75,000 to Si Se Puede, which paid for Richardson's expenses at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, according to The Washington Post and CBS News. The Post reported that the company's founder also donated $25,000 to aid Richardson's efforts to register more minority voters, as well as $29,000 to Richardson's short-lived bid for the White House. The company eventually received $1.4 million in work from the state. (hispanicbusiness.com)


SEIU, AFSCME grip taxpayers firmly by the shorthairs ... Much of their distress is attributable to the rich labor contracts routinely extended to public employees as an ostensible quid pro quo for their giving up the right to strike. But the collective bargaining negotiations mandated under state law are always an unfair match. The state, county and local government officials don't face the certain wrath of shareholders. Rather, they operate in uncertain political waters that allow them to escape voter wrath by granting public employees highly favorable, but less visible, pension packages that become payable only down the road. Unfortunately, there is today no mechanism in place that allows frustrated citizens to challenge the validity of these agreements either before or after they are put into effect. This grim situation is not unprecedented. Many lucrative and suspect contracts are enacted through special interest politics, which are then locked in place by an appeal to the sanctity of vested rights. (forbes.com)

SEIU subdues Illinois


AFSCME gets ugly



Typical strike in basket-case labor-state ... A strike has shut down a St. Joseph County (MI) plant and sent about 100 workers to the picket line. They walked out of the White Pigeon Paper Company when their contracts ran out over the weekend. Members of the International Paper and Steelworkers Union local 1034 claim the company is not bargaining in good faith. Right now production at the plant is at a standstill. (wwmt.com)


Rep. Betsy Markey, Job-killing DINO ... Rep. Betsy Markey will co-sponsor the Employee Free Choice Act, a top legislative priority for organized labor, which believes the bill will make it easier for employees to organize. “Rep. Markey supports the Employee Free Choice Act . She supported it during her campaign and she is supporting it now,” said Ben Marter, a spokesman for the Fort Collins Democrat. David May, the CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce, said he had two main concerns with the bill. "The first is the lack of a secret ballot basically through the simple expedience of getting enough cards signed. There's obviously the opportunity for corruption and coercion," May said. His second concern dealt with binding arbitration provisions in the bill that he said changes the federal government's historic role in labor-management relations. "Basically what happens is it fundamentally changes the role of the federal government from assuring the organizing process is fair and corruption free, and would insert the federal government between employers and employees," May said. (coloradoan.com)


Workers oppose Obama on secret ballots, forced-labor unionism ... After all that labor unions did to help Barack Obama and other Democrats get elected in 2008, the unions are expecting some serious payback. President Obama has already issued a number of executive orders beneficial to Big Labor, such as one instructing federal agencies to favor union labor and pay union wage rates on federal contracts (thereby discriminating against the 92 percent of the private sector that is not unionized). Naturally, this drives up the cost of government, and this added financial burden will be shouldered by the American taxpayer. The union bosses want Congress to enact a so-called "card check" bill, which has been given the Orwellian name of "The Employee Free Choice Act" (EFCA), in order to hide the real intent of the legislation. On top of that, surveys conducted by non-partisan polling organizations reveal that the vast majority of non-union workers do not want to be unionized. A 2006 Zogby poll revealed that 74 percent of non-union workers do not want to be a member of a labor union. Only 20 percent said they do. Another Zogby poll showed that 78 percent of union members favor keeping the current system. And a 2007 survey conducted by the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace revealed that 89 percent of Americans feel that a worker’s choice should be expressed in private. (thenewamerican.com)


Unionist backer breaks with Obama over anti-stimulating Card-Check ... As a long-time Barack Obama supporter, I am extremely happy about his election. However, I must mention the one item on his campaign agenda with which I strongly disagree: Labor's EFCA (Employee Free Choice Act) attempt to outlaw the secret ballot in an effort to unionize the companies of the USA. Without the secret ballot, the criteria by which companies would become unionized would be reduced to peer pressure, trickery, bribery, and unlimited, uneducated, union card-signing. If workers decide to unionize, that is their right. The laws can be modified to make it easier to unionize. But, the secret ballot should never be sacrificed! If we are to remain the greatest and the most productive country in the world, the rights of American workers must continue to include the secret ballot when deciding whether to unionize. (mcall.com)


IUOE strikers subdue oppressive employer; drivers to pay ... Local 150 has ended a strike and picket against the company widening the Indiana Toll Road. The International Union of Operating Engineers local said it has settled outstanding issues with Indiana Toll Roads Contractors LLC, ending the picket that began Feb. 9 at various work sites along the 10-mile $250 million toll road widening project. The job action involved about 50 construction material testers employed by ITRC. The terms of the settlement involve all outstanding charges and are confidential, according to a statement issued by Local 150. The union also reported it has secured a suitable collective bargaining agreement, covering wages and fringe benefits, including health care coverage, for the company's construction material testers. The local has been trying to reach a collective bargaining agreement since the testers voted to join Local 150 Aug. 22. "We are pleased with the outcome of these negotiations, and we look forward to a positive working relationship with ITRC," said James M. Sweeney, the local's president and business manager. (nwitimes.com)


Capitalist: Unions are 'violent cartels' ... Gregory Mankiw, former chairmen of the Bush Council of Economic Advisers and current professor of economics at Harvard, asserts in his blog that the Employee Free Choice Act “strengthens unions, and unions are a cartel.” He further parrots the canard that the EFCA takes away the secret ballot. Dr. Mankiw has a history of supporting the economics of the robber baron. As a federal official he once asserted that outsourcing of jobs by U.S. companies is something that is "probably a plus" for the economy in the long run. “I think outsourcing is a growing phenomenon, but it's something that we should realize is probably a plus for the economy in the long run," Mankiw said in a White House briefing on the Bush 2004 Economic Report. He concludes his anti-union blog piece by claiming that union workers have a history of violence when organizing. “Union organizers would be able to use strong-arm tactics to get workers to say they support a union, even when privately the workers don't. In light of the sometimes violent history of the labor movement, this concern seems very real. As a matter of procedural fairness, I cannot understand why one would oppose a secret ballot.” (examiner.com)


UAW strike notice: Typical labor-state bargaining tactic ... Casino dealers at the Tropicana Casino and Resort have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, but haven't set a date for a walkout. And the dealers, members of the United Auto Workers, say they will continue to report to work as usual. The union members made their decision in balloting held Friday and Saturday, but vote totals were not immediately available. It came about a month after similar strike authorization vote by slot technicians at the casino, who also are represented by the UAW and still remain on the job. Dealers told The Press of Atlantic City that Tropicana officials have maintained a "callous attitude" during negotiations. Tropicana spokeswoman Diane Spiers declined comment, citing company policy against discussing contract negotiations. (nj.com)


AFL-CIO's Sweeney smacked down as 'avowed socialist' ... I have written in the past that I feared our new president. Silver tongue will become forked tongue. Before the election the people that voted for him to control our government thought he was a write-in for overcoming the Washington lobbyists and power brokers. What a joke. Half of his anti-"big government" are lackeys to the former Clinton administration. A new outlook? What a joke. Five of his nominees hadn't paid back taxes until they were put on board to head committees. What the hell is wrong with people who voted for Obama? He is a left wing socialist that is going to head us to a socialistic disaster. A great speaker, yes. Hood winker, you bet. J. Sweeney, head of the AFL/CIO, and avowed socialist, boasted that he would spend $1 billion, a large part of dues paid by workers, that don't agree with big labor. However, you pay your dues or "you don't have a job." Big labor, billionaire George Soros, and the Hollywood elite bought and own the Democratic Congress and the president. Heaven help us all. (poconorecord.com)


Solis: New union big enforcer in town ... After just five days on the job, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis made her first public speech as a member of President Barack Obama's cabinet at an open meeting with labor unions on Monday and said "there's a new sheriff in town." Solis, a California politician with a working class background and immigrant parents, has been welcomed by American labor unions that complain workers' rights were trampled and worker protection laws ignored during the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush. But Solis reiterated the Obama administration's vow to pump money into healthcare and "green" jobs, and said she intended to enforce labor laws ignored in recent years. "We're there to help provide protection for those in the workplace, our employees. So yes, I think you can rest assured there is a new sheriff in town," she said to raucous cheers from the crowd of about 400 mostly union members, some of whom waved signs reading "Time for Change." She told the union members she would fully implement the Employee Free Choice Act if it becomes law. The union-backed measure would allow workers to organize a union by signing authorization cards instead of holding a formal vote. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said unions have high hopes for the new secretary of labor. "I say the same thing about the secretary as I have said about Barack Obama. I trust Barack Obama," he said. "I believe what he told us during the campaign are promises that he's going to stick to, whether it's healthcare, financial security, employee free choice, education. The list is long." (reuters.com)


Oppressive union bigs trash workers' civil rights ... The movement to defend the secret ballot from the machinations of greedy, desperate unions which I posted about a week or so ago is finally hitting the state’s media. And what’s interesting is that supporters of the movement are calling it a civil rights movement. And they’re right. The civil rights movement of the 1960’s was about voting. And this one is about voting too. It still surprises me that, after all the attention the chard check movement to remove secret balloting from the labor organizing process, the unions are still pushing it. Because it seems to me that denying workers a vote as to whether or not they have to join a union or pay union fees or even just allow the workforce they are a part of to organize is about as undemocratic as you can get. Regardless, I am fully behind this movement. Let’s ensure that North Dakota workers, and workers in other states as well, get an actual chance to vote before they’re forced to join a union. (kxmb.com)


Dem Card-Check agonistes in Alabama ... Alabama is a right-to-work state. The misnamed Employee Free Choice Act is now, in a strange inversion, is no longer a secret in Alabama. The cat is out of the bag - and the union bosses tremble. Senate Joint Resolution 25, sponsored by State Sen. Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) passed unanimously (!) in the Democrat-controlled Alabama state senate. The resolution requests "the congressional delegation of Alabama oppose legislation that disenfranchises workers by removing their right to a private ballot union ballot." Organized labor is breathlessly awaiting its chance to organize workers at Alabama's Mercedes-Benz, Honda, and Hyundai plants, not to mention the several thousands of workers employed by various auto suppliers and vendors. While resolutions are typically symbolic, or a policy sense of the majority in the legislature, this one has caught the notice of a number of businesses, hospitals and associations. I appreciate the boldness of Sen. Scott Beason for working this measure through. Now it goes to the Alabama House of Representatives. Oh yes, it has also been noticed now by the union bosses and virulently partisan Democrats in the House. Well, it definitely got noticed! (blog.spn.org)


Arbitrators to set wages of oppressive employers ... The arbitration parts of the card check bill are so vaguely drawn that nobody knows who the arbitrators will be. The job appears to be delegated entirely to the Federal Mediation Service. The FMS might decide to use its own employees. It might decide to use arbitrators from the private sector selected along more traditional lines. The two breakfast debaters (Prof. Richard Epstein and attorney Anthony Segall) did seem to agree that, since thousands of arbitrators might quickly be needed for the expected explosion of mandatory arbitration, it's unlikely they would all be newly hired GS-12s. But they don't know. (slate.com)


International Collectivism

Oppressive rice industry nationalized ... Venezuela's leading food company has condemned President Hugo Chávez' decision to seize its rice processing plants over a price dispute. Soldiers have taken over two of Empresas Polar's mills, reports say. The company said it would seek a Supreme Court injunction to remove troops from its property. Mr Chavez has accused some food firms of overcharging, and warned they could be nationalised if they tried to interfere with supplies of rice. Major rice processors in the country also include the US-owned giant Cargill. (news.bbc.co.uk)


The Illusion of Democracy in Latin America ... Examples of empty, limited democracy abound in Latin American history, becoming the norm rather than the exception throughout the second half of the twentieth century. Bipartisan, power-sharing political agreements characterized the post-military authoritarian phase of Latin American history as early as 1948 in Costa Rica, 1958 in Venezuela, and into the late 1980s in Central America. Historical-political analysts such as Samuel Huntington basked in the dawning twilight of a ‘new wave of democracy,’ following a dark era of repressive militaristic leadership. The Western world in general and the United States in particular celebrated the emergence of seemingly stable democracies in Latin America, most notably in Venezuela, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Colombia, to name a few of the region’s most ‘exemplary’ democratic regimes, by Western standards, of course. Militarism, civil war and political instability seemed to subside, giving way to neat and clean democratic systems with periodic elections and limited bipartisan alternation, quite reminiscent of the liberal representative democratic structure in place for centuries in the United States—Latin America’s watchful, when not overtly controlling, mother hen to the North. In the late 1990s and continuing into the 21st century, it comes as no surprise, then, that the Western world has grown increasingly worried about the dismantling of these celebrated stable democracies and the parallel emergence of new leftist actors in the Latin American political framework, first with the election of Hugo Chávez in 1998 and then in successive elections of his socialist-leaning comrades Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Evo Morales in Bolivia. Too-close-for-comfort elections in Costa Rica, Mexico and Peru further concretized the undeniable emergence of the leftist tide in Latin American politics, much to the dismay of Washington, whose vested interests in the region have been so intricately interwoven with those of the traditional Latin American elites, whose ‘democratic’ political power proved conveniently unwavering throughout the majority of the second half of the twentieth century. (monitor.upeace.org)


Greet the Left's newest Latin socialist ruler - FMLN's Mauricio Funes ... In less than two weeks, three to four million people will mobilize to vote for El Salvador’s next president. It is widely believed that the results of the March 15th election will open a new progressive chapter in the country’s long, violent history of military and civil dictatorships. A victory for leftist Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN) party candidates Mauricio Funes and Salvador Sanchez Cerén seems eminent. Despite a dirty campaign against the left, rampant fraud from the right, and heavy police presence at the polls in legislative and municipal elections on January 18th, voters catapulted the FMLN party into position as the first political force in the country, setting the stage for another win in March. The FMLN’s path to national influence has been cleared with machetes and defended with roadblocks, organized with political caravans and public forums, door-to-door discussions, thousands of marches, inspiring speeches, and political struggle within the government. Its transition from peasant uprising to major political party has been made possible by unions, students and campesinos, vendors and families, teachers and nurses, mothers and migrants. Funes has maintained solid backing from El Salvador’s broad-based social movement and the party has found new key support as well from a sizable Salvadoran immigrant business community in the United States and from rural communities and small and middle-sized business sectors in El Salvador that are outraged with the ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party’s economic policies and systematic siphoning of public resources. (upsidedownworld.org)


Brotherhood in Workers' Paradise: Raúl Castro smacks down Fidelistas ... In a surprise move Cuban radio and television announced Monday a cabinet restructuring which included the removal of some of its most visible and political top officials, including Vice President Carlos Lage and Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque. Lage will be replaced by military General José Amado Ricardo Guerra, while deputy Foreign Affairs minister Bruno Rodríguez will assume Pérez Roque's post, according to the announcement read on Cuban television as part of the midday newscast. Lage, 57, was one of five vice presidents below President Raúl Castro and had served as a de-facto prime minister. He was credited with helping save Cuba's economy by designing modest economic reforms after the Soviet Union collapsed twenty years ago. Pérez Roque, 43, was previously personal secretary to Fidel Castro and a former leader of the Communist Party youth organization. He had been Foreign Affairs minister for almost a decade. (mercopress.com)
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