AFL-CIO most powerful, least trusted influence

Among all adults who are familiar with them, Consumer Reports, The American Red Cross, AARP, the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are the most trusted among 16 large organizations that influence politics and business in Washington. Moveon.org, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the ACLU, the NRA and the AFL-CIO are the least trusted. However, even these organizations are trusted "a great deal" or "a fair amount" by 45 percent or more of all adults.

These are some of the results of a nationwide Harris Poll of 2,455 adults surveyed online between November 7 and 13, 2007 by Harris Interactive®. This survey focused on 16 organizations that have considerable influence on public policy, business and are frequently covered by the media.


The first question asked the public how familiar they are with these 16 organizations. The organizations that are familiar to the largest number of people are:

o The American Red Cross 96%
o Consumer Reports 86%
o The AARP 85%
o The National Rifle Association (NRA) 83%
o The U.S. Chamber of Commerce 79%

The organizations on the list that the fewest people are familiar with are:

o The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) 12%
o The Brookings Institution 22%
o The Environmental Defense Fund 24%
o Moveon.org 30%
o The Heritage Foundation 33%
o National Association of Home Builders 39%


Among those who are familiar with them the most trusted organizations (based on those who trust them "a great deal" or "a fair amount") are:

o Consumer Reports 91%
o The American Red Cross 86%
o AARP 83%
o The Nature Conservancy 83%
o The U.S. Chamber of Commerce 73%

The least trusted organizations on the list are:

o Moveon.org 45%
o The American Enterprise Institute 48%
o The ACLU 50%
o The NRA 52%
o The AFL-CIO 52%

It is noteworthy that all of these five organizations take strong and often controversial positions on political issues.

Power in Washington

The organizations listed that are believed to have the most power, based on the number of people who are thought to have "a "great deal" or "a fair amount" of power (as percentages of those who are familiar with them) are:

o The AFL-CIO 84%
o The N.R.A. 83%
o The U.S. Chamber of Commerce 81%
o The ACLU 81%
o The Brookings Institute 78%
o The American Enterprise Institute 77%

The organizations thought to have the least power are:

o Greenpeace 45%
o The Nature Conservancy 45%
o Consumer Reports 48%
o Moveon.org 50%
o The Sierra Club 54%

It is interesting that three of these are environmental organizations.

So What?

There is a big difference between the organizations that are most trusted and those that are believed to be the most powerful. However some well trusted organizations are also seen as having power in Washington; specifically, the American Red Cross, the AARP, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. On the other hand three organizations that are not highly trusted are widely perceived to be powerful - the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the AFL-CIO and the NRA.


Congress cuts union oversight agency budget

In the omnibus spending bill:

"The Office of Labor-Management Standards, which audits unions, would be cut by 6 percent to $45 million."

As Diana Furchtgott-Roth notes in this New York Sun column, the Bush administration asked for $57 million for the agency.
The omnibus spending bill that is close to final passage would increase funds available for every oversight agency in the government except the Office of Labor Management Standards at the Labor Department, the group that oversees union finances. There's more dollars for the Security and Exchange Commission, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. But OLMS gets short shrift.
Hmm. Isn't 2008 an election year? Let's see if we can draw an inference. From the L.A. Times' political blog:
AFL-CIO budgets $53 million for election cycle

This should pay for a lot of phone banks and door-hangers. The AFL-CIO announced Friday that it would spend a record $53 million in the 2008 election cycle -- all of it for grassroots mobilization. And it plans to mobilize an army of 200,000 union volunteers for precinct-walking and other get out the vote efforts. Overall, it expects to spend $200 million on the campaign.

The labor group said it intends to target Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin -- core regions of the country's traditional manufacturing base.
Increased flow of money in campaigns and get-out-the-vote efforts, with less oversight. Yep, it's an election year.


Hoffa friends in state A.G.'s office rap FedEx

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has cited FedEx Corporation subsidiary FedEx Ground for intentionally misclassifying 13 pickup and delivery drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.

Coakley also fined FedEx Ground $190,000 in penalties and ordered the company to fix the employment status and pay the 13 drivers restitution. There are more than 400 drivers for FedEx Ground in Massachusetts, and the AG's office released a press statement today saying the investigation is ongoing.

FedEx has 10 days to appeal the citations to a state administrative law agency. The AG's office began investigating FedEx this summer after receiving a driver's complaint over his employment classification.

"I applaud the just actions taken by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in targeting the scofflaw FedEx Ground," said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. "FedEx Ground has for too long passed unnoticed as it calls its drivers 'independent' but illegally controls them like employees. But FedEx Ground is running out of places to hide. This action in Massachusetts is another nail in the coffin of FedEx's illegal business model."

FedEx Ground and its subsidiary FedEx Home Delivery have lost a series of court decisions, labor board determinations and state agency rulings which found the two companies to be misclassifying its drivers as contractors. Most recently, the California Supreme Court refused to review a California Court of Appeal ruling that found single route drivers in that state to be misclassified. The California Supreme Court action ended seven years of litigation and let stand the civil judgment that drivers were company employees.

"FedEx has broken the law here in Massachusetts and the company finally got caught," said Teamster Local Union 25 President Sean O'Brien. "FedEx Ground drivers in Massachusetts are standing up to this company and winning. We are proud to welcome the drivers in the Wilmington, Mass., terminal as brothers and sisters in Local 25."

FedEx Home Delivery drivers in Wilmington, Mass., voted to join Teamster Local Union 25 and in Hartford, Conn., voted to join Teamster Local Union 671. FedEx has refused to bargain with Local 25 the legally-certified collective bargaining agent; the company has appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit to contest this certification.


Union XMas card educates Ohioans

Tis the season for Christmas cards, but South Toledo residents are getting some very unique ones that are not full of holiday cheer.

The card in question looks like your typical Christmas card, and comes in your mail box just like any other. But it's actually card-bashing Wal-Mart and the way they do business.

The card, distributed by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), doesn't have smiling children inside. The union instead cites studies saying some of Wal-Mart's little helpers overseas sometimes work 14 hours a day and work for as low as 6-and-a-half cents an hour.

David Sadowski, a representative of UFCW Local 911, which represents the Toledo area, says his local union is spending money on the campaign to protect the wages and standard of living for Glass City residents.

Over 5000 cards have been distributed to Glass City residents who live near the Glendale Avenue store. Sadowski hopes the campaign will educate residents and Wal-Mart shoppers while trying to help workers across the country. This is the first time UFCW Local 911 has used the Christmas card idea. A Cleveland chapter tried something similar.


Tiny gov't unions bedevil labor-state

City Council members may oppose the formation of a second municipal union, marking the first such move since the work forces of smaller cities were given the authority to organize.

Cindy King and Wanda Weston-Johnson, who work at the front desk in the Police Department, filed their intent to organize with the Teamsters union this month.
If their application is approved by the Illinois Labor Relations Board, they would become the second labor union with a membership of only two people in South Beloit.

Sgts. Brad McCaslin and Adam Truman became the first two-person union when they organized under the Illinois Council of Police earlier this year.

The council did not challenge the sergeants’ union, but they may challenge King’s and Weston-Johnson’s, said Commissioner Bob Redieske.

“The problem is our attorney told us it’s going to cost us a lot more money if we keep authorizing these smaller labor unions as opposed to having one or two contracts for larger unions,” he said. “If they want to join an existing union it would be better for the city because then you wouldn’t be negotiating a bunch of different contracts all the time.”

No decision has been made on whether to contest the union, Mayor Randy Kirichkow said.

“What commissioner Re­dieske said about it costing more money if we have a lot of different contracts to negotiate is accurate,” he said.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet on what to do. There are still a lot of questions we need answered from our attorney, and we want to talk to the police chief further, too.”

Kirichkow said he didn’t see a conflict that the council didn’t oppose the sergeants’ union but might oppose King and Weston-Johnson’s.

“When the sergeants organized what they were doing was so similar to the police officers that it was easy to see that they should be able to organize,” he said.

“The thing is there are specific requirements you have to meet to get a union and we have to see if (King and Weston-Johnson) meet them.”


AFSCME Obama backers' dues mis-spent

Barack Obama’s union friends in Illinois are steamed about some anti-Obama mail headed for voters' mailboxes in the next few days.

They’re especially mad that the mail is coming from the political action arm of their own national organization, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

True, the national AFSCME organization endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) over Sen. Obama (D-Ill.) in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. And they’re doing their best to promote their candidate.

But the Chicago-based Council 31 of AFSCME doesn’t support that endorsement – they back Obama instead -- and they think the union ought to stay out of the business of criticizing their Illinois guy.

“I had a discussion with the president, because we weren’t happy about the Clinton endorsement,” said Henry Bayer, executive director of Illinois Council 31.

“We said, ‘If that’s done, just be for Clinton, don’t be against anybody else,’” Bayer said. “Our members here have a great fondness for Barack Obama, and our members are going to be upset if you do anything negative.’ I had hoped there wouldn’t be anything negative.”

But now it looks like there might be. And the Council 31 folks have a bone to pick with the particulars of the mail piece, which calls Obama's health insurance proposal a "band-aid solution."

"He claims his health care plan covers everyone,' the piece says, "but his proposal does not match his words."

Those who would go uncovered under Obama's health plan are those who choose not to purchase insurance. His plan doesn't include the mandates that Clinton has suggested.

Curiously, AFSCME has argued against mandates in the past, as recently as last spring when President Gerald McEntee testified on the issue at a congressional hearing.

Officials for AFSCME's national operation haven't weighed in with a comment yet.


Criminal Teamster boss demeaned union members

A former Teamster told federal probers how he once tried to resist boss-from-hell Anthony Rumore's orders to leave a union hearing for Coca-Cola workers to chauffeur one of the higher-up's daughters.

Ex-Local 812 worker John Russo said he complained that 17 union members' jobs were at risk at the 1997 hearing, but his belligerent boss only bellowed louder, "Go get my daughter!"

"[I] used to ride around and bang on the steering wheel. I wanted to kill somebody. That's how bad it was," Russo told investigators of his resentment at being repeatedly ordered to perform personal tasks for Rumore and his family on union time.

Rumore, who was nabbed on extortion and embezzlement charges this week, was a ruthless union president who treated staff members like peons, according to a 2004 report by an independent review board that oversees the Teamsters.

The ex-Teamsters boss also starred in his own real-life "Bridezilla" show, the report said. He forced at least three union workers to chauffeur his then-engaged daughter Lisa on endless shopping trips for wedding rings, photographers - and even a gown for her mother-in-law. In October 2000, Rumore ordered one employee to drive his wife and daughter, "using a union car to various stores to shop for items for Lisa's wedding, including 'flowers, rings, dresses,' " the report said.


Supreme Court to review union-only contract provision

A judge this afternoon signed a temporary order to halt bidding on the $16.9 million renovation of the George Harvey Justice Building in Binghamton.

Non-union contractors and their state organization Tuesday requested the stay because they said a project labor agreement signed by Broome County would restrict work on the project to a majority of union tradesmen.

Bids for the project were scheduled to be opened this afternoon in the Broome County Office Building, but the judge’s order today put the bidding process temporarily on hold.

State Supreme Court Justice Ferris D. Lebous set a hearing date of Jan. 29 and 30 for further argument on the issue.


Union-only rule cements 'economic apartheid'

Just in time for Christmas, City Council has approved the expansion of the Convention Center - but not really.

Council yesterday passed legislation needed to get construction moving, but imposed conditions that will effectively stall the project until construction unions disclose the racial composition of their ranks and provide long-term diversity plans.

"There's a lot of work ahead of us," said City Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller, one of many African-American elected officials who say they want far more minority workers and contractors on city construction projects.

Council's bill bars unions from entering into the "project labor agreement," which will govern the expansion project, until Council has approved their long-term diversity plans.

And Convention Center officials say they won't send construction bid packages out until the labor agreement is done, since the contractors need the agreement to calculate their costs.

"We'll move forward in a very positive way," Convention Center board chairman Thomas "Buck" Riley said yesterday. "We're still on schedule."

The question that now hangs over the project is what kind of diversity plans the building-trades unions will agree to, and whether they're willing to disclose membership information to Council.

While two unions leaders have made positive comments about Council's requirements, most of the 17 unions have been silent. One labor source said yesterday that some leaders resent reporting to Council on a state-funded project.

Building-trades business manager Pat Gillespie said yesterday that his unions have already been working to include minorities and that progress on the Convention Center depends on good-faith negotiations.

"I'm hopeful that the governor, and mayor-elect what's-his-name and others . . . want to find solutions to this issue, and just don't want the issue, then I think we'll have some success," Gillespie said.

Gillespie's sarcastic reference to mayor-elect Michael Nutter came a day after Nutter pledged to end "economic apartheid" on city construction sites.

Gillespie yesterday acknowledged the remark bothered several labor leaders.

"It's not helpful, but I think we're past that," he said.

Gillespie and other construction union leaders met with Gov. Rendell Tuesday evening in Harrisburg, a gathering Gillespie called "productive."

Meanwhile, Philadelphia City Solicitor Romulo Diaz said yesterday that he's prepared a draft diversity plan for unions to consider, but doesn't believe most union leaders have seen it yet.

It's expected Council won't review any union plans until after a new Council with three new members is sworn in Jan. 7.


Lansing Council pro-PLA, anti-RTW

Considering mid-Michigan's struggling economy, it's astounding that the Lansing City Council continues to promote the use of union-only tactics that harm taxpayers, curtail development and discriminate against a majority of local construction workers.

In the latest move, the Lansing City Council approved a resolution earlier this month encouraging Mayor Virg Bernero to enter into a union-only Project Labor Agreement for the combined sewer overflow project for the 2008-09 construction season.

Such agreements, which require all construction contractors and subcontractors to have union representation, raise construction costs and limit local contractors from getting work. PLAs, besides discriminating against men and women based on their labor affiliation, also unfairly exclude employees from local construction projects paid for by their own tax dollars.

In Michigan, about 75 percent of construction workers choose not to belong to unions. By excluding the majority of workers and taking bids from union contractors only, municipalities unnecessarily pay as much as 20 percent more, with taxpayers directly footing the bill.

In addition to discriminating against workers based on labor affiliation, union-only project labor agreements often exclude a large percentage of women and minority workers, groups severely underrepresented in organized labor. Many organizations, including the National Association of Women Business Owners and the National Black Chamber of Commerce, have expressed opposition to such agreements.

The Lansing City Council's move to encourage union-only Project Labor Agreements is only the latest attempt to secure an unfair advantage for union members. Members earlier this month also passed a resolution to oppose any federal, state or local legislation promoting right-to-work laws. Right-to-work laws allow workers to choose whether or not to belong to a union and ensures union membership is not a condition of employment. Michigan is one of 28 states where workers can be forced to join organized labor.

In October, several council members attempted to adopt a prevailing wage ordinance. That move was put on hold because of legal and economic concerns from other members, the city attorney and city economic leaders. Prevailing wage laws dictate wages and other benefits must be determined exclusively by labor unions, even though only 25 percent of Michigan construction workers belong to a labor union. "Prevailing wage" does not mean a fair market wage, but one artificially inflated by 40 percent to 60 percent.

The city of Lansing is at a crossroads: Despite a stagnant economy, many developers are planning new projects. However, recent moves by the City Council to adopt union-only tactics will only hold local economic development back.

Who gains from such tactics? A small number of union contractors who enjoy a financial monopoly on new development. It is taxpayers and the vast majority of Michigan's construction workers who lose.

Instead of creating first- and second-class workers, the Lansing City Council should provide equal opportunity to every person based on qualifications, not on their union or nonunion status.


Still no arrest in SEIU steward's murder

A mob of people witnessed the stabbing death of Latasha Shaw in September. Twelve weeks and 60 interviews later, Rochester police have yet to make a single arrest, Chief David Moore said at a news conference Wednesday.

Shaw, a University of Rochester employee and SEIU shop steward, was killed Sept. 29 at Dewey and Driving Park avenues after she approached a group she believed had attacked her 14-year-old daughter, Jasmine Shaw.

Shaw's sister, Charnette Grayson of Webster, pleaded with the Rochester community at Wednesday's news conference. "Somebody out there know(s) who killed my sister," said Grayson, 35.

Later, Grayson said Latasha's unsolved homicide haunts her family every day. "We're sleeping, but we're not sleeping. We're eating, but we're not eating," Grayson said.

Shaw's case at first seemed likely to be solved because of the sheer number of witnesses, Moore said. However, dozens of interviews have failed to turn up probable cause to make an arrest, he said. "We continue to battle with the issue of 'no snitching,'" Moore said.

The department so far has closed 21 of this year's 48 homicides, or 44 percent, Moore said.

Other unsolved homicides

At the news conference, police provided limited insight into the city's most recent homicide.

Brian Johnson, 26, of Rochester was shot dead Friday and found at a residence on Glide Street.

The Monroe County District Attorney's Office plans to submit the case to a grand jury, so no further details can be released about the circumstances of Johnson's death at this time, police said.

It is unclear whether the department is close to making any arrests.

Police also highlighted two unsolved homicides in addition to Shaw's and Johnson's.

- Shalonda Simpson, 25, of Rochester was killed Aug. 23 on Kirkland Road. She is believed to have been robbed by her killer right before she was shot, police said.

- David Howard, 41, was killed in March. Robbery is believed to be the motive in that case as well.

"We will not go away," Moore said.

"We will be relentless with all our homicides that are not solved."

Moore also asked witnesses to talk to police if they know anything about any unsolved homicide:

"If you're not stepping forward, morally, you're as guilty" as the killers, he said.


Labor women favor no-vote unionization

Living and working in Philadelphia, it's hard not to have a sense of history.

Every day, we walk the same streets as the founders of this great nation and look upon the buildings where they worked to shape documents that today, over 200 years later, still provide us with the foundations of our democracy. At Chestnut and Bank is a historic marker indicating that our city was also the birthplace of the American labor movement.

But few Philadelphians are likely to know that this month has a historic significance that is very much related to workers' rights. On Dec. 10, 1948, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Eleanor Roosevelt was chairwoman of the group of 11 international representatives who drafted this groundbreaking document, which is the basis for modern human-rights law.

It might surprise you even more to learn that fundamental to that declaration is the concept that all people have rights in regard to employment and economic well-being. Article 23, Item 4 states specifically that "Everyone has the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests." Other sections speak of "indispensable" economic rights, equal pay for equal work without discrimination, an "adequate" standard of living, "security in the event of unemployment" and freedom from servitude.

As a founding member of the U.N., the United States made a commitment to these rights and principles when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. In doing so, we, as a nation, have said that fundamental human rights include the basic rights of workers to have dignity in the workplace.

Sadly, the U.S., a nation that prides itself on being a world leader, has not been a leader in the area of workers' rights - that is, the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively.

Today, close to 60 million U.S. workers say that they would join a union right now if given the opportunity to do so in a fair environment. Yet the system is so broken and so stacked against workers that most cannot do so.

Did you know that 75 percent of employers hire law firms and consulting groups to run anti-union campaigns when workers seek to organize, and that a quarter of employers illegally fire workers for union activity? U.S. workers are frequently unable to exercise a right that, according to our support of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.S. seeks to protect. Whether you count yourself pro-union or not, this is really about the right to make a choice.

Our country also lags behind many other industrialized nations in a whole host of categories used to measure the well-being of workers. In terms of amount of vacation time and paid leave allotted, Americans are among the lowest-compensated workers in the industrialized world, but our productivity and hours worked are among the highest! This is to say nothing of the problem of workers with no health insurance, which is well documented.

The record of the U.S. on workers' rights is unacceptable. Both Human Rights Watch and the International Labor Organization find the U.S. out of compliance with internationally recognized standards. However, it's never too late for change. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed the Employee Free Choice Act that, among other things, calls for stiffer penalties for employers who illegally discriminate against workers who exercise their right to organize.

And last week, to commemorate the 59th Anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a historic meeting of over 200 international leaders convened in Washington with the purpose of addressing workers' rights as human rights and discussing how the two can be advanced around the world.

Meeting in the U.S. is a start - raising the level of protections for workers in the U.S. is the ultimate goal.

- Pat Eiding is the president of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO. Ellen Slack is a member of AFSCME Local 590 and sits on the executive board of the Philadelphia chapter of Labor Union Women.


SEIU cleans up City Hall

Unionized commercial office cleaners who live and work in the Bridgeport (CT) area are planning a rally in front of City Hall Annex at 4:15 p.m. today.

The cleaners are members of SEIU Local 32BJ, which represents more than 4,500 people in Connecticut, nearly 2,000 of whom work in Fairfield County.

According to the union, the contract is set to expire at midnight Dec. 31. Following the rally, members will take a vote that would give their bargaining unit the right to call a strike.

The Bridgeport rally comes less than a week after members staged a similar event in Stamford. Members want higher wages, more full-time positions and better benefits.


Workers dump Teamsters for Machinists

Workers at Clark Steel Framing Systems have officially joined the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 1943.

By joining the new union, employees will no longer be able to transfer between the plant in Monroe and the Clark Steel facility located in Dayton, said John Carr, a Machinist representative.

"For benefits and seniority to follow an employee to one of the other plants, it would have to be put on the table and negotiated. The Teamsters would have to agree to it as well, and I don't think they are going to do that," said Carr.

Previously, employees from Dayton could transfer to the Monroe plant and retain their seniority, said Carr.

Officials from Clark Steel did not return calls seeking comment prior to press time.

Clark Steel employees at Monroe will join Local Lodge 1943 under the Machinist union, the largest union representing employees at AK Steel in Middletown.

Clark Steel employs 57 hourly production workers. Workers were previously represented by the Teamsters Local 661, said Mike Lawson, employee of Clark Steel and a former Teamsters officer.

Employees voted Dec. 12 for new union representation.

"Basically, I think the reason the change came about is because they saw the results we had at AK Steel, and they saw what we were able to do there with the pension," said Carr. "They just wanted a bigger voice."

Union officials will now be working to negotiate a new contract. "The Local Lodge along with the Internationals' help will be negotiating their contract. It should be sometime soon, after the first of the year," said Dan Lawwill, current president of Local Lodge 1943.

Chief among the negotiations will be having employees entered into a pension plan.

"Previously there was no pension plan in place. It's part of what garnered interest from workers (at Clark Steel) to look for new representation," explained Carr.

"The immediate thing they want is the stability of the IAM pension plan. It is second to none," he added.

Carr explained there would be workers from Clark Steel to represent them during the negotiation process.

"We are very democratic. We would not go in and negotiate a contract for these folks without them there.

"They are the only ones who know exactly the job they are doing. We wouldn't assume it's the same as AK Steel," Carr said.

Currently all Local Lodge officers are workers from AK Steel. Because the union conducted elections on Dec. 13, those officers will also represent workers from Clark Steel for the next three years, said Carr.

Clark Steel employees will have the opportunity to elect officers to the Local Lodge as well in the next election, he added.


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