Wednesday wrap

Andy Stern's SEIU crooks ... Andy Stern, head of the nation's fastest-growing union and a chief proponent of labor reform, is about to reveal himself as a colossal scam artist. Stern, president of the 2million-member Service Employees International Union, plans to kick off the new year with a stunning assault on democracy within his union. At a meeting of SEIU's executive board next week, he is expected to dismantle one of its largest locals, California's 150,000-member United Healthcare Workers West, by merging all or part of it into a new California affiliate, union sources say. By doing so, Stern plans to remove UHW's highly regarded president, Sal Rosselli, the most persistent and effective advocate of rank-and-file democracy within SEIU. Stern is rushing to do away with the UHW and Rosselli despite overwhelming opposition from the local's members, who flooded SEIU headquarters the past few weeks with more than 125,000 letters and petitions opposing the merger. Even Stern's supporters fear his take-no-prisoners strategy is about to spark brutal strife within organized labor, as other unions and labor-friendly politicians are forced to choose sides. Stern is pressing forward despite several scandals that forced the resignations of a number of top SEIU leaders after reports of financial improprieties. "Andy did nothing about all the crooks in the union," an ex-SEIU president in California said Tuesday. "But he's going after Sal Rosselli, the one guy we all know is totally honest." (nydailynews.com)

SEIU's Stern bids 'good riddance' to 2008 ... The year might have ended on a purely triumphant note for Andy Stern, who heads the nation's fastest-growing labor union and played a key supporting role in President-elect Barack Obama's drive for the White House. Instead, Stern has seen the Service Employees International Union jarred by a spending scandal and internecine feuding, and more recently by the favor-selling investigation that led to the arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Stern's critics point out that a trio of SEIU officers who have faced varying degrees of scrutiny were his appointees. Some say that his administration ignored early reports of trouble with one or more of them, particularly Tyrone Freeman, the sacked president of the largest California local. Freeman is the target of a federal criminal probe that confidential sources say probably will stretch well into 2009. "When your union is less democratic than the Teamsters, you have to look in the mirror and say, 'What happened?'" said Ken Paff, national organizer for Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a reform group. (latimes.com)

Stern's corrupt appointees face the music ... Three appointees of SEIU President Andy Stern are under investigation. Tyrone Freeman - Once a rising star in the labor movement, now banned for life by SEIU for allegedly engaging in a broad corruption scheme as head of its largest California local, he has been ordered to repay more than $1 million. He is the subject of a federal criminal investigation and a Congressional inquiry. He has denied wrongdoing. Rickman Jackson - Former chief of staff to Freeman, he was removed as president of SEIU's biggest Michigan local. He is accused of improperly taking $33,500 in payments from a housing nonprofit sponsored by Freeman's local. SEIU says Jackson is returning the money. Annelle Grajeda - The SEIU executive vice president, the union's highest-ranking official in California and head of a local in Los Angeles, is on leave. She stepped aside in SEIU investigation of payments to her ex-boyfriend, Alejandro Stephens, former president of an earlier incarnation of Grajeda's local. She has denied wrongdoing. The Investigations - U.S. Labor Department, FBI and the U.S. attorney's office are investigating Freeman and his local, and his dealings with two affiliated charities, sources say. The House labor committee also is investigating. The city of Compton has probed whether it was defrauded when it donated parcels to the union-sponsored housing charity. Freeman required workers of a second charity to work on political campaigns -- despite laws barring such activities -- then denied it to the Internal Revenue Service during a 2006 investigation, sources say. The IRS declined to say whether it has reopened the probe. (latimes.com)

Tainted by SEIU: Bam throws 'fine public servant' under the bus ... Barack Obama says Democratic senators should reject the man proposed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to replace Mr Obama in the US Senate. Mr Blagojevich is the subject of a criminal inquiry and has been charged with attempting to "sell" Mr Obama's now-vacant seat to the highest bidder. The governor defied pressure to pick Roland Burris, the state's former attorney general, to fill the position. Democratic senators have vowed to veto anyone appointed by Mr Blagojevich. The president-elect said he agreed the Senate "cannot accept" a new senator chosen by Mr Blagojevich, adding that Mr Blagojevich himself should resign. ... "Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant," said Mr Obama. "But the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision." (kbc.co.ke)

The Bam of Unintended Consequences ... I find it unfortunate that Obama’s personal keys to success — hard work and perseverance — are tragically absent from the agenda he espouses. Instead of lauding the virtues of self-reliance and independence, he is pushing massive federal growth and government intrusion. Collectivism replaces individualism, and government intervention replaces self-preservation. ... There are further problems associated with nationalizing health care, taking the secret ballot away in union organizing and new amnesty and benefits for illegal immigrants. Although it’s amazing that a black man was elected president, it’s ironic that Obama’s leftist policies are likely to hurt the very people he claims to want to help. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — “unalienable rights” cited by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence — can only be achieved through personal responsibility and self-reliance. Unfortunately, the “We” in Obama’s “Yes We Can!” literally means collectivism that stifles our liberties. I’d rather endorse a “Yes I Can!” philosophy. I think those who came before me would agree. (eastvalleytribune.com)

Cure for Poverty revealed

Fat-cat UAW exposed ... The United Autoworkers Union (UAW) had a total net worth of $1.5 billion for fiscal year 2007, according to financial disclosure forms on file with the U.S. Department of Labor. The vast majority of the that net worth--$1.2 billion--was reported by the national UAW headquartered in Detroit. The remaining $300 belongs to over 200 local UAW chapters spread across the country, several of which are worth upwards of $1 million. Among the national UAW's assets are a $27 million woodland resort and a $6 million eco-friendly golf course. The union holds $730 million worth of U.S. Treasury securities and $360 million in securitized debt. (cnsnews.com)

Free Choice ought to include decertification by Card-Check ... Save Our Secret Ballot hopes the brief language of its proposed constitutional amendment can repel any new federal standard. The amendment reads: "The right of individuals to vote by secret ballot is fundamental. Where state or federal law requires elections for public office or public votes on initiatives or referenda, or designations or authorizations of employee representation, the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot shall be guaranteed." The group's campaign shouldn't be necessary. Workers have ample legal safeguards protecting their right to organize. Employers have just shields against union shenanigans. But what the unions want -- and what the Employee Free Choice Act delivers -- is a stacked deck. Save Our Secret Ballots is a reasonable response to this unfair legislation, but the group's lobbyists will be wasting their time in Carson City. Democrats loyal to public and service employee unions control both the Senate and the Assembly, and they won't be anxious to do anything that discourages organization. Save Our Secret Ballots would be better off seeking an amendment to the Nevada Constitution through initiative. And when unions sue to block signature collection efforts, maybe they can answer a few questions: If it's OK to vote on whether to vote, and if it's OK to have a secret-ballot vote on union representatives, why not vote on organization? Moreover, if it's OK to decide organization by card check, shouldn't companies be able to pursue decertification by the same standard?(lvrj.com)

Utah workers seek constitutional protection from Congress, union thugs ... Utah is one of five states targeted by a national group fighting to protect secret ballots in response to federal legislation aimed at easing the process of workers forming a union. The Las Vegas-based group Save Our Secret Ballot is pushing constitutional amendments in the Beehive State, along with Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri and Nevada Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, is sponsoring the Utah proposed amendment. "The fact is, the right to a secret ballot is being threatened, and I want to make sure in Utah it is secure," Wimmer said. He said he is not aiming the legislation at "a particular agenda or issue," but said that, although he hasn't read the Employee Free Choice Act, the federal legislation's "general philosophy" is aimed at taking away the right to a secret ballot. Wimmer says he has is "confident" the amendment will pass the Legislature with the two-thirds majority it needs to OK a constitutional amendment. It then would go to voters on the November 2010 ballot. "This is going to pass with bipartisan and big support," he said. "But if it doesn't, I'll take it to the citizens and they can make it a statute change." (sltrib.com)

Arizona workers seek constitutional protection from Congress, union thugs ... Arizona is among a handful of states in which a new coalition will seek to amend the state Constitution by preserving secret-ballot elections for employees being asked to unionize. "If you don't have the secret ballot, it increases the threat of intimidation on both sides," said Clint Bolick, an attorney with the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute who is providing legal advice for the Save Our Secret Ballot campaign. "The secret ballot is critical as a protection of privacy, freedom of association and freedom from intimidation." His group is proposing an amendment to the state Constitution, providing that "the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot shall be guaranteed." The measure would impact elections for public office and public votes on referenda or initiatives, as well as workplace elections regarding unionization. The Arizona Constitution already guarantees "secrecy in voting" in public elections. Announced Tuesday by a group calling itself Save Our Secret Ballot, the proposal would appear on the 2010 ballot. "It's an anti-union initiative to try to squelch any ability of the union to have a vote," said Chuck Foy, political director of the Arizona State Employees Association (azcentral.com)

Show Me workers seek ballot privacy ... An effort to preserve secret-ballot elections when forming labor unions could land on everyone’s ballot in Missouri and a handful of other states. The national advocacy group, Save our Secret Ballot, announced plans on Tuesday in Jefferson City, Mo., to put an amendment to the Missouri Constitution before voters in 2010 that guarantees secret ballots in all state and federal elections, and those that authorize employee representation. “Who knew this wasn’t a guaranteed right?” asked state Sen. John Loudon, R-Chesterfield, a Save our Secret Ballot Missouri advisory board member. “Congress is trying to take away (our) protection.” The organization plans similar ballot initiatives to undermine the proposed Employee Free Choice Act — which died in Congress in 2007 — in Arizona, Arkansas, Nevada and Utah, but a Northwest Missouri labor representative saw the campaign as a distortion of the measure’s intentions. “Now they’re calling this the destruction of the secret ballot. That’s egregious,” said Bill Caldwell, a union Democrat who chairs the party’s central committee in Buchanan County. (stjoenews.net)

Curbing SEIU in Illinois? ... In 2008, the General Assembly approved House Bill 824. This pay-to-play reform prohibits contractors who hold any state contracts totaling over $50,000 from contributing to the campaign fund of the officeholder who is responsible for awarding the contract and from contributing to the campaign fund of any declared candidate for that same office. It also requires businesses with contracts or pending bids to register with the State Board of Elections, including registering affiliated entities, owners and key executives. It requires the State Board of Elections to maintain a searchable database of all of the names of contractors, affiliated persons and entities. In addition, contractors must notify legislators to whom they donate, that they are registered with the State Board of Elections. Violations can result in the loss of the contract. The contributions ban applies to the state's pension system. (thejournal-news.net)

Golden State double standard ... While 240,000 state employees are facing possible job cuts and mandatory work furloughs, Capitol lawmakers have received a nice little raise. The increased compensation for California’s 120 legislators comes in the form of $3 more per day for living expenses that each lawmaker receives tax-free. Lawmakers now receive $173 in so-called per diem compensation – money that is not subject to state or federal income taxes. The boost comes at the same time that state employees face cuts. The governor issued an executive order earlier forcing unpaid furloughs of two days per month to cut costs. The move followed orders to lay off thousands of state employees. (capitolweekly.net)

Starbucks' social responsibility: No Wobblies ... Starbucks, once the undisputed leader in premium-price caffeine fixes, has long cultivated a corporate image for social responsibility, environmental awareness, and sensitivity to workers' rights. Now that carefully crafted reputation is under assault, thanks to a messy legal dispute with a group called the Starbucks Workers Union (SWU) (part of the Industrial Workers of the World, or IWW), which started recruiting employees in 2004 and now claims 300 members. (businessweek.com)

Pay-to-Play Alabama ready for Bamonomics ... "The Obama transition team has been talking about putting together a plan that would include water and sewer projects," Riley told reporters after a recent speech. "What the specifications of that are, nobody knows right now." Meanwhile, Langford and two political buddies are awaiting trial in an alleged pay-to-play scheme that federal prosecutors say netted the mayor more than $230,000 in exchange for steering work to a bond firm that was involved in sewer project deals while he was a Jefferson County commissioner. A judge has set a May 4 trial date for Langford and two longtime friends from the Democratic Party, lobbyist Al LaPierre and investment banker Bill Blount of Montgomery. Prosecutors say Langford, while serving as commission president, took money and gifts from Blount in exchange for routing county bond work his way. The payments -- often in the form of payments on Langford's personal debt -- were allegedly arranged by LaPierre. (montgomeryadvertiser.com)

AFSCME protected by Dem Gov. ... State employees not covered by a union contract who were in line for a bonus, raise or promotion this fiscal year probably won't be getting them, Gov. Chet Culver said Tuesday. The cost-saving measure affecting about 3,800 state employees -- excluding regent institutions -- is part of an effort to reduce fiscal 2009 spending in light of shrinking state revenues, said Culver spokesman Phil Roeder. "We're going to have to tighten our belt," the governor said. "The idea that we're going to be giving a lot of raises out at a time when we might be looking at unprecedented budget cuts is just not likely," Culver added. "There are people who are up for promotions, thousands of state employees that have had a review and they're up for a bonus or a raise and we're saying, sorry, we can't give that to you right now." Danny Homan, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 61, said his members are unaffected because they received the 3 percent base pay raise and step increases last July 1 under the two-year contract that ends next June 30. (siouxcityjournal.com)

AFSCME takes dues hit in Bridgeport ... Another 51 city employees are being laid off as officials continue cutting costs to plug a $20 million deficit and avoid a possible state takeover of city finances. So far, Mayor Bill Finch has laid off 73 workers and eliminated or refused to fill 98 positions. With the latest round of layoffs, 222 jobs will have either been eliminated or left unfilled. The 51 workers who received layoff notices this week are all members of the National Association of Government Workers [NAGE], the city's second largest union with 637 members. The employees work throughout City Hall, including the planning and zoning office, the City Clerk's office and the records department at the Police Department, which is facing a serious reduction in its workforce. Finch said NAGE refused to contribute $897,000 in requested givebacks and concessions. Without those concessions, the mayor said, he had no choice but to lay off workers. (connpost.com)

International Collectivism

Lula OK's U.S. leftward lurch ... Lula, president of the so-called G20, sat next to US President George Bush at the White House dinner that weekend, which marked the first time the G20 ever came together at the summit level. As he departed Washington after the talks, Lula said: "This is a historic day. I leave with the certainty that the political geography of the world has been given a new dimension." Two months earlier, with the Brazilian economy still on very firm ground, Lula sounded a more arrogant tone about the crisis. The emerging countries which have done everything right should not now become victims of the casino that (the bankers) set up in the United States," Lula said at one point. "People ask me about the crisis, and I answer, go ask (US President George W) Bush. It is his crisis, not mine. I have to look after my country so that it is not affected," he said at another point. Lula ousted a centre-right government in Brazil, rising from life as a metalworker in the metropolis of Sao Paulo to a globally-respected statesman. (kuwaittimes.net)

Pay-to-Play boosts Nicaraguan collectivist ... Daniel Ortega, the former Marxist rebel who confronted Washington when he first ruled Nicaragua in the 1980s, is again forging links with former Cold War allies as his second presidency runs into trouble at home. During his first stint in power -- 11 years as head of the leftist Sandinista government that took power in a 1979 revolution -- Ortega led the fight against U.S.-backed 'Contra' rebels while receiving support from the Soviet Union and Cuba. Since returning to power in early 2007, this time at the ballot box, Ortega has again moved closer to Moscow. He is the only leader outside of Russia to recognize Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, backing Moscow's stance in the dispute. In return, he has received aid from Russia, and he has also won generous development projects financed by sworn U.S. antagonists Venezuela and Iran. (reuters.com)

Bam sets Cuba Pay-to-Play deal ... Obama may take a major step toward rapprochement with Cuba, setting in motion a diplomatic policy that will effectively end 47 years of that nation’s isolation. It would have the backing of younger Cuban-Americans, most European Union leaders and the whole of Latin America. It would also be applauded by the American oil and gas industry, which has been quietly arguing for years that Cuba represents a major energy resource and a cheap gas supplier for Florida. Recently, Raul Castro, who has taken over the reins of power in Cuba from his brother, Fidel, made his first trip abroad to attend a meeting of a 33-nation Latin American and Caribbean summit held in Brazil’s second largest city, Rio de Janeiro, which was also once its capital. During the summit, the Rio Group, an organization established in 1968 to promote Latin American integration, made Cuba its 23rd member. In response, every nation at the summit roundly condemned America’s ongoing 1962 embargo against Cuba. They argued that the embargo had been an abject failure and, in the present political climate, there was greater need for diplomacy and serious political dialogue. Making Cuba part of the Rio Group was a signal to the incoming Obama administration and a loud denunciation of the Bush Cuban policy. Many experts in the United States believe there is plenty of evidence to show that during his two terms in office George Bush failed to keep an eye on his own backyard. (americanfreepress.net)

Collectivist friend-of-Bam bets against the U.S. ... The euphoria didn’t last... On Monday, October 13, 2008, the Dow racked up its largest one-day point gain in history. In percentage terms, it was the largest single-day gain since 1933. The rally was a pent-up sigh of relief as governments around the world responded to the credit crisis. The emergency backstop measures put in place by country after country -- see “The Return of FDR, Part II” -- gave investors a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. For one day at least, fear was put aside. But then the economic data began to roll in, and the fear returned. Even if the credit crisis comes to an end, the market realized, the pain of global economic downturn could just be getting started. “We have [another] big problem,” Soros says. “Global warming. It requires big investment. And that could be the motor of the world economy for years to come... instead of consuming, building an electricity grid, saving on energy, rewiring the houses, adjusting your lifestyle where energy has got to cost more until you introduce those new things. So it will be painful. But at least we will survive and not cook.”(commodityonline.com)
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