SEIU union dues: Organized theft

What is your concept of a union dues payment? Is it a single, democratic fee paid at the same rate for all members, a payment that ensures the equal treatment of all union members? If so, you’d be wrong if you were an SEIU member. Because, for the SEIU, your dues are not a single standard payment for all your members, but it is a payment calculated on how much you make… just like income taxes are.

According to a blog about the nursing profession the SEIU district 1199 is violating one of the most dearly help ideals of any union; that it is interested in “equal treatment” for all.

I obtained this information from the SEIU 1199 website. See http://ltc.seiu1199.org/HCFaq.aspx.

• Dues in SEIU District 1199 are 1.75% of gross pay, or $1.75 for every $100 you make.

• So for every $1,000.00 grossed, the dues will be $17.50. I have several clients who are Ohio IPs and these nurses can gross from $50,000 to $80,000.00 a year or more.

• An Ohio IP Nurse with SEIU labor representation who grosses $50,000 year may pay $875.00 a year for labor dues. This is speculative at this point but based on the figure provided on the SEIU 1199 website, which doesn’t mention a cap.

So, does the higher dues paid by members who make more money assure them that they somehow get MORE services and representation by the union? Um, no.

Do those nurses who make more money and have to pay more in dues get first consideration in union adjudications? Certainly, no.

And, how could they? After all, a union is supposed to be working for ALL their members, not just the highest paid ones. If the union gave deferential treatment to their richest members, that would be just as wrong as if they ignored their highest paid members.

So, what reason could they possibly use to justify sticking a higher payment to their highest paid members? There is no greater benefit to the members ... and aren’t the members what the union is there for in the first place?

This isn’t fair representation. It’s legalized theft.


Congress: Unions need protection from workers

Here's a politician-bites-dog story: Democrats have finally discovered a part of government they want to cut. The catch is that it is the corner of the Labor Department that monitors union corruption and how union leaders spend their members' mandatory dues.

Last Thursday, the Senate voted 47-46 to cut $2 million from the budget of the Office of Labor Management Standards, which among other things collects so-called LM-2 forms. Revised in 2003 to require greater detail on union finances, these forms require unions to account for how they spend the tens of millions of dollars they collect each year. Under the Supreme Court's Beck decision, for example, union members can't be compelled to contribute to political causes they don't support. So the LM-2s are a way to shine the light of accountability on union leaders.

The forms have disclosed, among other things, that last year the Food and Commercial Workers Local Union 1 spent $26,000 of members' dues on rounds of golf for the bosses. Another spent $3 million on bills for hotels. The forms have also revealed that union leaders are not exactly members of the proletariat: Jimmy Warren, Treasurer of the Steelworkers and AFL-CIO makes $825,262 a year, while Don Hunsucker, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1288, earns $679,949 a year. These are fellows who think CEOs are overpaid.

The Labor Management Standards office also monitors union corruption, which is a serious and underreported problem. This month, the Labor Department announced 13 indictments and seven convictions in September alone, bringing criminal enforcement action to 97 indictments and 115 convictions for the year to date, mostly for embezzlement. Since 2001, Labor referrals to U.S. Attorneys have resulted in more than 800 convictions and some $102 million in restitution paid to union members.

The Senate vote was almost entirely along party lines, with 45 Democrats voting to cut the money. Only two Republicans went along: Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Ted Stevens of Alaska. They apparently believe that accountability is fine for business, but not for their pals in Big Labor.


Corruption trial of labor boss-lawmaker delayed

It’s been a full year since disgraced former State Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin was indicted on federal racketeering charges, and it will be another three months until he gets his day in court.

Last Thursday’s pre-trial conference in U.S. District Court was canceled, and jury selection, scheduled to begin at the Manhattan federal court this past Monday was postponed to Jan. 21, 2008 due to the reassignment of the presiding judge.

Originally slated for the Hon. Kenneth Karas, the case against McLaughlin, the former president of the New York City Central Labor Council, will now be tried before the Hon. Richard Sullivan. Karas changed his duty station last month from downtown Manhattan to the U.S. Courthouse in White Plains. This is believed to be the reason for the reassignment of McLaughlin’s trial.

Since June, McLaughlin has been working as an electrician with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 – the union that the 186-page indictment alleges he defrauded. In all, McLaughlin is facing 43 counts of racketeering and corruption, two of which fall under the federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act and carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The indictment alleges that McLaughlin, who served seven terms as a Democratic assemblyman representing District 25 in Queens, illegally obtained a total of $2.2 million from the State Assembly, Local 3’s Street Light Division and a Little League, among other sources. This was accomplished through criminal activity involving mail fraud, wire fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, the receipt of unlawful payments and other things of value from employers, and labor bribery.

“The indictment alleges that in various ways, and over an extended period of time, McLaughlin engaged in a pattern of criminal activity through which he used his various official positions for his own personal gain, at the expense of the people whose interests he was supposed to serve,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said when the indictment was unsealed last year.

If convicted, McLaughlin and three as-yet-unidentified associates face dozens of years in federal prison.


“We are sick of being lied to by the union.”

Supporters of the Socialist Equality Party and reporters for the World Socialist Web Site spoke to workers at the Jefferson North assembly plant in Detroit, Michigan, on Sunday, and distributed a statement opposing the UAW-Chrysler contract. (See “Vote ‘no’ on UAW sellout at Chrysler! Elect rank-and-file committees for contract fight!”)

Workers at the plant voted to reject the contract. Eddie, with 15 years at Chrysler, said, “Cerberus owner Steve Feinburg is a billionaire. He just takes money out of one pocket to buy a company in order to put a lot more in another.” Cerberus Capital is the private equity firm that owns Chrysler.

“A privately-owned company like Cerberus doesn’t say how much their CEOs are making. But Jim Press, the Toyota executive who is now the president of Chrysler, was promised $50 million. [Robert] Nardelli, the new CEO, got $210 million when he left Home Depot. Do you think he came to Chrysler for anything less?

“Now with the VEBA the UAW is going into business too,” John said, referring to the multi-billion dollar retiree pension fund (Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association) that will be transferred to the control of the union bureaucracy.

John, a worker who said he had spent ten years in the “concentration camp” at Chrysler, said, “This contract is garbage. It’s a suicide pact. It lowers pay and continues to let the company outsource work. I’m not losing too much because I’m going to retire soon, but what about the next generation?

“The company and the union—they are both mafias,” John said. “The union must have gotten payoffs to support the takeover by Cerberus. The union officials look at corporate executives and say, ‘Why can’t I make a lot of money like them? Why should I live on $50,000 a year in my retirement when I could get a million or two?’”

Craig, with 13 years at Chrysler, said, “The UAW is trying to be a big powerbroker on Wall Street at our expense. They must think that we are illiterate and unable to read what the contract says. They are going to combine skilled trades positions and, after the contract, the union and the company are going to decide what are core jobs and which ones are non-core, paying half as much.

“This is the wrong direction. It’s selling out the future workers. Ten years down the line, when the lower paid workers are the majority, they will cut out our benefits, and I really couldn’t blame them.

“Everything in the contract is negative. Why are we relieving management of their obligation to cover our retiree health care? And we are the one’s that are basically funding the VEBA, not the company. Money is coming from our wages and our pension fund.

“This is the worst contract since I’ve been here. We are sick of being lied to by the union. We are sick of being told after contracts that there was this and that side letter signed that was hidden from the membership.

“Union positions are all appointments. There are little cliques that follows whatever they are told because they are looking for jobs in the International. [UAW Vice President General] Holiefield sent out a letter to all local officials asking them to support the contract. He asked them to sign it and return it to the union headquarters, basically saying you better do this if you ever want a job in the International. The wage cuts, job losses and other things we have to accept will never affect the heads of the union.”

Charles, a worker with nearly 10 years at Chrysler, said, “I am against this contract. I think it is especially bad for the lower seniority workers. Personally, I am concerned not just for myself, but for the kids of my kids.

“I’m a third-generation Chrysler worker. My father worked for Chrysler, so did my grandfather, uncles and cousins. In fact I left a skilled trades job to come to Chrysler to work.

“If this contract passes they will set a pattern, and it is not a good one. What really upsets me is the two-tiered wage system. The way it is now, the better classification of jobs are available depending on seniority. You build up seniority to get those jobs. It is not that workers do not want to work hard, but the older you get and the more seniority, you should be able to get those jobs. Now they are going to be paying half the wages. I just don’t think it is fair.”

Mark Fiedler, with 9 years, said, “I think the company did what was best for the company, but the union did not do what was best for us.

“I am against the two-tiered system. At first it didn’t bother me as long as I was able to keep my pay. But I looked at it again, and I don’t like it. I may be making more today but they will cut us later.

“A lot of people don’t trust the company or the union. Most feel the union has sold us out. I think they already had a deal done and called the six-hour strike to make it look like they were doing something.

“I am totally against the VEBA. The way the union does things it probably will not be around in 10 years. Then we will have nothing left.”

Another worker, Joe, said, “Workers were told that the second shift will be closing for a while. Now, the union said, if we don’t approve this contract the second shift would be eliminated. But they are going to do it anyway.

“Depending on the volume of work, they will work one shift to death rather than bringing back the other shift. They will make us work 10 hours a day to get their production.”

Juli, an assembly line worker for 11 years, denounced UAW Vice President Holiefield, saying that he “is a master of saying nothing. At the information meeting, he did not really answer the questions we asked him. He is a professional BS’er. We wanted them to tell us the bad parts of the contract, but all he would talk about is the signing bonus, addressing the younger workers who have never had to worry yet about losing a job.

“We did not even know that our plant was going to lose one shift until Holiefield let it slip by accident. He tried to sugar coat it, but you could tell that he was unhappy with himself that he had said anything.

About the VEBA, Juli said, “It scares me to think that the union is going to be in charge of the retiree health benefits. There is a huge amount of money waiting for them. I am going to vote ‘no,’” she said. “This contract isn’t good enough.”


Unions obsessed with political power-grab

The U.S. labor movement, split into sometimes hostile factions two years ago, is coming back together to wage campaigns aimed at recruiting thousands of new union members and greatly strengthening labor's growing political clout.

Although the seven unions that left the AFL-CIO in 2005 to form their own federation - Change to Win - remain outside the larger federation, they are pursuing the same goals as AFL-CIO affiliates, in some cases jointly with them.

The AFL-CIO and the seven seceding affiliates - some of the country's most militant, influential and successful unions - had argued heatedly over whether to put their major emphasis on organizing new members or on political activities.

"Politics!" said the AFL-CIO, noting that unions could not grow in strength and numbers until labor-friendly politicians reformed the labor laws and saw to it that they were strictly enforced.

"Organizing!" countered the seven unions. If unions put their primary efforts into organizing, that would be enough to reverse their steady decline. The numbers alone would cause politicians to side with labor.

But the two factions are now in effect putting equal emphasis on organizing and politics - and beginning to put much more money and much more effort into both.

That's essential if they are to reach the primary political goal they share -- helping elect a pro-labor president next year to replace the virulently anti-labor George Bush, while also helping elect pro-labor majorities in the House and Senate.

That in turn would very likely lead to realizing the federations' primary organizing goal. That's enactment of the long-proposed Employee Free Choice Act which unions, whatever their differences, unanimously see as absolutely necessary if they are to significantly increase their ranks. It would plug gaping holes in the National Labor Relations Act that have allowed employers to block millions of workers from unionizing.

The lack of firm legal rights is the main reason only about 12 percent of American workers are in unions. Studies by government, academic and union researchers show fear of employer reprisal keeps at least 40 million workers who want to unionize from even trying. Every year, more than 60,000 of those who do try are punished, half of them fired.

Change to Win and the AFL-CIO share other important political goals. They include creation of a government-financed universal health care system, a guarantee of decent pensions for all workers and truly equal pay for women, tightened and stepped up enforcement of job safety regulations in mines and other workplaces and another increase in the minimum wage.

They also want an immigration system that fully protects the rights of foreign and domestic workers alike and fair trade laws that penalize countries that violate workers' union rights and other human rights and endanger the environment.

The federations are planning to put millions of dollars into campaigns to elect pro-labor Democrats, and spend millions as well on new organizing campaigns and on training thousands of organizers. They're hoping to sign up more than a quarter-million new members in the next few years.

The biggest push is coming from the Change to Win members: the Teamsters, Service Employees, Farm Workers, Carpenters, Laborers, Food and Commercial Workers and Unite Here, which represents mainly hotel, restaurant and textile workers. They have already launched drives seeking union rights for some 200,000 truck and bus drivers, supermarket clerks, construction workers. and others.

AFL-CIO affiliates have meanwhile been signing up significant numbers of new members. Newly released figures show that 10 affiliates grew by more than 10 percent between 2004 and 2006. That added nearly 300,000 union members to the AFL-CIO's ranks, the largest increase in several decades.

The emergence of a rival labor federation obviously has helped reinvigorate the labor movement generally, just as the emergence of the Congress of Industrial Organizations as a rival to the American Federation of Labor in the 1930s led to a resurgence. That helped spur union growth to the point that by the 1950s one of every three U.S. workers belonged to a union and organized labor became a major political force.

It could happen again.


Daily Kos: Teamsters need your help

Life in sunny Los Angeles is about to get smelly. At 3 a.m. last Friday about 450 Teamsters made the decision-of-last-resort to go out on strike against Waste Management Inc., the No. 1 private trash company in the U.S.

The main issue is wages. This mostly Latino group of workers makes up to $9 per hour less than other (whiter) Waste Mangement employees in other major cities across the U.S. and as much as $6 per hour less than municipal workers doing similar work in the Los Angeles region.

Between employing strikebreakers and hiring replacement workers this company, which earned more than a billion dollars in profits last year could easily close this gaping and obviously racist disparity in wages.

But this diary is going to be more than a rant against this company that is profiting from your tax dollars by taking money from working families, we're asking you -- especially those of you who live in Southern California -- to get involved. Follow me below the flip to find out how.


Broadway stage workers authorize strike

Membership of stagehands' union Local One voted to authorize a strike during a union meeting Sunday at which Local One prexy James J. Claffey Jr. told members they would not work on Broadway in December if a new deal with producers has not been reached by then.

Claffey's declaration makes explicit the union's threat to shut down Rialto productions during the holidays, the most profitable season on Broadway.

Approximately 1,000 Local One members turned out for the meeting, according to the union. The authorization resolution, which reps the mark of rank-and-file approval required for union leadership to call a strike, passed unanimously.

Local One and Broadway producers have been enmeshed in contentious labor negotiations for several weeks. Talks have been stalled since Oct. 9, when both sides laid what they called their last, best offers on the table.

Last weekthe League of American Theaters and producers announced that beginning today they would implement some work rules from their final offer without the agreement of the union.

Although a strike has now been authorized, the union plans to continue working this week even if the new work rules are implemented.

Three resolutions were approved at the Local One meeting:

The first authorized a strike against the League if union leadership deemed it necessary.

The second authorized what a union statement called a "work stoppage" -- a semantic difference that looks like a safety provision in the face of rumors that the international leadership of umbrella union IATSE would not grant strike approval to the local.

The third measure earmarks $1 million of the union's general funds as aid for other unions affected by a Rialto work stoppage. (That sum is in addition to the approximately $4 million the union has set aside as its own shutdown fund.)

Until recently the most likely cause of a Broadway shutdown looked to be a lockout initiated by producers. Now that a strike has been authorized, the League has seized the PR advantage of placing the blame for a potential work stoppage on the union.

"No one on the League wants Broadway to go dark," League prexy Charlotte St. Martin said in a statement. "The responsibility for a decision to shut down Broadway rests squarely with Local One."

The League reps the 22 Broadway theaters owned by the Shubert Organization and Jujamcyn Theaters. Although the Nederlander Org, owner of nine Rialto theaters, has its own agreement with the union and will not implement new work rules today, the company is said to have sent out a letter declaring its unity with the League's positions.

In response to the strike vote, the League also stepped up its rhetoric, calling existing contract obligations "featherbedding."

"The 'featherbedding' practices of the past are simply no longer acceptable," St. Martin said. "Our position is clear: no work, no pay."

Producers aim to change contractual employment obligations they view as outdated and onerously expensive. Stagehands refuse to give up these protections without an equal benefit gained in exchange.

Both sides say they remain willing to return to the table -- although each is waiting for the other side to blink first.


Union political endoresements are like gold

Labor union endorsements are like gold for Democrats campaigning in the Jan. 19 Democratic caucus. And one very important Nevada union just became available this month.

The Service Employees International Union decided recently not to make a national endorsement, freeing up states to make individual decisions. Within days of the announcement, former U.S. Sen. John Edwards snapped up 10 states, including California, a labor behemoth next door to Nevada.

Nevada's chapter, which is 17,000 members strong, is playing coy for now.

The state chapter will make its selection from the three candidates picked as finalists by the national union: Edwards, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton.

That's bad news for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who had been actively courting the Nevada SEIU. Richardson walked for a day with a Nevada worker as part of the national union's selection process.

A union spokeswoman said members want to hear more from the three candidates and their campaigns before they make a decision. But more than just the Nevada members are at play here.

Under the rules set out by the national organization, SEIU members from states that have endorsed can't cross state lines and campaign in a state that has not endorsed.

Nor can the members from a state that endorsed one candidate campaign in a state that has endorsed a different candidate.

That is why Edwards really wants to pick up Nevada. If he doesn't get the Nevada endorsement, his machine of California SEIU members can't work the Nevada Caucus.

It's also why Obama has his sights on the Silver State, where his contingent from Illinois could be a potent force.

Visit roundup: Candidate visits to Nevada seem to come in fits and starts, with weeks of very little activity followed by an intense campaign schedule.

The state is now in the middle of the busy cycle.

Obama campaigned in Reno (his first trip since May) and Las Vegas on Thursday. Edwards stumped in Las Vegas on Saturday.

And Clinton is set to break her 10-week dry spell with a rally followed by a health care discussion in Las Vegas.

Office opening: Richardson opened his fourth Nevada office in Elko last week. Richardson is the second candidate to open a field office in the rural town.

Obama was the first.

GOP fundraising: Although they aren't campaigning here much, Republican presidential candidates have been tapping Nevadans' pocketbooks more successfully than the Democratic candidates.

According to third quarter filings from the Federal Election Commission, Republicans have outraised Democrats this year by more than $600,000.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has raised the most of any candidate in Nevada. Year to date, Romney has pulled in $732,797 from Nevadans. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has raised $658,790 and U.S. Sen. John McCain has raised $266,566.


Unions pushing state politics

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