John Ridley: Why I chose Financial Core Status

Last week, when people started talking about an A-list writer going "financial core," I was surprised to find they were speaking of me. I don't work in day-to-day television anymore and have completed exactly one studio movie script in the last 24 months.

Doesn't take much to get on the A-list these days.

Nevertheless, yes, I've gone fi-core. (If you need a primer on what "financial core" means, refer to this Op-Ed and this Times story on soap opera writers making the switch.)

Since I was conscripted into the Writers Guild of America a decade and a half ago — and membership in the guild is mandatory — I've found myself politically opposed to it on any number of issues. Not long after, I wrote an Op-Ed about the woeful lack of diversity in Hollywood and what little the guild was doing to rectify the situation. I got a personal call from then-WGA President Frank Pierson ripping me a new orifice for daring to take my disappointment public. The gist of his argument: If you haven't anything nice to say about the union, then shut up. But, hey, what did I expect? If you shake the tree, you can't get upset when the apples fall.

And mostly I didn't. Until the strike.

I don't blame the union for the direction the strike has taken. It was the Assn. of Motion Picture and Television Producers that walked away from the bargaining table. And when you get into a fight with a passive aggressor, you can't help but look like a bully.

Still, I've had concerns about the guild's approach to this work action: the lack of an individual with experience in Hollywood deal-making to lead negotiations; bargaining chips moved on and off the table in the haphazard manner of a first-time gambler at a roulette wheel; interim agreements arbitrarily granted, without the necessary vote by membership. But apparently, to speak publicly of such concerns is to be on the same level as the jerk who gives away the ending of an M. Night Shyamalan movie. I lived with the vitriol stirred by my questioning. Never mind that I've walked the picket lines. Never mind I've donated to the strike fund.

The first rule of Strike Club: Never talk about Strike Club!

That would be fine for an organization whose membership joins voluntarily. But when membership is compulsory, free expression must be accommodated. The obligation of the union is to protect, not crush, the minority view.

In December, I attended the general guild meeting in Santa Monica. Outside the Civic Center, before the meeting, guild members told me that I was not welcome and that if I went inside, I should prepare to be pilloried. During the meeting, one high-profile television writer announced to the membership that anyone who didn't have anything good to say about the strike should shut up. If I used the adjective "frenzied" to describe the reception the declaration was given, I don't think I'd be exaggerating.

Did the president or the executive director who sat onstage rise up and announce — even if just for show — that their tent is large enough to accept dissent? That their cause is sufficiently just to withstand criticism? Or did they tacitly support the blood fervor by sitting on their hands? That is, if they weren't also applauding wildly?

They sat. They let the threat carry the day. I got the message.

After 15 years of being told shut up, sit down and be part of the groupthink, I decided I did not belong in the guild. The guild has a way to option out. I took the option. The predictable response has been largely hateful and personal, including accusations of cowardice. But the membership of the union can't have it both ways: an allergy to internal dissent and an aversion to migration. If you don't want me around, don't get angry when I leave. And while the consensus among writers may be that I'm a scab, or out for my own self-interest, fortunately, I don't live my life by consensus.

I also think it's ironic for anyone involved in the strike to speak of self-service when every aspect of this work stoppage is about putting or extracting money into or from somebody's wallet — the writers, the studios, the whole economy of Los Angeles. If I cared just about money, I'd continue on the guild's current path: working to secure extra revenue from the studios without regard to the financial impact of the work stoppage on the populace. If I understand their logic, that effort is not at all self-serving, even though we put money in our wallets while others suffer.

I know some have suggested I should forgo any gains that the guild tallies on my behalf. And I would, if I worked under the guild's Minimum Basic Agreement. Fortunately, on the rare occasions I work in Hollywood, I don't work under the MBA. There's nothing for me to give back, and I won't seek compensation from the membership for deals my team cuts that are over and above the MBA. I will continue to pay dues. But brother, if you want me out of your life so badly, I'm happy to swap the 1½% of my gross income for that automatic subscription to "Written By."

Beyond that, and short of my ongoing concern for everyone who is caught in the middle of this labor action, I'm done with the strike. I'm done with the two unreasonable sides and the YouTube videos and the dueling spin doctors. I'm quite finished with the mindless glee that comes from interrupting a taping of "Last Call with Carson Daly." I'm finished with the lost wages clocks and shrill industry trade ads.

I've no desire to start a movement, to be the first name on an open petition, or to be the poster child for disgruntled writers. I don't want to do a money grab and jump on a rewrite of "Pinkville." Though, I'll be perfectly honest with you: If I'm going to be trashed anyway, I'm not about to be trashed on the cuff. I am, simply, done.

So, then, this is my interim agreement. You all can have your strike. I'll take what can't be bargained for: self-determination.

- John Ridley is a screenwriter, novelist, blogger and commentator for National Public Radio.


Union $$ oppose Tribes, protect seniority system

On Friday, the Pechanga Band of Temecula, one of the big four tribes who stand to gain from passage of California Propositions 94 to 97 and 17,000 new slot machines, contributed $30.8 million in support of these propositions. [Editor's note/correction: On Thursday, $10 million was contributed by the Morongo Tribe. A total of $54.5 million has been contributed in support of Propositions 94-97 by the four tribes. The Pechange contributions are $20.3 million of that amount.]

This brings the total to the yes on 94-97 campaign to $68 million dollars, dwarfing not only the amount raised by opponents who seek to overturn the legislature’s approval of the slot machine compacts, but all contributions made on the other ballot measures being considered February 5, 2008 — including term limits.

The last regular reports of campaign contributions on the California Secretary of State’s website are out of date. One has to look at the late and over $5,000 contributions to get an idea of where the money is coming from and going to — at least so far — on the often overlooked ballot propositions that voters will (hopefully) be grappling with in addition to choosing a Presidential candidate for the November election.

Billions of dollars — estimated to be as high as a net win of $60.2 billion for these four tribes are at stake.

This may be only the beginning of money spent, almost exclusively by the tribes on the yes side.

The second largest amount of money on ballot propositions in this cycle is on the “no” side of the Prop 94-97 gambling propositions, and most of it also comes from tribes — those who are not part of the arrangement with the four tribes. At least $11.5 million of the opposition funding comes from “Tribes for Fair Play” out of what appears to be $28 million raised in opposition. There is substantial money — millions each from race tracks and labor that make up the balance. A significant portion of the money raised by opponents was spent on qualifying the four referenda for the ballot.

By contrast, the “yes on 93” campaign to reform California’s term limit laws is a piker, coming in at $10.7 million with the “no on 93 side showing a over $3.5 million in contributions. The amount of money contributed to the yes side of the casino measures on Friday alone is triple the entire amount raised by those who want to reform term limits.

The “yes on 93” money comes from a large list of California interests — from labor to groups that include the pharmaceutical industry and Democratic members of the California Assembly. The “no on 93” money that can be found on the Secretary of State’s site, including late and large contributions reported, comes almost exclusively from Fairfax Virginia — over $3 million from U.S. Term Limits Inc. or Term Limits America PAC located there.

Those supporting Proposition 92, the Community Colleges Funding, Fees, and Governance measure have raised $4 million while opponents are only showing about $800,000. Most of the backing for the “yes on 92” side comes from teachers and groups affiliated with the Community Colleges while the “no on 92” money is virtually all from the California Teachers Association which opposes the measure because of possible effects on K-12 educational funding.

There is one other measure on the ballot, Prop 91 — an orphaned item on the ballot — that has had no major funds spent for or against it. In fact, the “yes on 91” argument in the ballot pamphlet even urges a “no” vote because it was superseded by an agreement passed with the infrastructure bond measures in 2006 — but too late to be taken off the February 2008 ballot.


Negative AFSCME gives itself 'black eye' in N.H.

Sen. Barack Obama faced a barrage of criticism on the campaign trail and in mailboxes yesterday, with his rivals criticizing his support of nuclear power and accusing him of taking an ambiguous position on abortion rights. Members of one advocacy group supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton called on its leader to stop a negative ad campaign against Obama.

Meanwhile, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney continued his sharp attacks on Sen. John McCain, accusing the Arizona senator of attacking fellow Republicans, voting against tax cuts and supporting amnesty for illegal aliens.

Here is a rundown of the day's negative campaigning:

• A Clinton campaign flyer criticizing Obama's stance on abortion rights landed in New Hampshire mailboxes yesterday, accusing the Illinois senator of being "unwilling to take a stand on choice." On one side the flyer says, "a woman's right to choose . . .," with the backside displaying side-by-side comparisons of Clinton's and Obama's efforts to support abortion rights.

The mailer says Obama had seven opportunities in the Illinois state Senate to "stand up against Republican anti-choice legislation," but seven times he voted "present," instead of "yes" or "no."

"Being there is not enough to protect choice," the flyer says. In bold letters at the bottom it reads, "On January 8 you have a choice."

Obama campaign spokesman Reid Cherlin said the claim was false and already backfired once when Clinton tried to make it in Iowa. The campaign also provided a prepared statement from Lorna Barrett, the president of the Chicago chapter of the National Organization for Women. Brett called the mailer a "red herring."

"Barack Obama is and always has been there for the choice community. I know - I was there with him in the trenches," she said.

"This is offensive. I am pro-choice, pro-truth, pro-Hillary - in that order. And questioning the latter. I am very disgusted by this tactic being used by the Clinton campaign."

A story in the New York Times last month described Obama's "present" votes and quoted a spokeswoman for Illinois Planned Parenthood saying that the votes were actually part of a strategy to stymie anti-abortion legislation.

• Clinton also leveled some of her most pointed criticism of Obama on the campaign trail yesterday. At a stop yesterday morning at Merrimack Valley High School in Penacook, she told voters it was a mistake to support a health care plan that would not mandate health insurance for everybody.

"It's a mistake politically because it cedes to the Republicans the argument that we can't do this," she said. "I just totally reject that. Not only can we do it, we must do it. And it's wrong of us not to start out by trying to insure every single American. Because otherwise, we're going to start by leaving millions of people out."

• The American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees, which has endorsed Clinton, has also blasted Obama's health care plan with several campaign mailers and radio ads in New Hampshire. Yesterday, Time's Mark Halperin posted on his blog a scathing letter written by AFSCME's executive board asking the union's president to stop the negative attacks against Obama.

Calling Obama "one of the great friends of our union," seven members of the group's International Executive Board said there was widespread agreement among board members to refrain from negative assaults against Clinton's rivals when the board voted to endorse her. The board members said they were "shocked and appalled" by the AFSCME campaign against Obama, which they said has been orchestrated by only two of the group's staffers with no input from its president, Gerald McEntee.

"It is also worth noting that the campaign that AFSCME is waging against Sen. Obama is fundamentally dishonest and inconsistent with past positions of our union, i.e. attacking him for not forcing individuals to purchase health care even if they can't afford it," the letter said. "The ads are a misleading in attempting to give the impression that they are associated with John Edwards rather than Hillary Clinton and in their claims that Sen. Obama's health care plan will exclude 15 million people when in fact every person will have the opportunity to participate."

The negative attacks give the union a "black eye" and hurt its chances of working with Obama if he becomes president, the letter says.

• The Romney campaign sent out a press release yesterday morning called, "The McCain Way: Attack Republicans," listing McCain's "top 10" confrontations with fellow Republican legislators. In six of the incidents listed, the Romney campaign claims McCain screamed at and berated Republicans, four times using obscenities.

The press release quotes McCain as well as reports from the New York Post, Newsweek, Roll Call, Politico and The Arizona Republic. It is posted on Romney's website.

Romney on Friday accused McCain of airing "the most personal, attack-oriented ads I've ever seen." Asked to respond to the comment yesterday afternoon, McCain laughed and took a long pause before answering.

"That's a very unique comment," he said. "If he didn't like the response we made, his problem is with the editorial boards of the Concord Monitor and the Manchester Union Leader and the 25 other newspapers that endorsed me."

• Romney also issued a new campaign mailer attacking McCain's record on tax cuts. It says McCain opposed the Bush tax cuts and opposed repealing the death tax. Above a black-and-white photo of a squinting McCain is a quote from the senator: "I don't think we should continue to cut taxes."

Inside, the mailer has a picture of Romney in front of an America flag and blue sky. It touts Romney's "record of fiscal discipline" and plan to bring that discipline to Washington.

"This is another example of Mitt Romney's failing, desperate campaign," McCain spokeswoman Crystal Benton said. "John McCain will continue to run on his record of cutting taxes and spending, and Gov. Romney can run on his - over $700 million in tax and fee increases for Massachusetts."

Romney spokesman Craig Stevens said the mailer is not negative but simply contrasts McCain's positions with Romney's.

"Twice as much time was spent talking about Gov. Romney's positions," Stevens said.

• While her husband encouraged New Hampshire voters to raise the same outcry against the status quo, Elizabeth Edwards made the case against Obama and Clinton - without naming them - at the Bektash Temple in Concord yesterday morning.

Former North Carolina senator John Edwards is against using nuclear power, but Elizabeth Edwards pointed out that one candidate - Obama - has said nuclear power should remain part of the energy mix. His other rival - Clinton - has said she is "agnostic" on the issue, Elizabeth Edwards said.

Touting her husband's plan to reform health care, Elizabeth Edwards said one candidate (Obama) wouldn't bring universal health care because his plan would leave out 15 million people. And she accused the other (Clinton) of trading her political leverage to push for health care in order to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement. John Edwards is against NAFTA-style trade policies.

• Bill Richardson squeaked out of Iowa with a distant fourth-place finish and has promised to run a positive, but aggressive campaign. Richardson also has propensity for flip comments like this one in response to John Edwards's self-characterization as Democratic underdog.

"I'm the underdog, but I've noticed that Sen. Edwards takes everything from me," Richardson said yesterday morning at the New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord. "He's taken my Iraq position, he's taken my position on education, on health care. Now he's calling himself what I call myself, the underdog. I don't know what's next. Pretty soon he'll be saying he's governor of New Mexico."

• Friends of the Earth Action, an environmental group that has endorsed Edwards, sent out a press release yesterday questioning whether Obama is "too close to big coal" and criticizing his pro-nuclear energy stance.

Obama has said nuclear power could be part of the solution to energy independence and to fighting global warming. Edwards does not support nuclear power. The group's press release called Obama "flat wrong," saying it's too expensive and too risky.

• Ground zero rescue and recovery workers were at the Republican debate last night protesting Rudy Giuliani, who they said has failed to support the health problems of the workers but has still used the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 to advance his campaign.

Alex Sanchez, a janitor who worked for months on clean-up efforts at Ground Zero, said last night he has become sick from harmful pollutants and contaminants in the rubble. But he has limited access to health care.

"He's never been there for people who rushed down to Ground Zero to save people," Sanchez said.

The group says it wants a sit-down with Giuliani. Their protest coincides with the release of an investigative film, The Real Rudy: Abandoned Heroes, by Brave New Films.


The authoritarian roots of American leftism

"Fascists!" "Brownshirts!" "Jackbooted stormtroopers!" Such are the insults typically hurled at conservatives by their liberal opponents. But who are the real fascists in our midst? In "Liberal Fascism", National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg shows that the original fascists really on the left -- and that liberals, from Woodrow Wilson to FDR to Hillary Clinton, have advocated policies and principles remarkably similar to those of Hitler and Mussolini.

Replacing manufactured myths with enlightening research, Goldberg begins by showing how the Italian fascism, German Nazism and American Progressivism (forebear of modern liberalism) all drew from the same intellectual foundations the idea that the state can create a kind of social utopia for its citizens. He then traces fascism's history in the U.S. -- from Woodrow Wilson's war socialism and FDR's New Deal to today's liberal push for a greater alliance between big business and government. Finally, Goldberg reveals the striking resemblances between the opinions advanced by Hitler and Mussolini and the current views of the left on such diverse issues as government's role in the economy, campaign finance reform, campus "speech codes," education, environmentalism, gun control, abortion, and euthanasia.

Impeccably researched and persuasively argued, Liberal Fascism will elicit howls of indignation from the liberal establishment -- and rousing cheers from the right.

* How fascism, Nazism, Progressivism, and modern liberalism are all alike in principle, in that all believe that government should be allowed to do whatever it likes, so long as it is for "good reasons"

* How, before World War II and the Holocaust, fascism was considered a progressive social movement both in the U.S. and Europe -- but was redefined afterwards as "right wing"

* How the Nazis were ardent socialists (hence the term "National Socialism") who loathed the free market, believed in free health care, opposed inherited wealth, spent vast sums on public education, purged Christianity from public policy, and inserted the authority of the state into every nook and cranny of daily life

* How the Nazis declared war on smoking; supported abortion, euthanasia, and gun control; and maintained a strict racial quota system in their universities -- where campus speech codes were all the rage

* Adolph Hitler, Man of the Left: how his views and policies regarding capitalism, class warfare, environmentalism, gun control, euthanasia and even smoking are remarkably close to those of modern liberals

* How Woodrow Wilson and the other founding fathers of American liberalism were far crueler jingoists and warmongers than modern conservatives have ever been

* How Wilson's crackdown on civil liberties in the name of national security far exceeds anything even attempted by Joe McCarthy, much less George W. Bush

* How Mussolini and Hitler both thought -- quite rightly -- that they were doing things along the same lines as FDR

* How, in the 1930s, FDR's New Deal was praised for its similarity to Italian Fascism -- "the cleanest, neatest, most efficiently operating piece of social machinery," said an influential member of FDR's team

* How, just like modern liberals, Mussolini promised a "Third Way" that "went beyond tired categories of left and right" in order to "get things done"

* Mussolini's and Hitler's not-so-secret admirers: how many prominent progressives -- from W.E.B. Dubois in the U.S. to George Bernard Shaw England -- publicly praised German Nazism and Italian Fascism

* Liberal fascism and the cult of the state: how progressivism shared with fascism a conviction that, in a truly modern society, the state must take the place of religion

* How American Progressives, like Hitler's Nazis, were convinced that the state could, through planning and pressure, create a pure race, a society of new men

* How Nazis, fascists and American progressives -- including Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger -- all shared a belief in racial engineering through eugenics, and the alleged "need" for abortion and euthanasia it implied

* How it was largely Christian conservatives who stood against the progressive enthusiasm for racist eugenics

* The fascist underpinnings of progressive education

* The 1960s: fascism takes to the streets -- how the New Left used the means and methods of Hitler's brownshirts and the fascist squadristi to further their agenda

* How the Kennedy-Johnson era marked the final evolution off Progressivism into a full-blown religion and a national cult of the state -- with Kennedy its sacrificial "Christ" and LBJ its Pauline architect

* The Great Society: LBJ's fascist utopia

* How the modern heirs of the fascist tradition include the New York Times, the Democratic Party, the Ivy League professoriate, and the liberals of Hollywood

* The tempting of conservatism: the fascist tendencies lurking in "compassionate conservatism" and other pseudo-conservative trends

"'It is my argument that American liberalism is a totalitarian political religion,' Jonah Goldberg writes near the beginning of Liberal Fascism. My first reaction was that he is engaging in partisan hyperbole. That turned out to be wrong. Liberal Fascism is nothing less than a portrait of twentieth-century political history as seen through a new prism. It will affect the way I think about that history -- and about the trajectory of today's politics -- forever after." -- Charles Murray, author of Human Accomplishment and coauthor (with Richard J. Herrnstein) of The Bell Curve

"In the greatest hoax of modern history, Russia's ruling 'socialist workers party,' the Communists, established themselves as the polar opposites of their two socialist clones, the National Socialist German Workers Party (quicknamed 'the Nazis') and Italy's Marxist-inspired Fascisti, by branding both as 'the fascists.' Jonah Goldberg is the first historian to detail the havoc this spin of all spins has played upon Western thought for the past seventy-five years, very much including the present moment. Love it or loathe it, Liberal Fascism is a book of intellectual history you won't be able to put down -- in either sense of the term." -- Tom Wolfe, author of Bonfire of the Vanities and I Am Charlotte Simmons

"Liberal Fascism will enrage many people on the left, but Jonah Goldberg's startling thesis deserves serious attention. Going back to the eugenics movement there has been a strain of elitist moral certainty that allows one group of people to believe they have the right to determine the lives of others. We have replaced the divine right of kings with the divine right of self-righteous groups. Goldberg will lead you to new understanding and force you to think deeply." --Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, author of Winning the Future

"Jonah Goldberg argues that liberals today have doctrinal and emotional roots in twentieth century European fascism. Many people will be shocked just by the thought that long-discredited fascism could mutate into the spirit of another age. It's always exhilarating when someone takes on received opinion, but this is not a work of pamphleteering. Goldberg's insight, supported by a great deal of learning, happens to be right." -- David Pryce-Jones, author of The Strange Death of the Soviet Union

"Jonah Goldberg brilliantly traces the intellectual roots of fascism to their surprising source, showing not only that its motivating ideas derive from the left but that the liberal fascist impulse is alive and well among contemporary progressives-and is even a temptation for compassionate conservatives." -- Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for Reason magazine


Union $$ buy late negativity in N.H. for Clinton

The last-minute blitz of campaigning by the candidates in New Hampshire is also being matched by a last-minute blitz of independent expenditures – outside groups putting up their own money to advocate for, or against, different Presidential hopefuls.

Filings over the last few days at the Federal Election Commission show that Hillary Rodham Clinton is a big recipient of support from two of her strongest outside backers – the American Federation of Teachers and the Emily’s List political action committee.

The teachers’ union reports having spent just over $140,000 in a last-minute direct mail and radio campaign directed at women voters. This comes on top of a $310,000 radio campaign in New Hampshire that began last month.

And Emily’s List, a political action committee that supports women running as Democrats, is spending about $100,000 on phone banks and a direct mail campaign backing Mrs. Clinton. Outside groups, such as these, are allowed to pay for ads that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate, so long as their activities are not coordinated with the campaign. For instance, the American Federation of State, Local and Municipal Employees, which supports Mrs. Clinton, is spending about $45,000 in a direct mail campaign in New Hampshire criticizing Barack Obama.

On the Republican side, Mitt Romney is on the receiving end of a continuing attack from the Republican Majority for Choice, which has been airing ads on New England cable channels that criticize Mr. Romney for his anti-abortion views and portray him as a flip-flopper on the issue.

A report filed with the F.E.C. shows that the Republican pro-choice group is spending just under $4,000 in last-minute cable television buys. The television ads show Mr. Romney, in 1994, saying that abortion should be “safe and legal” and then another showing Mr. Romney, in 2007, calling for an overturning of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortions.

In general, however, the amount of outside activities in New Hampshire – from the filings at the F.E.C. – appear to be considerably less than the frenzy of activity that took place before the Iowa caucuses last Thursday.

“Maybe it’s just not as big a phenomenon,” said Robert Biersack, an F.E.C. spokesman. “Unless someone is doing something and not reporting it, this is it. If groups wanted to make television commitments, that had to do it some time back.”

Mr. Biersack noted, however, that the amounts spent by outside groups on get-out-the-vote efforts and other volunteer activities may not show up until late January, when some of these committees are required to file with the Internal Revenue Service.

Even with all the focus on New Hampshire, outside groups also have their eyes on one of the next prizes: Nevada, which holds its caucus January 19.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, which spent over $500,000 on television ads in Iowa supporting John Edwards, filed for about $10,000 of Nevada expenditures, mainly bumper stickers, hard hat decals and rally signs. Meanwhile, the teachers union is also airing a $95,000 radio campaign in Nevada on behalf of Mrs. Clinton.


Guild pushes unapologetic Leno toward Fi-Core

Jay Leno is keeping the jokes coming even as the striking writers union and his network spar over whether he is violating union rules by writing his own monologues.

The Writers Guild of America scolded the 'Tonight Show' host last week for penning and delivering punch lines in his first new monologue in two months, which aired Wednesday on NBC.

NBC quickly fired back, arguing Leno, a guild member, was right and the guild was wrong.

"The WGA agreement permits Jay Leno to write his own monologue for 'The Tonight Show,'" NBC said in a statement. "The WGA is not permitted to implement rules that conflict with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the studios and the WGA."

The agreement between the guild and producers expired Oct. 31, but its terms remain in effect, said Andrea Hartman, executive vice president and deputy general counsel for NBC Universal. She cited federal labor law.

According to the contract, "material written by the person who delivers it on the air" is exempted from the agreement. The exception applies to shows outside prime time, which includes NBC's 'Tonight Show.'

Leno did not mention the dispute on the air during his first week back.

For its part, the union argues that it's on firm ground in the context of either its "strike rules" or the expired contract.

"Our position is that our strike rules don't conflict here and, because [Leno has] always been employed as a writer" on the show, the contract exception doesn't apply to him, guild spokesman Neal Sacharow said.

Sacharow declined comment on whether the guild would move against Leno. But he said any violation of strike rules would be brought before a union compliance committee for evaluation and a recommendation for action.

That could mean a fine or loss of union membership.

Leno is "busying himself with the show," his publicist, Dick Guttman, said when asked if the comedian had any comment.

The guild's upbraiding of Leno came despite his public support for the union, including delivering doughnuts to a picket line. Leno also paid his employees' salaries -- except for the writers -- while he was off the air.

On Wednesday, Leno told viewers he wrote his own jokes and that he didn't turn to "outside guys."

"I'm doing what I did the day I started," he said. "I write jokes and wake my wife up in the middle of the night and say, 'Honey, is this funny?' So if this monologue doesn't work it's my wife's fault."

He maintained: "We are following the guild thing. We can write for ourselves."

Rival David Letterman's Worldwide Pants production company reached an interim deal to bring staff writers back for both his 'Late Show' and 'Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson,' also on CBS.


Collectivist politicians to be rebutted

Alarmed at the tone of the 2008 political campaign, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is set to issue a fiery promise to spend millions of dollars to defeat candidates deemed to be anti-business.

"We plan to build a grass-roots business organization so strong that when it bites you in the butt, you bleed," chamber President Tom Donohue said.

The warning from the nation's largest trade association came against a background of mounting popular concern over the condition of the economy. A weak record of job creation, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, declining home values and other problems have all helped make the economy a major campaign issue.

Presidential candidates in particular have responded to the public concern. Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina has been the bluntest populist voice, but other front-running Democrats, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, have also called for change on behalf of middle-class voters.

On the Republican side, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee -- emerging as an unexpected front-runner after winning the Iowa caucuses -- has used populist themes in his effort to woo independent voters, blasting bonus pay for corporate chief executives and the effect of unfettered globalization on workers.

Reacting to what it sees as a potentially hostile political climate, Donohue said, the chamber will seek to punish candidates who target business interests with their rhetoric or policy proposals, including congressional and state-level candidates.

Although Donohue shied away from precise figures, he indicated that his organization would spend in excess of the approximately $60 million it spent in the last presidential cycle. That approaches the spending levels planned by the largest labor unions.

The chamber president is scheduled to announce the broad outlines of the organization's plans for the 2008 election and beyond at a news conference here today. Donohue also plans to fire a rhetorical warning shot across the bow of candidates considered unfriendly to business.

"I'm concerned about anti-corporate and populist rhetoric from candidates for the presidency, members of Congress and the media," he said. "It suggests to us that we have to demonstrate who it is in this society that creates jobs, wealth and benefits -- and who it is that eats them."

In advance of today's news conference, Donohue told The Times of his plans to be active in 140 congressional districts this year, as well as the presidential contest.

At the state level, Donohue said his organization would be active in nearly four dozen contests for attorney general and state supreme courts. Both state courts and attorneys general are involved in decisions affecting business, including consumer protection and a wide range of litigation.

The chamber has become a significant force in state and national politics under Donohue's decade of leadership. Once a notably bipartisan trade association with a limited budget and limited influence, it has hugely increased its political fundraising and developed new ways to spend money on behalf of pro-business candidates.

Under Donohue, the organization has also frequently aligned itself with GOP priorities.

Since he took over the chamber, contributions by businesses have soared, often to pay for political advertising known as "issue ads," which are exempt from many of the Federal Election Commission limits.

Under a system Donohue pioneered, corporations contribute money to the chamber, which then finances attack ads targeting individual candidates without revealing the name of the businesses involved in the ads.

In 2000, drug companies paid the chamber to run advertisements in Michigan to help elect then-Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham. Pharmaceutical companies that year gave the chamber additional millions to run issue ads attacking mostly Democratic House candidates. And large corporations paid $1 million or more to support advertising campaigns against judges deemed too friendly to plaintiffs.

There has been pressure from lawsuits and government activist groups to require the chamber to reveal the source of its political funds and more details on its spending.

Donohue is not inclined to do so.

"I will disclose any funds I am legally required to disclose -- and not disclose any others," Donohue said. "We are exercising our constitutional right to petition the government and we will continue to do so."

In 2004, the chamber also helped defeat Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, flooding his home state of South Dakota with money, ads and more than 50 on-the-ground organizers.

This year that kind of ground tactic is going to be more prevalent, Donohue said, noting that the chamber plans to make use of its ability to communicate freely with its 3 million member companies located in every congressional district.

In the interview Monday, Donohue said he was unhappy with anti-corporate rhetoric coming from candidates in both parties and he wanted candidates to know about the chamber's ambitious plans.

Donohue is not likely to name names at his news conference, but there is no doubt he is unhappy about Huckabee.

The concerns Donohue expresses reveal apprehension that Republican pro-business candidates may lose favor with voters and that the GOP's important but fragile alliance between economic and social conservatives is showing signs of strain.

Even more than Republicans, Democratic candidates have boosted the volume of populist messages as the economy softens. Edwards, whose trial lawyer past has been openly criticized by Donohue for years, launched new advertisements that warn against the danger of replacing "corporate Republicans with corporate Democrats."

The middle class, Edwards says in the new ad, is "losing ground while CEOs pocket million-dollar bonuses and corporate lobbyists get their way in Washington."

Donohue, in effect the nation's leading business advocate, kicked back hard at some of the leading Democratic proposals on taxes, labor law and the courts.

If that agenda succeeds, he said, Democrats "will be gone from power for at least 40 years," though he acknowledged that the political rhetoric might moderate after the primary season.

"People on the other side have been very strong in the way they play in legislation and elections. We intend to do the same," he said.


Curbing non-union labor in California

In November 2002, a bare 55 percent of Solano (CA) County voters approved Measure G, a $125 million bond measure to fund construction in the Solano Community College District. The bond barely squeaked to victory, despite a campaign in which supporters greatly outspent the opponents. If 775 Solano County citizens had voted against the bond instead of for it, the bond would have failed.

Before construction actually started, the college board of trustees demonstrated why so few Solano County voters have confidence in its management of $125 million of their tax dollars. The board voted 6-1 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with construction unions for four large projects and an initial "pilot project" meant to evaluate the effectiveness of the PLA.

Despite a report from the program's construction manager that PLAs in other jurisdictions had increased the costs of construction up to 15 percent, the board eagerly gave a monopoly on the work to the unions. Warnings from Associated Builders and Contractors that the PLA would reduce bid competition were ignored.

In May 2005, a mere two union contractors submitted bids for the pilot project, a $3 million classroom renovation that typically would have received several bids. Numerous contractors reported to the construction manager that they would not bid the project because of the

The project ended up with an additional $486,000 in unexpected expenses, $72,000 of which resulted from errors and omissions by the contractor. The project was finished on time only through some extraordinary measures by the contractor.

Nothing about this pilot project indicated that the
PLA brought anything special to construction. If anything, the lack of bidders and the restrictions to use union subcontractors probably artificially increased the low bid. Without another project of similar scope to serve as a control group for comparison, no one really knows for sure, although basic economics would suggest less competition equals higher costs.

Then, in September 2007, the college withdrew a bid notice for a gymnasium renovation and then re-advertised the contract with a
PLA in effect, even though the PLA approved by the Board of Trustees did not include this project. Associated Builders and Contractors filed a Public Records Act request with the college to find out how a new project had fallen under control of the unions.

It turns out that a law firm representing construction unions had sent a letter to the college president threatening "lengthy and costly litigation" unless the Project Labor Agreement was "enforced" for the gymnasium renovation, even though it was not covered in the agreement. The letter also claimed, without any evidence of course, that "the pilot projects were completed very successfully."

Finally, the letter claimed that "the amount of damages sustained by the unions and their members of having this work performed outside of the scope of the
PLA would be substantial." How interesting to see that construction unions would be "damaged" if they did not have a government-mandated monopoly on the work. Evidently they cannot compete for taxpayer-funded construction without a special deal, even when the state's prevailing wage requirement applies to a project.

Solano County voters should be aware that unions are controlling the construction at Solano Community College and using their lawyers to expand their monopoly beyond even what the college Board of Trustees had originally approved. When Solano Community College's Board of Trustees again asks taxpayers for yet more money for college construction projects, consider how one special interest group has a firm grip on the college at your expense.


Teachers union culpable in parking permit abuse

United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten sent a letter to Mayor Bloomberg Friday expressing objections to his plan to reduce the number of city government parking permits and prevent unions and city agencies from printing their own. Weingarten's letter echoed Teamsters president Gary LaBarbera's recent assertion that "parking permits are a form of compensation for teachers"and other city employees (Is anyone paying taxes on that "compensation?" Is it accounted for in any city budget?)

In her letter, reprinted below in full, Weingarten makes three particularly remarkable claims:

1. "Teachers are not abusers of parking permits."

A quick visit to UncivilServants.org (or your own neighborhood streets) shows Weingarten's blanket claim is, obviously, incorrect.

2. "Teachers do not clog areas such as lower Manhattan" with their personal vehicles.

Not only are teachers' cars part of the Lower Manhattan traffic jam, in a city where 43 percent of elementary school kids are unhealthily obese, teachers and education officials have been known to clog school playgrounds with their personal vehicles. In one notorious case, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum intervened to stop city employees from using the Tompkins Square Middle School's playground as a parking lot in 2004.

3. Parking permits are necessary to "attract the best and the brightest to teaching" in New York City.

Really? I'm no education policy expert and I'm sure that some teachers really do need to use cars for work, but do the world's best and brightest come to live and work in New York City for the convenient parking?

I think Weingarten and the unions may find that they are fighting a costly and losing battle here. The public has little sympathy for the maintenance of a city employee parking system that is so blatantly abused. Few issues draw the ire of such a broad range of New York City civic groups as city government parking placard abuse.

A recent Independent Budget Office report found that cops, firefighters and teachers drive to work at double the rate of any other group of New York City workers. Why?

As DOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce Schaller told Streetsblog in the very first post we ever published, "Free parking has a tremendous impact on the decision whether to drive or take transit." Moreover, among teachers working in Manhattan, "nearly all of these auto commuters have transit alternatives," Schaller said. His 2006 study found that ninety-five percent of the government employees driving into Manhattan from Brooklyn and Staten Island live in neighborhoods where the majority of their neighbors use transit.

No one is proposing eliminating teachers' permits. Rather, there just needs to be a more centralized and rational system for distributing parking permits based on real need. And there needs to be real enforcement. Hopefully Weingarten and the unions will realize that they are better off pushing for a parking "cash-out" law like California's than fighting to maintain their oft-abused parking privilege.

Here is Weingarten's letter to the Mayor in full:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Deputy Mayor Edward Skyler

Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott
Labor Commissioner James Hanley
Chancellor Joel Klein


It was deeply troubling to learn -- through media coverage -- of your plan to reduce by 20 percent the number of parking permits issued to all city employees.

On the numerous occasions we have raised the need for more parking for teachers, we have been repeatedly told that this is a collective bargaining issue. If increasing parking availability is a bargaining issue, then clearly, reduction is as well. Now you have apparently chosen, by fiat, to move forward a plan that would penalize the hardworking men and women who teach our city's kids.

Teachers in New York City public schools receive permits that enable them to park on a portion of their school block, during school hours only. Taking away these permits at a time when we're making strides to attract the best and the brightest to teaching (the NYC education workforce is the highest-qualified it's been since the fiscal crisis of the 1970s) makes absolutely no sense. Many city schools are difficult to reach by public transportation, many teachers travel between schools and available parking is clearly one incentive to attract teachers to high-needs schools.

Teachers do not clog areas such as lower Manhattan. Teachers are not abusers of parking permits, and to publicly suggest that they are is deeply troubling. Holding abusers of parking privileges accountable for their actions should not be done at the expense of teachers whose jobs are hard enough already.

I urge you to reconsider your position and would like to meet with you on this as soon as possible.

Randi Weingarten


Teamster insiders suspected in break-in, theft

When the new leaders of the 12,000-member Teamsters Local 743 took office last week, they found several computers and other materials missing from the South Side headquarters.

The previous leadership team reported to Chicago Police that the equipment was stolen in two separate incidents, including one the weekend before Christmas.

But new local President Richard Berg noted that computers with union financial information were taken, along with business receipts, yet newer, nicer equipment was untouched.

He said the new staff can't pay its workers or figure out other finances without the equipment. "We believe it was an inside job," Berg said Friday.

But outgoing local President Richard Lopez -- who has been on sick leave for 2½ months -- denied his team was involved and noted that he reported the break-ins to police.

Although he said there did not appear to be signs of forced entry, he said many people had keys to the offices. He wondered if anyone had "switched sides" and given a key to the new leadership team ahead of time.

"It could have been anybody," Lopez said. "If someone did do it, they should be prosecuted and go to jail for it."

Chicago Police would only say the investigation into the missing property is ongoing.

The dueling accounts are the latest salvo in the heated battle between the two sides. On Tuesday, there is a court hearing over allegations that the Oct. 22 election -- in which Berg won -- was run incorrectly.

Lopez was indicted in September on charges he helped rig a 2004 union election to represent the transportation, clerical, food service, nursing home and manufacturing workers. He is out on bail. But he denied the U.S. attorney's claims that he and others sent ballots to nonunion members who in turn voted for his slate -- which won -- against Berg and his allies.


Striking writers resort to unfair labor practice?

Matters between the Writers’ Guild of America and the alliance of producers has not been cordial, to put it mildly, since the Guild struck work on November 5 last year. Now, however, the situation is set to develop into an ugly, no-holds-barred fistfight.

The reason for the new hostility: the WGA West signed an agreement with United Artists that allowed the company to work around the WGA strike. Other production companies are now questioning how and why the WGA was giving special consideration to some production companies and rebuffing others.

According to an entertainment labor lawyer with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, Alan M. Brunswick, the guild ran the risk of being charged under federal law for not dealing with all companies equally. Brunswick said, “If they’re willing to sign the same deal and the guild won’t give them the time of day, I think that raises an issue.”

Brunswick said though he did not represent Dick Clark Productions, United Artists, or Letterman’s company World Wide Pants, he did represent a number of other companies who want to work out individual agreements with the guild. World Wide Pants, incidentally, was the first company to work out an agreement with the guild on December 28 last year.

From a legal standpoint, Brunswick said, the production companies could possibly file a charge of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board against the WGA, if they felt the guild was not being fair to them.

The general counsel for the WGA West Coast, Anthony R. Segall, said the guild was ready to honor its bargaining obligations according to the law. However, he said, the guild reserved its right to work out strategies for dealing with individual companies keeping in mind its ‘strategic concerns and objectives.’

During the course of a telephonic interview, Segall also said there were provisions within the agreement the guild had arrived at with World Wide Pants that allowed any deal signed with a larger production company to supersede it. As per the agreement with World Wide Pants, a producer has an interim agreement with the guild with no risk of having to accept terms that are poorer than what a rival could possibly get.

One company that has been trying hard to hammer out an agreement is Dick Clark Productions, the producer of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globe Awards. The company has met with no success in its efforts so far.

The reason for Dick Clark Productions’ singular lack of success in working out an agreement with the WGA is that such an agreement would allow NBC, on which the Globes would be aired, the opportunity to promote movies for Universal, its sister concern, and also bring in money in the form of advertising.

The frenzied bargaining continued Sunday with regard to the Golden Globes situation. People in the know said Sunday saw Jeff Zucker, the CEO of NBC Universal, holding a conference call to find out ways of saving the situation. Participants in the call included NBC Entertainment co-chairmen Marc Graboff and Ben Silverman, HFPA leaders, and also executives from Dick Clark Productions.

One of the possibilities explored during the call was having a show with no audience or Hollywood stars; a show that was totally staged and based on film clips.

The deal with United Artists, in the meanwhile, has not been signed yet. It is in the final stages, and is seen as part of the guild’s strategy of working out agreements with smaller production companies for more leverage at the bargaining table. However, it would be prudent not to read too much into the deal.

For one, a single deal, such as the one with United Artists, would not necessarily alter the power equations that the strike has brought forth. To recollect, the last time writers struck work, the guild had worked out arrangements with over 100 production companies, with no significant effect. While Tom Cruise does bring some sheen to it, United Artists is by no means a production giant, making between four to six movies per year.

There are other pitfalls to think of. First of all, working out arrangements with independent producers raised the specter of big studios teaming up with these producers and using them as ‘processing factories’. Anything is possible in Hollywood, and such a scenario is not in the realm of impossibility.

However, the possibility of a deal with United Artists, controlled by Hollywood icon Tom Cruise and company CEO Paula Wagner, brought cheers from the writers, who have been on strike for just over two months now.

United Artists is not the company the guild is in talks with currently. It is also holding discussions with the Weinstein Company and also Lionsgate.


House rules: No-vote, anti-democratic unionism

In the presidential primaries, Americans vote in secret ballot elections for who they want to be the Democratic and Republican nominees. Voters can publicly urge their friends, neighbors, and co-workers to support their favored candidate; but on Election Day, they cast votes in private. American workers decide whether to join a union by the same method. However, Congress is now considering a little-known bill that would strip millions of workers of this fundamental right.

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would disenfranchise 105 million American workers. For union organizing elections, the legislation would replace the secret ballot with a system of "card checks," where union organizers pressure workers to publicly sign a card stating they want to join a union. Workers would never have the option of voting against union membership, and millions of workers could be forced into a union without ever getting the chance to vote on the matter. Congress should preserve a worker’s right to vote in privacy on union membership.

The Right to Vote in Privacy

A fundamental principle of American democracy is that votes are private choices. Secret ballot elections ensure that voters can choose the candidate who truly represents them, not the candidate whom their friends or neighbors want them to support. Millions of Americans cherish this freedom, but many Members of Congress want to take it from American workers.

For more than 60 years, American workers have decided whether to form a union with a private vote. When enough workers at a company sign union authorization cards, the government supervises a secret ballot election. Workers vote "yes" or "no" on union membership. If a majority of workers vote "yes," a union is formed, but neither management nor union organizers know how each individual worker voted. The secret ballot lets workers vote their conscience without risking job loss or physical assault for making the "wrong" choice.

Employee "Free Choice" Act Strips Workers’ Rights

The EFCA would make it easier for union officials to pressure workers. Under the card-check process, union organizers would publicly solicit signatures on union authorization cards. After a majority of workers at a company sign the cards, the union becomes the bargaining representative of all the workers at the company.

Without secret ballots, union organizers know exactly who has signed union cards and who has not. In the past, union organizers have repeatedly approached and pressured—and, in some cases, threatened—reluctant workers.[1] They have also used pro-union co-workers to solicit signatures, putting peer pressure on "holdouts" to change their minds.

The card-check process also denies workers the right to vote "yes" or "no" on joining a union. Workers can only vote "yes" by signing the card. Not signing a card simply means "not yet." Organizers are free to return again and again until they get the result they want. That is not voting, which by definition is a choice between two or more options.

Even the limited freedom of saying "not yet" would be denied to some workers. Under card check, all workers in a company must join the union after organizers collect cards signed by a majority, even if some of those workers did not know about the organizing drive and were never asked to sign a card. A worker has a right to express his or her views with a ballot, even if that vote does not change the results of the election. Card check takes that right away.

Disenfranchising 105 Million Workers

The EFCA applies only to workers covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which does not cover government employees, agricultural workers, the self-employed, or railway or airline workers. The Act also excludes supervisors. Still, the EFCA would disenfranchise 105 million American workers, which encompasses more than two-thirds, or 68.8 percent, of the American workforce.

Chart 1 shows, by state, how many workers would lose their right to a private vote on union membership.

Politicians Against Voting

Every major Democratic presidential candidate wants to end secret ballots for union organizing elections. Senator Hillary Clinton (D–NY) and Senator Barrack Obama (D–IL) voted for the bill, while former Senator John Edwards co-sponsored the EFCA during his time in the Senate.

Under the EFCA, millions of workers in key primary states would lose the right to a private vote on joining a union. The act would disenfranchise:

* 508,497 workers in New Hampshire;
* 1,540,440 workers in South Carolina;
* 3,606,930 workers in Michigan; and
* 6,652,444 workers in Florida.

Even as they campaign to win a secret ballot election, many presidential candidates would take the right to vote away from American workers.


Few Americans are aware that many leading presidential candidates want to take away their right to vote privately on joining a union. The little-known and misnamed Employee Free Choice Act would disenfranchise 105 million American workers by replacing secret ballots for union organizing elections with the card check system. This process would expose workers to union pressure and intimidation, while denying them the option of voting "no" on union representation. The President and Members of Congress are elected by secret ballots. Congress should reject any effort to deny workers the right to vote.

- James Sherk is Bradley Fellow in Labor Policy in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation.


Rogue UFCW boss eliminates officer elections

United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1036 in Camarillo (CA) has been taken over by its International Union amid an investigation into its leadership.

The local union, which has offices in Camarillo, Arroyo Grande and Bakersfield, represents more than 11,600 grocery workers, including about 3,000 in Ventura County.

In a letter sent to local union members Friday, UFCW International Union President Joseph T. Hansen explained that Local 1036 has not elected officers as required — which violates union bylaws, the International Union constitution and federal law. The UFCW International Union took Local 1036 into trusteeship Thursday.

The UFCW represented grocery workers during the 141-day strike and lockout in 2004, as well as negotiated healthcare and wage increases with three major supermarket chains in 2007.

Local unions were required to elect officers by Dec. 31, said Jill Cashen, spokeswoman for the International Union. When Local 1036 did not do so, the International Union took action, removing the executive officers in place, including President George Hartwell.

Members of local unions that are placed in trusteeship "see virtually no difference in day-to-day life," Cashen said. The International Union has taken control of the local union's finances and operations, but continues to operate Local 1036 as before while putting people and resources in place to correct the problems, she said.

Cashen said she has not seen a takeover situation such as this during her nine years with the International Union.

The two-page letter to members outlined the events leading up to last week's action.

In October, Local 1036's executive board approved a merger with UFCW Local 770, which represents Los Angeles County and has about 29,000 members. The merger would have created the largest local union in the UFCW, Hartwell said in a newsletter column.

If the merger had gone through, there would have been no need to elect officers for Local 1036. But members of Local 1036 voted to reject the merger at the end of October.

"The local union's Executive Board has indicated that the local union has no intention of conducting officer elections," the letter reads.

A Dec. 13 board resolution stated that "there has occurred an irremediable breakdown in the governance functions of Local 1036, which make it impossible for Local 1036 to effectively service its members" and made it impossible to conduct fair election, according to the letter.

In response, the International Union declared an emergency situation and put Local 1036 under the trusteeship of Sean Barclay, International vice president and director of UFCW Region 8, Western. The trusteeship is to restore democratic procedures to the local union, protect its funds and property, and assure that the local union carries out its duties for its members.

A phone message left for Barclay was not returned Monday.

The letter goes on to state that the International Union plans to hold a hearing to determine if the trusteeship is justified and should be continued.

Hartwell had been president of Local 1036 since 1992. He did not return a call Monday.

Hartwell and Rick Crane were nominees for the president's job in the overdue election. It was the only contested seat on the executive board.

Some Local 1036 members speculated on online blogs that the possibility of Crane winning caused the executive board to refuse to hold the election.

Crane, who opposed the merger with Local 770, was fired as Hartwell's executive assistant in July.

Crane said Monday that the local union is in pretty good shape, and he expects the election could be held within a few months. He suspects there will be new candidate nominations and he plans to put his name forward.

As for the trusteeship, Crane said it should make things better for the membership.

"They know they have somebody who is actually going to take care of their problem, as opposed to all the political stuff going on (in recent months)," he said.


Hoffa sickened as organizers greeted by layoffs

In a vicious attack on human and worker rights, 33 employees were permanently laid off by Tennessee Commercial Warehouse (TCW) in retaliation to the workers exercising their legal right to join a union. The overwhelming majority of the workers had signed authorization cards with Teamsters Local 549 in Blountville, Tennessee to retain the union as their bargaining representative.

Drivers from TCW approached Local 549 in October 2007 looking for help in addressing issues they encountered in the workplace. The company was constantly making payroll errors and altering the wage structure with little or no notice to the workers. Additionally, TCW only offered expensive, insufficient health insurance that continued to rise in cost.

"TCW staged an aggressive anti-union campaign against these workers, but the drivers stood strong," said Scott Armstrong, President of Teamsters Local 549. "Nearly 80 percent of the drivers had signed authorization cards, so the company permanently laid off the entire unit rather than bargain for fair pay and benefits."

Armstrong filed for recognition for the unit on December 19, 2007 with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The board scheduled a recognition hearing for January 4, 2008, but canceled the hearing due to TCW's layoffs. The company claimed the layoffs were due to a lack in work, however TCW's actions were inconsistent with its position. Armstrong has filed unfair labor practice charges against TCW with the NLRB.

"Before we got laid off, the company had us working six days a week and was giving us job applications to pass along to other commercial drivers we knew because they couldn't keep up with the volume," said Tony Davenport, a former driver who had worked at TCW for three and a half years. "Now they have hired independent contractors and shifted work to another trucking company to make up for the layoffs."

TCW handles warehouse and distribution services for a variety of companies. The 33 former drivers ran loads from the Kingsport, Tennessee location to Columbia, South Carolina and back under a contract with Eastman Chemical Company.

"I grew up in a union household and I know what it means to have a union in your corner," said Jeff Lane, a former TCW driver. "I wanted to try to make things better at this company by bringing in the Teamsters."

Despite being subjected to captive audience meetings and intimidation by TCW management, the drivers remained determined to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Despite only receiving pay for a 15 minute "pre-trip" period before taking the trucks on the road, the drivers would inspect each truck to make sure it was safe and rectify any issues that they could.

"We had a great bunch of drivers who were very careful about maintaining their trucks to make sure they were safe," Davenport said. "We were looking out for the company, but they weren't looking out for us."

"TCW's actions are sickening," said General President Jim Hoffa. "This is yet another example of how the deck is stacked against workers seeking union representation in this country. The laws are heavily weighted in the employers' favor, giving anti-union companies the ability to coerce, intimidate, and in extreme cases like this, eliminate anyone who wants to form a union. We must pass legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act to put the power to organize where it belongs - in the hands of the worker."


Machinists TV ad for political status quo

Related Posts with Thumbnails