Ex-unionist reveals AFL-CIO scheme

Largest and Most Expensive Union Organizing Campaign in History

'The official AFL-CIO endorsement of presidential hopeful Barack Obama this week confirms that this November's election will be the biggest and most expensive union organizing campaign in history,' says Peter A. List, Editor & Chief Blogger of EmployerReport.com.

'Big union bosses are projected to spend approximately $1 billion of their members' money and send hundreds of thousands of foot soldiers to the streets across America to convince voters that Barack Obama is a different kind of candidate,' says List. 'The reality is Obama is nothing more than a typical politician kow-towing to a special interest - Big union bosses. Unfortunately, these union bosses are underhandedly attempting to dupe Americans into electing a candidate who has promised his backers at the AFL- CIO and Change to Win federations to effectively do away with Americans' right to a secret-ballot election on the matter of unionization.'

List is referring to the hallucinogenically-named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which he calls the 'Kill American Jobs Act.' Despite the fact that unions win roughly 60% of secret-ballot elections conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, union bosses are pushing a bill that accomplishes three things for them:

1. EFCA eliminates Americans' rights to secret-ballot elections on whether or not to become represented by unions through a deceptive and coercive process called 'card-check.' Card-check enables unions to gain union representation when a mere 50% + 1 of a targeted workforce is talked into (be it through desire, deception, or coercion) into signing a union's authorization cards. Under EFCA, union organizers will have the unfettered ability to misrepresent the purpose of signing a card, much to workers' detriment, as workers will no longer have the ability to vote in secret their true desires on unionization.

2. Once unions gain representation of an employer's workforce, EFCA forces an employer into binding arbitration after 120 days of negotiations, using a government-imposed bureaucrat to impose a contract governing an employer's terms and conditions of employment, which could easily put a company (and its workers' jobs) in economic peril.

3. EFCA imposes grossly exorbitant fines on employers, under a union- controlled National Labor Relations Board, for allegedly violating workers' rights. This provision will have the effect of chilling employers' First Amendment rights, as employers will become fearful that anything that is said to workers targeted for unionization may become twisted into an allegation of an unfair labor practice charge.

'It's unfortunate that American voters are being fooled into thinking Barack Obama is anything but a bought-and-paid-for lackey for big union bosses like Andy Stern, John Sweeney and their cronies,' says List. 'Obama and his fellow Democrats' insistence on passing this dangerous legislation will put more American jobs in jeopardy of outsourcing and subcontracting, as capital flees America like never before, and it will put many smaller companies out of business.'

'Americans should be warned now of the consequences involved with EFCA,' says List. 'Because, if union bosses succeed in their plan to gain control of the federal government in November, the resulting loss of jobs that will occur due to EFCA will be staggering.'

EmployerReport.com, launched on Labor Day 2006, is a free website that provides employers and the legal community news links and commentary on today's labor unions.

- Peter A. List, a former union activist, is Editor & Chief Blogger of EmployerReport.com, as well as Founder & CEO of Kulture, LLC - a nationally known labor and employee relations consulting firm assisting employers with employee and labor issues.

For more information, go to http://www.employerreport.com or http://www.uskulture.com


AFL-CIO hypes Barack's economic agenda

Federation fuels anti-GOP attack machine

Supporting its formal endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama for president, the AFL-CIO on June 26 launched a special Meet Barack Obama website at www.aflcio.org/issues/politics/obama.cfm

The site educates workers about Obama’s record, a notable one of backing union concerns and fighting for working families. It features videos, downloadable fliers and a briefing book laying out his positions on issues. Among them:

• Obama speaking to a Wisconsin audience (Photo by Labor Press).

• Obama opposes the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. He supports fair trade that protects jobs and workers.

• Obama has supported workers’ rights and pledges to sign the Employee Free Choice Act.

• Obama has voted to protect fair pay, overtime protections, prevailing wages and family and medical leave.

• Obama opposes privatizing Social Security.

• Obama wants to provide health care for all that cuts costs and improves quality.

The AFL-CIO General Board, which voted to endorse Obama, includes presidents of all 56 unions in the AFL-CIO, as well as Executive Council members and representatives of state and local federations, trade departments and constituency groups. (The General Board votes by per capita membership.)

In its endorsement statement, the General Board noted that Obama “secured the nomination of his party in a campaign that has energized millions of Americans and spoken to the hopes and dreams of people from every corner of our nation. His leadership can re-engage disenfranchised Americans and bring our country together.”

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney praised Obama as “proven, from his days as an organizer, to his time in the Senate and his historic run for the presidency. He knows what it’s going to take to create an economy that works for everyone, not just Big Oil, Big Pharma, the insurance companies, the giant mortgage lenders, speculators and the very wealthy.”

AFSCME President Gerald McEntee, chairman of the AFL-CIO Political Committee and originally a strong supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), pledged to “work our hearts out for Barack Obama. Our program is going to be worker to worker and neighbor to neighbor. We’re ready to mobilize. We’re ready to rock and roll.”

Margaret Blackshere, a teacher and former president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, says Obama listens to workers and will be a president who fights for their interests. He understands the importance of unions and the need for public policy that protects working families, she said.

“He stood by workers again and again” she recalled. “He told me one of the things he learned as a community organizer in Chicago is the difference between being union and nonunion. He saw steel mills closing—and as painful as that was, he saw that if you were in a union, you had somebody to stand up for you.”

AFL-CIO leaders simultaneously announced one of the largest grassroots political mobilizations in its history. Thousands of volunteers are helping educate millions of workers and mobilizing them to get to the polls to elect not just Obama but also a working family-friendly Congress, Sweeney noted. He described the federation as focused on mobilizing more than 13 million union voters in 24 priority states ? including union members, families of members, retirees and members of the AFL-CIO community affiliate Working America ? and said the support of organized labor is also central across the US in electing US. senators and House representatives as well as leaders for state and local governments.


N.J. Dems stiff organized labor

Related Jon Corzine stories: here

Unionists in other labor-states are shocked

It was a rare - if not unheard of - scene. New Jersey public workers' union officials had failed to get their way. They rallied around the Statehouse. They protested outside Senate offices. They demanded lawmakers not cut taxpayer-paid health and retirement benefits, and got some to agree. But when all was said and done the Legislature still voted to slice benefits for newly hired state and local government workers and teachers. The outcome left organized labor - long a leading backer of Democrats who control New Jersey government - dismayed.

"We believe that it represents a fundamental trampling of the rights of collective bargaining," said Bob Master, a director with the Communications Workers of America that represents 55,000 state and local government workers.

For years, New Jersey teachers and state and local government workers have received taxpayer-paid benefit enhancements both through contract talks and legislative action. They got this while helping bankroll Democrats who have controlled state government since 2002.

The enhancements included a 9 percent pension hike that came as the state's pension fund suffered stock market losses and state and local governments failed to contribute to the fund, which now faces a $28 billion deficit.

State workers and Gov. Jon S. Corzine agreed last year to a new contract that required workers pay more for their pensions and health care, but some lawmakers felt that wasn't enough with the state facing chronic fiscal woes, soaring property taxes and projections showing public employee benefit costs doubling by 2010.

They also noted Corzine's plan to entice more state workers to retire would mean higher retirement benefit costs.

But the plan meant picking a fight with some of their closest allies, especially for officials such as Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney, a top official in an ironworkers union.

"I never imagined this legislation would receive the amount of opposition it did," said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. "The state union leaders who protested this legislation did what they felt that had to do, and I did what I felt had to be done to make sure their pension fund is healthy for the future."

The fight may not be over. Sweeney promised Republicans he would seek more benefit changes next year.

It's still unclear what the dispute between Democrats and public workers may mean, but public worker unions are making clear they're unhappy. That could prove key in a state in which 19.2 percent of the workers are unionized, the nation's fourth highest rate.

"We are deeply distressed by the direction this debate has taken," Master said.

It could first play out next year, when all 80 Assembly members are up for election.

Organized labor donated $7.5 million to New Jersey legislators and candidates during the 2007 elections, making it the largest private contributor to state politicians, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

The New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, donated $568,840, with 72 percent of that going to Democrats.

But now the NJEA is among the most incensed by the changes.

"We can do better. We must do better," said NJEA President Joyce Powell. "This is the proud, progressive state of New Jersey."

Legislators approved increasing the retirement age from 60 to 62, requiring government workers and teachers earn $7,500 per year to receive a pension, eliminating Lincoln's Birthday as a holiday, allowing the state to offer incentives not to take health insurance and requiring a municipal employee work 20 hours per week to get health benefits.

That's less than sponsors sought. Plans to change how pensions are calculated, require employees work 30 hours per week to get a pension and limit people with multiple public jobs to one pension were killed.

"There is no question that NJEA turned the tide against these proposals, which would have reduced or eliminated the pensions of countless NJEA members in the future," Powell said.

But legislators said it's also more than they've done to cut public worker benefits in recent memory.

"Yes, this legislation could be stronger, but the reality is that change is needed now," said Senate Budget Chairwoman Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex.

Public workers contend they already agreed to cut their benefits last year under the pact that extends through 2011. Corzine's administration contends it will save $6 billion over the next 15 years.

"Apparently, at least for some members of the Legislature, this is an inconvenient document," Master said, waving a copy of that contract.

Rae Roeder, president of CWA Local 1033, said the Legislature has "has destroyed the concept of negotiated contracts."

Legislators said public workers didn't complain when legislators enhanced benefits without negotiations.

"Were these fights bigger than they needed to be?" asked Sweeney. "Sure, but change is rarely met without opposition."


Gov't workers shifted to non-union status

Teamsters take dues-hit in labor-state

The Howard (WI) Village Board voted unanimously to classify four part-time employees as non-union as part of a previously negotiated agreement with the Teamsters Local 662. The move would save the village approximately $26,400 per year. The resignation of an employee earlier in the month freed up enough money to hire four permanent part-time positions and an annual intern position.

The agreement was predicated on these positions not taking any overtime or duties away from existing union employees.


Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Kansas DINO

Related story: "Public opinion survey on card-check"

Democrat wants to end secret-ballot union elections

The workers’ advocacy group American Rights at Work honored three advocates for workers’ rights June 24 at its Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Awards Celebration in Washington, D.C. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D), the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) and Gamesa Technology Corp. received the award named for the former first lady and human rights champion.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, who introduced Sebelius, praised her as a "passionate, authentic leader, a true friend of working families." "Every day, she shows that a progressive leader can act on principle and commitment—and bring people together in a way that cuts across red states or partisan divides. And she has a record of achievement on our behalf."

Sebelius, who supports the Employee Free Choice Act, last year signed an executive order granting collective bargaining rights to more than 7,000 home child care providers. She’s also worked closely with the Kansas Association of Public Employees, an affiliate of AFT, to improve public schools in Kansas. In 2006, Sebelius vetoed legislation that would have made it easier for companies to lay off injured workers.

The LCCR was honored for its work in helping to expose FedEx’s unfair treatment of workers. Along with American Rights at Work, the Leadership Conference issued a report, Fed Up with FedEx: How FedEx Ground Tramples Workers’ Rights and Civil Rights. The report documents how the $33 billion delivery giant is circumventing federal anti-discrimination laws, avoiding payment of millions of dollars in benefits to 15,000 FedEx Ground drivers and hindering workers’ freedom to form unions.

LCCR President Wade Henderson says: "Many Americans have forgotten or take for granted the protections that labor laws and unions provide, thinking that they can leave their well-being to a corporation. But the examples in this report show that labor protections are just as important today as they were at the turn of the century."

Gamesa Technology of Pennsylvania was honored for building a strong relationship with its workers. Gamesa management agreed to remain neutral in its employees’ effort to form a union in 2006. Gamesa negotiated its first contract with the United Steelworkers in 2007. At the same time, the company is setting an example of cooperation with the state and unions to create green jobs that build the economy and help the environment. The company has invested $175 million in the state and now employs roughly 1,200 workers. Its two Pennsylvania facilities produce enough wind turbines to power up to 270,000 households across the United States each year. At the contract signing last year, USW President Leo Gerard said: "This agreement is a great example of how we can have good jobs and a clean environment support and innovative leadership on behalf of working men and women."

Each year, the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Awards honors those who, like Eleanor Roosevelt, use their influence and talent to support workers’ rights and economic justice. Last year’s honorees included TV judge Greg Mathis, Kaiser Permanente and Human Rights Watch.


News Guild takes more dues hits

Industry beset by red ink, leftism, paper-stream waste

The list of newspaper job layoffs increases as the Boston Herald and Tribune Co.'s Baltimore Sun and Hartford Courant all plan to decrease the number of staff. This summer, the Herald plans to layoff between 130 and 160 of its employees and to outsource printing to Chicopee and Norwood, the Boston Globe reports. The newsroom might also be relocated, according to the Globe.

"All I've ever wanted to do is make the Herald as competitive and successful as I can and to preserve Boston as a two-newspaper town. We've done that, and I want to continue doing that," said the Herald's president and publisher, Patrick J. Purcell.

"We are saddened by the loss of jobs for those Herald employees who have worked beside us for decades. We will grieve and move on," said Brian Whelan, the Herald's recruitment account executive and president of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Boston. "But the same economic forces that have caused this will continue to challenge the Herald as well as the newspaper industry."

The Sun intends to cut around 100 jobs, over half of them from the newsroom, "through buyouts, layoffs and the closing of open positions", Editor and Publisher reported.

"These actions are necessary for us to remain competitive and win in the future, and will enable us to create new targeted print and interactive media for the marketplace that satisfy both consumers and advertisers," said the Sun's publisher, Tim Ryan.

The Courant intend to cut its weekday pages from 273 to 206, Editor and Publisher said, and to cut employees from 232 to 275.

Tribune Co. president, Sam Zell, said that he intends to shorten page and editorial content from all the papers, "which have been losing circulation and advertising revenue as readers migrate to the Internet", Editor and Publisher reported.


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AFSCME, NAACP duck and cover in Detroit

Related story: "City union official upset by bribery revelations"

FBI: 'There are lots of targets'

The chief of staff for Detroit City Council President Ken Cockrel Jr. resigned last week after being caught on videotape taking cash amid a widening federal investigation into public corruption in Detroit, the Free Press has learned.

John Clark, who worked for Cockrel for eight years, quit his job Wednesday after federal agents showed Cockrel a videotape of Clark accepting money earlier this year, two sources told the Free Press. One of the sources said Clark received $2,000 on two occasions.

Cockrel acknowledged late Saturday that Clark resigned, but would not elaborate.

Clark did not answer his cell phone Saturday.

Cockrel, who sources say is not a target of the investigation, met with FBI agents for about 90 minutes Wednesday and viewed hidden camera footage of Clark accepting money from someone, sources said.

The sources asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the ongoing probe. The investigation relates to a controversial sludge recycling contract with Houston-based Synagro Technologies that City Council approved last fall.

"There are lots of targets" in the investigation, one source said Saturday.

The Free Press first reported Friday night on freep.com that FBI agents had launched a probe in which they have obtained wiretaps and quizzed several people, including asking questions about Councilwoman Monica Conyers. She has not returned calls seeking comment.

Conyers was among the five members who approved the Synagro deal. The others were Sheila Cockrel, Martha Reeves, Barbara-Rose Collins and Alberta Tinsley-Talabi.

Ken Cockrel Jr., Kwame Kenyatta, Brenda Jones and JoAnn Watson voted against the contract.

'We're prepared to cooperate'

Council approved the deal with Synagro in November, over protests from residents in southwest Detroit who did not want the plant built in their neighborhood, and from union officials who argued against the privatization of some 140 city jobs.

Under the agreement, the city would pay Synagro about $47 million a year to handle 183,000 tons of wastewater treatment sludge. The company would recycle some of the sludge into fertilizer and invest about $125 million in a new plant that would incinerate the rest.

"Synagro is aware there is a federal investigation of the City Council involving our contract," the company's general counsel, Alvin Thomas II, said Saturday afternoon. "We understand Synagro is not a target, and we're prepared to fully cooperate with the federal government in the investigation."

Thomas said he became aware of the probe recently, but would not elaborate.

He said, however, that Rayford Jackson, a Detroit developer whom agents have inquired about, was hired to consult for Synagro on the project. Published reports have said Jackson's company, RAS Development, received a 30% share of the deal to boost the participation of Detroiters in the project.

Jackson and his company were identified in a 2006 Detroit auditor general report on a controversy over the sale of city-owned properties.

The audit said the Detroit Neighborhood Development Corp. sold city-owned properties at reduced prices to companies owned by Jackson and others, who resold the properties at a sizable profit.

The audit was prompted by a news media report that former Planning and Development Director Henry Hagood had arranged for the sale of the properties to Jackson and other longtime friends.

The audit faulted the Neighborhood Development Corp. with poor oversight and other shortcomings.

Jackson has not returned repeated requests for comment during the past week and a half.

FBI agents have asked questions about Jackson's involvement in the deal and about his relationship with Bernard Kilpatrick, the father of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. It is unclear what role, if any, Bernard Kilpatrick played in the Synagro deal.

Reached Friday night at the Tigers game, Bernard Kilpatrick said no federal agents had contacted him.

He said he does know Jackson, but had no involvement in the Synagro deal.

"I wouldn't know anything about it," he said, adding that federal agents "don't talk to me."

He referred other questions to his lawyer, Abraham Singer, who said he also has not had any contact from federal investigators.

The mayor, speaking at a news media event Saturday, declined to talk about the federal probe.

Protests, debates, lobbying

The deal to turn sludge into recycled material has percolated in council since 1998, when a company called Minergy first proposed it. When the company ran into financial trouble, Synagro purchased Minergy and took over the plans for Detroit. Synagro has said its plan will save the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department about $5 million annually.

The project was the subject of intense debate and lobbying before its Nov. 20 approval.

At public hearings on the deal, residents initially fought the plan, fearing it would bring more pollution to the already industrialized neighborhood in southwest Detroit. The new facility is to be built near the city's existing treatment plant on West Jefferson.

Conyers was among those who criticized the plan, even asking at one point why the city couldn't build such a facility itself. In the end, Conyers voted to approve the deal.

In early November, the Rev. Wendell Anthony, head of the Detroit branch of the NAACP and an influential and politically connected minister, wrote to City Council to strongly endorse the Synagro contract.

The deal, Anthony wrote, provides "opportunities for African American and other minorities" to share in the financial rewards of building and operating the waste treatment facility, and would benefit union workers. Anthony praised Jackson as a "committed citizen of our community."

The letter was written on the letterhead of the Freedom Institute for Economic, Social Justice and Political Empowerment, a Detroit not-for-profit charity founded and chaired by Anthony to promote opportunities for minority groups. Jackson is listed as an institute board member, records show.

LaToya Henry, spokeswoman for the Detroit branch NAACP, said Saturday that Anthony was unavailable for comment.

In addition to Jackson, Synagro is represented in Michigan by James Rosendall of Grand Rapids, who is listed as the company's vice president of marketing development. The State of Michigan's Web site lists Rosendall as a commissioner of the state Department of Transportation.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed him to the post in 2005.

He did not return calls Friday or Saturday.

Oakland County Drain Commissioner John McCulloch, a frequent critic of the Detroit water department, said news of the federal probe is "extremely disappointing. This is certainly a setback in terms of the progress we have made in trying to bolster and improve relations between suburban communities and the city of Detroit. This will not bode well for the region."


News Union has no answers to dues cuts

Woes include red ink, paper-stream waste, leftism

The bloodletting at newspapers across the country continued this week as another round of job cuts was announced at publications including The Hartford Courant and The Baltimore Sun. Staff at the Courant and the Sun were alerted of the newsroom cuts, which will come through buyouts, layoffs and the closing of open positions, in e-mails from management Wednesday.

"Perhaps these are the numbers you were expecting. Perhaps they are a shock," Courant Editor-in-Chief Cliff Teutsch wrote. "I have had a little time to wrap my head around them; many of you need to do that, too. They will be life-changing for some, and they add a sober reality for all as we continue to remake the paper for a September launch."

The Courant, the state's largest newspaper and owned by Chicago-based Tribune Publishing Co., will cut 60 newsroom positions. The paper's news pages will be reduced by 25 percent.

The cuts will be implemented by July 31. In September, the Courant expects to roll out sweeping design changes that could see some sections combined.

The Advocate and Greenwich Time had been owned by Tribune until the papers were sold last year to Hearst Corp. of New York for $62.4 million. The papers are being managed by MediaNews Group Inc. of Denver.

The Sun announced it would cut about 100 jobs, including 55 to 60 in the newsroom.

"These actions are necessary for us to remain competitive and win in the future, and will enable us to create new targeted print and interactive media for the marketplace that satisfy both consumers and advertisers," Publisher Tim Ryan wrote to staff.

Last year, 41 Sun employees accepted buyouts, and three advertising designers were laid off. The year before, the Sun announced the closing of its last two foreign bureaus.

Staff positions represented by the Baltimore-Washington Newspaper Guild have shrunk by at least 34 percent through buyouts, layoffs and departures since 2003, the union said.

Buyouts will be offered today to all employees, who have two weeks to accept, Ryan wrote. If not enough employees accept buyouts, layoffs will be announced July 18, and the reductions will take effect in early August.

Industry observers said they are not surprised by the latest round of cuts.

"It's the norm," said Richard Hanley, director of Quinnipiac University's communications graduate program. "The bottom is not in sight, and I expect more to follow."

Earlier this month, Tribune CEO Sam Zell announced the company would trim pages and editorial content from all eight of its daily newspapers, which have been losing circulation and advertising revenue.

- The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Cuts are expected at some Cox Enterprises papers. About 300 positions, including 130 in the newsroom likely will be eliminated according to published reports.

The Boston Globe, which is owned by the New York Times Co., has asked its employees to take a 10 percent cut in pay.


SEIU dissident raps Stern


Barack bends over for Big Labor cash

Partisan unionists puts $200 million dues to Dems

It may not seem as if Barack Obama will need that much extra financial help after breaking his pledge to accept public campaign financing, thereby freeing his campaign to outspend rival John McCain by as much as he can raise. But Obama will also benefit from an unprecedented effort by labor unions still smarting from two straight presidential elections in which their efforts failed to prevent George W. Bush from claiming the White House.

This afternoon, AFL-CIO political director Karen Ackerman sketched out the plans of the labor coalition, which is expected to announce its official endorsement of Obama in the next few days. The coalition has budgeted $53.4 million for the 2008 campaign -- more than the $48 million it spent in 2004 -- and it expects its 56 member unions to spend more than $200 million overall on electing Obama and congressional Democrats. It will deploy 250,000 volunteers to reach a total of 13 million union members and their families, she said, and use more sophisticated micro-targeting tools than it has in the past.

The top targets for the AFL-CIO's presidential campaign efforts will be in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota -- the swing states where it has the most members. All except Ohio voted Democratic in 2004, which may make the effort seem defensive in nature, but at the same time, Obama's prospects for picking up a few new states elsewhere mean that he could be in good shape if he, and the unions, can hold the Rust Belt steady for him. In Ohio alone, the coalition says, it expects more than two million voters to be members of AFL households, or of households that belong to Working America, an organization the AFL has created for people who cannot join unions at their workplaces.

The AFL will also spend a lot on congressional races, aware that Obama's chances of enacting its priorities -- such as "card check" legislation making it easier to organize workplaces -- would be much higher with large congressional majorities. It will be involved in every "viable" Senate race in the country, including the races in Alaska (where union membership is actually relatively high), Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia; and 60 House races. While union membership is much lower in the South, Ackerman argues that the AFL had an impact in helping the Democrats win recent special elections in Louisiana and Mississippi by turning out what members there are in those districts.

Of course, the AFL also invested heavily in 2004, with disappointing results (although exit polls showed John Kerry faring better with voters in union households than with white working-class voters as a whole.) The difference this year, Ackerman said, is that the AFL has an earlier, more aggressive effort underway to frame the opposition in a negative light. The upside of not knowing until this month who the Democratic nominee would be, she said, was that it left the AFL free to focus its attention on defining McCain. Since early March, the coalition says it has distributed 1.5 million leaflets at work sites and knocked on the doors of 60,000 union swing voters with information about McCain's stances on card-check legislation, health care, and trade policy. The coalition takes credit for some of the recent poll numbers showing McCain trailing Obama among union voters and voters worried about the economy.

In now swinging behind Obama, the AFL will be going to work for a candidate who had far less backing during the primaries from AFL unions than did Kerry and Al Gore -- the bulk of Obama's labor support in the primaries came from the rival Change to Win coalition, which includes the Service Employees International Union and the Teamsters. Ackerman acknowledged that Obama was still a relatively unknown quantity for many members, but said she believed that could be overcome.

"We know that union voters don't know a lot about Senator Obama, obviously," she said. "Voters who may not have the most comfort level with him, who may not know where he stands ... who may not know much about him personally, that's our job to get information out to them. Union members will have more information about economic issues than any other voter."


Obscure union front groups feed attack machine

Labor unions treat President Bush like a piñata

Spending the summer on a bus with a 35-foot scowling George Bush on the sides sounds, well, different. Julie Blust is accustomed to the double takes as the Bush Legacy Bus rolls from city to city. The 45-foot, 28-ton bus, powered by politically correct biodiesel fuel, started Wednesday on a nationwide tour that included Canton on Saturday. Some 150 cities will be visited in the five months before the presidential election.

Inside is Mr. Bush's nightmare -- every one of his actual and alleged policy mistakes. At the rear is a gasoline pump that computes fuel costs when Bush took office and today's prices.

Every inch of the bus is anti-Bush from the exterior to the walls and floor of the interior.

The effort is funded by Americans United for Change, an anti-conservative group funded by labor unions and other political groups.

"We're not part of the Obama campaign," Blust said, "but we don't think he would object."

They are targeting congressional districts of members who have voted 90 percent or more for Bush legislation.

Blust said the most common question asked is, "How did you fit all of his disasters on one bus?"

"We may need a trailer," she said.

The group has no use for Sens. John McCain and George Voinovich.

"They have weakened America's security abroad while neglecting and undermining important priorities here at home," according to a handout.

Still, Blust says her group "is not endorsing any candidate."

On the video screens are tapes of Katrina victims, health-care patients and workers. Perhaps the most sobering display is the dog tags and boots of a U.S. Army soldier killed in Iraq by an Iraqi soldier he was training.

As the bus rolled up Market Avenue S, a scooter rider almost fell off staring at it instead of the road.

"That happens a lot," said Blust.


Union puts scabs on trial

Zero-tolerance for picket-line dissent

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is going after four of its members who crossed the picket line during a November 2007 strike by support workers at Saskatchewan's two largest universities. Brad McKaig of Local 1975 said the union's constitution allows it to hold a trial of sorts - five other members of the union have been elected to a panel that will hear the facts of the case and issue a ruling of guilt or innocence.

"The penalty can be up to and including wages they would have made during the strike," McKaig explained Saturday. "So if they made $3,000 working by crossing the line then the union can claw that back. If they refuse to pay it, then we go to small claims court and get a court order and garnishee their wages."

"It's like, 'this is what you benefited by crossing the line during the strike and that's what the union wants back' - so they didn't profit by it."

McKaig said the union understood that the strike would be financially hard on people, and even arranged for loans or alternate jobs for some members.

"Everyone had to work, but they didn't have to work crossing the line for the employer."

He said the pressure to pursue the matter came from the union membership itself, which didn't want the foursome "getting away with it."

"Some of them were a little less than gracious when the strike was over," he said. "They were thumbing their noses at their fellow employees. 'You poor so-and-sos, I was getting paid while you were out walking the line at 35-below.' "

University administrators tried to negotiate an amnesty clause during bargaining, but the union wouldn't agree.

The names of the workers have not been made public.

After the nearly month-long strike, a strong majority of the 2,400 workers voted in favour of a new deal, which happened under the threat of government action if the two sides couldn't reach an agreement on their own.

Even though the new contract was approved, the two most contentious issues - benefits and wage hikes tied to performance reviews - were to be settled through binding arbitration.


AFSCME greed costs California students

Students Screwed By Labor Union For A Little Extra Cash

If you live in California, you’re no stranger to union strikes and all the drama that comes with their various protests. Even if you don’t, no doubt you recently felt the impact when every television show (except for Celebrity Fit Club, thank Jesus) was forced to take a little break because Hollywood writers ran out of creativity or money or something- but I digress ...
Recently, union struggles have severely impacted the University of California (UC) campuses.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which represents some 20,000 University of California healthcare and service employees (5,400 employed at UCLA alone) has organized its members who have been working for months on expired contracts.

Unlike the writers, members of AFSCME’s local 3299 have continued to work while trying to get a living wage worked into a new contract with the UC system. Instead of a non-stop picket, AFSCME has been organizing on specific days to make a statement.

Students in the University of California’s 10-campus system have been very supportive of AFSCME by participating in various walk-outs and protests. Beyond that, many students showed a great deal of initiative by creating various Facebook groups and facilitating events (including a boycott and hunger strike!!!) in order to make sure UC officials knew they were standing in solidarity with the workers. In addition, several student-run organizations at the UC campuses have formally, and publically, endorsed AFSCME 3299’s fight.

On June 13, UCLA had their College of Letters and Science Commencement at Pauley Pavilion. Bill Clinton had agreed to give the commencement address to over 4,000 students, surrounded by their family and friends who year after year, fill Pauley Pavilion to capacity. Days before commencement, (and right in the middle of finals), these soon-to-be UCLA graduates were basically given the finger by AFSCME. The union’s leaders urged Bill Clinton to renege on his scheduled commencement address at UCLA citing the ongoing fight between AFSCME and the UC campuses and their scheduled picket at the graduation ceremonies.

Now, I’m a big fan of Bill. Somehow I remember Clinton being elected in 1992 (I was 7…) and being excited for reasons that I couldn’t explain. That excitement carried on and has not returned since. Yes, I’ve heard of Barack Obama– he just doesn’t do it for me.

I also remember being a little upset (jealous, even) in 1998 when Monica Lewinsky became famous for crawling around in the Oval Office. At that point, I had yet to even see a man’s penis, but if I had that opportunity, I would have been all over it… Surprisingly, my stint as an intern in early 2007 was without scandal- since then is a different story. But again, I digress…

Bill Clinton ended up pulling out of the UCLA graduation ceremony because he refused to cross the picket line.

Early in June, prior to all of the UC commencement ceremonies, a previously approved two-day strike was called off by AFSCME leaders due to the fact that the UC officials agreed to start contract talks again. Why did AFSCME decide to pull this scheduled strike, but not the one to take place at graduation?

Of course, the union president had a few pennies on the matter: “I’m very glad that people are supporting our cause and sending a message to the university that they can’t treat workers this way.” I think I might have missed the AFSCME “message to the university.” Was there one? If there was, they’re certainly doing it wrong.

Soon after, the UC officials issued this statement: “We do feel that it’s unfortunate that the union has pushed for these cancellations, since they have no bearing on negotiations and only serve to disrupt the commencement ceremonies for students and their families.” Instead, the only obvious message was that AFSCME will screw over students who they so desperately want to continue providing services to.

And it wasn’t just Bill Clinton. Former state Assembly Speaker, Fabian Nunez was supposed to speak at UC Davis’ commencement. Nunez was also scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley two years ago, but a separate AFSCME strike helped put a stop to that as well. Rep. Hilda Solis, Rep. Henry Waxman, and retired Army General Wesley Clark were all scheduled to speak at different departmental ceremonies at UCLA, but wouldn’t cross the picket line. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (who was a possible contender for Hillary Clinton’s seat in the Senate had she won the nomination) was scheduled to address UC San Diego students. Assemblywoman Fiona Ma and Assemblyman John Laird were scheduled at UC Santa Cruz.

AFSCME members should be publicly shamed for taking a special piece of graduation away from the students who have been nothing but supportive since day one. I understand that there is a deep truth to the allegations that the real assholes here are the insanely rich UC officials, but AFSCME made a very strategic move in a very political game: as a general rule, most democrats do not cross picket lines. Now AFSCME has the “backing” of all of these democratic leaders– but possibly only by default.

Unfortunately, we live in an all-or-nothing kind of culture where people are unable to accept that change sometimes has to come in small doses. In February, UC officials offered an additional $16 million and AFSCME turned it down because it was short of their per- hour goal. AFSCME should have just taken it. If the Governator’s proposed budget passes, $240 million will disappear from the UC system. I wouldn’t count on a raise after that…

One AFSCME woman who cleans dorm rooms at UCLA said she makes just under $11 an hour. A patient-care worker noted that she makes $16 an hour, but her counterparts at Kaiser Permanente make $18. We all know that $11 an hour isn’t exactly a living wage, but c’mon. AFSCME claims that their workers typically earn 25% less than their counterparts at other places. If that’s the case, I’m going into the janitorial business, or I’ll get a medical technician job at Kaiser.

It can’t actually be that bad, right? I don’t see AFSCME members fleeing the UC campuses in pursuit of that identical job that pays 25% more. There are many pros and cons when it comes to unions, but when unemployment is as high as it is and there’s a budget crisis in the state, if you’re making $11 an hour to clean a dorm room, you’re a goddamned baller.

So hey, if that $11 an hour job isn’t good enough for you, I know plenty of people willing to take it off your hands ...


Pro-union Dem Governors on the mend

No slowdown for the labor-state, union-only agenda

The governors of New York and Oregon are doing fine after surgeries Saturday to remove a cataract and a gall bladder, respectively. New York Gov. David Paterson's recovery is going smoothly after his successful surgery, spokeswoman Erin Duggan said. The 54-year-old governor is "doing absolutely fine" and planned to resume his normal schedule Sunday, she said. Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, 68, planned to leave Salem Memorial Hospital on Sunday after having his gall bladder removed, said spokeswoman Anna Richter Taylor.

Paterson was sedated during the procedure at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City but went to the recovery room alert. He was home by early afternoon.

Paterson is legally blind. The cataract was discovered during an emergency procedure last month to relieve pain from acute glaucoma.

Kulongoski is expected to be out of the office for most of next week but make a full recovery. Kulongoski had to cancel plans to attend a Western Governors Association meeting in Wyoming because of the surgery.


Clooney joins Hollywood dues dispute

Related story: "Clooney opted for FiCore union membership"

Big Entertainment unions propose dues hike

Here's how toxic the SAG-AFTRA feud has become: George Clooney has decided to declare his neutrality. The battle between the two unions has been a gory sideshow, with the town resigned to production halting on July 1. Clooney made the point that there's only one winner in an actor-vs.-actor brawl: the congloms.

The SAG-AFTRA fight over how to get a decent deal has devolved to the point that Clooney last week came up with two proposals to break the logjam: increasing union dues (currently capped at $6,000 a year) for big earners like himself to $6,000 per $1 million; and creating a panel of megastars such as Tom Hanks and Jack Nicholson to meet annually with studio heads to adjust salaries.

Clooney's not just any star, and he hasn't shied away from guild politics. He joined Hanks, Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep earlier this year in urging SAG to start negotiations ASAP. And he resigned from the WGA to protest the refusal of guild arbiters to give him screenplay credit for "Leatherheads."

"What we can't do is pit artists against artists," he says, "because the one thing you can be sure of is that stories about Jack Nicholson vs. Tom Hanks only strengthens the negotiating power of the AMPTP" referring to the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.

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