Supreme Court to scrutinize SEIU conduct

In an important First Amendment case out of Washington state, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last June that public employee unions must get consent from individual members before using their dues for political purposes.

The union had argued that if a worker didn't specifically object to the practice, his dues were fair game for labor bosses to spend on political activity. The Washington Supreme Court upheld the union position, actually ruling that to hold otherwise would violate the union's right to free speech, ignoring the dangerous ramifications for the free speech rights of the workers who were being forced to financially support political activism with which they disagreed.

Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court wasn't buying such snake oil. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote succinctly for a unanimous court that, "Unions have no constitutional entitlement to the fees of non-member employees."

On Tuesday, the high court agreed to hear another case involving the use of mandatory union fees.

Nationwide, 28 states authorize public unions to collect mandatory fees from all employees. That means 12 million workers in public- and private-sector jobs are required to pay dues or fees to a union even if they elect not to join, according to the National Right to Work Committee.

The latest case comes from Maine, where the Maine State Employees Association (MSEA) is the exclusive bargaining unit for many state workers. As a condition of employment, even those who elect not to join the association must pay compulsory "agency" fees, supposedly to cover the costs of the collective bargaining that benefits them.

But a handful of non-union state workers in Maine noticed that the MSEA was funneling a portion of their fees to its parent union, the Service Employees International, for use in collective bargaining lawsuits in other jurisdictions. That meant the workers were being forced to help pay bargaining costs incurred by union members in other states.

A federal appeals court upheld this practice, but it will now move on to the top court.

"The case is the latest instance of the justices addressing issues that could erode the power of labor unions," noted The Associated Press.

Yet, if limiting the ability of organized labor to use coercion to fund its agenda erodes union power, it's power these groups never should have enjoyed in the first place.

And if the justices rely on precedent, the Maine union will have a tough time during arguments.

In a 1984 case outlined on www.lawmemo. com, Justice Harry Blackmun cited a 1981 decision in which the court unanimously "determined that the {Railway Labor Act}, as informed by the First Amendment, prohibits the use of dissenters' fees for extra-unit litigation." Therefore, the Bill of Rights "proscribes such assessments in the public sector."

That would seem to be right on point, here.

If non-union public-sector workers who are part of a collective bargaining unit -- and must be in order to continue their employment -- wish to voluntarily donate a portion of their checks to help workers elsewhere in their negotiations with management, fine. But they mustn't be forced to do so.


Writers strike cost $ billions

An economist says the 100-day Hollywood writers strike took a $2.5 billion toll on the Los Angeles County economy but was less damaging that previously estimated.

L.A. County Economic Development Corporation chief economist Jack Kyser says the figure includes wages lost by writers and other entertainment industry workers when the strike shut down production on most scripted TV series. It also represents damage done to Hollywood-dependent businesses such as limousine services and caterers.

The strike by members of the Writers Guild of America began November 5th and ended February 12th, after union members reviewed a tentative contract deal and voted to return to work.

Last week, Kyser pegged the cost of the walkout at $3.2 billion.


AFL-CIO grieves Labor Department oversight

The nation's largest labor organization has filed a lawsuit to block federal regulators from requiring unions to disclose more information about their officers' finances. The AFL-CIO says new rules by the Department of Labor "should be held unlawful and set aside," according to a lawsuit recently filed against Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao. The Labor Department says the new rules aim to help disclose potential conflicts of interest.

Under the regulations, officers and employees of a union in many cases must file a report with the Labor Department if they get loans or payments from vendors that do business with the union.

But attorneys for the AFL-CIO, which represents 55 unions and 10.5 million members, are criticizing the rules, saying Mrs. Chao doesn't have the authority to enact the regulations.

The labor organization declined to comment on the lawsuit yesterday, but the AFL-CIO recently posted a statement on its Web site in which Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton sharply criticized the regulations.

"Under the new rules, tens of thousands of union members will be forced, without justification, to navigate a bureaucratic maze of financial-disclosure forms and meet onerous reporting requirements about information as private as their personal mortgages and loans," said Mrs. Clinton, New York Democrat.

Mrs. Clinton's presidential bid has won the backing of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which is one of more than 50 unions in the AFL-CIO and has committed to spending tens of millions of dollars to aid in her election.

The Labor Department, in its official rule-making notice last year, cited a dozen examples of questionable financial arrangements at unions, which regulators say could have been discovered through financial disclosures.


Stern's ends justify SEIU's means

An ongoing battle within the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) reached a new pitch when one of the union's top officials resigned from the executive committee. The resignation brings front and center SEIU President Andy Stern's highly criticized “at any cost” strategy for rebuilding the labor movement.

With the backing of his executive board, the president of the 140,000-member SEIU local United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW), Sal Rosselli, offered a scathing condemnation of Stern's “undemocratic practices” in his widely publicized resignation letter last week. Rosselli charged that “an overzealous focus on growth--growth at any cost, apparently--has eclipsed SEIU's commitment to its members.”

Over the last few years, Stern has honed a strategy for organizing new workers that relies on gaining neutrality agreements from employers (blessings to organize their workforce)--not by picketing or organizing workers' power, but by offering political favors and pre-bargained “template” contracts that are usually “sweetheart” deals.

Usually, workers and local unions can't strike, can't bargain for more and can't complain under the agreements. This type of organizing, while it can gain many members, is at the expense of their rights and of standards in labor as a whole.

UHW has been a part of a number of these large deals, yet their problematic nature and the International union's desire to take the strategy to a national level have put the two SEIU officials at odds.

Rosselli's letter addresses how the International leadership negotiated with employers behind the local's back, excluding it from talks, disingenuously tried to split its staff and proposed jurisdictional changes clearly aimed at limiting the local's power.

In one case, according to Rosselli, Stern “unilaterally decided to eliminate” the multi-local council for bargaining with Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) and appointed his own consultant just before negotiations. In its rebuttal, the International union revealed its intention when it accused Rosselli of “hav[ing] a problem with there being one unified national strategy to help workers unite in Catholic hospitals.”

According to an inside source, this “strategy” would gain for the union 300,000 members, but under the condition of template contracts, and in exchange for continued support of a bad-for-workers national health care bill that could provide a windfall for the hospitals. Plus, though the members would receive representation form the locals, they would be directly signed up to the International to avoid future jurisdictional problems.

This is the direction that the SEIU is headed: a streamlined, top-down, lobbying machine with many members with few rights.

But while Rosselli blows the whistle on the erosion of union democracy and standards, he fails to break from the larger culprit: the overall business union strategy of partnering with employers.

This is the reason why he can criticize Stern for secretly cutting a deal with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to help pass a terrible health care bill--yet he can't come out in strong support of single-payer health care, as other unions have.

Still, the fight for internal democratic reform that will take Rosselli to SEIU's 2008 convention in June will be a step forward--and will encourage rank-and-file dissidents in his union and nationwide to challenge Stern's pro-corporate strategy.

No individual will rebuild the labor movement, not Rosselli and especially not Stern. But the stand Rosselli is taking is opening a space for discussion and struggle within locals and the international for the militants who one day will.


State Labor Commish parties out of bounds

State Labor Commissioner Lloyd Fields apologized for his actions Tuesday, three days after being taken to a detox center from a party where he allegedly tried to take a rodeo cowboy’s guitar. The incident took place at a party after the conclusion of the Professional Bull Riders Association’s Copenhagen Challenge Tour championship event at the Ford Center on Saturday.

Fields did not return calls for comment, but issued a statement saying it was a practical joke gone bad. Earlier, Gov. Brad Henry, a fellow Democrat, said the labor commissioner should explain his actions. “I think at the very least the commissioner owes the public an explanation and an apology,” Henry said.

He said he was “disappointed” in Fields but had few details of the incident. Fields gave little explanation in his short statement.

“I acknowledge an incident occurred last Saturday night,” he said. “However, it was simply a misunderstanding of a practical joke among friends gone bad. I am embarrassed about the incident and take full responsibility. I apologize for my actions and ask forgiveness.”

The Oklahoman quoted sources as saying Fields spent 10 hours in a detox center under the Public Inebriate Alternative Center near downtown Oklahoma City’s Bricktown.
PBR spokeswoman Jodie Edmonds told the newspaper Fields was stopped by PBR staffers after being suspected of taking an expensive guitar owned by bull rider Colby Yates of Pickens, Texas.

“A couple of guys who work for us took him to the ground,” she said. Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty said he could not identify people taken to a detox center because they are not technically under arrest.

Paco Balderrama, police spokesman, said a state law requires identities of people taken to detox centers to be confidential.

Balderrama did confirm that at least three people were taken to detox centers after the bull riding event.

“On that particular night, we did respond to an incident where personnel had detained an individual and the question was posed whether this person was trying to take an item,” he said.

“It was determined that the victim did not wish to place charges on the suspected person and that no crime was committed. Therefore, the person was not placed under arrest.”

Yates did not immediately return telephone messages left for him at his home in Pickens.


Union front-group formed for RICO-style hit

The Campaign for Quality Services, a joint project of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and UNITE HERE, held a rally in Miami, Fla. where labor, elected, and community leaders called for an investigation of Aramark's food service contract with Florida's Department of Corrections.

A 2007 report by the Inspector General of the Florida Department of Corrections found that Aramark was collecting "windfall profits" from its food service contract with the state's prison system at the expense of Florida taxpayers, according to the campaign. The report found that by getting rid of Aramark and doing the work itself, the State of Florida could save approximately $7 million dollars per year, the campaign claims. But instead of firing Aramark, the State of Florida gave them a new five-year contract, the group claims.

Labor leaders at the rally spoke out against Aramark's practices.

"Aramark is charging for phantom meals, cutting food quality and pocketing the savings," said Bruce Raynor, general president, UNITE HERE International, in a prepared statement. "We don't have to stand for this and the Department of Corrections needs to make a change."

"Florida's working families need a break instead of paying millions of dollars to fill the pockets of Aramark's top officials. Under the new contract, Florida appears to continue paying Aramark millions of dollars for meals that are never served. Aramark needs to reimburse Florida taxpayers for their windfall profits. It's time to get rid of Aramark. Florida taxpayers deserve better," said Monica Russo, president, SEIU Healthcare Florida.

Elected and community leaders called for a change on behalf of taxpayers.

"Aramark turns a profit on Florida's dime and a blind eye to Florida's budget problems," said Senator Tony Hill, Senate District 1. "We as legislators cannot and will not stand for this type of greed. There are too many critical needs in this state to allow any private contractor to operate strictly on greed and not quality service."

"This money could help fund community centers, job-training programs, or the institutions that help build Florida communities. Instead the money went to Aramark," said Bernard Poitier, ACORN member.

"Florida is in the midst of a budget crisis and it is financially irresponsible for the State to continue doing business with any company proven to be overcharging on a contract. Florida is not a cash cow for private industry. Companies caught overcharging, must be made to pay back the excess money, with interest. This also illustrates the need for stricter guidelines, oversight and scrutiny of the companies contracted with the State," said Representative Luis Garcia, House District 107.

The campaign is calling for:

* An investigation of Aramark's current and past conduct in the Florida prisons, especially regarding the gap between served and meals billed for, savings resulting from menu changes, and hiring of any state official who approved menu changes.

* Aramark should be called on to return the millions of dollars it saved through reduced-quality food and the over 8 percent drop in inmate participation between 2001 and 2007.

* The State of Florida should re-bid Aramark's contract and replace it with a contract (and another contractor) that maintains stable facility conditions, ensures that savings are passed along to taxpayers, and removes incentives to reduce food quality in order to increase profits. Specifically, this would include contractors billing based on meals served, rather than inmate population.

The Campaign for Quality Services is a joint project of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and UNITE HERE, which brings together workers, parents, clergy and community leaders to raise standards throughout the food, cleaning and maintenance service industries. We work together to raise standards by improving the quality of services, treatment of employees and accountability to the community, taxpayers, and clients.


Publicly-funded labor-activism in Ohio

The Center for Working-Class Studies (CWCS) at Youngstown State University (YSU) was the first academic program in the U.S. to focus on issues of work and class. CWCS members have been at the forefront of "new working-class studies," an international movement that brings together academics, artists, activists, students, and others who are interested in the history, experiences, stories, and politics of the working class.

Started in 1996, the CWCS is housed in YSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and closely affiliated with the American Studies Program. The Center offers courses in American Studies, English, History, and Labor Studies, including a four-course graduate certificate and a focus area within the American Studies MA program. Along with two co-directors, Sherry Linkon and John Russo, the Center has twelve faculty affiliates, eight community affiliates, and a full-time administrative assistant, Patty LaPresta. Located in Smith Hall, the CWCS has offices, an art gallery, a library, a classroom, and a computer lab.

Our Mission: To increase awareness of and respect for working-class life and culture through education, the arts, media, and research

Our Goals:

* Provide models and resources for teaching about working-class life and culture in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and community settings

* Promote awareness of and appreciation for writing, art, and other creative expressions of working-class experience

* Advocate for public policies that serve the interests of working-class people

* Support research that critically and respectfully analyzes the experiences, conditions, and needs of the global working class


A working-class hero is something to be

Despite being exactly one hour late to her Solutions for America Rally at Chaney High School on Youngstown, Ohio’s West Side, New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton got the crowd going with words of encouragement and victory. “We’ve got to get America back in the solutions business,” Clinton said. “... Even the best words in the world aren’t enough unless you match them with action.”

Clinton promised the crowd that she would bring good, middle-class jobs to the Valley by creating manufacturing jobs, green collar jobs and ending special tax breaks for companies looking to relocate. She also said that she would support and protect the rights of unions and their members.

“It’s about picking a president who relies not just on words, but on work,” Clinton said. “Hard work, to get America back to work.”

She also vowed to reform NAFTA, because after its development more than 14 years ago, Clinton said, it has not lived up to its promises. She is the only candidate that has a plan to fix the agreement, and promised that if she’s elected president, she’ll make trade work for the working class.

Regarding health care, she said under her plan, every person in America would be covered. Under Sen. Barack Obama’s plan, more than 15 million would be left out, she said.

“Both Senator Obama and I would make history,” Clinton said. “But only one of us is ready on day one to be commander in chief, ready to manage our economy and ready to defeat the Republicans.”

After the rally, supporters lingered in hopes of meeting the former first lady.

Kelly Thomas, 23, of Mineral Ridge says she will absolutely support Clinton for the presidency. She said she’s been active on Clinton’s Web site and has been writing and sending letters to people in hopes of gaining support for her candidate.

Thomas said she is very concerned about the economy because her mother was a forced Delphi retiree and she knows what it’s like to have a family member lose their job.

“[Clinton] is the only one who has a real plan,” Thomas said. “She has solutions, real promises.”

Max Hanni, 19, of Youngstown said he supports Clinton because he believes she will restore jobs in Youngstown, hence restoring the middle class.

“Bringing jobs back to America is very important,” Hanni said. “Bring back the middle class. We weren’t heard for so many years. Hillary [Clinton] will let us be heard.”

Morgan Honthy, 23, of Youngstown was in complete agreement. She said she thinks Clinton wanting to bring home the soldiers is a good idea, making her Honthy’s hero.

“She’s motivating all of us,” Honthy said. “I feel that she’s really going to change the world.”


Union OKs teacher strike action in N.H.

The threat of a teachers strike now looms over the city, after teachers voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to give its leadership the authority to institute a job action, including a work stoppage. State law prohibits public employees from striking or taking any other kind of job action.

The move comes after Nashua (NH) Mayor Donnalee Lozeau issued a line-item veto of an approved teachers contract Friday, eliminating the first-year raises in the four-year deal. Those raises would have to be paid retroactively, which Lozeau said the city couldn't afford.

The last teachers contract expired in September 2006, and teachers, guidance counselors, librarians, school nurses and other school employees covered by the deal have been working without a raise since.

At a union meeting at Alpine Grove in Hollis on Tuesday afternoon, more than 500 teachers gathered to discuss the next step.

Parking spaces were at a premium, and many teachers had to park along South Depot Road.

The meeting was closed to the public. From outside the hall, teachers could be heard applauding several times throughout the meeting.

The meeting broke up shortly after 5 p.m. As teachers filtered out, they ignored requests for comment, some saying they were told not to speak with the press.

If you goBoard of education budget public hearing

Tonight at 7.

Nashua High School North, 10 Chuck Druding Drive.
After the meeting, Bob Sherman, president of the Nashua Teachers Union, said a motion was raised to give the union's executive board the authority to call for a job action at any time, including a strike.

A voice vote was held, and Sherman said it was nearly unanimous.

"They're angry. They're frustrated," Sherman said of the teachers' mood.

The vote doesn't mean that teachers will strike, but it sets the process in motion for that to happen, said Sherman.

He called a strike a "last resort," and would not elaborate on what other types of job actions could be approved.

Sherman said there was no vote on the contract at the meeting, but the vote teachers did take should make it clear that they are not willing to forgo their retroactive raises.

Sherman proposed that all of the "key players" – school board members, aldermen, Lozeau and union representatives – sit down as a group to come up with some kind of deal, saying that "we're in the eleventh hour."

The current process, which excludes aldermen and the mayor from negotiations, isn't working, he said.

"We need to come up with another way of reaching a fair agreement," he said.

At issue are the first-year raises included in the latest proposal, which would give teachers a 2.75 percent pay increase, retroactive to January 2007.

Teachers would receive 4.75 percent pay increases in the final three years of the deal, though the raises wouldn't kick in until the middle of each school year.

Last week, aldermen approved the contract, 8-6, but knowing that a two-thirds vote would be needed to approve the $3.09 million for the raises, it appeared the contract was dead.

On Friday, Lozeau issued a partial veto of the contract, eliminating the first-year raises but leaving the rest of the deal intact. She said she had collected the 10 votes needed to approve the $425,000 needed to fund her proposal.

The way the contract is structured, teachers would go a year and a half without raises, but would immediately jump from their current frozen salaries to the second year of the salary schedule.

Teachers have also made health-care concessions in the contract, agreeing to pay more for co-pays for prescriptions and gradually paying a higher percentage for medical coverage.

By the final year of the contract, teachers would be paying 10 percent for an HMO Blue or Harvard Pilgrim Health Care plan, up from 5 percent.

Teachers who opt for a point-of-service plan would go from contributing 15 percent to 17 percent.

The contract also raises the minimum starting salary for teachers by eliminating the first two steps of the salary schedule. Starting teachers would make a minimum of $35,940 by the final year of the deal.

Nashua currently ranks 68th in starting salary for teachers.

The union's vote Tuesday, while overwhelming, was not unanimous, and not all teachers agreed that a job action is the right move. One teacher who opposed the vote said it's not going to solve anything.

"The reality is I want this solved," said the teacher, who wished to remain anonymous. "But it's not worth going through a strike. It's not worth affecting students learning."

The teacher also criticized how Tuesday's meeting was handled, saying that not enough information was made available to make an informed decision.

While principally opposed to giving up raises in the first year, the teacher believed there should have at least been some discussion about the actual impact of the veto.

"Get some charts and show us some numbers," the teacher said. "That's what I expected and that's not what I got."

The teacher said that Lozeau's proposal wasn't even considered, and the legality of her actions was questioned. The teacher suggested the outcome of the vote to authorize a strike would have been different if it was a secret ballot.

Sherman said that with nearly 1,000 members of the union, it was impossible to interpret how the veto impacted everyone.

"With 900-plus teachers, you can't get into each individual financial situation," he said.

In a Nashua Teachers Union press release issued later Tuesday evening, Sherman wrote that a strike is not something the union takes lightly.

"We understand that any strike is inconvenient for students and parents, but the teachers and school nurses deserve to be compensated and treated fairly," he wrote.

On Tuesday night, school board members and district administrators met behind closed doors to discuss the status of the contract.

After the meeting ended, Superintendent Christopher Hottel said he wants to see the situation resolved, and he continues to stand behind getting a fair deal for the teachers.

When asked about the possibility of a strike or other job actions, Hottel said it's something he hopes to avoid and realizes it could heighten concern in the community.

"We want to ensure safety and continuity for our students," he said. "It just takes us down the wrong road."

It's not known what the penalties are for breaking state laws for striking.

Other states have imposed heavy fines against teachers unions for organizing strikes. Before teachers in Quincy, Mass., ended their four-day strike last year, a Superior Court judge threatened to fine the union $150,000.

School board member Jack Kelley, chairman of the board's negotiating committee, said he didn't have much information about the next step. He said he needed to get in touch with the board's attorney.

When told about Sherman's proposal to include aldermen and the mayor in negotiations, Kelley again said he needed to consult with board's attorney before commenting.


SEIU on strike at convalescent home

Nearly 100 health care workers at a Millbrae convalescent home will strike Friday over what the workers’ union claims are unfair labor practices. The 87 caregivers at Emmanuel Convalescent Hospital on 33 Mateo Ave. next to El Camino Real will strike for 24 hours and hold a rally at 2 p.m. Millbrae Mayor Gina Papan and San Mateo County supervisors Jerry Hill and Mark Church will show up to support the picketing workers.

The Service Employees International Union United Healthcare West represents the workers. A and C Healthcare purchased the 140-bed hospital on Aug. 8 after its previous owner went bankrupt.

The union claims that the new owners have violated various federal labor laws and fired eight employees for being union activists, said SEIU spokesman Mason Stockstill. The union filed its claims with the National Labor Relations Board.

A and C Healthcare CFO Ampy Ragudo said those claims are false and that no employees have been fired for nonperformance related issues.

The hospital is bringing in workers from various facilities and agencies to fill in Friday and will remain open, Ragudo said.

Hill said he will appear at the rally because the owners have not acted responsibly. The county will not try, however, to gain control of the home as it has done with others convalescent hospitals, he said.

The workers nearly struck on two previous occasions since A and C Healthcare bought the hospital, said chief steward Mau Kiliona. The workers will continue to strike until needs are met, he said.


AAUP fights decert vote in Michigan

Faculty at Michigan Technological University will go to the polls to once again decide whether they want a union to represent them. The Michigan Employment Relations Commission scheduled a decertification election for Wednesday and Thursday on campus. The ballot will ask tenured and tenure-track faculty whether they want to be represented by the American Association of University Professors.

The union needs to achieve a simple majority, in this case 157 of the university’s 312 tenured and tenure-track faculty, to continue representing the faculty in negotiations with university administration. If the union falls short of that mark, the election will reverse a 2004 vote in which union representation was approved.

The decertification election was initiated Oct. 31, when Jim Mihelcic, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, filed a petition with MERC. At least 30 percent of affected Tech faculty signed the petition.

The Daily Mining Gazette contacted professors Dana Johnson, Brad King and Mihelcic, all associated with the anti-unionization Web site www.qualitymtu.com, but all three declined to speak on the record.

The Web site states the initial vote to unionize passed by a slim margin and was propelled in part by faculty reaction to unpopular policies put in place by former MTU President Curt Tompkins’ administration.

When faculty initially voted to unionize Sept. 29, 2004, the tally was 152 to 134.

According to the site, opponents of unionization hold that stance because they want to retain autonomy, they want to avoid additional bureaucracy they say the union has already created, they do not want to pay union dues and they would not want to be forced to go on strike should the union call for one.

Marilyn Cooper, president of the Michigan Technological University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the union is necessary to help the faculty bargain for better salaries and for administrative procedures that are legally enforceable through a contract.

“Not just this administration, but the two of them before them have felt that they could violate the procedures whenever they felt it convenient,” Cooper said.

The filing of the petition Oct. 31 brought contract negotiations between the union and the administration to a halt.

“Unfortunately, when they file a petition, by Michigan labor laws, you’re not allowed to negotiate any more,” Cooper said.

Cooper said the union and the university had been coming closer to agreeing on contract terms.

“We’ve made good progress toward a contract so we’re not particularly happy that they filed a petition at that point,” Cooper said.

Tech Vice President for Advancement Shea McGrew said the election is a key turning point for the university. He painted the vote as a referendum on the university’s strategic plan, which he said involves a transition from a regional university to a nationally and internationally regarded research institution.

“In a sense this election is really about the strategic direction of the university,” McGrew said. “The union leadership has not been supportive of that strategic direction, which we feel is important for Tech to survive and thrive.”

Balloting is scheduled from 7:30 a.m to 9:30 a.m. and from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday only. Voting will take place in rooms B1, B2 and B3 on the second floor of the Memorial Union Building.


Congressman comments on collectivism

Winning at all costs is not worth losing one’s principles, U.S. Rep Tim Walberg told Hillsdale College students Monday night. The Republican congressman spoke to about 20 people in Mauck Hall, using the President’s Day holiday as a backdrop for a speech about that position.

Walberg warned against the philosophies that Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are advocating on the campaign trail, saying any move toward a larger government is ill–advised. “I disagree that government should do more,” he said. “Moving back toward any kind of larger government, socialist or collectivist idea is not only wrong but detrimental and evil.”

However, not all Republicans are fans of Sen. John McCain, the likely Republican nominee for president. Walberg said he is not either but that voting for McCain would be better than the alternative.

In addition, Walberg will run this fall to keep his seat in the House. He said a recent newspaper editorial criticizing his right–wing philosophies insinuated that beating the Democrat challenger in the district will be difficult.

“My race would be closer if I was more moderate,” he said.

But Walberg said he would not move away from his beliefs, which tend to run anti–abortion and anti–big government, just to win more votes. Although he said the Republican Party has compromised itself in recent years by moving away from its platform, voting–in a Democrat for either the House or the presidency would make America worse.

“We’re at a tipping point,” he said. “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face in this (election) ... This election will be a challenge because of gold–tongued speakers and people who believe they are entitled to things.”

For the good of the country, Walberg said, voters need to start taking less in order to keep their freedom. That can be difficult when the issue is universal health care or program funding, he said, but Americans and especially Republicans need to stand up for their ideals.

This being a President’s Day speech, Walberg cited his favorite presidents as Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. The students in the audience took a poll earlier in the day and found that, among Republicans, Reagan, Lincoln and George Washington were the best presidents in American history.

The worst? Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, according to the informal poll.


Students protest teachers' conduct

The dispute over the Burrillville, RI teachers’ contract hit home for Brianne Lees and her friends about two weeks ago. That’s when local students say they realized teachers were leaving their classrooms as soon as school let out. In other words, students who might want extra help on the latest math problem were out of luck.

Lees wondered: Would the teachers help chaperone the senior prom? How about the graduation party after commencement? And come to think of it, would teachers attend commencement? The senior, a granddaughter of Councilman Wallace Lees, was worried enough to help organize a student protest.

Lees’ involvement with a two-hour sit-in on Friday morning signifies a rising tide of resentment in Burrillville schools, where the teachers’ union is applying more leverage after delaying the opening of school for a few days in August.

Many teachers stopped providing afterschool assistance to students during the first week of February, according to Schools Supt. Steven Welford.

Welford said the seniors will still have graduation and a prom, but the teachers’ latest tactic — working within the terms of their contract without affording some extras, including afterschool help — has affected students. Other than the initial strike, the student population had been insulated from the contract dispute until now.

“The kids are seeing a noticeable difference and the kids are concerned about it,” Welford said. “I understand how they feel. We’re all concerned about it.”

Lees said she knows students who are worrying about graduating and need extra help after school.

On Friday morning, when it was time to report to class, she and some other students chose to sit on the floor in the hallway outside the school’s media center. It was 7:30 a.m.

The idea of some old-fashioned civil disobedience, in the tradition of Henry David Thoreau, had come up in English class.

Various students noticed the protest on the way to class and joined in. Both Lees and another organizer, Stephanie L. Brien, another senior, estimated the student participation at 30 to 50 students.

Principal Robert Boule came to the area very quickly and talked to the concerned seniors. The discussion was reassuring. Boule told the students that they would have a senior prom and graduation, the students say. He invited them to talk to the superintendent, Welford.

The talk lasted about two hours, until about 9:30 a.m., Lees said.

Boule then asked the students to stand up and return to class and many of them did. Lees rose and urged the holdouts, including Brien, to follow suit.

Throughout, she said, she had urged the students to be peaceful and respectful in their disobedience. Some of the students, including Brien, wanted Welford to come speak to them that morning.

Boule told them that Welford was unavailable.

Lees and Brien say Boule eventually told the last remaining protesters, about 15 students, that they were now causing a disturbance and a police officer would handcuff and remove each of them from the school if they did not disperse and head to class. Everyone complied.

Friday’s event followed a protest at the middle school that required a greater effort from police.

Police officers were called about 8 a.m. to help retrieve seven students who ran into nearby woods in an apparent protest, according to police Lt. Kevin S. SanAntonio. Some of the students weren’t back in school until about 10 a.m., he said.

Brien, of Mapleville, one of the final holdouts at the high school, figured she missed more than two hours of class. She doesn’t count herself as a troublemaker, although she’s had a few detentions.

She’s a member of Students Against Destructive Decisions and she hopes to attend Rhode Island College next year.

She said she found Boule persuasive, but she won’t be satisfied until she hears from Welford. Hearing from him in the newspaper isn’t good enough.

“You want to hear about it yourself,” she said.

Lees, an honors student with plans to become a teacher herself someday, said her classmates will have a chance to talk to Welford at the School Committee’s meeting on March 11.

Neither Boule nor the spokesman for the teachers’ union, Patrick Crowley, responded to a request for comment on the situation.


Ex-Teamster police changed to win

Members of the Rutland Police Department have decertified from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 170 and have unionized with the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, Police Department members have announced.

MassCop currently represents 2,800 police officers in 105 cities and towns throughout Massachusetts. It is in affiliation with a number of other fraternal and labor organizations, including the International Union of Police Associations, the National Association of Police Organizations, the International AFL-CIO and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.

The change comes as the officers of the Rutland Police Department are seeking a new contract with the town. The current contract expires June 20.


Locked-out union rejected three offers

Locked out steelworkers received a display of support from another area union Monday and a monetary contribution from the United Steelworkers International. Members of the National Association of Letter Carriers Union braved frigid temperatures Monday as a display of solidarity with the 270 United Steelworker Local 3141 Union members who have been locked out of Griffin Pipe, 2601 Ninth Ave., since Jan. 27.

Approximately 20 letter carriers joined the picket line on their President's Day holiday. Union President Scott Punteney said the show of support was appreciated.

Over the weekend the union received a contribution from the United Steelworker International's Strike in Defense Fund - even though the union is locked out and not on strike - to assist union members financially as the lockout starts its fourth week.

The lockout was the result of failed contract negotiations, according to representatives of Griffin Pipe. The work agreement expired in November 2007, and the union rejected three proposals prior to the lockout.

Punteney said they have tried to arrange meetings to renegotiate, but the company has not set a date for discussions.

Community support and donations continue to be steady, Punteney said. Donations have been received from the Council Bluffs Association of Professional Firefighters Local 15 and United Steelworkers Local 795, who work at Omaha Standard.

A five-member union panel is distributing all contributions to union members according to need.


Teamsters want unionization vote

Related Posts with Thumbnails