Monday wrap

Dems in quiet revolt against union goon squads ... There is a growing roster of Democrats coming out against the White House-backed card check legislation, and now Orlando has its own political A-listers following suit. Roger Chapin and Joe Kefauver recently formed an advocacy group called Floridians for Responsible Policy (Floridiansforresponsiblepolicy.com), which will take on the bill that pits business against labor as item No. 1 on its agenda. Chapin and Kefauver, both longtime Democrats who voted for Barack Obama for president and contributed to Democratic candidates, say the Employee Free Choice Act is bad for a lot of reasons, but first and foremost it represents an "over-reaching" by their party. "I agree with the right to unionize," said Chapin, an executive at Mears Transportation, which contended with an attempt to organize last year. "But this tilts the playing field too far." Last week Bloomberg reported that three Chicago billionaires and hotel owners who helped raise money for Obama, including finance chairwoman Penny Pritzker, are against the legislation. Kefauver, who runs the public affairs consulting company Edgewater Group, said supporting labor shouldn't be the only "litmus test for being a good Democrat." "We're talking about what's good, what's fair for the worker," he said. "That piece of the issue is getting lost in all this." (newsday.com)

In case you missed it: The Union News weekend
Sunday: Halcyon pro-union 1970's remembered fondly
Saturday: Obama plays pro-SEIU hardball with Stimulus

Time Out: Union big stops taking care of #1 ... The president of the shipyard workers union - a labor organization dogged for years by declining membership and a federal racketeering lawsuit - reported receiving $1.2 million in compensation last year but abruptly gave back much of the money in April after his big payout was disclosed to the government, according to federal documents and interviews. Even after giving back more than half his compensation, Richard J. Hughes Jr. of the International Longshoreman's Association still earned $494,635 in salary and expenses in 2008, putting him among the top two dozen highest-salaried labor executives outside of professional sports, according to public records. The longshoreman's union filed a report with the government in March showing that Mr. Hughes was paid $739,729 in 2008 from the union's "retirement equalization" plan, on top of his nearly half-million dollars in salary and expenses, according to interviews and records. But on tax day, April 15, Mr. Hughes returned the money to the union, officials said. Several labor analysts expressed concern about the union's pay practices and the changes it made in its financial reports. "I'd be concerned if I were a member, because the president is making a straight salary of almost a half-million dollars," said Gary N. Chaison, professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Massachusetts. "That compensation seems very high. "It always raises a red flag when someone returns part of their compensation." (washingtontimes.com)

Stern, Obama tweak Stimulus 'federalism' ... Officials in the governor's office say a politically powerful union may have had inappropriate influence over the Obama administration's decision to withhold billions of dollars in federal stimulus money from California if the state does not reverse a scheduled wage cut for the labor group's workers. The officials say they are particularly troubled that the Service Employees International Union, which lobbied the federal government to step in, was included in a conference call in which state and federal officials reviewed the wage cut and the terms of the stimulus package. California Secretary of Health and Human Services Kim Belshe said she could not recall another instance in which the federal government invited a significant stakeholder group into such government-to-government negotiations. "The involvement of a stakeholder in this kind of state-federal deliberative process is unusual at best," she said. "This was really atypical and outside any norm I am familiar with." In addition to several state and federal officials, participants in the April 15 conference call included an SEIU associate general counsel in Washington, a lobbyist for SEIU in California and a representative from SEIU's policy staff in California, according to a list provided by the Schwarzenegger administration. (newsday.com)

Garden State basks in union-only Pay-to-Play ... A sweeping pay-to-play ban that curtails the ability of candidates to raise money - effectively handing an advantage to wealthy politicians who can fund their campaigns - will be tested for the first time in this year's governor's race. Campaign cash is especially important in New Jersey because candidates buy television ads in New York and Philadelphia, two of the highest-priced media markets in the country. But because of a history of corruption, state laws limit who can contribute money to finance those expensive campaigns. The untested campaign-finance law was written by former Gov. Jim McGreevey in 2004 just before he stepped down. At the time, McGreevey's administration was awash in a series of scandals. (philly.com)

Why do corporations hate workers? ... I served so that my children would have better opportunities than I did. Their futures, however, are in jeopardy, and my grandchildren, too, face bleak prospects. My son is looking for work. He is trying to join a union, but the competition for the jobs is fierce. The only available jobs are low wage, box store jobs with meager benefits and security. This is not the America that I envisioned living in after serving my country. Veterans have sacrificed too much to be left in the cold. These negative trends are the result of corporate America's assault on working people. Corporations have actively eroded the freedom of workers to form unions and bargain together with their companies for fair wages, better benefits and job security. This fleecing of America cannot continue unchecked. (adn.com)

Since when is the secret-ballot part of Democracy? ... Nothing will kill an economic recovery more completely than increasing the number of unions in the private sector. Sign up for breaking news alerts from The Chronicle It's union wages, health care and layoff packages, after all, that have brought the American car manufacturing industry to its knees. Nor have unions done public education or government efficiency any favors. And yet, Congress is considering a bill that would make it infinitely easier for unions to spread -- and for union bosses to use heavy-handed intimidation to "encourage" workers to join. The so-called Employee Free Choice Act -- an Orwellian title for a bill if there ever was one -- would allow a company's workers to unionize if only a slim majority sign a card requesting it. That alone doesn't sound so ominous, but consider the particulars: Workers would be asked to sign the card knowing that union organizers -- who haven't always had a glistening reputation -- will know whether they signed or not. That's free choice? The truth is, workers have more of a free choice now, with a secret ballot. But that would be gone under this bill, also known as "card check," and with it would be gone any opportunity for workers to express their true feelings on unionizing in the safety and security of anonymity. That safety and security of a secret ballot is an American birthright. But Congress -- now in control of a union-friendly majority -- is on the verge of taking it away. (chronicle.augusta.com)

Federal unions put on hold by Administration: Andy Stern blamed ... The Federal labor relations buzz these days asks the question, where is the highly touted (by some unions) executive order rekindling the flames of partnership doused in a cold water bath by the evil (dare we even say his name) George Bush? Of course, feeding the flames is the fact that it took the former president less than a month to rescind the Clinton order while the union's great hope, Barack Obama, hasn't acted in almost three months. One could argue, I guess, that the President may have had a thing or two on his mind more pressing than meeting the expectations of the Federal union community. Also, don't forget that the last savior of the downtrodden Federal employee, Bill Clinton, was inaugurated on January 20, 1993 but didn't sign his order until October 1, 1993. There is a possible theory about Obama and Federal unions that may have some validity. Remember that our President is very close to Andy Stern of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). SEIU served as his advance force and funded his campaign in the beginning and until he got traction and money. (fedsmith.com)

'A very strong case against ACORN'

ACORN workers quit over corruption

What you can do about the #1 union-backed, tax-funded fraud group ... Pittsburgh lawyer Heather Heidelbaugh, who sued ACORN last year for voter registration fraud, has some advice for Americans who are fed up with ACORN's antics. Heather Heidelbaugh (Republican National Lawyers Assoc)"Number one: call [New York] Congressman Jerry Nadler, who is the chairman of the subcommittee on the Judiciary, who has refused to hold hearings on ACORN. Call him and ask him to hold hearings," she advises. "Number two: call [Michigan] Congressman John Conyers, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who after I testified said he wanted to hold hearings to investigate ACORN and its criminality, and who just on Monday indicated he has refused to do so." Heidelbaugh, who has described ACORN as an "octopus on steroids" -- implying they have their tentacles everywhere -- also urges people to call their state attorney general and ask if that office is investigating ACORN's activities in their state. (onenewsnow.com)

The New GE: Government Electric ... When is a bailout not a bailout? When the company being bailed out: a) is politically well-connected; b) owns major media properties, including two national television networks; and c) has friendly ties to the current administration. In other words, when you’re GE. Since the onset of the current financial crisis General Electric, one of America’s biggest companies, has seen its corporate bonds underwritten by the FDIC to the tune of $41 billion -- a number that, under current commitments, could rise as high as $126 billion. Yet company flaks continue to insist this does not constitute a bailout, even though it’s a federal guarantee that leaves taxpayers holding the bag if things go bad. If it quacks like a duck…. (humanevents.com)

Welches: U.S. shows signs of growing union influence ... You know how sometimes you have a week that starts out with a mediocre Monday, then Tuesday is pretty lousy, Wednesday is even worse, and everything goes downhill from there? A week so foreboding that you start to wonder whether you’re seeing the beginnings of a trend—and you hope you’re wrong? We’ve just had one of those weeks—and you should have had too, if you support US business. Three recent events should have you very worried. Each suggests a rising tide of union influence and the concomitant lowering of American competitiveness, just when our country can least afford it. Now, some might be thinking, “Here they go again, bashing organized labour because of its higher wage rates.” Not so fast, please. For the record, we are very much in favour of competitive wages and employees from the shop floor up having a voice in their companies. What we object to are union work rules, which tend to be rigid and adversarial and which almost always inject needless, gummy bureaucracy into organizations. Work rules kill productivity. We’ve seen it happen in industry after industry. Which brings us to the three events that have us concerned. (livemint.com)

Will: U.S. was warned many times before ... In 1937, columnist Walter Lippmann, deploring the rise of "authoritarian collectivism," lamented that in order to be taken seriously a politician or theorist had to have "proposals to magnify the power of public officials and to extend and multiply their intervention in human affairs." Paul A. Rahe, a historian and political philosopher at Hillsdale College, in his new book "Soft Despotism, Democracy's Drift," notes that, long before 1937, we were warned. In "Democracy in America," Alexis de Tocqueville anticipated people being governed by "an immense, tutelary power" determined to take "sole charge of assuring their enjoyment and of watching over their fate." It would be a power "absolute, attentive to detail, regular, provident and gentle," aiming for our happiness but wanting "to be the only agent and the sole arbiter of that happiness." It would, Tocqueville said, provide people security, anticipate their needs, direct their industries and divide their inheritances. It would envelop society in "a network of petty regulations — complicated, minute and uniform." But softly: "It does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them" until people resemble "a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd." (insidebayarea.com)

Collectivist greed rears its ugly head ... "Obama and the Democrats will employ euphemisms when discussing the President’s plan to circumvent bankruptcy law and hand majority ownership of Chrysler over to the UAW. They will speak about “the workers” taking ownership of the company, with some arguing that the workers, by right, are the senior creditors in Chrysler’s bankruptcy. This paints the union-versus-creditors battle for control of Chrysler as a fight between blue-collar workingmen and greedy hedge fund speculators in suits. But that abstraction—equating the UAW with “the workers”—is grossly misleading. John Doe on the assembly line will not be running Chrysler or directing the use of billions in bailout dollar. No, the union management will become Chrysler’s management. So this is a gift to the union management, which, when you look at it closely, is a big, politically connected company whose executives pamper themselves and practice patronage on the backs of the workers." It is one of the utopian views of socialists: that if unions, etc. take over, this means that ‘workers’ are in charge. That is not true, of course. Workers are not in charge of anything. Perhaps in name, but they know when they work that they do not own anything. If everybody owns everything, nobody owns it. As far as I am concerned, unions have become far too powerful and influential in the West. It is time to break up their power structures. (poligazette.com)

International Collectivism

Venezuelan Prog seizes Spanish bank ... President Hugo Chávez has said his government will "soon" nationalize the Bank of Venezuela, a local branch of Spain's Grupo Santander. Speaking during his weekly television address the leftist leader said a long-planned state takeover of the bank would proceed, as Santander prepares to pull out of the country. "We are soon going to nationalize the Bank of Venezuela. It will enter state hands. I already have all the studies, all the calculations, the estimates, we know what it is worth," Chávez said. (google.com)

Latin Progressive redefines 'Free Speech' ... President Hugo Chávez accused Venezuela's media of trying to undermine him and threatened to take swift and stern measures against television networks, radio stations and newspapers that cause trouble. Mr Chávez said privately-owned media were inciting hatred and trying to spur military rebellions and assassinations attempts. (news.scotsman.com)
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