Organized labor's foreign, fascist, collectivist roots

Review of: "Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning"

For decades, the left has used the term "fascist" to attack just about anyone they disagree with. That behavior continues: The feminist author Naomi Wolf has recently come out with a book condemning what she calls the "fascist shift" in America, in which she describes the 10 steps she thinks America is taking that lead to fascism. (Of course, to Ms. Wolf the no. 1 fascist is President Bush.) Before her, the liberal journalist Joe Conason wrote a book titled "It Can Happen Here" — what could happen, of course, was American fascism emanating from the Bush administration. And the journalist Chris Hedges argued that the Christian right was composed of nothing but "American Fascists" — indeed the very title of his book on the subject.

Now, from the conservative side, Jonah Goldberg — who is rightfully fed up with the left's regularly and somewhat indiscriminately calling conservatives fascist — turns the tide by addressing the issue head on, in "Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning" (Doubleday, 467 pages, $27.95). Not only is it a slander to yell fascist at the right; Mr. Goldberg presents a strong and compelling case that the very idea of fascism emanated from the ranks of liberalism. As he argues, contemporary liberalism descended from the ranks of 20th-century progressivism, and "shares intellectual roots with European fascism."

When Mr. Goldberg uses the term "liberal fascism," he is not offering a right-wing version of the left's smears. He knows it is a loaded term. What he is talking about is the historical idea of fascism: a corporatist and statist social structure that creates a deep reliance of its subjects on the government and engenders a sense of community and purpose. In American politics, this tendency toward statism has always been much more at home on the left than on the right.

It is impossible in a short review to do justice to the rich intellectual history of American liberalism that Mr. Goldberg offers to his readers. He has read widely and thoroughly, not only in the primary sources of fascism, but in the political and intellectual history written by the major historians of the subject.

Readers will learn that the very term "liberal fascism" came from the pen of H.G. Wells, the famed socialist author who delivered a speech at Oxford University in 1932 that included hosannas to both Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany. "I am asking," Wells told the students, "for a Liberal Fascisti, for enlightened Nazis." Democracy, he argued, had to be replaced with new forms of government that would save mankind, producing a "'Phoenix Rebirth' of liberalism" that would be called "Liberal Fascism." Like the activism, experimentation, and discipline that made the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany new dynamic societies, the West too could reach such a plateau by adopting the new soft fascism that suited it best.

Wells was not unique in offering this call to liberals. In giving us a true alternative history of modern liberalism, Mr. Goldberg shows how the ideological roots of fascism were liberal and left-wing, as were some of fascism's early proponents, especially in the Italy of Benito Mussolini. Most of us today forget that Mussolini, to his dying day, considered himself a man of the left and a socialist, who through nationalism and the corporatist reorganization of the polity sought to modernize a dying, 19th-century liberalism. Many will nevertheless be surprised to find that Mussolini's large band of admirers included the journalist Herbert Matthews, the comic Will Rogers, the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, the historian Charles Beard, and the muckraker Lincoln Steffens. It only strengthens his case to find that one person Mr. Goldberg leaves out, the founding father of American trade unionism, Samuel Gompers, praised Mussolini's creation of a new corporate state as a guide for American labor, and as a model for American society as a whole.

Indeed, America, as Mr. Goldberg writes, certainly had a "Fascist moment." It was not, however, during the current presidency, but one that extended from progressivism through the New Deal. Mr. Goldberg traces the American roots of liberal fascism to the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, who saw increased state power as an organic and natural development. His administration's War Industries Board laid the basis for future government-industry regulatory agencies that tied business to the new corporate state. Later on Mr. Goldberg reveals how Herbert Croly, who founded the New Republic as the preeminent journal of the new liberalism, presented classic fascist themes as the prescription for saving the country in his influential book, "The Promise of American Life."

A major New Deal program, General Hugh Johnson's National Recovery Administration, was an American version of Mussolini's corporate state. Entering Johnson's office, visitors found a portrait of Mussolini on the wall behind his desk. Industrial codes were to be enforced by the state and to be made popular by Nuremberg-type rallies and giant parades, as thousands marched under the symbol of the blue eagle. This marked the actual birth of liberal fascism, as President Roosevelt built upon the statist and collectivist roots of agencies created during World War I. As the vice president of the American Federation of Labor, Matthew Woll, put it at the time, "Labor might well assert that the seed of Fascism had been transplanted" to America. The cartelization of industry, he noted, was "a familiar story in the early history of Fascist Italy."

Turning to what he calls liberal racism, Mr. Goldberg offers readers his finest chapter. It is a devastating picture of how liberals adopted eugenics — a basic part of Nazi doctrine — which was not, as some liberal intellectuals have argued, an outgrowth of conservative thought. Fans of Margaret Sanger, perhaps the single most important feminist hero of the 20th century, will never be able to think of her in the same way. Mr. Goldberg dissects her hidden views of eugenics. A socialist and birth-control martyr, she favored banning reproduction of the "unfit" and regulation of everyone else's reproduction. She wrote, "More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief issue of birth control." She opposed the birth of "ill-bred, ill-trained swarms of inferior citizens." Her words reveal her motive in advocacy of birth control. She sought to remove "inferior" people from being born to poor people, whose mothers by definition were "unfit." Sanger's partisans in Planned Parenthood, the group that stemmed from her work, will be shocked to learn that her publication endorsed the Nazi eugenics program, and that Sanger herself "proudly gave a speech to a KKK rally." That was not surprising, since she clearly viewed blacks as inferior. Hence her "Negro Project," in which she sought to urge blacks to adopt birth control.

Some will rightfully take issue with Mr. Goldberg when he describes the administrations of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Clinton as fascist. On this, he strains and pushes his evidence too far to convince the reader that these paragons of liberalism can be called fascist in any sense of the term. Mr. Goldberg makes a stronger case when he accuses the New Left of classic fascist behavior, when its cadre took to the streets and through action discarded its early idealism for what Mr. Goldberg correctly calls "fascist thuggery." Even if one does not consider the liberal administrations of the recent past fascist, Mr. Goldberg is correct to see the liberalism of today to be state worship, which built upon the original statist liberalism of the Wilson administration.

Mr. Goldberg has, unlike the leftists who yell the term, made the strongest possible case that Americans today live in a soft form of fascism, a statist liberal society whose citizens are unaware of the roots of ideas they hold. Echoing Susan Sontag, who pointed out that fascist ideas "are vivid and moving to many people," Mr. Goldberg ends with a humorous look at the cult of organic foods, vegetarianism, and animal rights, all programs and policies first instituted in Nazi Germany. "We are all fascists now," he concludes. Disagree if you must, but go out and read this brilliant, insightful, and important book.

- Mr. Radosh, a contributing editor of The New York Sun, is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute.


Leno to opt for Fi-Core union membership?

Writers Guild union president Patric Verrone is going on air telling radio and TV media today that the union will go after member Jay Leno for writing his own monologues. This is a 180-degree turnaround from the guild's position yesterday that it didn't want a battle with the late night TV host over this issue.

Verrone just appeared on Fox. But he told The Thom Hartmann Show on Air America this morning, "Jay is a longtime member of the guild and we've known him a long time and it's clear to us that [writing his monologue] is a violation of the rule. There are strike rules and we're going to have to enforce them against him."

Strike-breaking is a serious issue for the WGA and its strike rules require members to report any activity in that realm. Discipline for violations of a strike can include expulsion, suspension, fines and censure.

Meanwhile, I've learned exclusively that one of the reasons that the WGA was going to give Leno a pass was a privately communicated threat by Jay to go "Fi-Core" -- aka financial core status -- with the writers union. This comes to me from unofficial WGA sources.

Under Fi-Core, a writer gives up full membership in the guild and withholds dues spent on political activities in order to continue writing during the strike. WGA members who go fi-core can’t be disciplined for working during a strike. But they still receive all the WGA benefits.

The reason why most guild writers don't go Fi-Core even when they disagree with union decisions is more than just the osctracism factor among their colleagues. It's because even dissident members know going Fi-Core jeopardizes writer benefits like salaries, residuals, healthcare etc which must be negotiated with Big Media.

But the bad PR from having Leno go Fi-Core clearly is not what the WGA leadership wanted right now as the strike drags on into a third month and solidarity is still holding. It'll be interesting to see whether, now that the union is going after him for writing his monologue, Jay carries out the Fi-Core threat.

I've also learned exclusively that Leno wasn't the only late night host complaining to the guild. ABC's late night host Jimmy Kimmel, like Leno a WGA member, also requested and received his own private meeting with Verrone and other WGA leaders to discuss his unhappiness. In fact, I'm told that Kimmel and Leno were in constant phone contact with one another over the controversial issue of the WGA granting an interim agreement to David Letterman's Worldwide Pants so that rival Late Show could go back on air with its team of writers. This is a fast-breaking story so stay tuned.


Writers Guild collectivism fails at home

While The Writers Guild of America continues its nationwide strike, a small group of its staff represented by the Newspaper Guild is claiming unfair labor practices and has filed a series of charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

The Newspaper Guild of New York, which represents 19 staff employees of the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE), filed several unfair labor charges with the NLRB on Thursday, according to a release. This is the same guild local that represents newsroom employees at several outlets, including The New York Times, The New York Daily News, and Reuters.

The charges claim the WGAE "has reneged on a ratified contract with its own staff, threatened a staff union leader and delayed holiday bonuses because its employees’ union asserted its rights."

"At the heart of the dispute is the WGAE management’s refusal to sign a contract that was ratified in October by its staff, who represent, organize and provide service and support to WGAE members, including those who are now out on strike," the Newspaper Guild release stated. "WGAE leaders do not deny that a contract has been ratified and is in place, but now contend that they did not mean to propose all of the wage increases that were contained in the contract offer that was accepted by the staff."

Added Newspaper Guild President Bill O'Meara: "It’s unbelievable that a union doesn’t understand that it can’t pick and choose the language it wants to live up to in a contract. The contract language clearly supports our position regarding money owed our members that management is now refusing to pay.”

O’Meara said the dispute arose after the Writers Guild rewrote the previously ratified contract and insisted that the Newspaper Guild sign the revised version. “It’s like a car salesman demanding that you sign a contract after he’s changed all the numbers that you had agreed upon,” he said.

But WGAE Spokeswoman Sherry Goldman told E&P the complaint was "making a mountain out of a molehill." She said the dispute centers primarily on the Newspaper Guild incorrectly interpreting the unsigned contract to provide a 6% raise for 2007 when it was a 3% raise.

She also said that bonuses were paid, although three days late.
Goldman said that the WGAE had filed its own charge with the NLRB in early December over the same contract dispute. "I'm not surprised," Goldman said about the Newspaper Guild filing. "The National Labor Relations Board is designed to make these decisions."

The Newspaper Guild stressed in its release, however, that it "supports the striking writers in their dispute with television and movie producers, which is entering its ninth week."

"Out of respect for our striking fellow union members we tried to work this out quietly, and we even offered to submit the dispute to arbitration,” O’Meara said. “But the WGAE leadership’s anti-labor stance against its own workers and its filing of a baseless charge against us two weeks ago, while we were still trying to resolve the issues, forced us to reluctantly take this public step to defend our members and their contract.”


Dem voters rejected union-backed candidates

Despite racking up almost all of the endorsements from organized labor, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards came in behind Barack Obama — the only Democratic front-runner with no national union support — in the Iowa caucuses. That left at least one union looking for a new candidate Friday.

International Association of Fire Fighters President Howard Schaitberger called the support for Obama "breathtaking," after seeing his union's candidate, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., falter in Iowa and drop out of the race. Despite the money and the manpower organized labor shifted to Iowa for Clinton, Edwards and Dodd — one union ran television ads for Clinton while another shifted workers in-state to stump for Edwards — Obama still won convincingly.

"The tsunami was far greater than we could attempt to hold off," Schaitberger said.

Schaitberger said he talked personally with both Obama and Clinton on Friday. But the firefighters would not immediately endorse, he said. "Sometime after March, we will begin to reevaluate the remaining candidates," Schaitberger said.

Union support is supposed to be key to winning the Democratic presidential primary, with their money and foot soldiers playing key roles in the early voting states. For example, the political arm of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which has endorsed Clinton, spent at least $250,000 to air television ads in Iowa urging her victory.

While the Service Employees International Union has not made a national endorsement — "We will make an endorsement when there is a presumptive nominee, but it is too early for that," SEIU spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller said Friday — its local chapters have split their endorsements between Clinton, Obama and Edwards.

The Iowa and New Hampshire SEIU locals are supporting Edwards, spending more than $2 million trying to get people in those two states to support the former North Carolina senator. Those resources are now being shifted solely to New Hampshire.

"In the next few days until the primary, SEIU members will engage in a massive get-out-the-vote program to ensure that workers in New Hampshire turn out in unprecedented numbers on January 8," said Jay Ward, president of the SEIU New Hampshire State Council.

Fifteen percent of New Hampshire Democrats identify themselves as members of union households.

Following New Hampshire, the next major union state on the calendar is Nevada, where the 60,000-member Culinary Workers Union, Local 226, is the biggest political powerhouse.

Obama, Edwards and Clinton have been campaigning hard for the Culinary Workers Union support, since the local's national organization, UNITE HERE, doesn't immediately plan to endorse anyone in the Democratic field.

New Hampshire and Nevada are the last union-centric states that vote before February. Clinton and Edwards need a victory or a close race to keep up with Obama leading up to the February primary calendar.

Clinton is rallying her major labor supporters in Manchester on Saturday along with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and the heads of the American Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and others.


When will Obama reach out to Organized Labor?

An unprecedented outpouring of independents, youth and women propelled Illinois Sen. Barack Obama to a historic victory in Iowa’s Democratic caucuses Jan.3 opening the 2008 presidential campaign with a shot surely heard throughout the halls of power in Washington and in America’s corporate boardrooms. The record turnout of first time voters and independents hoisted Obama into his new position as the Democratic Party’s national front runner.

Obama is the first African American to win the Iowa caucuses.

“They said this day would never come and that our sights were too high,” Obama said during his victory speech. “They said this country was too divided to ever come together in a common purpose. But you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”

One time Iowa favorite John Edwards, benefiting from significant labor support, came in second, edging out Hillary Clinton, the party’s national front runner.

Obama won 38 percent of the vote with Edwards getting 30 percent, Clinton 29 percent, Bill Richardson 2 percent and Joe Biden 1 percent. Richardson said his campaign would go on to New Hampshire after his fourth place finish; Sens. Chris Dodd and Joe Biden said they would quit the race.

Obama added that Democrats, Republicans and independents helped forge his coalition in Iowa.

“Our time for change has come,” Obama said.

“We are choosing hope over fear, unity over division, with a powerful message that change is coming to America,” affirmed Obama.

Obama said he would be the president that finally makes health care affordable and available to all, who would free this nation from the tyranny of foreign oil and put an end to the Iraq war.

Obama went on making a powerful oratory about the major political challenges and victories that have impacted and changed American political history.

If it were not for the American people we would not have put an end to slavery, fought for women and their right to vote, or defeated fascism in World War II, said Obama.

It was the American people and especially youth who got on buses and traveled to Alabama and Montgomery to brave fire hoses, dogs and clubs and died all in the name of freedoms cause, remarked Obama.

“That is what hope is, and it lead me hear today, a son whose father is from Kenya and whose mother is from Kansas, a story that could only happen in America,” said Obama.

“Together ordinary people could do extraordinary things and when you believe that America could be better then it will be better,” he said.

John Edwards who came in second in the caucuses told his cheering supporters at the end of the night that, “The one thing that’s clear from tonight’s caucuses is that the status quo lost and change won.”

Labor unions including the steelworkers and the carpenters figured prominently in getting Edwards supporters out to the caucuses.

Hillary Clinton who came in third said, “Tonight is the first step in the process of getting a Democratic president elected in 2008.”

Earlier in the night on the city’s northwest side at Martin Luther King Elementary, Michelle Taylor-Frazier, 47 and African American, who is an after school program director, waited patiently inside with some of her students.

She said she comes from an activist family and pro-union background. She also resides on the Des Moines executive branch of the NAACP.

She said she was looking forward to caucusing later in her precinct and said she would proudly vote for Obama.

“I believe he will go after lobbyists and big business and stop them from sending our jobs overseas. I’m very much for universal health care because I believe that all Americans should have it,” she told the World.

“Even though I grew up as an army brat, I’m against the Iraq war and I believe it could have been preventable. I feel Obama will shut down the war in a responsible manner,” said Taylor-Frazier.

Thomas Simmons, also African American, is the principal at King elementary and said he was leaning toward voting for Bill Richardson because he is good on education.

“This election could dictate what our education is going to look like in the next four years and the No Child Left Behind was only a small snapshot for our children’s success,” he said.

“There needs to be a complete overhaul of NCLB,” said Simmons.

“The backbone of this country is due based on public education. Privatization of education only seeks to exclude rather than include our children’s success and their future,” added Simmons.

The rush of independents and first time voters hungry for change into the Iowa caucuses swelled the vote total to 350,000, a historic, record breaking figure. Analysis of turnout indicates that first time voters were the key factor here. Sixty percent of all Democratic caucus goers attended for the first time, with more than 70 percent of Obama’s support coming from them. Most of the independents and youth attended Democratic caucuses, swelling the total Democratic turnout to twice that of the Republican turnout.

There were so many Democratic caucus goers at Harding Middle School in Des Moines, where 800 people showed up, that organizers made people who supported John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Obama stay in the gym while supporters of everyone else were sent to classrooms. The site had never attracted more than 400 caucus goers before.

A heavy turnout also created problems at Brody Middle School on Des Moines south side. Karen Anderson, a Democratic Party worker at the Polk County Convention Center had to go there to participate and when she got back she said “we had to park eight blocks away.”

The wave of change seeking independent voters had its impact on Republicans who, in some cases, began making themselves sound more like Democrats as they distanced themselves from President Bush.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who portrayed himself as a champion for “change” while his operatives bussed right wing fundamentalist Christians to the caucuses, won the Republican contest with 34 percent of the vote. Mitt Romney got 25 percent, Fred Thompson 13 percent, John McCain got 13 percent and Ron Paul received 10 percent.

At the 64th precinct Republican caucus in downtown Des Moines a surrogate for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said, “I look around this room and I see middle class people here. Huckabee is for change. He’s for the little guy. He thinks that the gap between us and the big CEO’s is obscene.”

The surrogate for Mitt Romney at that same caucus said, “If ever there was a need for change in Washington it is now. If we end up with a majority Democrat (sic) Senate and Congress we need someone like Romney who knows how to work with Democrats. When he was governor of Massachusetts he achieved health care for everyone.”

The Ron Paul representative at the caucus spoke against the war in Iraq and called for a foreign policy that stresses diplomacy rather than war.

Huckabee, Romney and Ron Paul won 20, 19 and 16 votes respectively at that caucus. The anti-terrorist speech given by the Rudolph Giuliani surrogate won his candidate only 6 votes while the McCain surrogate, who defended the troop surge, won his candidate only 7 votes.

The extent of the Obama victory was a surprise to the pundits because they underestimated the determination and resolve of independent and first time voters. The night before the caucuses Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster working for Sen. Joe Biden’s campaign conceded that large numbers of independents would enter Democratic caucuses for the first time but she doubted that the figures would approach 40 percent.

“If that happened,” she said, “that would be a revolution.”

The figures turned out to be more like sixty percent.


Writers Guild's glass house

With the writers strike about to enter its third month, staffers at the WGA East have gone public with a dispute with guild leaders over their contract ratification.

The Newspaper Guild announced Thursday it had filed unfair labor practice charges with the Natl. Labor Relations Board against the WGA East, alleging that the guild rewrote language in a previously ratified contract. The filing by TNG, which reps 19 employees at the WGA East, also asserted that the WGA East had threatened a union leader and delayed paying holiday bonuses.

"It's unbelievable that the a union doesn't understand that it can't pick and choosse the language it was to live up to in a contract," said New York TNG prexy Bill O'Meara.

The TNG filing comes two weeks after the WGA East went to the NLRB to resolve what it called "ambiguity" in the contract language covering a four-year deal signed in October, including 3% raises annually along with two years of retroactive pay.

In response to the TNG announcement, the WGA East said the disagreement stems from the Newspaper Guild's interpretation of a 3% increase as a 6% increases for certain employees for 2007.

"The WGAE awaits the ruling of the NLRB and will abide by its decision," it added. "In the interim, the WGAE has administered all other provisions covered in the contract, including paying staff retroactive salary increases, 3% increases for 2007, optional holiday bonuses for 2007, and is prepared to administer the 3% salary increases due in March 2008."


Fi-Core liberates union members

I read news today of Writers Guild member John Ridley's decision to go Financial-Core to protest the Writers Guild strike. I was angry and dismayed and my original post on the issue was full of that vitriol. I thought an edit was in order so as not to let the message to get lost in a war of words.

First, let me explain what fi-core means. Just because it has the word "financial" in it doesn't mean it has anything to do with financial hardship. It has to do with reducing your Writers Guild membership down to its "financial core," meaning you have absolutely no responsibilities or restrictions except to pay the portion of dues that goes toward basic guild functions (collective bargaining), but not toward anything else like political or charitable contributions.

Fi-Core means that you are a "dues paying non-member." You get all the benefits of membership as long as you work under a WGA contract but you are not restricted in any way by the WGA. It means you don't have to be on strike if you don't want to be. That's right, you can go back to work, you can cross the picket line, you can cash your checks, and you get all the benefits that may come from the strike without having sacrificed a thing.

Let me say that again... without having sacrificed a thing.

Where's the rub? You can't take part in any of the guild's political processes. You can't vote, you can't sit on the board, you have no say in the future of the guild at all. And it's permanent, a lifetime decision. You can't go back. It's like moving to Switzerland because you don't agree with a U.S. policy... even though policies change and you'll never be allowed to move back.

But for someone who goes fi-core, those things don't matter anymore. What matters is your paycheck (and unfortunately in some cases, a level of smugness). Now, I understand financial hardship. If people are starving or have a family to feed, if they have no other recourse, I can't fault them for doing what they have to do. But if you "own your shit," as Ridley brags in one of his HuffPo posts, then the only thing you're doing by going back to work is hurting those you call your friends and colleagues, weakening the very definition of collective bargaining by demonstrating disunity -- not dissent, disunity. Right now, Nick Counter is having his first erection in thirty years over John Ridley's decision.

When union members go Fi-Core they sacrifice nothing while gaining everything that others have suffered for. Are they entitled to do that? Yes. What they are not entitled to do is claim that they is a part of a community of men and women who chose to stand up for something they believe in, at great risk to themselves.


Opting for Financial Core Status membership

We're approaching the second week in January, and the striking writers and their rival studios/networks are just about ready to sit down and get back to work not talking and not negotiating. Sure, they haven't been talking or negotiating since more than a week before Christmas, but that was a well-needed vacation from their previous weeks of complete alienation from each other. Now, the deafening silence will be official again.

As the strike drags through its ninth week, there is talk that more writers will opt to break from their Writers Guild of America membership and opt for "Financial Core" status. "Fi-Core" (as it's called -- since saying the full two-word title would simply take hours) essentially resigns a writer from membership in the guild, making him or her a fee-paying, but not does-paying professional. Such status allows a writer to work under guild terms or outside those limits if he or she chooses. The fi-core pro does not have to attend to any guild responsibilities such as voting, but they also lose any guild benefits.

In the end, it's essentially a way for a writer to show displeasure with guild leadership over the handling of the strike. How many writers hqve the angry inclination (or the guts) to go fi-core is yet to be seen.


Voters not riding on the AFSCME bus

The battle of New Hampshire — on the Democratic side — opened Friday morning with an obvious question: what, if anything, would Hillary Clinton do differently? Her 8-point loss to Barack Obama in Iowa was a clear indicator that what she had been doing until then was not working.

And when it comes to the sort of voters who contributed to Obama's impressive win on Thursday night — including independent, young, and upscale voters — New Hampshire is a better hunting ground for Obama than Iowa. So reporters and politicos were wondering how Clinton would recalibrate in response to the thumpin' she had received.

Early in the morning, in a cold airport hangar in Nashua, in front of a couple of hundred people (including Arkansans and AFSCME union workers who were bussed in), Clinton provided the answer: not much. In her only major campaign appearance of the day (she would later join the other Democratic candidates at a dinner for the state Democratic party), she essentially stuck with the message that had failed her in Iowa.

Before she took the stage with husband Bill (who looked somewhat somber) and daughter Chelsea, the crowd chanted "ready for change, ready to lead." Her husband gave a short introduction notable for what he did not say. Sixteen years ago, in the days prior to the 1992 New Hampshire primary, his candidacy was on the ropes due to the report that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with Gennifer Flowers. He ended up placing second in New Hampshire (behind former Senator Paul Tsongas, the near-favorite son from next door in Massachusetts) and immodestly declared himself the "comeback kid." Dung his introduction this morning —a nd during Hillary's subsequent remarks — there was no recognition that once again the Clintons were looking to New Hampshire to save them.

Instead, Clinton delivered, in B-plus (at best) manner, her generic stump speech: she has experience and she would be ready to go as president on Day One. She took a few of the usual pokes at Obama, noting "we need a president who won't just call for change... but a president who will produce change." She said voters should not make a "leap of faith" in selecting a nominee. She did shift one of her rhetorical standards. Instead of offering herself as ready to lead, she declared she was ready to win. Noting that she has been pursued by conservative antagonists for years, she maintained she was the candidate best "able to withstand the Republican attack machine." She added, "The one thing you know about me after 16 years of taking all their incoming fire, I am still here."

The message: they will crush Obama, so you better vote for me.

That's not very inspirational. But what else does she have to offer? She has been making the experience argument for a year, and Iowa Democrats said, thanks, but no thanks. There are no profound policy differences between her and Obama that she can exploit. Toward the end of the event, in response to a question from the crowd, she maintained that she was quite electable in red states, pointing out that ten Democratic senators have endorsed her. But given what happened in Iowa the night before, this was not the best time for her to be making an electability argument. (Remember, 70 percent of the Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa spurned her.)

Clinton may have no choice but to keep repeating what did not work in Iowa. She could try to attack Obama directly. But when she previously has gone on the offensive it has backfired. And tearing into the party's new Bobby Kennedy could be perilous. Her presentation in the airport hangar indicated her campaign has made the strategic decision to keep with its preexisting game plan and hope to best Obama if not in New Hampshire than in subsequent rounds.

Arrogance? Denial? The only choice she and her crew have? At the end of the event, her chief aides, who were roaming the hangar, did not hang around to talk to (that is, work) the reporters, as so often happens at campaign functions. Maybe they had no spin to offer.

Hours later, Obama triumphantly appeared in a crowded gymnasium at Concord High School. The room was packed with students (who were allowed to cut classes to attend) and several hundred adults. Unlike the Clinton event, there was energy in the room. While Clinton supporters had clapped for her in the hangar, audience members at the Obama event screamed for their man. The passion differential was stark.

Obama, too, stuck with his routine speech. But now he had victory on his side. Since the start of his campaign, he had put forward a theory: there are voters who yearn for a different kind of politics. Over the months, he did put out progressive policy proposals, and he voiced his opposition to the war. But he added to all this a call for transcending the political divisions of America. If we can change the nature of politics, we can change the nature of the government, Obama said. He was offering voters something more than the usual Democratic positions. And he presented his desire for this change as a qualification for office. Moreover, he said, he was not merely mounting a candidacy, he was serving a cause that voters could join by supporting him. There was no telling if this could work. Until Iowa. Yes, the hunger that Obama claimed there was does seem to exist. And, yes, he was the answer—at least for a plurality of caucus-goers.

In the Concord High gym, Obama noted that he had been vindicated. He asked New Hampshire voters not to listen to those who would urge them not "to trust your own gut and feelings." He warned that there will be critics who will say that "Obama has not been in Washington long enough. He needs to be seasoned and stewed. We need to boil all the hope out of him." The audience laughed along. The "real gamble," he added, was relying on the "same old folks" in Washington (read: the Clintons). He said he was well prepared to deal with the "operatives who will try to tear me down." But, he added, "I'm not interested in them. I'm interested in you."

He spoke eloquently of the power of hope, citing hope as the motivation for the colonists who fought for independence, the abolitionists who fought to end slavery, the "greatest generation" that fought to defeat fascism during World War II, the unions that fought for the 40-hour work week and a minimum wage, the women who fought for the right to vote, and the civil rights workers who fought for equality. "That's what hope is," he said. "Imagining and then fighting... to create what wasn't there before, what the cynics say wasn't possible." He declared there is "a moment in every generation when that spirit has to come through. This is that moment."

It was heady stuff, a politician comparing his candidacy to American independence, World War II, and the civil rights movement. But Obama, who today reeked of the confidence that comes from being a winner, connected with the audience. He certainly can brag he connected with Iowan voters. Hillary's practical case—I have way more experience working in Washington and fighting off those Republican meanies—doesn't answer the inspirational argument Obama presents. The two are operating on different planes. She's selling vegetables; he's selling a vision. And the buyers in Iowa made a choice.

At the moment, it seems as if she cannot compete with him on these terms. How she can fight hope remains an unanswered question.


Straight story: Huckabee double-crossed Machinists

Republican Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses by campaigning as an honest conservative, yet he has made a series of blunders that raise questions about his credibility.

Huckabee's image as a straight shooter helped him defeat Mitt Romney in the opening contest for the GOP presidential nomination. Not only did voters want someone who shares their values _ and Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, fit the bill _ they also wanted a candidate who says what he believes, according to a survey of caucus-goers.

His common-man message and his authenticity are appealing in New Hampshire, which holds a presidential primary on Tuesday, although he is facing better-known and better-funded rivals Romney and John McCain.

"He's not plastic," said GOP strategist Greg Mueller. "He speaks American, not Washingtonian. The way he communicates is coming off as a person who understands and can connect with middle America."

"It's kind of what Obama is doing, too, on the other side," Mueller added, referring to Democrat Barack Obama, the Illinois senator who defeated John Edwards and Hillary Clinton in Thursday's caucuses.

For all his directness, Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, sent a series of conflicting messages in the days before the caucuses:

- He said he supports the Hollywood writers' strike but crossed the picket line to appear on the Jay Leno's "Tonight" show.

- He decided not to air a commercial attacking Romney but played it for journalists, anyway.

- He campaigned at a casino in Burlington, Iowa, despite his opposition to gambling.

Even his senior aides have had trouble keeping their story straight. Asked about Romney saying he'd won the "silver" in Thursday's caucuses, campaign manager Chip Saltzman said he wouldn't go there.

"You know, one of the things that we try to do as a campaign is always worry about our campaign and not necessarily comment about what the other folks have done," Saltzman said at a news conference outside Huckabee's victory party. "And we're going to try to continue to do that."

Moments later, campaign chairman Ed Rollins leaned into the microphone and went there.

"I'm glad that Governor Romney is happy with his silver, but my experience in politics is there are no bronzes and silvers," Rollins said.

"You win, and you get to go on and govern. You lose, you go home. He doesn't, obviously, have to go home. There's more states to compete in. But I think to a certain extent, he'll have to rethink more of what he does than we're going to have to rethink what we do.

"Because he had the best consultants, the best media people, all the polling in the world, all the money in the world, and he just lost and lost fairly badly."

Rollins, a political brawler who managed President Reagan's re-election campaign in 1984, joined the Huckabee camp only three weeks ago and has contributed to some of its growing pains.

It was Rollins who persuaded Huckabee to go negative with attack ads against Romney; ultimately, Huckabee decided not to run the commercial. And it was Rollins who recommended playing it, anyway, at a news conference where the campaign had planned to unveil the attack.

In the end, the gambit seemed to have worked; many voters said they liked that Huckabee decided not to run attack ads.

Rollins is hardly the only reason for the campaign's problems. Huckabee's shoestring operation has struggled to keep up with his swift ascent in the polls, scrambling with tasks that other campaigns are accustomed to, like booking buses or a plane for the throng of journalists who cover him.

Huckabee himself has struggled to keep up. Last month, he was unaware of a report the White House had released saying Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program, and he flubbed his response to the assassination of Pakistan's former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, expressing apologies when he meant to say sympathies. He also warned that Pakistan is second only to Latin America in the number of immigrants in the U.S. illegally, which is not true.

Clearly, Huckabee is still adjusting to the spotlight that accompanied his unexpected and improbable rise. But if he performs well in New Hampshire and continues to gain momentum, he will have to become more disciplined.

"You can get away with making some mistakes with voters, as long as they're not huge _ sometimes when the establishment picks on you because of a minor mistake, it benefits you," Mueller said. "Mistakes are going to be made in every campaign. The key is to limit mistakes and maximize opportunity and let the candidate's message drive everything."


Reorganized Labor

Since dissident unions pulled out of the AFL-CIO in 2005, longtime observers see more bark than bite in organized labor's efforts to revitalize. Still, there's fight left in the movement.

Tactics such as disruptive corporate organizing campaigns--by either faction--can damage a company's employee relations and drain finances. Savvy organizers have plenty to spend and are in the field in record numbers. Labor leaders see the 2008 presidential election as an ace in the hole, expecting a new administration and federal legislation that would make union organizing far easier.

With the gavel set to fall on the AFL-CIO's convention in July 2005, the half-century marriage that bound 57 unions and 13 million members was on the rocks and the infighting had become public and personal. Dissident union leaders blamed AFL-CIO President John Sweeney for failing to reverse the free-fall in membership--especially in the private sector, where it had trickled from the 1958 high-water mark of 39 percent of the workforce to below 8 percent in 2005. In 1953, the high point for unions overall, 32.5 percent of the workforce--public and private--was unionized.

Today, 12 percent--15.4 million people--belong to unions. The dissidents saw Sweeney as unable to face the crisis, still running the AFL-CIO like a mom-and-pop deli in a world dominated by Wal-Marts and Disneys. In their view, he was wedded to grass-roots "retail" organizing that wasn't keeping up with attrition, and unwilling to heed their wake-up call to union leaders: Restructure, change your strategy or die.

Instead, the 73-year-old former president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was loyal to cronies, intent on preserving the unions they headed, and unwilling to address competition among them. He was reluctant to commit to organizing approaches that bypass the need for National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) supervised elections and focus on whole industries rather than bargaining units. And he stubbornly clung to the idea that changes in labor laws could pave the way for labor's renaissance. As a result, dissidents claimed he was squandering the AFL-CIO's war chest--a percentage of dues collected from the rank and file--on politics, while membership faded.

To Sweeney and his supporters, of course, the AFL-CIO was progressive and strategic. Politics was important, but so was organizing; they promised to fund both. Leading up to the convention, they were patient and conciliatory, offering compromises to dissidents while suggesting sotto voce that the rift was not over substance, but succession: When would Sweeney step aside, and who would replace him? Was he challenged because dissident leaders, such as the SEIU's Andrew Stern or UNITE HERE's John Wilhelm, were no longer heirs apparent?

The Breakup

The scene was set, but the fireworks never came. The day before the convention, leaders of four unions boycotted--SEIU; Teamsters; UNITE HERE, formerly the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) and Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE); and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). Later, as delegates headed home, the Laborers, Carpenters and United Farm Workers unions signed on to form Change to Win (CTW). Leaders of these seven unions proclaimed a direction featuring multifaceted organizing of workers in industries where employers cannot easily outsource jobs--industries including cleaning, health care, hotels and restaurants, retailing, and transportation. They promised to ramp up efforts to grow head counts and gain leverage over entire sectors.

Since the rift, the AFL-CIO is now left with 55 member unions representing 10 million workers. The CTW faction now represents seven unions with 5 million to 6 million members. (CTW claims 6 million, but impartial observers are not certain.)

The Aftermath

As the dust settled, employers wondered what a fragmented labor movement would mean. Would it stabilize with two major players? Would CTW live up to its rhetoric? Was the AFLCIO as inept as critics claimed?

Today, more than two years later, the impact of the split has not impressed experts. "It was much ado about nothing; CTW was selling a new vision, but it's turning out to be old wine in a new bottle," says Gary Chaison, professor of labor relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

"Little has happened," agrees Marick Masters, professor of business at the University of Pittsburgh. "The breakup is all sizzle and no steak. They continue to encounter the economic reality that even as they gain new members, they're losing more." The number of NLRB elections continues to be surprisingly small: In 2006, there were 2,147, and unions won 55.7 percent. In elections, unions are becoming "more selective in where they go forward. But the win rate, though good, is not keeping up with what they're losing," says Jim Gray, SPHR, a labor consultant for management in Charleston, S.C., and a former member of the Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM) Labor Relations Special Expertise Panel. Federal law requires the NLRB to conduct an election if 30 percent of the workers in a bargaining unit petition for one. Efforts to gain large numbers of new members through other means, such as corporate campaigns that force employers into neutrality agreements, show mixed results. Though both AFL-CIO and CTW organizers are adept at publicizing their activities, so far, on balance, there's little indication that union organizers are having a significant impact by gaining large numbers of new members.

On the Defense

If you're the human resource person in an industry targeted by labor for a corporate campaign and you're not educating top managers on why your company is vulnerable and putting together a preventive plan, you're not doing your job, says attorney Michael Lotito, SPHR, a partner in the San Francisco office of Jackson Lewis LLP.

Begin with internal and external analyses. Find your "weak spots, why you may be vulnerable," Lotito says. As a management attorney, "I am prepared to take your company apart the same way a union is going to take you apart. Then I'll put you back together again. At the end of the day, you'll be a better company whether or not a union ever attacks you." He says the nature of the work dictates that it be done by someone outside your organization.

Qualified experts are hard to find, but they're worth it, says Linda Lulli, SPHR, associate vice president of Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., and a member of SHRM's Labor Relations Special Expertise Panel. "Most nonunionized employers are not equipped to handle a union campaign on their own. You will need help."

What can you do when a union comes calling? Treat people with dignity and respect, and do it before organizers hit the scene. Campaigns work because workers don't believe employers have their interests in mind, says Jim Gray, SPHR, a labor consultant for management in Charleston, S.C.

The issue comes down to why workers want a union, attorney John Raudabaugh, a partner at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Chicago, says. "If you look at all the things that attract the employees to joining a union, it comes down to matters that can be replicated fully and satisfactorily by the corporation."

Stephen Cabot, chairman of the Cabot Institute for Labor Relations in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., advises employers to improve interactive communication. For example, involve employees in decision-making, as does Wegmans Food Markets, based in Rochester, N.Y., and named by Fortune as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For." "If you treat your employees properly, they won't feel the need for a union," he says.

Lynn Outwater, managing partner of Jackson Lewis LLP in Pittsburgh, counsels:

* Make sure supervisors treat workers equitably.
* Look behind disciplinary termination actions to make sure they're proper.
* Educate supervisors about what they can or cannot say legally about unions seeking to organize.
* Communicate your organization's employee-relations philosophy setting forth the employer's position on unions.
* Have lawful solicitation and distribution rules.
* Have lawful bulletin-board posting and e-mail rules.

But, Gray cautions, if you wait to address culture and pocketbook issues until a union shows up, it's too little too late. "For unions, that's low-hanging fruit. It's disingenuous to initiate changes to avoid the union. You should be doing the right thing. If the effect is that you're union-free, that's great, but if you're doing it just for that, I would question your logic. Company [leaders who] approach employee relations that way think their employees are naïve, and they're not."

Remember, it's not just your boss whose job and reputation are on the line: HR professionals may be personally liable for missteps. "Personal protection is your first priority," advises Mary Pivec, a labor and employment lawyer with Keller and Heckman LLP in Washington, D.C. An HR professional can be sued individually and held personally liable for breaking federal laws.

Masters says the union message no longer resonates with enough workers. The traditional job-security message appeals to a niche market. "There has to be value that a worker can take along to the next job that makes paying the dues worthwhile. The average worker moves six to eight times and will not be as attached to a particular employer as in the past," he says.

Chaison agrees that union leaders need to come up with alternate forms of representation to expand ranks. "It's like having a Mexican restaurant that only serves breakfast," he says. "To stay in business, you have to also serve lunch."

Infighting Under Control

Still, despite tepid reviews and predictions of fragmentation, the breakup appears to have strengthened, not weakened, CTW and the AFL-CIO.

Predicted squabbling and raiding between factions, in the main, hasn't materialized. "The split has not been as large as many expected," says Tom Juravich, director of the Labor Relations and Research Center at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. "The movement is chugging along." But according to the AFL-CIO, nirvana it's not.

"Solidarity and unity are harder to achieve on policy and legislative initiatives," admits Stewart Acuff, national organizing director of the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C. "Had we all stayed together, there would be a more accessible forum for resolving differences; we would not have had the few raids that have occurred."

In contrast, Greg Denier, CTW's director of communications in Washington, D.C., reports smooth sailing between the federations. "The AFL-CIO continues to try to gin up some controversy that's not there. We continue to work together on politics and legislation."

Borrowing from Each Other

Both camps have been energized by confrontation. They learn from each other and borrow liberally. They pursue techniques including highly publicized corporate campaigns; both are more aggressive and better staffed. They react to the shifts in the U.S. labor force: Today, just 2 million manufacturing workers belong to U.S. unions, down from 3.5 million a decade ago. That compares with more than 3 million workers in service and retail unions, and more than 7 million in public-sector unions.

Primary targets include retail or health care establishments; hospitality organizations such as hotels or restaurants; and employers of janitors, security guards or other low-wage workers. These industries employ an estimated 40 million workers, many low-income, female, minority and immigrant.

Both federations include member unions with organizing opportunities in the target industries, although the AFL-CIO is saddled with more old-line manufacturing unions where membership decline seems inevitable. As a result, leaders of the AFL-CIO and CTW hype growth of individual member unions, downplay overall membership, and focus on strategic victories that will allow them to wield sectorwide or geographic economic influence.

Investment in Organizing

These days, CTW and AFL-CIO organizers are smarter, better prepared and more numerous. "We recruit from schools with labor centers such as Berkeley, Cornell and Wisconsin," says CTW's Denier. "We also go to schools that are pipelines for employers, [schools] such as Wharton." In 2007 alone, the AFLCIO Organizing Institute trained 560 organizers.

"In the old days, a union like SEIU might have two organizers on a team," says Stephen Cabot, chairman of the Cabot
Institute for Labor Relations in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. "Now, teams are four or more, and they're specialized, [including] representatives of the ethnic groups they're trying to reach." Three years ago, the national Teamsters union had fewer than 20 organizers on the ground. Today, it employs 200. Gray says campaigns are more sophisticated, "They're presenting their benefits much better; the marketing is smarter." And an impressive amount of money flows in: CTW funnels 75 percent of the funds it collects from dues to campaigns, while six AFL-CIO unions recently committed $150 million.

Strategic Planning and Analysis

Both are deep into strategic planning to help affiliates operate campaigns aimed at picking off hundreds, even thousands, of workers at a time while bypassing NLRB elections. These corporate campaigns--unions call them "strategic campaigns"-- originated during the 1970s with activist legend Saul Alinksy against Kodak in Rochester, N.Y., and have been in the union arsenal since then. What's different now: The national AFLCIO and CTW mastermind them.

Strategists in the AFL-CIO's Center for Strategic Research and CTW's Strategic Organizing Center use "competitor analysis" and other tools to target workforces. Currently, AFL-CIO officials oversee as many as 20 campaigns. Among them: the Atlantic City Casinos and Foxwood Casinos of Mashantucket, Conn., being organized by the United Auto Workers and the International Union, Security Police Fire Professionals of America; and the New Orleans City Schools being organized by the American Federation of Teachers.

CTW continues to make Wal-Mart a priority. It also promotes campaigns focusing on 90,000 drivers in port facilities in California, Florida and Washington being organized by the Teamsters; 10,000 Bashas' grocery workers being organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers, and 4,650 workers in a Bladen County, N.C., Smithfield Foods porkprocessing plant being organized by the UFCW. Nationwide, Smithfield has 53,100 employees.

Research helps organizers avoid companies where victory is unlikely, such as Whole Foods Market based in Austin, Texas. "The unions leave them alone because they have deep pockets," Juravich says.

Corporate Campaigns

For HR professionals, the message remains clear: If you're in a large company in a targeted industry, you may find yourself involved in a corporate campaign.

"These corporate campaigns are consuming me," says attorney Michael Lotito, SPHR, a partner in the San Francisco office of Jackson Lewis LLP. "They are all-encompassing; the multiple levels of attack that take place require constant attention and anticipation. The union shows up at 70 percent of your facilities located in 25 states, same time, same day, with handouts that attack the company.

Simultaneously, it files unfair labor practices in some of the states, asks the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to investigate a claim that you're not living up to your affirmative action requirements, and sends a critical letter to the investment community."

A campaign strives to get employers to sign neutrality agreements. In effect, these agreements permit unions to campaign while the employers remain neutral. Usually, the employer agrees to accept a card check to recognize the union without a secret-ballot election if the union produces a sufficient percentage of signatures.

Neutrality agreements also include provisions where the employer agrees that its managers will not campaign against or disparage the union, or that they will only provide facts about the union when they're asked a question, says Lynn Outwater, managing partner of Jackson Lewis LLP in Pittsburgh.

Why would employers accede to neutrality and a card check that offer a slam dunk for the union? Actually, few do, and acquiescence usually can be attributed to wilting from a blistering campaign. For example, the SEIU and UNITE HERE won neutrality agreements from Sodexho, Aramark and Compass Group PLC, multinationals employing more than 1 million workers, mostly in service jobs. Still, experts counsel against neutrality. They say letting a union in can drain resources and cripple managerial flexibility. "There's a cost, even if your wages and benefits remain the same," Gray says. "It spills over into grievances, arbitrations, regular contract negotiations. Whether [the cost] is 5 percent, 25 percent or 50 percent depends on how effectively the company manages its relations."

For their part, union officials describe their roles in organizations as shared governance, a win-win partnership. Attorney John Raudabaugh, a partner at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Chicago, disagrees. "We're no longer allowing business to be business and labor to be labor. We want all to be blended partners, and it doesn't work," he says. "How can a business operate like a round-table discussion?" continues Raudabaugh, a board member of the NLRB from 1990-93 and now a member of the SHRM Employee Relations Special Expertise Panel. "Any business that's not saddled with this works-council, multi-party way to run a company will have the ability to operate more quickly and at lesser cost."

Some companies have so much dirty laundry, however, that letting a union in without a fight may be best. "If your corporate governance is poor, if you have massive misclassification [of workers] and don't have women in management, you may be interested in a neutrality agreement," Lotito says. Organizers say carefully orchestrated campaigns are legitimate. And despite the outcry from employers, corporate campaigns are fair play, Juravich says. "Employers cry 'foul,' but [organizers just use] the same competitor intelligence methods that employers use."

The AFL-CIO's Acuff says: "Corporate America is running amok. There is more than enough bad stuff they do to bring to light--how they treat their workers, their communities, their business partners."

CTW officials cite victories in campaigns involving janitors and nurses; AFL-CIO leaders point to victories at Cingular Wireless and with home health care workers in Michigan and New York. But although campaigns are unpleasant, drain resources and can harm business in the short run, sometimes they don't stick. "I represented a large beer company that was attacked by the Teamsters," Cabot recalls. "They attempted to get workers and supporters not to drink the beer. Try to tell hard-working blue-collar workers not to drink beer. There was noise, fliers, public relations stunts, but the campaign petered out."

Rick Berman, executive director of the Center for Union Facts in Washington, D.C., and a former employment lawyer for Bethlehem Steel, worries that HR managers in nonunion settings are not prepared for organizers' tactics. HR professionals need to prepare for a "more rough-and-tumble world. ... Most HR managers will need a refresher course or will have to learn on-the-job about confrontational HR."

Political Tsunami Forecast

Perhaps most ominous for employers who want to remain union-free is that the political climate has shifted dramatically since the elections in November 2006. Prospects have improved for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which passed the House in 2007 but stalled in the Senate. President Bush has said he would veto the bill if passed. But observers agree that if a Democrat wins the presidency this year and Democrats retain control of the Congress, the measure could become law.

Employers suspect EFCA will open the floodgates for union organizing because it would:

* Eliminate employers' right to demand a secret-ballot election before union certification.
* Substantially increase financial penalties for committing unfair labor practices under the National Labor Relations Act.
* Empower an arbitrator to impose a contract if the parties don't reach agreement within 100 days.
* Require employers to maintain neutrality while unions make their cases.

If EFCA passes, "Make a move that's a little over the line and you're in deep trouble," Cabot warns. "Currently, many employers engage in initiatives to counter union campaigns they wouldn't dare do under EFCA. Now, there's a minor fine; under EFCA, every unfair labor practice will be potentially a $20,000 fine. Now, even if management is not overtly instigating it, the feeling is 'if one of my supervisors is talking to people, it's not so bad.' With EFCA, it will be very costly."

Berman says if the law passes, private-sector union membership could double. If union leaders "put on a fullcourtpress, hire more experts, more 'salts' [paid union employees who apply for jobs and declare intentions to organize workers], they can get membership up to 15 percent of the workforce. That would give them an additional $4 billion-plus a year in dues. If they put some substantial portion of it into soft money for politics, every issue they care about will be in play. These guys are the ATM of the Democratic Party. Their investment will swamp the contributions of the business."

In September 2007, the AFL-CIO executive council approved a record $53 million political budget to mobilize votes during the coming presidential campaign. So, ironically, John Sweeney's focus on politics, the very thing he was excoriated for by the departing CTW leaders two-and-a-half years ago, looks prescient and brilliant, according to many union observers. As the presidential election nears, Acuff says, CTW leaders seem to have forgotten ever playing down politics. If the EFCA passes, it would be the most significant pro-labor legislation in more than two decades.

"If you've been union-free, and you haven't had to work at it, you've been lucky," Lotito says. And if you wait until the law is passed … well, that just wouldn't be a good idea.

SHRM video: Attorney James Ferber on why employees sign union cards.

SHRM video: Attorney Lynn Outwater on the importance of employee engagement in union avoidance.

SHRM article: Bid To Change Union Election Rules Falters in Senate (HR News)

SHRM article: NLRB Reduces Protections for Provocative ‘Salts’ (SHRM Online Workplace Law Focus Area)

SHRM white paper: Union Organizing Trends and Tactics

SHRM white paper: Union Awareness and Maintaining Union-Free Status

SHRM research: Union Organizing (Briefly Stated)

Web site: AFL-CIO

Web site: Change to Win


Union organizing goes global

If American unionism can be summarized in one word, it would be "solidarity." A desire for unbreakable collective unity is pretty much why organized labor organizes in the first place. Solidarity has an emotional power that can transcend race, sex, religion and national boundaries. That last factor looms especially large these days.

Union membership in this country, in relative terms, has been in long-term decline.

Labor leaders throughout the world are fully aware of this trend. That's why more than ever they are attracted to the idea of cross-national organizing. Their campaign has been going on for some time, but recently has shifted into high gear. Case in point: a first-time-ever summit meeting this past December 10-11 at the AFL-CIO's National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md., where the labor federation hosted more than 200 union officials from over 60 countries.

At the conference, President John Sweeney called upon labor to go global:

"President Bush and his cronies have done all they can to destroy workers' rights around the world. The truth is until we are able to restore basic workers' rights in the United States, the worldwide decline will not stop. But rather than wring our hands in desperation or wash our hands of responsibility, we need to build strategies for global action. We have to create global strategies not just to bargain with individual employers, but to restore the right to organize for workers all over the world."

Guest speakers amplified this theme. "As never before, we must link global action with local action," said Fred Van Leeuwen, chairman of an organization formed a little over a year ago, the Council of Global Unions.

It's understandable why the AFL-CIO, which claims 10 million members, has been stepping up its campaign. Their full-court press on the Democrat-controlled Congress in 2007 yielded few victories. Though unions and their supporters convinced lawmakers to pass, and President Bush to sign, a phased-in hike in the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour, they achieved little else. The bitterest pill was the defeat by Senate filibuster this past June of the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act. This measure, which earlier had passed the House by 241-185, would have severely curtailed supervised secret-ballot elections in favor of the card check, a process by which union organizers go to a given worksite and even homes to coax employees into signing a card indicating a desire to join. It's an inherently manipulative process. Yet the legislation would have required an employer to recognize the results of a card check whenever a union wins a simple majority of signatures.

Presenters at the AFL-CIO summit, in a pique, declared that U.S. labor law is stacked against workers. "The current state of affairs in the United States involves very heavy restrictions of the right to organize and bargain collectively, and that restriction has spillover effects in other countries," said Guy Ryder, general secretary of the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation, with nearly 170 million members in more than 150 countries. In the minds of such people, not enacting a mandatory card-check law is evidence of repressing workers' rights.

A principal endgame of global cooperation, argues union partisan Harold Meyerson, executive editor of the Left-progressive monthly, The American Prospect, is winning company-wide contracts. When unions in America and elsewhere work together, they can coax collective-bargaining agreements from a multinational firm at all plants rather than one plant at a time. It's an updated version of the strategy pioneered by United Mine Workers President John L. Lewis back in the 1930s.

From organized labor's standpoint, this approach makes sense. Because many major U.S. employers have operations abroad, it is incumbent for labor organizations to think globally. And because American labor law provides a model for U.S.-based multinationals operating abroad and for foreign companies operating here, changing our own laws effectively changes laws worldwide.

This cross-pollination has been felt in a number of instances. In 2004, two American unions, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and UNITE-HERE, launched a drive to organize more than 100,000 workers at Sodexho Group, the European-based food and facilities service provider. SEIU's Tom Woodruff, campaign director, stated: "We are working for agreements in more than one country." It was a quid pro quo arrangement. Our unions wanted company-wide recognition by Sodexho, affiliated with the Marriott hotel chain; foreign unions wanted access to the company's list of U.S. workers.

In August 2005, American unions organized an e-mail campaign in support of 800 striking members of Great Britain's Transport and General Workers' Union fired by airline caterer Gate Gourmet, a subsidiary of the Ft. Worth-based Texas Pacific Group. The employer had indicated in a secret internal briefing obtained by the pro-Labour Party Daily Mirror (London) that it wanted to hire lower-wage Eastern European workers trained at secret bases.

This past year, the United Steelworkers of America entered into merger talks with its British sister union, Unite. The unions have formed global worker councils at several major multinational companies. This past September the USWA helped convene a global meeting of unions representing workers at the world's largest steelmaker, Arcelor Mittal.

Meanwhile, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) has embarked on a new way to organize employees at T-Mobile, which is owned by Deutsche Telekom. CWA members who work at the cell-phone company recently joined forces with the German union, Ver.di, to form the T-Workers Union. Members of this new entity will belong to both Ver.di and the CWA.

America's union leaders want to go beyond simply expanding membership, and become players in shaping the global economy. They want to curb what they see as dangerous excesses of capitalism. In a May speech in Seville, Spain before the European Trade Union Confederation, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka remarked, "I cannot emphasize strongly enough the degree to which the ten million members of the AFL-CIO stand shoulder to shoulder with you as we confront the threats posed by a global economy that is regulated solely in the interests of financiers, with little or no regard for the economic and social consequences that financialization is imposing on societies." Marxism, in this view, is good business, not just revolution. As SEIU President Andrew Stern puts it: "'Workers of the world, unite' isn't ideological anymore. It's practical."

Now there's nothing intrinsically wrong with an organization wanting to expand membership or wield influence. All organizations want that. Nor is there anything new, or inherently Leftist, about organized labor going global. It was, after all, the AFL-CIO, as much as any organization, that spearheaded the fight against Soviet Communism. Under the leadership of Lane Kirkland, the federation provided enormous assistance to leaders of the Polish Solidarity movement -- note again the "s" word.

The problem is that an organization has to be cognizant of the effects of its actions, most of all on its own country. Cultivating ties to unions abroad is defensible insofar as it advances American interests. But does organized labor's anti-corporate global campaign pass the test? It would seem that fighting Communism isn't quite the same thing as promoting it, even if in a more salable form. And then there is the matter of sovereignty. By advocating blending our labor laws with those of other nations, unions necessarily are weakening America's capacity for self-governance.

Business, to its debit, has been guilty in any number of ways of undermining our sovereignty. Many companies and trade associations, for example, have aggressively pushed to expand immigration, supporting any number of recent (and thankfully failed) amnesty plans. But that doesn't justify granting a blank check for unions to follow suit. Solidarity may be forever, as American labor's official fight song goes, but nations throughout the ages have been shown to be temporary.

- Carl F. Horowitz is director of the Organized Labor Accountability Project of the National Legal and Policy Center, a Townhall.com Gold Partner organization dedicated to promoting ethics in American public life.


Gov't extortion intends to harvest union dues

There have been many news articles and letters on the project labor agreement (PLA) on the George Harvey Justice Building in Binghamton (NY). There also has been a large amount of misinformation written that misleads the general public. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and because yours may not agree with someone else's, does not make that person a bad person.

First, a PLA is a comprehensive pre-hire collective bargaining agreement whereby the basic terms and conditions for labor are established in advance for everyone involved in the project. That means that every contractor knows up front all the aspects of the project, work week, overtime, shift work, rate and benefit payments that are agreed for the project. One such change might be second shift to be paid at first-shift rate. That is a cost savings for the customer and the contractor.

PLAs also promote the use of local labor. Any contractor, union or non-union, may bid the project. In past years, many projects in the area have attracted contractors from out of town and out of state along with local contractors. Union contractors can bring along some employees, and the rest are hired locally from the union halls. Non-union contractors bring all of their employees and hire no one from the local area.

Under a PLA, union and non-union contractors may bid the project, out of town, out of state, or local. They can bring or use some employees, and the rest are hired locally from the union halls. Unions have many more members than non-union contractors have employees. On average, the contractors that are large enough and have the financial capability to bid this project have 15 to 30 employees. Electricians Local 325 has 300 members, with 236 who live in Broome County. The local has a large labor pool, as do all the trade unions, to hire from. With a PLA, this actually is a benefit to a non-union contractor. He may bid the project, and if he is the successful bidder, he uses his employees to the parameters of the PLA and hires the balance from the union hall.

This enables him to bid more work because he has employees that he can place on another project. Normally, he would be at his limit of work because he is out of employees. The temporary local employees will work and complete the project under the PLA, and then be returned to the union hall. He can actually increase his business working under a PLA.

Second, the main concept of a PLA, again, is local labor, and cost savings to the customer. The Broome County Legislature studied the idea and concept of a PLA, as they are used all around the country and in New York State. In 1997, Republican Gov. George E. Pataki issued an executive order reaffirming the use of PLAs and encouraging their use in New York state. They are also used in the private sector by corporations such as Disney, Toyota and General Motors with great success.

The county legislature has an enormous responsibility working with the county executive to run this county. They realized that a PLA has the potential to greatly increase the local labor issue and also realize cost savings for the taxpayer. They voted to do the project under a PLA. Give it a chance. See if it does work. Some are having second thoughts, but all of us must stand together. If the project is successful, we all win. If it does not produce the results that we anticipated, we try something else.

We all live in Broome County together. We work here and spend our money here. Let's make our county a model for other areas.


Teachers union's groundless strike-complaint

The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board has dismissed an unfair labor practices charge filed by the Seneca Valley Education Association against the school district.

The charge was made last month after the district, where teachers were on strike for 24 days, scheduled the final day of classes for June 23. Teachers contended that violates Act 88, the law regulating collective bargaining, which requires teachers to return to the classroom in time for 180 days of instruction by June 15.

Labor board secretary Patricia Crawford wrote the union that it did not meet the requirements to substantiate the charge. Ms. Crawford also said the school district's revised calendar falls within the public employer's managerial prerogative and is not a violation of any law.

The association has 20 days to file an exception.

The district faces an unfair labor complaint filed by the union in late October, alleging the district threatened teachers with pay reductions if they went on strike. A hearing, which was postponed last month, has not been rescheduled.


Teamsters office vandalized

Police say a 29-year-old man arrested on suspicion of burglary Wednesday morning is also suspected in a string of at least 12 similar crimes.

Justin Michael Muus of Billings (MT) is expected to appear in Yellowstone County Justice Court today or Monday on suspicion of burglary and possession of marijuana.

Police accuse him of taking a PowerPoint projector worth $1,000 during a break-in late Tuesday or early Wednesday at the Teamsters Union Hall at 437 Kuhlman Drive.

Muus was arrested at 11 a.m. Wednesday. He and an accomplice are suspected of between 12 and 20 similar crimes, including a string of burglaries and an arson at a Heights business park on Nov. 8, police spokesman Lt. RD Harper said. "They went in and ransacked drawers and cupboards," Harper said.

The second person has not been arrested.

Investigators are looking into whether the suspects were also involved in vandalism at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Wicks Lane last month, Harper said.

No further details were released.

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