Head Start workers decertify SEIU

After a bitter fight in 2005 to join Service Employees International Local 73, employees of West Central Community Services Inc., which operate Head Start programs in the Galesville, IL area, voted earlier this month to oust the union.

Employees voted 36-8 on Jan. 11. The election was conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. Forty-four of the 48 employees eligible to vote cast ballots. The union had 10 days to contest the outcome but failed to do so.

Employees said Friday the union never answered their questions during and after a lengthy period of bargaining.

Laura Cooper, a family advocate for WCCS, said union representatives “picked and choosed” to visit some employees’ houses and to call some a week before the decertification vote. She said there were still no answers until later that week.

“They didn’t call me, but they visited my house,” said Marta Pringle, a teacher’s aide and bus monitor, who, along with Cooper, helped spearhead the effort to remove the union.

When answers were forthcoming, employees were not pleased.

“The contract was benefitting nothing,” said Denise Edmonson, a teacher’s aide at Head Start in Abingdon. “We were losing things. It wasn’t benefitting us.”

An attempt to reach Al Pieper, an officer of SEIU Local 73, was unsuccessful.

Head Start is a federally-funded program for children between the ages of 3 and 5 who are income eligible. The program offers child care, health care, social services and family services. WCCS is based in Monmouth but has centers in other area communities, including one on East Tompkins Street in Galesburg.

Diann Gravino, executive director of WCCS, said, “I’m very pleased with the results.”
The official notification of the union’s decertification at WCCS was received Wednesday.

Gravino said when Bruce Beal, a Canton-based attorney who negotiated on behalf of WCCS, first sat down at the table with the union, the local Head Start was paying $3 more than minimum wage for the lowest-paid entry position. She called the health-care plan “the Cadillac of insurance” and both full- and part-time employees were in a retirement plan.

A group of 13 employees and Gravino gathered Friday to talk to The Register-Mail. Gravino offered to let employees talk without management present, but no one felt the need to split the group. The women were relaxed and joked with each other, without worrying about who received the brunt of the humor.

Cooper said the first attempt to decertify the union was not allowed because the SEIU had pending unfair labor charges against WCCS.

WCCS employees voted 34-16, with five abstentions, in June 2005 to form the union.
Gravino said 2 years later, “We had a contract that had been approved by our board of directors.”

The contract was approved in November.

“Because they approved the contract, the union withdrew their unfair labor practices charges,” Gravino said.

“We started again before Thanksgiving (with decertification proceedings) and then we just took it from there,” Cooper said.

Dixie Churn, a teacher who has worked at WCCS for 18 years, said the vote was not only directed at SEIU but against any union.

“I knew it was bad then and I was glad to see them go,” Churn said of the entire period. Gravino said tension grew after the vote to unionize. But she said the employees, pro- or anti-union, never let those feelings seep into the classrooms.

“I would say for the last year and a half, it’s been like it used to be,” Gravino said. “I guess what I feel the most upset and angry about is the people who came in here and tried to slander Head Start. ... It makes it hard when you’re a professional and you know this is the best place it is,” Churn said.

Asked what changed between the vote to unionize and the one to decertify, Churn said simply, “The ones that caused all the trouble” left.

“I’m proud to be able to say I’ve worked for Head Start and Diann Gravino for 18 years,” Churn said.

“I think we all feel the same way,” Pringle said, as others murmured in agreement.
“It’s a positive place and a positive place to work,” Edmonson said.


Unions, government unite v. Florida taxpayers

Local union officials, Alachua County School Board members, Gainesville city commissioners and others held a news conference Thursday to oppose the state tax cut amendment that voters will decide Tuesday.
Continue to 2nd paragraph

School officials said the amendment will cut education funding, city officials said services will be sliced and others said the overall quality of life in Florida will decline if the referendum passes.

"We have here a coalition of the unwilling. We are unwilling to vote for Amendment 1," said Jon Reiskind, chairman of the Alachua County Democratic Party. "Amendment 1 is an ill-conceived proposal that gives little benefit to the average Floridian homeowner while devastating the essential services we depend on for our safety and well-being."

The amendment will increase the homestead exemption, allow homeowners to apply Save Our Homes benefits to a new home and create new exemptions on business tangible property and on non-homesteaded property.

Supporters, including Gov. Charlie Crist, say the measure will provide tax relief, boost the housing market and force local government to curb spending.

But opponents who gathered Thursday said the measure will do more harm than good.

Tom Auxter, president of United Faculty of Florida, said the amendment would create the "perfect storm" for higher education.

School Board member Eileen Roy said the effect on the district would be devastating.

"The governor has promised to hold schools harmless but no one in the school hierarchy in the state thinks that is possible," Roy said. "The governor has made a recommendation to increase funding for schools next year to offset the budget cuts that this amendment will cause if it passes. However, it is only a recommendation and nobody expects the Legislature will be able to find the money that is lost."

Several speakers said the state should instead eliminate some sales-tax exemptions and explore other ways to cut taxes that would be fairer to more people.


Union-thug 'labor-peace' deals under attack

An executive order signed by Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons in early January could save taxpayers millions of dollars, the leader of a local building trades organization said Thursday.

The order repealed the use of project labor agreements on public works construction projects. Project labor agreements, or PLAs, are collective bargaining agreements between public agencies and local construction unions.

Under a PLA, the project owner is required to use only contractors that adhere to the rules set forth in the agreement, which includes wages, hours, benefits and other labor terms. In exchange, union workers pledge not to strike or pursue any other job actions.

Nonunion contractors have long contended that PLAs drive up the cost of construction on public projects such as schools and roads.

Warren Hardy, president of Associated Builders and Contractors, said he doesn't have a calculated estimate on how much will be saved by Gibbons' action, but studies have shown that union labor is 20 percent to 30 percent higher than nonunion labor.

He said most public works projects were being justified as PLA under a 1994 executive order from former Gov. Bob Miller.

Josh Hicks, general counsel for the governor's office, said the order applies only to projects that have a state funding component. He could not provide figures on cost savings.

"This order doesn't say you can't use a PLA, it just sets forth the statutory scheme," he said.

With Nevada facing a $400 million budget shortfall, it's important to make the most of taxpayer dollars and spend state funds as efficiently as possible, Hardy said.

"I think it effectively ends the use of PLAs on any state public works," he said. "I think it gives local governments something to think about. One thing that's a fact is it's going to increase competition."

State Sen. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said there has been a push from some of the smaller, rural counties in Nevada to get rid of PLAs, but there has never been any legislation to override Miller's order.

Hardy, a Republican state senator who asked Gibbons to consider signing the executive order, said he's not going to pursue such legislation.

The savings issue is one thing, Hardy said, but the order also speaks to the anticompetitive nature of PLAs.

"It's a business issue that has become a political issue," he said.

PLAs may add cost to a project on the front end, but they could save money in the long run, Titus noted.

"The argument is you get what you pay for," she said. "You can say it costs more to build public buildings, but if you're not paying benefits, the state's going to pick up that cost with Medicaid and social services. I just don't know."

She said the state still must comply with the Davis-Bacon Act, a 1931 law that determines the local prevailing wages, a set minimum that must be paid on federally funded or assisted construction projects, regardless if the work is being done by union or nonunion contractors. Nevada has its own prevailing wage law that sets minimum wages for projects that don't use federal funds, too.

Public works projects haven't been as political at the Clark County level as they've been at the state level, but that could change, Titus said.

"This is where you'll see partisan politics play out on County Commission elections," she said.

Nevada AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Danny Thompson said 60 percent of contractors working on a PLA project for the Southern Nevada Water Authority were nonunion, evidence that PLAs do not discriminate against them. They were able to bid the job and get it, he said.

"At the end of the day, this order only revokes the order by Gov. Miller in 1994. I don't think it changes a whole lot," Thompson said. "Here's the important thing, that it's done right the first time. Look no further than the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas to show what happens when you don't use local skilled craftsmen. Things can get out of hand without these (PLAs) in place."

Thompson said unions pride themselves on providing trained, skilled labor and when someone asks for 500 certified pipe welders, that's what they get. Private ventures want that guarantee, he said.

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce has a history of actively opposing PLAs.

"We believe they're unfair to taxpayers and they're noncompetitive in how they limit workers," chamber President Kara Kelley said. "Even if they allow nonunion contractors, there's often a requirement to pay into union funds. It adds cost to the project and it's pretty arcane."

Kelley said PLAs probably add 30 percent to 40 percent to a project's value, taxpayer dollars that could be better used for other projects that would benefit Southern Nevadans, such as road improvement.

Victor Fuchs, president of Helix Electric, is applauding the governor's move.

He's complained for nearly a decade about the unfairness of PLAs, which he claims prevented Helix from bidding on big-money projects such as the $200 million D-gate terminal at McCarran International Airport and the $180 million South Hall expansion at Las Vegas Convention Center.

He said Gibbons' edict opens up large public jobs to "merit shops," or nonunion contractors, and prevents future state construction jobs from mandating PLAs.

"It puts public works on a level playing field," he said. "Everyone has the opportunity to bid on work funded by public tax dollars. It gives fair and equal opportunity to everyone."

Steve Holloway, executive president of Associated General Contractors, said his union members are "not up in arms" about Gibbons' order, especially since there haven't been many PLA projects since Miller left office. Clark County School District had a PLA, but dropped it a couple years ago.

"It just didn't work out that well for them," Holloway said.

Current PLA projects under way by the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the airport won't be affected, he said.

Southern Nevada Water Authority spokesman Scott Huntley said the agency has 14 PLA projects planned or in progress and that the action of the governor does not affect them.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority recently decided to proceed with an $890 million expansion of the convention center without a PLA, reversing course from previous projects.

The convention authority board approved a PLA in October on the condition that various union representatives sign the agreement by Jan. 18 and that didn't occur, spokesman Vince Alberta said.

"I don't think that would have flown because painters and carpenters refused to sign it," Holloway said. "They had a dispute over the language in the PLA. They (PLAs) haven't gone too well because it's been difficult to put one together."

A few years ago, when all the trades were in the AFL-CIO, there was standard language in the PLAs to resolve jurisdictional disputes, Holloway said. For example, a water truck could be driven by a laborer, a Teamster or someone from Operating Engineers. All three unions claim that work and all three would have grievances over jurisdiction.

Now carpenters and laborers have left the AFL-CIO and other trades, such as painters, have stayed. The painters might want jurisdiction language in the PLA that the carpenters don't want, Holloway said.

It's not a wage issue, Fuchs said. Contractors still have to pay prevailing wages on public projects, including schools. However, workers must join a union or pay union dues, even if they don't want to be part of such organization.

Fuchs said he would have had to pay double benefits on PLA jobs and couldn't rely on his own labor force. Generally, union workers are hired over nonunion workers.

"The reason people work for you is, you treat them right. We provide the best available benefits and pay fair wages and provide steady work," he said. "All these guys who've been working for you, now you tell them, 'Sorry guys, you can't work on this job.' "

He said Gibbons' executive order opens the process to fair competition and allows the state to use the best contractor for the job at hand. It will expand job opportunities, particularly for smaller businesses, and save taxpayer dollars by reducing construction costs.


AFL-CIO's hardball, leftist front-group

The Working Families Party, which was the first to formally endorse then-AG Eliot Spitzer's gubernatorial bid back in January 2005, has been one of his key political allies ever since, but nevertheless does not always see eye-to-eye with the now-governor, particularly on issues like taxing the rich, where the party would prefer him to be more in line with its "progressive" agenda.

WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor just released a belated response to Spitzer's budget, saying the governor "put himself in a box where he had to make some difficult choices," adding: "But he didn't need to be in that box at all." The governor should have taken the opportunity of the economic downturn to make the state's tax system "more fair," Cantor continued, adding:
"Most politicians seem afraid to talk about this, but the fact is that the very richest New Yorkers are paying a smaller share of our total tax bill than they did 40, 30, 20 or 10 years ago. And this is so even though their share of our total wealth has grown. Making up the difference is part of the reason the rest of us are paying higher property taxes.

In New York today, by and large, the less you make, the higher a portion of it you pay in State and local taxes.

A modest tax increase on incomes above $300,000 a year (that's the 2-3% of households making almost $6,000 a week) would collect $6-7 billion a year in additional revenue, and help to right the balance. Fortunately, such an increase will touch only the people who have benefited the most from the Bush-Pataki years of high-end tax cuts."

UAW disputes Casino War election thuggery

Diane Weaver often uses her 20-minute breaks at Foxwoods Resort Casino to grab a cup of tea in the employee cafeteria. Her intent on Wednesday, Nov. 21, was no different. But Weaver, a table-game dealer at Foxwoods for five years, said a pro-union dealer began walking and talking to her as she made her way to the cafeteria.

By the time they got to the cafeteria, Weaver said, she was surrounded by 10 to 15 other employees. They all began shouting at her, telling her that she should vote “yes” in the upcoming union election. Another person called her “stupid” and another threatened to pull her out of her house and beat her, Weaver said.

Weaver's testimony came at the end of the fifth day of a National Labor Relations hearing.

The purpose of the hearing is to determine if the union vote held on Nov. 24, in which dealers voted 1,289 to 852 in favor of representation from the United Auto Workers union, is valid.

Weaver was one of 13 employees who testified under oath on Wednesday and Thursday and said they were intimidated or harassed by fellow employees or possible union representatives leading up to the election or on the day of the election.

But after the hearing, a fellow dealer, who also worked as a volunteer on the union's organizing committee, said Weaver's claim is flat-out false.

“It is unbelievable, and it did not happen,” said Jacqueline Little, a poker dealer at Foxwoods since it opened. “This person is alleging that 10 to 15 people accosted her and not a supervisor came to her aid.”

Little said that during a break there could be anywhere between 100 and 150 people in the employee cafeteria and found it to be unbelievable that no one came to Weaver's aid.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which owns and operates Foxwoods, challenged the results of the November election, citing several objections.

The tribe questioned why the ballots were not printed in multiple languages, why an election notice was only printed in one Chinese dialect, and also contends that UAW representatives harassed and intimidated eligible voters before the election.

An administrative law judge will determine that issue and could order a new election.

Attorneys representing the tribe are trying to establish through testimony like Weaver's that there was a pattern of intimidation of people who did not support the UAW prior to and on the day of the election.

The tribe's attorneys also called nine Chinese-speaking dealers to testify on Thursday, focusing on their level of comprehension of the union election and their ability to read English.

All nine work as table game dealers at Foxwoods and all of them utilized an interpreter in some capacity while testifying.

Some understood questions posed to them by the attorneys and responded in English, using the interpreter to help them articulate an explanation, while others used the interpreter to translate more complex sentences, and other still needed the interpreter to translate everything that was said.

All of the witnesses testified that they could not read English at all, or said they can read only “simple” words.

While most of the testimony last week focused on the same subject, Richard Hankins, one of the attorneys representing the tribe, said he wanted to be sure that the tribe's case and the evidence provided on the various language issues was clear.

Hankins said the tribe's case is “winding down” and could rest its case on Monday.

If that happens, the attorneys representing the UAW will then have the chance to present their case and call their own witnesses.

The hearing is scheduled to continue Monday morning at 9 a.m. and continue throughout the week.


Unions eye burgeoning militant middle class

Union membership in the United States increased by 311,000 to 15.7 million in 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the largest single-year increase in union membership since 1979. Overall union density increased slightly from 12.0 percent to 12.1 percent last year, reversing a trend of decline in recent years.

“Today's numbers show working people are pushing to form and join unions in order to improve their lives, despite record levels of resistance from employers,” AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said. “They know that a union card is the single best ticket into the middle class, especially in today’s economy.”

Private sector union membership grew by 133,000 and density grew to 7.5 percent in 2007, the first time private sector density grew since 1979. In construction alone, more than 96,000 members were added last year, bumping union density in that industry to 13.9 percent from 13.0 percent in 2006.

The largest increase in union membership was health services, where unions added 142,000 members, a 0.9 percent increase in density from 2006 to 7.9 percent.

Union membership among women grew again in 2007, continuing a trend in recent years. More than 201,000 women joined unions in 2007, nearly twice the number of men. Women now account for 44 percent of all union members, a new high.

The advantages of having a union on the job were clear in 2007. Last year, median weekly pay for union members was $863 while those who were not represented by unions had median weekly earnings of $663.

Much of the growth in 2007 was due to the increase in the number of workers joining or forming unions, reflecting an increased commitment by unions to help workers organize, especially in growing industries.

"Our unions have been working hard over the last 10 years to build their strategic capacity to help workers join unions, even in this hostile legal environment where workers' right to organize has been all but eliminated,” Sweeney said. “The fact that our unions have been able to grow despite a slowing economy and a decline in the public sector is a good sign. As we've built political support and held elected officials who oppose workers' rights accountable, more working people have been able to exercise their choice to join unions.”

There have been a number of important victories for workers who wanted a union on the job. Those victories include 40,000 childcare workers in Michigan joining the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the United Auto Workers (UAW). More than 40,000 communications workers joined the Communications Workers of America in the last two years, including more than 20,000 at Cingular (now AT&T Wireless). Last year 50,000 childcare workers in New York joined AFSCME and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). In addition, 6,000 casino dealers in New Jersey and Connecticut joined the UAW and 3,000 administrative staff from Rutgers University joined the AFT and Communications Workers of America.

The manufacturing sector continues to be hard hit due to an overall decline caused in part by trade deals like NAFTA that have shipped millions of American jobs overseas. Manufacturing employment dropped by 287,000 and union membership dropped by 93,000. Union density in manufacturing declined from 11.7 percent to 11.3 percent.

The growth in union membership comes at a time when workers say they want and need unions more than ever. More than half of all workers – 60 million – say they would join a union tomorrow if given the chance, according to independent research by Peter Hart Research Associates.

“It’s no accident that the vast majority of workers who formed unions last year did so outside the broken National Labor Relations Board process,” Sweeney said. “All workers deserve a free and fair chance to form a union. It’s time for Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act to reform our nation’s broken labor laws and help rebuild our ailing middle class.”


Dems shy away from WGA picket lines

On the January 23 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck repeatedly suggested that the top Democratic presidential candidates have not shown support for the ongoing Writers Guild strike, asking: "[W]hy haven't the pro-union Democratic candidates spoken up on the strike?" and "[W]hy haven't any of the Democratic candidates joined them on the picket line?" He added: "Are they laying low so they don't upset their Hollywood contributors?"

In fact, on November 5, 2007 -- the day the strike began -- Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) released a statement saying: "I stand with the writers." A Politico article further reported that an Obama aide called the Writers Guild that day and asked, "What can we do to help?" Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) also issued a statement of support on November 5: "I support the Writers Guild's pursuit of a fair contract that pays them for their work in all mediums."

John Edwards actually joined striking writers one time on a Los Angeles picket line on November 16, 2007; he carried a placard and said, "I'm proud to be with you in this march. I'm proud to be with you in this fight for justice. I am proud to be with you in this fight for fairness."

Moreover, the candidates withdrew from a planned December 10 CBS News debate, forcing its cancellation. John and Elizabeth Edwards also canceled a scheduled appearance on ABC's The View, as did Michelle Obama. By contrast, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a recipient of union endorsements himself, crossed picket lines when he appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on January 2.

In contrast with Beck, who did not acknowledge the Democratic candidates' shows of support for the writers, CNN's Wolf Blitzer did so on the November 26 edition of The Situation Room, but suggested that in also taking contributions from entertainment executives, the candidates were "trying to have it both ways."

From the January 23 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:
BECK: Plus, movie and TV writers still on strike, but why haven't any of the Democratic candidates joined them on the picket line? Are they laying low so they don't upset their Hollywood contributors? Hmm.


BECK: Oh, well, thank goodness the Hollywood writers are going to return to the negotiating table this week in hopes of saving us from shows like American Gladiators and the return of my personal favorite, Paradise Hotel.

But the real question is not when will they make their deal, but why haven't the pro-union Democratic candidates spoken up on the strike? Where, where, where, where have they been? I'll examine all of that in just a bit.


BECK: Coming up, if you want more proof that Hollywood is completely out of touch with the American mainstream, look no further than the Oscar nominees. And where are those liberals with the strikers and the writers? We'll look into it next.


BECK: Hollywood striking writers and the studio executives have said that they plan to meet this week for the very first time since early December, when their talks collapsed. Who's been paying attention? You know, might be good news for those of us who are really sick and tired of reconnecting with our family. I mean, whew.

But the most interesting side of this whole fiasco might be the political one. I want you to think about this. When was the last time that you saw a strike in our country where the Democrats haven't lined up to deliver hot coffee on the picket lines and denounce the big, bad corporation for keeping the man down? Well, where is Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama now? Where's John Edwards?

The writers are starting to ask this question, and they don't like the answer. Democrats just get too much money from Hollywood to risk screwing it all up. Or, do they like Hollywood's money and their propaganda tools, but they just don't want to be seen around the Hollywood people?

Screenwriter and former Clinton/Gore staffer Chris Jackson told the New York Post, quote, "I was hurt by learning the truth. The DNC (the Democratic National Committee) are in bed with big business. They are for change when it comes to using marketing slogans ... but they only use Hollywood to milk money out of us."

Michael Medved is a nationally syndicated talk radio host, a veteran film critic. Michael, which is it? Are they just -- they don't want to be seen around Hollywood because they just -- they know it's really bad for them, or are they just getting too much money?

MEDVED: Well, I think it's a combination of all of the above, of course. But the main thing is they gain absolutely nothing by getting involved in this very, very, very bitter dispute. It would be like getting involved between the baseball players and baseball management when the players went out on strike.

How unions buy off labor-state Dems

The four candidates running for the office of Massachusetts 32nd Middlesex District state representative — Democrats Katherine Clark, Guido Federico and Ron Seaboyer, and Republican Mark Hutchinson — each filed their mandatory year-end campaign finance reports with the state this week.

Clark had raised the most money through the end of 2007, bringing in $37,480 between Oct.29 and Dec. 31. Of that total, $4,750 came from political action committees (PACs), unions and municipal associations, including the American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts, the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the Massachusetts Nurses PAC and the Women’s Political Caucus PAC.

Among the public, Melrosians donating to Clark’s campaign include former and current School Committee members Bethany Cassin Gaita, Margaret Driscoll and Chairwoman Kristin Thorp; Ward 5 Alderman Gail Infurna; and Alderman At-Large Mary Beth McAteer Margolis.

Seaboyer raised most of his $22,590 through campaign contributions from unions, either through the union’s PAC committee or from the union itself. Only $800 came from individuals, including Melrose School Committee member Don Lehman.

Seaboyer has the largest single contribution of any candidate — $14,500 from the Local 103 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union.

That may seem like a large amount — and, in fact the Free Press received an anonymous phone call recently, suggesting that the contribution violated state campaign contribution regulations — but according to Brad Balzer, the deputy director of the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance, it does not break any Massachusetts campaign finance laws.

Unions are allowed to contribute up to 10 percent of their gross revenue for the previous year or $15,000, whichever is less. PACs are only allowed to contribute $500 to a candidate.

While the Local 103 IBEW does have a PAC registered with the state, the contribution to Seaboyer’s campaign came directly from the union and their general treasury, according to Balzer, and not the union’s PAC.

“Any organization or association that doesn’t receive corporate subsidies or corporate funding can contribute to up to 10 percent or $15,000, as long as we have an organization devoid of corporate funding,” he said. “In the case of unions, that’s almost always the case. That’s usually funded through membership dues.”

Balzer said the key is the separate treasuries for the Local 103 IBEW’s PAC and the union itself, and where those monies come from.

“Any organization that raises money specifically to make campaign contributions is what we would call a political committee — in this case, a political action committee — and they’re subject to the disclosures and limitations,” he said. “Any organization that just receives money in its ordinary course and not be raised specifically for political organizations can contribute [up to 10 percent of revenue or $15,000].”

Hutchinson, the only Republican candidate, raised $37,045 in 2007, $22,000 of which was in personal loans, leaving $15,045 coming from contributions. Of those contributions, $1,000 came from committees and PACs — specifically, The Jones Committee for Rep. Brad Jones, R-North Reading, the Mass. Association of Realtors PAC and the Mass. Republican House PAC.

Higher-profile contributors to Hutchinson’s campaign include former Melrose Mayors Richard Lyons and James Milano and current Sen. Richard Tisei, R-Wakefield.

Federico raised $400 in 2007; however, his campaign did not officially kick-off until Jan. 4 of this year. His two contributions came from individual family members.

Pre-primary reports, covering activity this year through Jan. 18, are due to the state on Monday, Jan. 28. Pre-election reports are due on Monday, Feb. 25 and post-election reports are due Thursday, April 3.

All candidate’s finance reports are available online at the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance at mass.gov/ocpf.


UFCW members vote on decertification

Workers at Dakota Premium Foods walked off the job over production line speeds and safety issues in 2000. After that, they quickly voted to unionize, an election the company repeatedly challenged.

Two years later, workers at the South St. Paul (MN) slaughterhouse and meatpacking operation overwhelmingly ratified their first labor agreement, complete with a contract.

That representation is now in danger, as some workers seek to dissolve the union. The plant's approximately 250 workers will vote today whether to remain a union operation. A decertification petition circulated around the plant late last summer was signed by at least 30 percent of the workers - the minimum needed to get a vote.

The workers are represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 789, the South St. Paul-based labor union that represents about a third of the state's 16,000 meatpackers. Seventy percent to 75 percent of the work force at the Concord Street plant is Hispanic, said Rafael Espinosa, a union representative for Local 789.

Espinosa believes the workers signed the petition because they were misinformed about its intent and were given false promises by management.

Several calls placed to plant manager Steve Cortinas and Dominic Driano, the company's attorney, were not returned.

The union contract expired June 30, and bargaining talks have gone nowhere, Espinosa said.

Dakota Premium, owned by Fairmont, Minn.-based Rosen's Diversified Inc., became
increasingly difficult to deal with since the Legislature passed the Packinghouse Workers Bill of Rights, he said.

The bill, passed last year, requires employers to inform employees of specific legal rights in their native languages. It also requires companies to make workers aware they have a right to organize unions.

Espinosa claims the company harassed and disciplined union stewards and denied union representatives access to the building.

The union filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board.

In November, Espinosa said, the board ordered the company to post a notice stating it will not engage in anti-union tactics.

Espinosa said workers tell him the line speed is faster than it was before the contract's expiration, even if someone calls in sick.

"Line speed is the big issue at the bargaining table right now," said Doug Mork, organizing director for Local 789.

Mork and other union advocates gathered at the plant's main entrance gate Thursday afternoon and handed out literature to workers.

Carlos Samaniego, who debones briskets, just finished an eight-hour shift. He said he plans to vote against the decertification attempt.

"The union is our only way to stick together and improve the conditions and help control the speed of the line," Samaniego, 30, of Minneapolis, said. "I think it's the only way we can have respect."


Union-only thuggery is unfair and un-American

A recent Guest Viewpoint suggested that a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) will be the best way to ensure that local workers are employed on the George Harvey Justice Building project. However, according to U.S. Dept. of Labor, nearly 70 percent of construction workers in New York state freely choose not to affiliate with a union.

Unfortunately, the George Harvey Justice Building project PLA requires that 90 percent of the workers on the project come from the union hall, and it requires the 10 percent of the workers who aren't signatory to the union to join the union and pay union dues for the duration of the project. That means that open shop (non-union) contractors in Broome County -- who employ Broome County residents -- would have to force their employees to join a union or lay them off in order to hire workers from the union halls. So they won't bid on the project, and their workers won't have an opportunity to be employed on the project. How does that encourage the use of local workers?

Gov. George E. Pataki's Executive Order No. 49 clearly established criteria that must be met before utilization of a PLA makes sense. If used, a PLA must "meet the underlying purpose of the state's competitive bidding law to 1) obtain the best work possible for the lowest possible price and, 2) prevent favoritism, improvidence, fraud, and corruption in the award of public contracts." This PLA for the George Harvey Justice Building project is in direct conflict with these criteria.

The Broome County Legislature is promoting this PLA to the public based on a "due diligence report" issued by former Commissioner of Public Works Henry Weissmann, which purports that the county will save approximately $300,000 in labor costs on the project as a result of union concessions made in the. But these "cost savings" would only logically be realized if all the work would likely be done by union contractors anyway in the absence of a PLA. Since the trade unions are the ones advocating for the PLA, does that mean they know they are worried they will not get all the work in the absence of a PLA? Unfortunately, there was absolutely no attempt on the county's part to investigate the construction market in Broome County to determine the labor affiliation of eligible bidders. If they had looked at it, they would have found that the majority of eligible bidders are open shop (non-union) contractors.

But those open-shop bidders won't bid this project with the PLA provisions in place -- and one doesn't need to be an economist to know that when you restrict the number of bidders, your resulting bid costs increase. A lack of competition results in higher costs, plain and simple.

Furthermore, there is a growing mountain of evidence to demonstrate that PLAs don't lower costs -- they increase costs. Since 2000, we've seen a number of studies that demonstrate this fact. One very comprehensive study, done in 2006 by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, found that the presence of PLAs increases a project's base construction bids by $27 per square foot relative to non-PLA projects.

And since there are many contractors available, capable and likely to bid on this project who are not subject to collectively bargained agreements, and who therefore utilize workers who do not belong to unions, wouldn't requiring the use of predominantly union labor be favoritism? Is it not in the public's best interest to find the best workers at the lowest price.

PLAs needlessly discriminate against the majority of working families. There is no valid reason to give union workers any priority, preference or exclusivity in mandating their use on any public construction project. Setting this type of mandate simply devalues the great majority of local, taxpaying working families just because they are not in a union. Utilization of a PLA on this project will ultimately waste hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars with no justification other than to convey upon a selected class of workers special favor in return for political support.

And political payback at the expense of hard-working taxpayers is unfair, unjust and just plain un-American.

- Rebecca A. Meinking is president of the Empire State Chapter of Associated Builders & Contractor (ABC), representing the merit shop contractor community in Broome County and all of New York State, in Syracuse.


News Guild writers cheer union reversal

Reversing a decades-long downward trend, the percentage of the American workforce in unions edged up last year, the U.S. Labor Department reported.

The change was minuscule - a tenth of 1 percentage point, from 12.0 to 12.1 - barely statistically significant. But for the labor movement, which is starved for any good news, even the tiniest upward blip is cause for encouragement.

Locally, Pennsylvania and Delaware saw gains in union membership and density.

New Jersey's membership continued to slip despite big union wins among dealers in Atlantic City's casinos and among professional and administrative staff at Rutgers University.

In Pennsylvania, "there's been a tremendous movement in health care, child care and home care," said William George, who heads the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

Pennsylvania's union membership grew to 830,000, 15.1 percent of the workforce, from 745,000 or 13.6 percent in 2006.

That puts Pennsylvania well ahead of the national numbers in union density.

Nationally, union membership grew from 15.4 million members in 2006 to 15.7 million last year.

Delaware's union membership also grew - to 47,000 from 43,000, and to 12.8 percent from 10.3 percent.

New Jersey continues to be among the most unionized states in the nation. In 2006, it was one of four states whose union membership topped 20 percent. In 2007, the percentage fell to 19.2 from 20.1.

In 1953, more than one in four workers belonged to a union. Since then, membership has fallen steadily, with only a few upward blips, the last in 1979. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics adopted a new system for counting union membership in 1983.

Labor leaders say workers turn to one another for support in a tough economy, when the future appears tenuous and there is an erosion of pension and health benefits.

Right-to-work groups, which say they are not anti-union, call this upward blip the result of frantic scrambling for members by a labor movement on its last legs.

"The writing was on the wall, that if they didn't do something, they were going to go extinct," said J. Justin Wilson, a senior analyst at the Center for Union Facts, a Washington right-to-work group.

Last month, by a vote of 46-42, Cherry Hill public school custodians employed by Philadelphia's Aramark Corp. voted to join the Office of Professional Employees International Union.

An Aramark spokeswoman said the company supported workers' rights to join a union but was contesting this election.

"Every day, these workers are hurting more and more," said union organizer Seth Goldstein, whose daughters attend Cherry Hill schools.

"With this recession, if anyone needs a stimulus in their take-home pay, it's these employees.

"Unions have a real role in the economy," he said, "because the only way the middle class can push its way up and get a decent living is if they can bargain effectively."

Ironically, one of the drivers of the economic slowdown - the weak dollar - may have helped Pennsylvania union workers, the AFL-CIO's George said.

The weak dollar means that union-rich manufacturing jobs, while still in decline, are not declining as fast because some manufacturing that had been done abroad is now being done here, he said.

"Steel mills have rehired some steel workers," he said. "In addition, China is taking anything we can produce."

Casino construction across the state has boosted membership in the building trades, he said.

What the AFL-CIO's national director of organizing, Stewart Acuff, said he found most encouraging was growth in membership among younger workers, even though both the numbers and the percentages are low.

"That gives lie to the notion that young people are only interested in themselves and that the unions' day is past," he said.

Roger "Rick" Grimaldi manages the Philadelphia office of the Jackson-Lewis law firm, which regularly holds union-avoidance seminars. He said the statistical movement was so minor that it does not change the pattern. "You could argue that it's an aberration," he said.

Economist Mark Zandi from Moody's Economy.com in West Chester agrees that the change is small. "It may not be statistically different from a zero change."

But, he said, "that may be news in itself given the steady erosion in this sector."


Teachers unprotected from Catholic abusers

Because of a little-known but critical U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1979, the union hoping to represent local Catholic school teachers has no legal recourse in fighting rejection by the Diocese of Scranton. An appeal directly to the Vatican is, however, allowed under church law, and one is being filed.

“We are not covered by the labor law,” said Scranton Diocese Association of Catholic Teachers President Michael Milz.

The traditional path for private sector workers who want to unionize is to “demonstrate a showing of interest” to the National Labor Relations Board, Wilkes University business professor Anthony Liuzzo said. That typically means providing a petition or similar documents showing at least 30 percent of the employees want to unionize; it also works in reverse when a private company is unionized and employees want to decertify the union.

Public employees in the state – municipal, county and state workers, including public school teachers - fall under the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act, but the process to unionize would be similar, Liuzzo said.

In the vast majority of cases regarding private companies, “an employer can’t just say we don’t want a labor union and the union has to go away,” Liuzzo said. If employees can show there’s enough interest, the NLRB will require an election, “And if the union wins, they are in whether the employer wants them or not.”

While Liuzzo could not recall any rulings that exempted religious organizations from that process, Milz said there was one that very few people know about.

“It’s called NLRB vs. the Catholic Bishop of Chicago,” Milz said. In it, the U.S. Supreme Court split 5-4 in support of a lower court’s decision that the NLRB had no jurisdiction over Catholic school teacher union efforts.

The case began in 1975 when lay teachers at two Chicago seminaries run by the diocese voted to unionize. The bishop refused to bargain with them, and the union filed a complaint with the NLRB. The NLRB decided it had jurisdiction and ordered the bishop to accept the union. The diocese appealed.

The Court of Appeals denied the NLRB’s enforcement, citing protections under the First Amendment.

The opinion noted: “The real difficulty is found in the chilling aspect that the requirement of bargaining will impose on the exercise of the bishop’s control of the religious mission of the schools.”

By the time the case reached the Supreme Court, a similar situation had developed at five schools in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend (Ind.), and that case was folded into the Chicago one. The Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling, saying the original National Labor Relations Act and the “legislative history” did not clearly grant jurisdiction to the NLRB, and that “the Court will not construe the Act in such a way as would call for the resolution of a difficult and sensitive First Amendment question.”

The majority opinion was penned by Chief Justice Warren Burger. Justice William Brennan wrote the dissenting opinion, arguing that the majority risked remaking laws by interpreting congressional intent too broadly.

For Milz and the union, the bottom line to all the legalese is simple: “We’re on our own.” But that doesn’t mean the union is going to fold up shop.

“There is a canonical recourse,” Milz said. Church law allows the union to file what amounts to an appeal with the pope. “We can say we have a bishop not acting consistent with the fashion of church teachings.” Of course, Milz conceded, that means the union is asking other bishops to rule that Bishop Joseph Martino is in the wrong.

This procedure would actually be done through Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See in the United States, a title that makes him the Vatican’s ambassador and the main papal authority overseeing all dioceses in this country.

It’s the same tactic tried unsuccessfully by parents angered over the decision to close four Luzerne County Catholic high schools and open a new one in the former Bishop Hoban building in Wilkes-Barre. They filed an appeal with Sambi in February. It was rejected in April, taking much of the last wind out of what had been a strong effort to save some of the high schools.

Other than the canonical appeal, the union has limited options. Milz said there is an effort to get parents, teachers and students to ask the diocese to reverse the decision, and the union is determined to exhaust every avenue. But in the end, “one of two things is going to happen,” he said. “Either we turn this around – and we believe we’re going to be successful – or we just walk away.”

That could be more disastrous to the diocese than simply watching the union dissolve, Milz said. “I think a lot of people will just walk away.” He said there was a similar case in Boston where the diocese restructured the school system and rejected union representation under the new plan. Although teachers were happy with the initial raises and treatment, “Things changed dramatically. Within two years, 70 percent of the teachers resigned.

“There’s a lesson here, I think.”


Scab gets slapped-around again

And oh hey, we’re gonna slap a big fat VILLAINOUS on Prof. Ron Seeber, industrial and labor relations — not so much for his decision to appear on The Daily Show in the middle of the television writers’ strike as for his HEROICALLY VILLAINOUS claim that he never crossed a picket line because he went around it. Sure, buddy. We feel you.


Teamsters raid United for AMFA's dues

A Teamsters union bid to win over 5,000 mechanics from a smaller union could play into United Airlines' hands as it contemplates a merger and fields offers for its largest maintenance base in San Francisco.

The opening for the Teamsters occurred Friday when the National Mediation Board called for an election between the Teamsters and the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, or AMFA, a small independent union largely disowned by organized labor.

The wrinkle that plays to United's hands stems from the airline's downsizing efforts.

Nearly half of United's 10,200 eligible voters were laid off years ago, and if neither the Teamsters nor AMFA win over 50 percent of the vote, that could leave the historically maverick group at United without any say in a merger.

It would also eliminate its veto power, written into its current contract, over any sale or divestiture of the San Francisco base, where more than 2,500 mechanics work. So, too, the mechanics would no longer be covered by a union, United officials added.

No date has been set for the election. But union officials said they expected balloting to begin next month and that voting would probably last three weeks to a month.

The Teamsters bid comes amid widespread industry speculation of airline mergers, with analysts pointing to a United-Continental Airlines linkup as most likely. Because the Teamsters already represent Continental's mechanics, a win at United could make it easier to meld worker groups if a merger of the two carriers goes through.

The seeds for the showdown were sown nearly two years ago when disgruntled AMFA mechanics formed a dissident group. Friction intensified in December when the Teamsters filed a petition with the mediation board to represent the mechanics.

Since then both unions have stepped up their campaigning, especially in San Francisco and in Indianapolis, where United closed a large maintenance base five years ago.

Besides putting 50 organizers into the fray and knocking on the doors of over 4,000 United mechanics in recent weeks, the Teamsters' effort has been helped by an organizer from the Transport Workers Union, or TWU. The situation is unique in that the TWU also represents aircraft mechanics and belongs to the AFL-CIO, the labor federation that the Teamsters quit several years ago.

Build strength
Teamsters officials say they decided some time ago that winning members among United's mechanics would help build its strength in the airline industry. The union already represents about 9,000 aircraft mechanics and has two other organizing drives under way.

For AMFA, the battle is about holding its ground at United—where it has represented workers since 2003—and across the industry.

AMFA has shrunk from nearly 20,000 members several years to about 11,000 members at seven airlines. One of the union's biggest challenges is overcoming the defeat it suffered two years ago at the end of a 14-month strike at Northwest Airlines. From 4,400 members before the strike, its ranks dwindled to several hundred members, said Steve McFarlane, AMFA's national director.

"We are going to aggressively defend our right to represent the [United] workers and I'm confident that we will win," said McFarlane, adding his group has received bids from disgruntled Continental mechanics who want to quit the Teamsters.

But Don Wolfel, president of AMFA's Local 4 at United, was less optimistic, saying he feared that neither union would win the vote, leaving the workers without representation.

"Our members really don't take an interest. They are fairly apathetic," he said.

Meeting with United mechanics earlier this week in Chicago, Teamsters President James P. Hoffa assured the workers of an election victory and promised that when it comes they would have the support of the 6 million-member Change to Win Federation that counts the Teamsters as a member.

"And if you have to take an action, we will be part of a boycott," Hoffa declared.

The Teamsters' organizing mantra, as suggested by Hoffa's talk to the workers, is that the union will stem United's shift of mechanics' jobs to overseas repair sites and that it will fight to regain the pension losses they have suffered due to the airline's bankruptcy.


WGA picketer's pride was shattered

Former SEINFELD star JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS' writers strike pride was shattered when EVA LONGORIA joined her on the picket line - because the DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES star was in full hair and make-up.

Louis-Dreyfus joined writers picketing outside a Housewives location shoot in November (07), which the protestors managed to shut down. But she quickly went from being "the girl" to a badly-dressed nobody when Longoria came out to meet the strikers.

She recalls, "It was very thrilling for me and then out comes Eva Longoria and she comes off of the shoot and she walks outside and she stands up there... in full hair and make-up.

"I'm in my yoga pants and my solar power T-shirt, I look like a hag... activist type. "She (Longoria) starts talking to the writers and saying how she's so upset and she doesn't wish to be doing this but she's caught between a rock and a hard place and she starts to cry.

"I was the girl for, like, an hour and then all of a sudden... everyone's heart is breaking for Eva - and then she delivered pizza to everybody. "There were cameras there and I didn't have any make-up on - not even chapstick."


Unions' leftism called abuse of power

Albertans for Change, a front for the Alberta Building Trades Council and the Alberta Federation of Labour, claims its TV ads accusing Premier Ed Stelmach of vision failures in education, planning and health, speaks for "200,000 working Albertans."

I wonder. Organized labour didn't exactly deliver the vote to the party of organized labour: the NDP got just 91,000 votes in the 2004 election. Obviously, about 109,000 unionized workers voted for another party. We don't know how many voted for the government, but there are plenty of people who are in unions for no other reason than if they are not, they can't work.

Reckon some of them might be closet conservatives? Or that when unions go beyond their collective bargaining role and into electioneering thinly disguised as advocacy for things that aren't strictly speaking labour issues -- which health, education and planning are not -- they might be justifiably miffed?

I mean, calling the premier a poopyhead is not the same thing as opposing free trade, as unions did in the 1988 federal general election. That, at least, was a labour issue.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, makes no apologies and says pocketbook issues are labour issues.

"We have wage stagnation. In a province where the economy is growing dramatically, the stats show wages have not risen with growth. If workers can't get ahead in a boom, when can they? It's because Alberta law is unfriendly to labour, in matters of organizing, the increased use of temporary foreign workers, and several other things. It's the job of the labour movement to stand up at the bargaining table, and in the broader community."

What if that means some workers are effectively paying for ads to attack a party they voted for?

The Alberta Building Trades Council's Ron Harry comments, "Everything was done on a democratic process. Somebody will always disagree, but unions are the most democratic institutions in the country."

However, this is the sad truth about labour law in Canada.

We may be the only country in the world where forced union membership as a condition of employment is still legal, and unions are free to use the dues of unionized non-members and members alike, for political purposes.

It's not that way in socialist, supposedly liberty-averse Europe, where unionized workers in 47 member countries of the Council of Europe now have the freedom to choose whether to belong to a union, and dues of unionized non-members cannot be used for political purposes.

Nor is it so in U.S. right-to-work states, where unions may not compel dues. (In non-right-to-work states, they can charge a bargaining services fee to non-members, but may not use dues they collect from non-members for political purposes.)

The Australians, whose unions were almost as Bolshie as Great Britain's once were, went free choice years ago.

Nor, strictly speaking, is it supposed to be this way here. In 2001, a key Quebec case before the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 8-1 that Canadians had a freedom not to associate -- to put it another way, that forced union membership was illegal under the charter.

However, in the end the court allowed this charter violation. Justice Frank Iacobucci articulated the most stunning logic arguing that it would help end the history of violence in Quebec's unruly unions.

So much for justice, when confronted with a clenched fist. It was not the Supreme Court's finest hour.

There's a real liberty issue here. According to the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "no one may be compelled to belong to an association." Canada's Supreme Court agrees, sort of, but above all, legislatures have failed to amend labour codes. All over the country, workers are compelled to belong to unions, can't work some jobs if they don't join, and can be fired if they don't pay full union dues.

Who knows where it will lead, but the National Citizens Coalition has joined forces with Alberta's Merit Contractors, an employers' group, to launch its own ad campaign: "Union leaders are putting YOUR money where THEIR mouth is."

Says Merit president Stephen Kushner, "Every employee should have the right to know where his or her money is going, and should be able to opt out of contributing to political campaigns such as this."

Amen. I wish 'em luck.

It isn't always the government that's the abuser of power.

Related Posts with Thumbnails