Reward offered in Teamster-scab homicide probe

A West Oakland woman socializing with friends and a Chicago man whom police said was a replacement worker during the recent garbage strike were among three people fatally shot in a five-hour period that ended early Saturday. Police said none of the killings are connected and no arrests have been made in any of the cases.

The first shooting happened at 11:06 p.m. Friday in the 1100 block of 8th Street in West Oakland where Jacqueline Venable, 40, was socializing and visiting with friends and possibly some relatives, Sgt. James Morris said. Morris said ``they were standing outside enjoying the evening, eating some cake'' when gunshots were heard nearby and a wounded Venable fell to the pavement. No one else was injured. Police said Venable's parked SUV was also hit by gunfire. Venable was taken to Highland Hospital where she died early Saturday. Morris said relatives were too upset to talk to police who were still trying to determine a motive Saturday.

About 12:53 a.m. Saturday police responded to the La Quinta Inn, 8465 Enterprise Way, where they found Byron K. Mitchell, 29, of Chicago, suffering from a gunshot wound.

He was taken to Highland Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Sgt. George Phillips said police believe Mitchell was killed during a failed robbery.

He said police suspect someone knocked on the door of Mitchell's room, tried to rob him when he opened the door and shot him during a struggle.

Nothing was apparently taken from Mitchell, police said.

Phillips said police were told Mitchell had come to Oakland to work as a replacement driver for Waste Management during the recently settled labor dispute between the company and its unionized drivers.

At 4:40 a.m. an unidentified man was found shot to death in the 1200 block of 49th Avenue.

Phillips said it appeared the man had been dead for some time before an anonymous person phoned police to alert them to the body.

He was found on the east sidewalk in front of a vacant business.

Police have no motive for the killing.

The three slayings brought the city's homicide count for the year to 77. Last year at this time there were 83 homicides.

Police and Crime Stoppers of Oakland are offering up to $10,000 in reward money in each case for information leading to the arrest of the killers. Anyone with information can call police at 238-3821 or Crime Stoppers at 238-6946.


Unions choose a President of the United States

Tomorrow, the AFL-CIO executive council is expected to free its members unions to endorse whichever presidential candidate they want. For the second cycle in a row, there will be no unified labor endorsement. Here's who's looking at whom:

Expect Sen. John Edwards to receive several early endorsements. He has the inside track to get the nod of the politically-active United Steelworkers, according to labor observers, and is a lock for the Carpenters. Edwards's rivals expect him to be endorsed by several other industrial unions as well, including the United Auto Workers, which is otherwise occupied with contract negotiations this month. A UAW sanction would help Edwards in Michigan, which might hold a presidential nominating caucus in January of 2008.

Sen. Hillary Clinton has a shot at two union nods: it's likely that she'll eventually get the endorsement of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees - AFSCME - whose president, Gerald McEntee, is very close to Bill and Hillary Clinton. (McEntee endorsed Bill Clinton in 1992, breaking with other unions.) Clinton is also in the running for the American Federation of Teachers endorsement, but it's unclear whether they will endorse. NAFTA has forever closed doors to the entire Clinton family.

Three candidates are credibly vying for the the International Association of Fire Fighters endorsement: Clinton, Sen. Chris Dodd, and Gov. Bill Richardson.

Union insiders believe that the coveted SEIU endorsement - and remember here that the SEIU isn't part of the AFL-CIO - will go to John Edwards, Barack Obama or no one. Hillary Clinton is liked by some members of the SEIU board but a major SEIU player - local 1199 chief Dennis Rivera - has never really been a fan. Another Change to Win union - UniteHere - is partial to Edwards.

When the AFL-CIO admits its ability to reach a consensus, will John Edwards be blamed? He threw himself into the labor community after 2004, joining picket lines, stumping on minimum wage votes and raising money for labor-endorsed candidates. He has proposed the most labor-friendly policies so far, culminating this week with his "smart and safe" trade initiative. That the AFL-CIO did not coalesce around him may say something about his electability or it may mean nothing at all.

Two other reasons why the AFL-CIO could not reach a consensus: Chris Dodd and Joe Biden. It's easy for John Edwards to talk about labor friendly policies; Biden and Dodd can cite a long record of actually working in labor's interests. They are too politically savvy (and realistic) to expect endorsements, but they do expect unions to not endorse anyone else.


PA strikers enjoy taunting scabs

After marching the picket line for hours in the sticky heat, Diane Ferrentino perked up and smiled as she walked toward the mouth of Tama Manufacturing's driveway. It was 2:30 p.m. and roughly 20 workers, including some union members who crossed the picket line, would soon be driving out of the Lehigh County, NJ plant. "This is the best part of the day," said Ferrentino, a seamer who has worked at Tama for four years.

As the cars pulled out, the union workers held their thumbs down and chanted "scabs" and other put-downs. One woman wore toy rats snared in rat traps around her neck to represent the "scabs" working inside, including their former union vice president, she said.

Most exiting workers ignored the jeering crowd. But one woman revved her SUV to make a loud exit. A man held his pay stub up to his window while driving past the group, prompting one of the picketers to shout at him "We're earning more than you just standing out here." A security guard up the driveway recorded everything on a video camera.

It was one of the more dramatic scenes to play out on an otherwise long, dull day on the line.

About 140 garment workers represented by Unite Here are now in their eighth week of a strike to demand better wages and benefits from Tama Manufacturing. The Hanover Township company makes women's clothing sold under the Alfred Dunner label and has a contract to make military uniforms.

Tama Manufacturing owner Mark Fogelman, through a receptionist, declined to comment Tuesday.

The union members on strike feel a sense of solidarity and camaraderie, but the weeks walking the picket line through heat and rain and going without a paycheck are taking a toll.

They're proud of their stamina. Only a handful of union members have crossed the line, and the Tama workers are recognized and respected by other unions throughout the Valley. But they can't help but wonder if the strike will end with satisfactory terms. And they worry about their employment prospects, since many have been in the garment industry for decades and most garment shops have shut down or moved overseas where labor is cheaper.

The average Tama worker earns about $18,000 a year, according to the union.

Ellen Schaller of Northampton has worked at Tama as a seamer for 21 years. She's been looking at teacher's aide positions or hospital work, but finds herself torn.

"I don't know what to do," she said. "I don't want to let the girls down by getting a new job and walking off the line. But I don't know how long we can stay out here."

Outside Tama, the workers take turns walking the line along Race Street and resting in lawn chairs in the shade. They use humor to pass the time, calling it Tama Beach because they are all so tan.

"I thought I'd really hate it, but I'm enjoying it," said Joanne Donovan, a fabric spreader who has worked at Tama for seven years. "I know more people from the factory now than I ever knew before."

Asked how she was doing financially, Donovan replied: "I don't go out as much and I buy cheaper beer to cut corners. I used to get Coors or Michelob, but now I get Keystone Light. It tastes just like Coors, but it's cheaper."

Some of her colleagues are having a tougher time.

Joyce Camps of Slatington has worked at Tama since 1989 as a sewing machine operator. She's been in the garment industry for 31 years, and she's borrowing money from her son, who she said is in the Army serving in Afghanistan.

"The toughest thing is being out here when I'd rather be in there working," she said.

She had a job offer to deliver toys to vending machines, but passed it up because she worries about driving in the winter when roads are bad.

"It's not something I'd enjoy doing," Camps said. "I just like sewing."

The union and Tama negotiated for about two hours Tuesday. They plan to meet again in coming weeks, according to Unite Here organizer Gail Meyer and Martin Sobol, an attorney representing the company.

Sitting in a chair in the shade outside Tama on Friday, Ramona Acevedo remained optimistic for a happy ending. The Allentown resident has worked at Tama for 20 years as a seamer.

"We have to stick together to see it through," she said. "I'd like to go back because we were happy working for Tama at one time."


Media blackout in Vancouver gov't union strike

Residential garbage trucks rumbled through North Vancouver yesterday for the first time in three weeks, but Vancouver's municipal strike continued underneath a cloak of silence. Representatives of the city's three striking unions continued to meet with city officials at the bargaining table yesterday after resuming talks this weekend. There is a complete media blackout in effect. Vancouver's outside workers, including its garbage collectors, have been off the job for 2½ weeks. The city's inside and library workers are also on strike.


Will Hillary buckle under Teamster pressure?

Senator Hillary Clinton brought her campaign to Chicago today to speak at a candidate forum sponsored by the AFL-CIO. Big Labor is sizing up the candidates in order to aid them in the decision on who they should endorse among the Democrats for President.

Before her plane even touched down, a controversy erupted over the connection of a Clinton staffer to a public relations firm that takes on anti-union clients:

Labor activists demand that Clinton give the aide, Mark J. Penn, a choice: sever connections to the public relations firm that he heads or leave the campaign. Apart from working as a strategist and pollster for Clinton,

Penn is worldwide president and chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, which has more than 100 offices in 59 countries. The firm's clients include Cintas Corp. of Cincinnati, which manufactures and launders corporate uniforms. With Burson-Marsteller's assistance, Cintas has staved off a push to unionize its workforce, and the public relations firm's website at one point boasted of its work in parrying union pressure.

Penn is pleading for understanding, saying that his own PR work doesn't involve any anti-union activities. But the unions aren't buying it:

"Learning that Mark Penn was CEO of a company that in fact conducts some of its business busting unions was very, very problematic to the AFL-CIO, as well as to many other unions, and we made that clear" to the Clinton campaign, said Karen Ackerman, AFL-CIO political director. "This is an issue that continues."

Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa said in a statement: "We have expressed our concerns to Sen. Clinton about Mark Penn and his firm's work for anti-union companies. We value Sen. Clinton's commitment to strengthen America's middle class. But as long as Mark Penn continues to profit from his company's involvement with anti-union companies, this issue will not go away."

The union boys can't be any clearer in their message to Hillary: Dump Penn or lose our endorsement.

For Hillary, the question is one of practical politics. She may not need the union's endorsement for the primaries. And since union support to whoever the Democratic candidate would be is a given, perhaps she might defy their wishes in this matter.

What is more likely would be some kind of compromise where Penn is "reassigned" to a role outside of the campaign and then quietly brought back once Clinton wraps up the nomination.

Either way, Clinton shows that she's not kowtowing to union pressure which means more to general election voters than those who vote in Democratic primaries.


Forestry strike expected to drag on and on

There appears to be no end in sight to the paralyzing forestry strike in British Columbia. According to a recent report by the Globe and Mail, the shutdown went into effect on July 20, effectively idling more than 30 forest companies and 6,500 unionized loggers and sawmill workers.

A host of issues centred on shift scheduling, contracting out and severance pay have both sides, the United Steelworkers’ Union and Forest Industrial Relations, an organization that represents 31 of the 34 companies involved in the conflict, firm in their respective resolve.

"If longer shifts are dangerous or physically demanding, they are not supposed to be implemented, but our guys are working 10, 11, 12 hours a shift and sometimes it becomes dangerous," the Globe reported Bob Matters, wood council chairman of District 3 of the USW as saying. "Believe me, this issue is being driven home by our members, not the union."

The Globe further confirmed that no plans to return to the bargaining table have been set, and that FIR maintains its previous offer, which involves a wage increase of 5% over a two-year period is both 'fair and reasonable, and should be submitted to union members for a vote.'


SEIU nurse Hillary

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is taking health care personally. She will work a shift as a nurse at a Las Vegas hospital next week, it was disclosed yesterday. The high-profile event is part of the Service Employees International Union's "Walk a day in my shoes program," which gets politicians to step out of their tasseled loafers and high heels to put in a hard day's work while the cameras roll.

Clinton opted to take her turn as Florence Nightingale. The Democratic front-runner has yet to put forward a plan for universal health-care coverage and has been handling the issue cautiously in light of her most publicized failure: the rejection of the Clinton administration's first-term reform plan.

The Clinton campaign hasn't released any information about what nursing duties she is willing to perform - and which, if any, are entirely off the table.

She will do her turn as a shift nurse at the St. Rose Dominican Hospital in Las Vegas on Monday, officials said.

She isn't the only Democratic presidential hopeful willing to break a sweat to earn the powerful SEIU's endorsement.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will spend today helping a California home health aide tend to her 87-year-old client.

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina spent a day working at a Westchester nursing home.

Clinton's hospital shift might allow her to match her opponents, while fending off growing criticism from the Democratic left about her stances on health issues.

She is singled out in Michael Moore's film "Sicko" for being a top recipient of health-care industry campaign contributions

Meanwhile, Edwards slammed Clinton as being in the pocket of special interests at a Democratic candidate forum at Chicago's Soldier Field last night, saying in a veiled dig, "You'll never see me on the cover of Fortune magazine."

But Clinton drew roars from the AFL-CIO union crowd when she said, "For 15 years, I've stood up against the right-wing machine and I've come out stronger, so if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I'm your girl."

Clinton also sparred with Obama over his tough talk about going into Pakistan to get terrorists. Clinton chided him, saying, "You should not always say everything you think" when running for president. Obama said it was "highly amusing" that "those who voted to authorize and engineer the biggest foreign-policy disaster in our generation are now criticizing me."


Teamsters in dues loss as bankrupt auto trucker shuts

Tandem Transport Inc., a Franklin trucking firm, has shut its doors and filed for bankruptcy. The company, which hauls parts for automobile manufacturers and is affiliated with a much larger, non-union company, JDC Logistics Inc., owes $3.5 million to $4 million and has assets of about $500,000, said Russell C. Brannen Jr., an attorney representing Tandem.

Tandem is voluntarily seeking liquidation, in which its assets would be sold to partly pay its debts. Unsecured creditors probably will get nothing, the filing said. Teamsters Local 200 has 46 members at Tandem, but Brannen said that in any given week, the company has had enough loads for only 30 to 34 drivers.

In a letter about the bankruptcy to the union, Tandem President Jeffrey T. Lorino cited cost-cutting pressure from customers, rising fuel expenses and a lawsuit settlement reached years ago.

"We will not be able to make our payment to the injured party, and the default provisions will trigger a debt of over a few million dollars being due," the letter said, according to Local 200 business representative Bob Prinz.

Brannen said the company has been making "crushing" quarterly payments under the settlement, and the total now due amounts to $2.5 million to $3 million.

Rollin Laws, 55, of Janesville, who has driven for Tandem for nearly 15 years, said the company contacted him last Thursday and told him to drop off his truck in Franklin.

Laws said he called the firm to ask why and was told that all Tandem drivers were being laid off indefinitely.

Lorino could not be reached for comment.

Tandem shares some of the same ownership as JDC, Brannen said. Federal data lists JDC as having 557 trucks and 589 drivers.


Sleepless neighbors upset with strikers

Some neighbors say East High Street in Painted Post sounds more like New York City. They say ever since Dresser Rand employees started picketing last week, drivers have been honking their horns constantly. Strikers have been picketing 24 hours a day. That's kept neighbors from getting sleep at night.

Strikers have been walking the picket lines at all six of Dresser Rand's gates. Neighbors are hoping they'll move all the picketers to the main gate, away from homes. Strikers tell us they can't do anything about the beeping. But neighbors say they’re provoking drivers to honk their horns by waving at cars.

Painted Post police say they've gotten seven calls from neighbors complaining about the constant beeping. But they say the picketers aren't doing anything wrong, so no one has been ticketed. But police say you can get a ticket for beeping.


UniteHere picket line in PA

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