Sunday wrap

Angry unionists pick, freeze, personalize, polarize one of their own ... The dispute between the state and its public unions over the threatened layoff of 8,700 employees shifted Friday to the Legislature, as half a dozen CSEA members picketed the Buffalo office of Assemblyman Sam Hoyt. The governor and Legislature say that the unions should share in the financial pain through concessions such as giving up scheduled pay raises. The unions argue that cuts in state spending translate into reductions in the work force and services. Friday, they targeted that message at Hoyt, a Democrat usually considered a friend of labor. (buffalonews.com)

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

Update: Obama's Age of Fiscal Responsibility ... The Treasury Department said Friday that the budget deficit increased by $192.3 billion in March, and is near $1 trillion just halfway through the budget year, as costs of the financial bailout and recession mount. Last month's deficit, a record for March, was significantly higher than the $150 billion that economists expected. The deficit already totals $956.8 billion for the first six months of the budget year, also a record for that period. The Obama administration projects the deficit for the entire year will hit $1.75 trillion. A deficit at that level would nearly quadruple the previous annual record of $454.8 billion set last year. The March deficit was nearly four times the size of the imbalance in the same month last year. Nearly $300 billion provided to the nation's banks and other companies to cope with the most severe financial crisis in seven decades has pushed government spending higher. The Congressional Budget Office estimated last month that President Barack Obama's budget proposals would produce $9.3 trillion in deficits over the next decade, a figure $2.3 trillion higher than estimates made in February in the administration's first budget proposal. The CBO review projected Obama's budget would generate deficits averaging almost $1 trillion annually over the decade ending in 2019. (newsmax.com)

P2P Culture of Corruption: Obama DOJ looks the other way ... A troubling trail has been exposed that has all the appearances of a pay-to-play scheme and a quid pro quo involving Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. The Wall Street Journal documents campaign contributions to Mr. Rendell between February and October 2006 of more than $90,000 from attorney F. Kenneth Bailey. In August 2006, Mr. Bailey's law firm -- Bailey Perrin Bailey LLP of Houston, Texas -- was awarded a lucrative no-bid contingency fee contract to represent Pennsylvania in a lawsuit against Janssen Pharmaceuticals. In a case that state Attorney General Tom Corbett thought lacked merit, the Rendell administration alleges Janssen improperly marketed a drug for off-label use. But in a complaint now before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, attorneys for Janssen argue the contract was not approved by the state Legislature as required by the state Constitution. It also claims its constitutional due process rights are being violated because attorneys representing the commonwealth have a prohibited direct financial stake in the case's outcome. Bailey's law firm could receive up to 15 percent of any award and, by contract, would have Janssen cover its costs in any nonmonetary settlement. Gov. Ed Rendell denies any impropriety. But the smoke on this one is dense. It behooves the U.S. Department of Justice to see if there's any fire. (pittsburghlive.com)

Capitalist oppression disrupts Big Labor agenda ... Union money and union organizers did yeoman work for Democrats in the 2006 and 2008 elections, and union leaders plausibly claim much of the credit for the Democratic capture of both houses of Congress and the White House. But the lever of political clout has been splintering in their hands. It all seemed so simple just a year or two ago, when George W. Bush was president. The House obediently passed the card-check bill on pretty much a party-line vote. Every Democratic senator not only voted to bring card check to a vote, but also co-sponsored the bill. Republican Sen. Arlen Specter voted to bring it to a vote, too. With Democrats gaining seven seats in the Senate (and probably an eighth, if Al Franken of Minnesota is seated), it seemed pretty simple. President Obama has said he'd sign the bill. The House, with 25 more Democrats, would vote for card check again. The 59 Senate Democrats and Specter would cast 60 votes for it in the Senate. Writers sympathetic to unions speculated on how many other Senate Republicans would fall into line. It hasn't worked out that way. Now that Democrats face the prospect of casting not a symbolic vote (knowing that a Bush veto was a certainty), but one that will affect the real world, they started having qualms. Speaker Nancy Pelosi let it be known that the House wouldn't vote on card check till the Senate acted. In other words: If I'm going to ask some of my members to cast a tough vote, one that will be hard to explain in their districts, I want to be sure the Senate won't undercut them. As for the Senate, Specter announced he won't vote for card check. Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln, up for re-election in 2010, said she wouldn't, either. Michael Bennet, the Democrat appointed to fill a vacant Colorado seat. who faces the voters in 2010, said card check can't pass in its present form. The unions' 60 seems headed down toward 50 and maybe below. They're blaming this on selfish big business. The real problem is that it's hard to defend a law that effectively abolishes the secret ballot. When nobody's looking and it's not for real, politicians may vote that way. But not when it's for keeps. (nypost.com)

McGovern exposes vast divide between union bigs, rank-and-file ... Go ahead and call George McGovern a liberal. He's proud of the term that many of his ideological soulmates resist. Although he is a proud liberal, McGovern recently broke with many Democrats and liberals by announcing his opposition to the labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act, known to critics as "card check." The legislation would allow unions to organize if more than 50 percent of workers in a potential bargaining unit sign authorization cards. Current law allows an employer to request a secret-ballot election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. McGovern opposes the legislation because of "my commitment to the secret ballot, which I think is one of the great treasures of America. Union leaders have criticized his stance, McGovern said, but "I've had very few rank-and-file workers tell me they disagree with me." (palmbeachpost.com)

Related video: McGovern smacks down Job-Killer Act

EFCA revision would still guarantee political payback cashflow to Dems ... East Bay Rep. George Miller has been leading the charge in the House, but his people are well aware of the situation. "We always assumed we would have to modify it," said a member of Miller's education and labor committee staff. I'm told that conversations with staffers from Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's office, which is doing the heavy lifting on the Senate side, are focusing primarily on the card check provision. As written, it would allow workers to bypass the traditional secret ballot and form a union if more than 50 percent sign cards. One compromise being bruited: ensuring a worker's right to opt for a secret ballot election, rather than simply checking "yes" on a card. "We knew all along that this bill would be amended. It seems clear now we'll have to look at some changes to get to the floor," Harkin said in an e-mailed statement. "But there is no question that it will still come up for debate and votes because workers deserve a share of this recovery." (sfgate.com)

Radio celebs for Teamsters

Labor-state editorial demands union-only P2P ... The Illinois Reform Commission is assembling a thoughtful, detailed plan to strike at the pervasive culture of pay-to-play politics in Illinois. Contracting, lobbying, campaigning, patronage—former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins and his commission have put them all under scrutiny. But too often the Illinois legislature buries these kinds of ideas in committee. That's why we support Gov. Pat Quinn's call that the Illinois House and Senate vote on every single proposal the Reform Commission puts out. No excuses. Put every lawmaker on record on every proposal. (chicagotribune.com)

Iowa shocker: Progressive SEIU backs regressive sales tax hike ... Members of SEIU Local 199 announced Friday that they are endorsing the Johnson County Local Option Sales Tax vote scheduled for May 5. According to SEIU Local 199, which includes nurses, child care workers, school custodians and other service workers, the "Yes Vote" endorsement promotes flood prevention and infrastructure improvements, the purpose of the tax. (press-citizen.com)

Typical bargaining tactic: Firefighters slap city with lawsuit ... St. Joseph (MO) firefighters will use the courts to force the city to the bargaining table. Local No. 77 of the International Association of Firefighters filed a lawsuit against the city of St. Joseph last week in Buchanan County Circuit Court. The union alleges the city did not negotiate in good faith when the two sides met to discuss wages and other conditions of employment this winter. City Manager Vince Capell said Friday he was not aware of the case, but said he was not surprised, because the union had threatened to file a lawsuit on more than one occasion. Citing legal reasons, Mr. Capell declined to comment on the case. “I will say that we don’t agree on the facts, but there is not much else I can say,” Mr. Capell said. Travis Owens, president of Local No. 77, said the city refused to open all sections of the contract for discussion. Non-economic issues were open, but economic issues were off limits, Mr. Owens said. (stjoenews.net)

SEIU puts hospitals in the middle of acrimonious union v. union militancy ... Sonoma County’s three big hospitals are becoming battlegrounds in a war that has erupted between the powerful Service Employees International Union and a breakaway union that says it has the support of thousands of local health care workers. The rival union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, commonly referred to as NUHW, was formed by leaders from an Oakland-based healthcare workers’ local affiliated with SEIU. The service employees union has begun sending in representatives from other regions to help stem the tide of defectors taking up the banner of the competing labor group. Gumecindo Gonzales, a phlebotomist and NUHW supporter who has been part of the organizing effort at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for five years, said he’s getting ready for an onslaught of SEIU troops. “They’re at the post right now with all these other union organizers from other states,” said Gonzales, who once supported the Oakland group, the United Healthcare Workers West, SEIU’s second-largest California local. (pressdemocrat.com)

Desert debacle: SEIU crumbles, IAFF shows who's in charge ... After obtaining salary concessions from two unions, county administrators are struggling to broker a deal with a third — the county firefighters union. Foreseeing worsening budget problems because of withering tax collections, Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid and County Manager Virginia Valentine began talks in November with the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, which represents 2,500 cops; the Service Employees International Union, which represents 9,500 county employees; and the International Association of Firefighters, which represents about 770 firefighters. In March, the police union agreed to forgo a 3 percent cost of living increase that would have kicked in July 1. The SEIU agreed this month to trim cost of living raises to 1 percent instead of 3 percent and cap merit increases at 4 percent instead of 5 percent. To date, however, there has been no agreement with firefighters, who are to receive 3 percent cost of living raises July 1. The county cannot change terms of those contracts without union approval. (lasvegassun.com)

AFSCME refuses to budge ... Erie County government's largest union is recommending its members reject a voluntary unpaid leave program that County Executive Mark DiVecchio's administration has offered workers as a cost-savings move. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union is doing so because DiVecchio's administration refuses to guarantee that workers who take up to the maximum amount of unpaid leave offered -- 40 consecutive work days -- won't be subject to future layoffs. The union's position was outlined in a Thursday memorandum that Karen Dorich, president of AFSCME Local 2666, sent to union officers and stewards and Larry Meredith, the county's personnel director. The union, with about 350 members, is the largest in county government. (goerie.com)

International Collectivism

Latin communist leaders fail to join Morales' hunger strike ... Cuban media sources are reporting that the country's former president, Fidel Castro, has telephoned Bolivian President Evo Morales to offer his support for the hunger strike he has commenced. Mr Morales began his hunger strike on Thursday, in a bid to apply pressure to MPs who are opposing him. The MPs are objecting to a new electoral law that would grant more seats in parliament to poor areas in the country. Mr Castro is also said to have added that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who is currently visiting Cuba, asked him to pass on his "complete solidarity" with Mr Morales. (radionetherlands.nl)

Hugo Chávez LLC: The communes are allright ... About 31,000 communal councils are operating in Venezuela under an official policy aimed at aiding local economy and increasing participation of the population in administrative management. The Ministry for Communes, recently created, informed that the Autonomous National Service Fund of Communal Councils supports communal projects with 4 billion bolivars (1.85 billion dollars) set aside for this purpose. Also the Foundation for Development and Promotion of Communal Power and the Foundation of Microfinancing Development finance 23,000 Communal Banks. The development of these communes is a socialist program promoted by President Hugo Chávez and is also considered important to confront difficulties caused by the world crisis without having to reduce social investment. (plenglish.com)

Oppression plagues Cuba ... Stepping into the worn Habana Centro neighborhood feels like walking back into the mid-1900s. Colonial-era buildings abut the streets, crumbling from lack of repair; the buildings are beautiful inside — high ceilings and interior courtyards — yet sparsely furnished because many Cuban families simply have few possessions. Much of Cuba remains in this time warp because of its poor economy, stunted by both the decades-old embargo as well as its communist government. The country has routinely had to rely on cash and commodity donations from foreign benefactors: the former Soviet Union during the Cold War and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela today. (stltoday.com)
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