Gov't union strike stench explained: It's politics

Nearly a month old, the city strike in Vancouver, B.C. has managed to make an already incompetent Mayor Sam Sullivan look utterly useless. While municipalities across "Metro Vancouver" have figured out how to make peace with big labour, Sullivan seems bent on refusing to acknowledge the obvious: sign the five-year contract and shut the fuck up.

With all but the "essential services" being shut down by the strike - for some reason pitch 'n' putt, outdoor swimming pools and the Stanley Park miniature train were not consider essential - our garbage is now piling up in alleys, attracting flies and making us upchuck every time we throw out another sack of used teabags and condoms.

As both Sullivan and the union try to out Hoffa each other, the result of the strike is that the city is beginning to stink like shit because of something completely trivial and avoidable. But what doesn't ever get brought up is that there is only one portion of society that is truly suffering from this excess poop. Most of the rich folk in the West side all have private garbage collectors and life is continuing without a hitch of stench. But the po' folks on the East side are the ones that depend on city workers to pick up their trash and are now the ones swimming in their neighbours' semen. So why is one half of the city paying for labour bullshit while the other half gets off?

The answer is that Sullivan is fucking the Eastside in its asshole with a broken broomstick in a desperate move to save his pathetic political career by trying to look tough against the commie unions. The Westside is Sullivan's base. That's why he worked so hard to squash the Ward referendum (the at-large voting system allows the West side to control the city). With a prolonged strike the city saves millions, which it is already planning to pass onto homeowners by cutting their property taxes (which side of Vancouver owns expensive property?), and our mayor gets to finally look firm on something.

But all the blame doesn't belong to Sam. The unions have done such a shitty job in trying to communicate their position and have used Sullivan's incompetence to try and make themselves look like martyrs. So while they get to look "bruised and battered," their brothers and sisters are out of a job and forced to picket for peanuts. Their stand has far less to do with solidarity than it is trying to sink Sullivan and ensure a Vision/COPE victory in the 2008 municipal election. Thanks guys.

So now that you know the reason, what is the solution? Take your garbage to City Hall and dump it by the Olympic flag or the ridiculous statue of George Vancouver. Take it to Kerrisdale and spew it throughout the street. Take it to the CUPE head offices and leave it outside its main doors. Take it to Yaletown, find Sullivan and shove your shit up his ass, back from where it came.


Washington Post: Clinton courts union support

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, continuing her efforts to secure the endorsement of unions, told a crowd of nearly 1,100 union bosses at a labor hall Saturday that she will fight to help the middle class if elected.

While Clinton's nearly half-hour speech touched on a variety of issues, including the war in Iraq, lessening America's dependence on foreign oil and offering more support for the country's police officers and military veterans, the New York senator's comments focused mainly on her support of the working middle class and the labor movement.

"Nobody works harder than Americans. Wages aren't up. Benefits aren't secure. But corporate profits are up. It's not the rich who made America great. It's the hard working middle class," Clinton said as the crowd at the Communications Workers of America hall cheered.

"This is a house that labor built," she said. "The American middle class owes a lot to the labor movement."


IBEW boss snubbed by NJ teachers union

State Assembly candidate Adam Bushman of Jamesburg chalked up a point last week in the 14th district when he outbid his Republican running mate and his Democratic opponent with an endorsement by the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).

"I was pretty excited and surprised," said the candidate, a software engineer and former Jamesburg councilman. "I didn't think I had a good shot at the endorsement. I went in there and told them I thought education is the key to everything." Bushman's mother belonged to the Communications Workers of America, but besides that his union resume is thin - particularly alongside the formidable labor credentials of Democrat Wayne DeAngelo, assistant business manager of IBEW Local 269, who was also vying for the NJEA’s endorsement.

Stung by the teacher’s union pick of Bushman over himself, DeAngelo said, "I told them 'I do what you do. The strongest thing you have is your collective bargaining agreement, and that's what I do on the electrical front.'"

Standing in front of a construction site on Route 130 early Friday morning, DeAngelo, a former Hamilton Township councilman and electrician by trade who doesn't have a college degree, joined pipefitters, carpenters, insulators and plumbers on a protest line outside of a work site projected to be an Outback Steakhouse.

"Tortoise Electric is not paying its employees wage and benefit rates equivalent to those established in this area," said DeAngelo of the contractor, who had closed and locked the front gate to bar DeAngelo's union workers from the site and to keep the non-union workers enclosed, DeAngelo said.

The electricians affiliated with his local make an hourly wage of $44-$48 per hour. "If the guys here on this work site were making that we wouldn't be here," said DeAngelo. "We will stand here as long as it takes to get our message to the public that Outback Steakhouse has used substandard wage and benefit rates. Maybe people won’t patronize the establishment."

Bushman, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Rutgers, a Master's in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania, and is now getting his PhD online, said he did not front his own educational background during the NJEA interview so much as highlight his commitment to education.

"I focused on things like making sure the state pays for state mandates, and making sure education is fully funded by the formulas," said Bushman.

Criticized by bloggers on PoliticsNJ.com for not completing the bipartisan Project Vote Smart questionnaire to let voters in the 14th district know where he stands on critical issues, the Republican said his views are often more complex than "yes" or "no."

"When it comes to the death penalty, for example, I do support it," he said, "but only in certain, severe cases - such as punishing the killer of a law enforcement officer or a minor, or to punish the perpetrator of an act of terrorism.

"I think the questionnaire can be misinterpreted and I'm always afraid they (political opponents) will use it as propaganda," Bushman said.

In the meantime, he's celebrating the endorsement he felt nearly certain would have gone to his Democratic Party counterpart.


Labor unions invest big in politicans

The AFL-CIO summer meeting is underway in Chicago and the nation's labor leaders have much to celebrate. The Democratic presidential candidates were scheduled to again grovel before organized labor last night and doubtless promise to heed the labor agenda, which includes the creation of a universal health care system.

After all, whenever Democrats meet with organized labor leaders, it is a love fest. Indeed, the love fest has been a central feature of this year's congressional session. Few things have been more important to Democrats that pleasing organized labor.

Labor organizations want the public to believe that they produced the Democratic victories of last year and are thus entitled to the fruits of the effort. In fact, the election outcome was most likely traceable to other issues, like the Iraq war and Democratic charges that the Republican Congress was corrupt.

Whatever the reason for the victory, the Democrats just can't do enough for the labor unions.

The House passed the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act, which would have eliminated the secret ballot for workers voting on whether to form a labor union. The measure fell just nine votes short of Senate approval, but organized labor still has its passage at the top of its wish list.

Democrats have been working hard in two other areas to satisfy their friends in labor. The first is to cut the operating budget of the Office of Labor-Management Standards, the main government agency that monitors the financial integrity of labor unions. Labor union leaders have complained that the paperwork imposed by the government is a burden, even though less than 5 percent of the nation's 15,800 unions are audited in any one year.

It should be big news when Democrats locate a program they want to cut, but the budget reductions proposed for the labor agency have attracted little mainstream media attention. Under the Democratic proposal, the budget for the agency would revert to 2006 levels next year despite the fact that the overall Labor, Health and Human Services budget would be $11 billion more than the president has requested.

Unsurprisingly, the Bush administration opposes the overall bill, in part because the changes in union oversight "weaken the agency's ability to improve union transparency and strengthen financial integrity."

The second congressional gift to organized labor is the expansion of the Davis-Bacon Act, a Depression-era measure intended to assure that contract workers paid by the federal government earned the prevailing or average local wage.

For a number of reasons, including the way wage surveys are conducted, the Bacon-Davis term of "prevailing wage" has come to mean the "union wage." Put another way, labor organizations have used the Davis-Bacon provisions to assure that any federal contract pays as close to union wage as possible.

Why is this a problem? It amounts to a federal requirement to artificially increase the price of all affected federal contracts, whether for bridges, subsidized housing or flood control. And it usurps local and state decision-making that otherwise might use the labor market to obtain lower construction costs.

In recent weeks, Congress voted to mandate the Davis-Bacon provisions to the construction of new nuclear power plants, to the construction of ethanol and other bio-fuel projects, to railroad track construction, the development of solar reserves on federal lands, and to any construction funded by the clean water state revolving fund. This fund is used by cities and towns to make repairs and improvements to wastewater treatment plants. The Davis-Bacon provisions will apply not just to federal dollars but to those contributed by the states and localities.

Colorado voters should be concerned about the gifts bestowed on organized labor. The state's unionized workforce is relatively tiny, just 7.7 percent overall, much of that in the public sector. The national average is just 12 percent. More importantly, even though construction unionism in the Denver metro area is just 6.8 percent, the Davis-Bacon wages are, in fact, union wages.

Given this relationship between elected Democrats and organized labor, it is easy to see why both groups love Davis-Bacon. It is hard to see why any sane taxpayer should.


Vancouver to striking union: Lower expectations

As the civic strike in Vancouver enters its fourth week, both sides in the dispute say they are willing to return to the table, but no dates have been set to go back to bargaining since talks broke down late Thursday.

"Two things need to happen for this to settle: The union needs to come back to the table and they need to lower their expectations," city spokesman Jerry Dobrovolny said. Mr. Dobrovolny said the unions have a "long list" of proposals that would be very costly to the city outside of the wage increases.

He said while bargaining last week, the city tabled a "flexible" offer to each union for a 16.5-per-cent wage increase over five years. The maximum raise the city can offer under its regional bargaining mandate is 17.5 per cent. "We put forward 16.5 over five years. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where it's going to go, everyone's settling at 17.5. There needs to be some trade-offs," Mr. Dobrovolny said.

Some specific items of concern from the city's perspective, he said, include union demands for increased vacation time, paid benefits for retirees, and no layoffs or contracting out for the five-year term.

Paul Faoro, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 15, which represents Vancouver's inside workers, said it is very important to his union to gain no-contracting-out language in the new contract.

He said the city's bargaining team told him some city councillors have been suggesting certain services be privatized, such as city hall's janitorial services.

"You can't get that thought out of your head that the day we sign that collective agreement, 150 of our members are going to be out of work and they're going to be paying some company six bucks an hour to clean a heritage building."

Mr. Dobrovolny said he has not heard of a specific plan to privatize janitorial staff, but added that the city has identified those staff as being paid "significantly above the market" value. An earlier proposal to Local 15 froze the wages of those workers, but that was taken out in later offers as a result of union concerns.

Mr. Faoro said other outstanding union issues include the unwillingness of the city to discuss whistle-blower legislation and "rollbacks" in contract language concerning seniority considerations in hiring. For striking library workers, the primary concern is pay equity, which Mr. Dobrovolny called a "smokescreen" for an additional pay raise.

All three union presidents addressed hundreds of striking workers that had assembled in front of city hall yesterday, bedecked in picket signs, waving neon pink CUPE flags and chanting "Where is Sam?"

Yesterday, Mayor Sam Sullivan rejected a call by Mr. Faoro and Vision Vancouver Councillor Heather Deal to reconvene council from its recess to discuss the strike situation.

"We are uninformed. We are getting all our information from press releases and the media," Ms. Deal said, adding she called for the meeting in order to get all the necessary information and direct the city's bargaining unit if needed.

"It's not appropriate to do the fine detail negotiating ourselves, but what is appropriate is to take political leadership."

However, Non-Partisan Association Councillor Suzanne Anton said council's role should simply be to encourage both sides to continue to bargain, and there is no need for council to reconvene or even to be in the city.

"That's really for individual councillors to decide. It is the one time of year when we can take a holiday, so it is hard to say to people they should come back from that."

Council reconvenes on Sept. 18.

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