Union political money corrupts "change"

Unless you've been living in a tent in the Falklands you know that a campaign for president is being waged in the United States in which the main issue is the word "change." Change is the issue because the country is fed up with what is not going on in Washington. The inability of Congress to do anything but engage in partisan sparring has created a national demand for political change.

Meanwhile, as the candidates promise change and CNN devotes 99 and 44/100ths of its broadcasts to presidential politics, neither CNN nor any news medium, commentator or pundit, to my knowledge, has challenged them on how they expect to accomplish it.

We've forgotten the reality of Washington where money does the talking and good intentions are frequently spoken but seldom achieved. Even a majority in both houses of Congress is no guarantee that the president's bills will be enacted. The Democrat majority in the current Congress saw a timetable for troop withdrawal blocked by a Republican procedural move.

Nevertheless, no matter which candidate is elected, life is going to be better because they have said so. They tell us that they are going to do what the incumbent won't do and what past presidents have been unable to do.

We will have universal health care at last, higher employment because corporations will no longer send their work overseas, schools will be fully funded, the government will help with college tuition, illegal immigration will be stopped, the troops will come home, taxes and the deficit will be reduced.

There are pledges to sweep Washington clean of the influence of lobbyists, initiate a one-page income tax return and -- seven years after 9/11 -- find Osama Bin Laden "if I have to chase him to the gates of hell."

The candidates know that in Congress lobbying is as much an institution as the Pledge of Allegiance. Congress steps aside when lobbyists bring pressure for their interests.

The sole promise the new president can keep, as commander in chief , is to order the troops home without consulting Congress. As for the other gratuitous claims, it might be easier to scale the Washington monument.

How does a newly elected president stop corporations from shifting operations overseas? How does a new president cut taxes, institute universal health care or improve public education across the nation? And how does a new president, who most likely sought lobbying dollars to get elected, then send the lobbyists packing? These things cannot be realized without legislation. The claims we hear on TV are so many pipe dreams without the consent of Congress. Getting that has become increasingly unlikely in the adversarial climate that exists in Washington.

A leading example is President Bush's first-term plan to privatize Social Security, which he launched with the momentum of a new administration. It didn't fly even with a party majority in Congress because of fear. Members of Congress feared defeat in the next election if they tampered with a sacred program like Social Security.

Similar concerns will scuttle any attempt to remove the influence of lobbyists. In our political system money wins elections, or at least makes it possible for a politician to run. There is little chance that a sitting member of Congress is going give up this time-honored means to get re-elected.

The more money that is involved in running for office the more influence that donors -- wealthy individuals, companies, labor unions, and other interest groups -- have over elected officials and public policy.

Lip-service efforts to stem individual campaign contributions have been neatly sidetracked by the use of soft money contributions to political parties to promote candidates and issues indirectly. Campaign finance reform is such a tender business it's always a hotly debated issue in elections itself.

Asking officeholders to scrap the system is like voting for term limits (Huh? Who said that?). Notice we don't hear much about term limits although it is the one sure way to clean up the political mess in Washington.

Re-election madness is what keeps politicians in line and on the receiving end of lobbyist donations. Self-interest comes before the public interest. Anyone who cures this affliction has my vote.

- Don North, a Times-News community columnist, lives in Hendersonville. His column appears on the fourth Friday of every month.


Union lines up Google for 'labor peace'

On February 7th, more than one hundred members of UNITE HERE Local 19 and community supporters held a rally next to Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA. The city owns land adjacent to Google where the company plans to develop a four-star hotel and conference center. Google has refused to provide guarantees to the union that hotel workers at the site will be able to choose union representation quickly and without intimidation.

"We have all heard the buzz about how well Google treats its employees," said Enrique Fernandez, Business Manager for UNITE HERE Local 19. "We want Google to live up to its reputation."

Betty Guzman, a Holiday Inn employee, said, "I went to the rally not just for myself but for future hotel workers, who deserve living wages, affordable health care, and the right to choose a union." Union supporters are urging the city council not to approve the hotel deal unless the development reflects community values and protects worker's rights.


Liberal Fascists duck-and-cover

That "thwack" you hear from coast to coast is conservative book-writing pundits smacking themselves on the forehead and exclaiming, "Why didn't I think of that?" The reason is National Review editor Jonah Goldberg's new book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, as it racks up huge sales and dominates best-seller lists.

It's a natural — even obvious — idea whose time has come. The packaging is simple but brilliant, with a provocative title and one of the all-time classic dust jackets. The book is at once "high-concept" (a subject that can be defined simply and compellingly), yet unlike much of what passes as political publishing these days, Goldberg provides enough substance and complexity to justify his book's length and price.

In fact, most readers who pick up Liberal Fascism would wonder why hasn't anyone given us this great resource before now.

Not only is the topic is ubiquitous -- it's nearly impossible to engage in any form of conservative activism, from advocating tax cuts to protesting abortion without some ignorant leftie throwing the word "fascist" in your direction — but it's also been going on for more than 60 years.

As George Orwell wrote in 1946, "The word Fascism has now no meaning except insofar as it signifies 'something not desirable.'" Of course, PC institutions like the mainstream media or academe have another synonym for everything not desirable: conservative.

Those of us who have been on the receiving end of the fascist epithet generally have a stock answer depending on the topic. If the argument is economic, it's common to point out that national socialism (fascism) is hardly the polar opposite of international socialism (communism), but free markets are the opposite of both. And nearly every pro-life activist knows that Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger was a rabid eugenicist who was more interested in selective breeding than "choice" -- and she provided Nazis a platform in her publications.

Goldberg covers this ground as well in a most enlightening way. How many conservatives, for example, know the stated end goal of the early 20th century Progressive movement was the engineering of a superior race by statist means?

When most people hear "fascist," they think "Nazi" or "blackshirt," and associate the phrase "right wing" with both. Goldberg dismisses that with this pithy paragraph:

"So, we are supposed to see a party in favor of universal education, guaranteed employment, increased entitlements for the aged, the expropriation of land without compensation, the nationalization of industry, the abolition of market-based lending -- a.k.a. 'interest slavery'— the expansion of health services, and the abolition of child labor as objectively right wing."

There is a political party that has two presidential candidates vying for their nomination who, to one degree or another, agrees with all these platforms of the German Nazi Party of the 1930s. Hint: It's not the Republican Party.

Much of the historical content in Liberal Fascism is far from a new take on events. Any discussion of fascism on the Frontpage message boards brings up the main points of Goldberg's theses. (On the day I started Liberal Fascism, in fact, I was called a fascist by a pacifist wingnut for writing positively about the value system US military, and several readers jumped to my defense).

There have always been excellent historical sources available for conservatives to counter the fascist slur. Charles Bracelin Floods excellent Hitler: The Path to Power, gives a detailed picture of Hitler's appropriation of Communist tactics and ideas, Thomas Fleming's popular The Illusion of Victory is a thorough expose of Woodrow Wilson's fascist tactics, which included jailing of dissidents, using propaganda, adopting openly racist policies and thirsting for war. And Amity Shlaes's recent The Forgotten Man reminds us that FDR not only declared war on big business, but his goons also tried to retroactively imprison those businesses that were contrary to the goals of the National Recovery Act.

But no matter how informative these and other resources are, no other single book I know of has been devoted to this topic in particular. Liberal Fascism is the rare tool that has the potential to change the vernacular — or at least give powerful backup to those engaged in the war of words..

Goldberg's focus is is perfectly timed. After generations of misappropriating the word "liberal" and thoroughly discrediting a word that classically applies better to George Washington than to George McGovern, the American Left has reclaimed its roots by attempting to resurrect the euphemism of "progressive" to describe itself.

This would seem a good public relations move. Everyone is for "progress," and all anyone remembers about the Progressives from high school history class is that they were for food safety standards, banning child labor, breaking up predatory monopolies and reforming slumlords.

But as Goldberg points out, America's turn-of-the-century progressives were the direct intellectual forebears of 1930s fascism, and many of those who lived that long actively supported both the Italian and German "experiments."

The Progressives and fascists both admired Bismarck's welfare state, though the collapse of Christianity in Europe was replaced by a religion of the state, while the Social Gospel -- the means for perfecting the masses -- became dominant in America.

The Progressives' variety, Goldberg writes, was "nice and for your own good … a sort of Christian fascism. … But liberals often forget that the Progressives were also imperialists, at home and abroad. They were the authors of Prohibition, the Palmer Raids, eugenics, loyalty oaths, and, in its modern incarnation, what many would call 'state capitalism.'"

As Goldberg points out, both fascists like Italy's Benito Mussolini and progressives like Woodrow Wilson claimed the same intellectual forebears, and it is utterly specious to posit that modern conservatives and fascists have any intellectual roots in common. Conservatives simply draw no inspiration from Hegel, Nietzsche or Rousseau; fascists and progressives do — and Wilson and Mussolini expressly did.

One of the great ironies — and strokes of genius — of Goldberg's approach is the book's title. Media commentators who have not read the book have brushed it off as "Ann Coulter-like" merely because they are offended by the title.

But the phrase was coined by one of early Progressivism's brightest and most enduring stars -- science fiction writer and socialist H. G. Wells, who is still a literary hero of the Left. Wells coined the phrase "liberal fascism," while opining that the world had "tired of parliamentary government" and was ready for just such a phenomenon.

Lefties often admire Wells, a Fabian Socialist, for his utopian vision, but they conveniently overlook his fondness for even forcible eugenic experiments. Similarly whitewashed is Wilson, who gets "credit" for visualizing world peace through the League of Nations even though his vision cost 100,000 American lives and ended in abject failure.

But Wilson was the also epitome of a Progressive president in deed and word. Goldberg points out that Leftists are always on the guard for a future fascist dictatorship just waiting to pounce from the shadows of the conservative movement (a la Sinclair Lewis's ironically titled novel, It Can't Happen Here). But Goldberg notes Lewis was late. America had already experienced fascist dictatorship under Wilson.

Consider the following:

o Wilson lied about German atrocities to fire the nation up for war.
o Wilson used the American Legion as a domestic spying organization to suppress dissent, even in private conversation.
o Wilson's police state jailed people for expressing doubts about War Bond drives.
o Wilson appropriated vast powers over the economy during World War I — authority that the Progressives tried to keep even as peace arrived with the slogan, "It worked in wartime."

By the 1930s, it could have been proclaimed, "We are all fascists now." Goldberg, like Shlaes, points out that Herbert Hoover was hardly a free market fan, but his tinkering with the economy was nothing compared to the massive control that Franklin Roosevelt asserted during the Great Depression.

The New Deal revolutions were far too vast to be dealt with in one chapter, but Goldberg's recounting of the National Recovery Act's program and its bullying tactics -- combined with a suspiciously Germanic "Blue Eagle" trademark -- makes one wonder what modern liberals flyspecking for the slightest whiff of fascist tendencies in conservatism would make of it — if they had any real historical memory.

But while pointing out these similarities and following the intellectual and political threads through Democratic politics to the present day, Goldberg effectively turns "Bush is a Nazi" rhetoric on its head-- but repeatedly says, "liberals are not Nazis."

Goldberg makes the point that American fascism is warm and fuzzy fascism of the we-will-take-care-of-you variety — or, as George Carlin put it (though he undoubtedly meant something else), "smiley face fascism."

But even smiley fascists need an enemy for motivation, a rallying point for their anger. Though modern liberal fascists may not be genocidal, they do have a target. "The white male," Goldberg writes, "is the Jew of liberal fascism."

The first two-thirds of Liberal Fascism is the most valuable. It exposes the attitudes, philosophies and actions of the early heroes of the leftist pantheon as being firmly and unapologetically in the fascist camp. Goldberg kills the argument that liberty-based conservatism has fascist ancestry, then drags the corpse around the block and stomps on it several times for good measure.

Among the common threads of Progressivism, fascism and modern liberalism that Goldberg explores are:

o Calls for an "industrial policy" with various degrees of state economic control.
o Eugenics, from selective breeding in the 1930s, abortion politics and cloning today.
o Rhetorical calls for change for its own sake.
o Separating children from parental authority.
o Applying the language of war to domestic problems.
o Dependence on martyred leaders -- be it Horst Wessel orJohn F. Kennedy -- to give the movement a religious fervor.

It's when Goldberg gets to the modern day that things get a little dicey-- though no less entertaining or interesting. Even those who agree with Goldberg's thesis will find much worth arguing over in the later chapters. And they'll have a ball doing so.

While Goldberg's tracing of fascist intellectual genealogy through to its current "liberal" offspring is persuasive, his discussion of fascist style is pretty subjective.

For one thing, Goldberg tends to describe any outward trait manifested by fascists as "fascistic." But fascists were influenced by history and culture too, and are, after all, human. Not everything fascists did — even as a group — in unique to fascism.

In his section on the New Left, Goldberg recounts the radical student takeover of Cornell's administration building in 1969 and takes great delight comparing it to similar pro-fascist student uprisings in Germany in the 1930s. (And I eagerly anticipate someday being able to make use of those comparisons in a face-to-face argument.)

But Goldberg later admits the forcible methods of ideological "confessions" and students bullying professors into recanting their beliefs more directly hearkens to Mao's Cultural Revolution of a few years earlier. But, he inserts, "Who more classically fits the definition of fascist than Mao?"

While this is an interesting example that shows that Communism and fascism are nearly interchangeable on many levels, to conflate completely the two is to be terribly imprecise. If you can't call Mao a Communist, the word has no meaning.

While admitting to be a fan of the Dirty Harry films, Goldberg later writes that liberals "were not wrong" to detect "fascist themes" in the movies. Harry, in effect, was a revolutionary taking the law into his own hands as a Nietzsche-esque superman, Goldberg contends.

But he misses the point: Detective Harry Callahan was rebelling against liberal fascists in Dirty Harry by fighting to preserve the old order of justice, whose primary concern was protection of the innocent. His opponents were the revolutionaries who had rewritten the Constitution by judicial fiat. Dirty Harry was more Samuel Adams than Horst Wessell; his rebellion was in defense of liberty and, thus, was a conservative.

At times, it seems a more precise — but less cool -- title for this book would have been Democrat Fascism. President Theodore Roosevelt makes several cameo appearances s in Liberal Fascism, but he does not get the full treatment despite his post-presidential prominence in Progressive circles.

And while it took until the turn of the century for American Progressives to bloom into full-fledged fascists, the Radical Republicans of Lincoln's time should get some mention as a historical influence.

What better example of a warlike religion of the state could there be than Julia Ward Howe's Battle Hymn of the Republic and its reveling in the imagery of Confederate blood as being stomped in a divine winepress by the Union armies of God?

Goldberg sees the "fascist temptation" in "compassionate conservatism," including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's stated admiration for early progressives and a boomlet of TR admiration among the GOP intelligentsia in the late 1990s. Still, he shies away from using the f-word directly on Republicans.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, however, does rate this pointed paragraph in the chapter "Liberal Fascist Economics:":

"John McCain perfectly symbolizes the Catch-22 of modern liberalism. McCain despises the corrupting effect of 'big money' in politics, but he is also a major advocate of increase government regulation of business. Apparently, he cannot see that the more government regulates business, the more business will take an interest in regulating government. Instead, he has concluded that he should try to regulate political speech, which is like decrying the size of the garbage dump and deciding the best thing to do is regulate the flies.

American politicians spend so much time extolling past American icons that we tend to treat it like background noise. Perhaps we should grant that McCain really means it when he calls Teddy Roosevelt his role model.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, however, rates a whole chapter called "Brave New Village," which is a good antidote to all the "moderate" and "pragmatic" talk around the former first lady.

"Liberal Fascism" is a rich motherlode of facts, ideas, philosophy, polemic and brilliant bull session. I've only scratched the surface with this column. This is a book that belongs on your shelf and consulted often if you regularly argue about such things with lefties.

Besides, it's a lot of fun just to carry around. Just walk into a Starbucks or a Borders café and plop it on your table. It has a similar repelling effect as crosses in one of Jonah Goldberg's favorite TV shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The expressions you engender alone are worth the 28 bucks. Trust me on this.


Newspaper union showdown delayed

The end-of-the-month showdown between the Seattle Times Co. and Teamsters Local 174 truckers appears to be off, for now anyway. Times Co. senior vice president for human resources Alayne Fardella, in an update sent to the paper's employees today, Feb. 25, said the company has not sent the required 30-day notification of termination of its contract with 74 union truckers and mechanics, leaving the old contract in place. The company still plans to outsource bulk trucking of newspapers to private contractor Penske Logistics, Fardella says, but it isn't clear when.

Times officials say they need to outsource the truckers as part of the paper's effort to cut $21 million out of its operating budget this year. Penske, which met with officials from the union's local and international office last month, has other Teamsters contracts and told the union it was willing to fill the outsourced Times slots with Teamster members.

Teamster officials have said they oppose the outsourcing and warn that the effort could lead to a federal lawsuit, a picket line, or a boycott if the locally controlled, privately held Times Co. lays off truckers while the old contract remains in force. That could shut both of Seattle's dailies, because The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, separately owned by Hearst, function under a joint operating agreement (JOA) in which the Times Co. prints and distributes both papers. Fardella says the union has offered the P-I a "side deal" to ensure delivery of its papers in the event of any labor action against the Times.

But Patty Warren, senior business agent for Teamsters Local 174, which represents the truckers, says that Times labor negotiator Chris Biencourt told the union two weeks ago the paper didn't intend to meet its Feb. 29 outsourcing deadline. That would push back any face-off between the paper and the union at least to the end of March, according to Warren.

Is the Times Co. backing off? A spokesperson didn't return Crosscut's request for comment, but Fardella's memo says the company is moving toward a definitive agreement with Penske while being "as respectful as possible, to both our employees and the union, during this time of necessary change."

Still, by threatening to outsource the Teamsters by the end of this month, then pulling back, some union officials say, the paper is sending mixed messages to employees, many of whom are nervous about their jobs. The Teamsters, who also represent Times pressroom employees, would also be free to set up a picket line at the Times after their contract expires on Thursday.

"Sometimes you have to scratch your head and say, 'Who knows why the Times does what they do,'" says Liz Brown, administrative officer for the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, which represents news and advertising workers at both papers. The Guild's own contract ends July 21, and the union expects to begin negotiations for a new agreement by mid-May, Brown says.


Union organizers' work is never done

Drivers and dockworkers at UPS Freight Inc.’s Kansas City, Kan., terminal have again rejected a new labor group’s attempt to organize them. However, the leader of the Association of Parcel Workers of America said another objection may be filed against last week’s election results as well.

In three days of balloting last week, 109 workers voted against joining the parcel workers group while 87 voted to join the organization, said Dan Hubbel, regional director of the National Labor Relations Board office in Overland Park. About 300 hourly employees were eligible to vote.

The margin of defeat was closer than the first election, when the vote was 203-66 against the fledgling group. However, Van Skillman, president of the parcel workers group, said some employees did not get a chance to vote because polls closed 30 minutes earlier than they were told.

“The company put misinformation out about when the polls closed,” he said. “Otherwise, we would have won that election. We want to get these results overturned and hold another election as quickly as possible.”

Skillman said his organization planned to file an objection to the election results. Hubbel said Friday that the NLRB had yet to receive an objection on the election results.

A UPS Freight spokesman said this was the second time employees in Kansas City, Kan., rejected this particular group to be its bargaining representative.

“I’d like to reserve any more comment until an official objection has been filed with the NLRB,” said Ira Rosenfeld, a UPS Freight spokesman in Richmond, Va.

The parcel workers group objected to the results of the first election last August, alleging improper employer behavior, leading to this month’s election.

The Teamsters union, which contends that the parcel workers group has no standing as a labor organization, is in the midst of a card-signing campaign to unionize UPS Freight workers. The company has agreed to recognize the Teamsters as the bargaining representative if the campaign is successful.

Since the effort began in mid-January, about 5,830 workers have agreed to join the Teamsters in terminals around the country. UPS Freight has about 12,400 hourly employees.

Skillman said the company is obligated to post notices at those various terminals where a majority of workers have signed cards to join the Teamsters. Those notices, provided by the NLRB, give information about the rights of workers who want to start an organizing drive for a rival union or a card signing to decertify the Teamsters organization.

“UPS hasn’t posted these notices at any of these terminals,” he said.

Rosenfeld said that the card-signing campaign is in its early stages and that the company will comply with rules set by the NLRB to proceed.


UAW goes out on strike v. American Axle

The UAW sent its members at American Axle & Manufacturing Inc. on strike early today, protesting the company's proposals on wage and benefit concessions. People filtered out of the union hall for UAW Local 235, on Holbrook Street in Hamtramck, with picket signs. Some were moving toward the nearby American Axle complex.

In a letter to members handed out at meetings Monday night, and obtained by the Free Press, the union said the company had made unreasonable proposals on wages and proposed increasing co-pays for prescription drugs, eliminating vision coverage and freezing pension benefits, replacing them with a 401(k) plan.

The union said it requested information from the company on the assumptions used to reach these demands, but the supplier has so far refused. The union is now accusing American Axle of committing unfair labor practices.

"We will have no alternative but to strike," the letter said. American Axle's contract expired at 11:59 p.m. Monday.

In a statement after the strike started, the company said its primary objective "is to achieve a market-competitive labor cost structure in the United States."

This would be the third strike against an auto company in six months and the second strike against Detroit-based American Axle in four years.

Earlier Monday evening, the two sides were still far apart on the fundamental issue of wages, which the company has been seeking to lower for more than 3,000 workers, said people familiar with the negotiations.

Another sticking point in the talks was the company's proposal for plant shutdowns, said Wendy Thompson, former president of UAW Local 235, who had been briefed on the talks.

Management has said it wants to lower the overall compensation from $65 an hour, including wages and benefits, to $27.

That would take wages from about $27 an hour to more like $14 to $18 an hour -- a level closer to what Delphi Corp. pays, or the second-tier wage negotiated at the Detroit Three last summer.

"We continue to believe the new contract has the potential to take down AXL's labor cost by $20 an hour and, with attrition programs, yield potential savings of $200 million annually," said Lehman Brothers auto analyst Brian Johnson.


Airline pilots man Strike Operations Center

After three years of negotiations, Pinnacle Airlines pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), today announced the opening of a Strike Operations Center in Bloomington (MN), where Pinnacle pilot volunteers can coordinate strike preparedness activities in their effort to achieve a fair contract.

"We want to send a clear message to Pinnacle management: Pinnacle pilots are serious about doing whatever it takes to negotiate a contract that recognizes the sacrifices the pilots have made to the financial success of this airlines," said Capt. Scott Erickson, chairman of the ALPA unit at Pinnacle.

The strike center will provide a centralized location for Pinnacle pilots to coordinate picketing and other related activities, plan contingencies in preparation for a possible strike, and track all pilots' schedules to locate and coordinate travel for any Pinnacle pilot stranded in the event a strike is called.

Capt. Erik Addy, chairman of the Pinnacle pilots' Strike Preparedness Committee, which oversees all the functions of the strike center, said pilots are fully prepared to conduct a strike if management refuses to negotiate a reasonable agreement.

"My committee has been working diligently for more than a year to prepare this pilot group for any outcome," said Capt. Addy. "Pinnacle pilots are unified and strongly committed to attaining our contract goals. We are ready to do whatever it takes to achieve a fair contract."

Pinnacle pilots have not had a raise in pay for more than three years, while the hours they are away from home continue to increase. As a result, pilot morale is at an all-time low, and pilots are leaving en masse to work for airlines that value a pilot's contribution to the bottom line and provide professional pilot wages.

"Our airline is prospering, yet management continues to demand a below-industry average contract from us," said Capt. Erickson. First-year Pinnacle pilots earn less than $18,000 a year, while nearly half of our pilots earn less than $30,000 a year.

Capt. Erickson added, "Our pilots have expressed their frustration by giving nearly unanimous authorization for their union leaders to call a lawful withdrawal of services, if released to do so by the National Mediation Board, should contract talks fail to result in an agreement. While the pilots remain committed to exhausting every effort to reach a satisfactory contract -- one that includes an increase in wages and benefits and greater job security -- this strike center will allow us to be prepared if Pinnacle management fails to reverse its negotiating patterns. By stalling at the negotiating table, Pinnacle management is on the verge of doing irreparable damage to its relationship with a vital component of its operation -- its pilots."

The Pinnacle pilots began collective bargaining with management under Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act in February 2005, and the agreement their pilots currently work under became amendable in May 2005. Negotiations have been conducted with the assistance of the National Mediation Board since September 2006.

Based in Memphis, Pinnacle Airlines operates as Northwest Airlink and Delta Connection and flies more than 130 modern, sophisticated jet aircraft, including the newest addition to their fleet, the CRJ-900, which is operated under the Delta Connection livery.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world's largest pilot union representing more than 61,000 cockpit crewmembers at 43 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at www.alpa.org.


Teachers' union may take big dues hit

Vista (CA) Unified School District officials will let 133 district employees know that they may be laid off this year. The district's board of trustees reluctantly decided on the move at a heavily attended meeting Thursday night. Trustee Carol Herrera voted against the proposal and Trustee Stephen Guffanti was not at the meeting

They also talked about delaying opening the new magnet high schools as a way to deal with anticipated reductions in spending, but after a 2-2 vote, they decided to revisit the topic at a future meeting. Among the employees who will be notified they may not be rehired are 120 teachers, seven assistant principals, three psychologists, a special education resource supervisor and two speech therapists.

The district has until March 15 to let certain employees know that they may not have a position next year, although their positions may not end up being eliminated.

Several parents and teachers spoke out against the proposal, saying that keeping teachers and smaller classes should be a top priority.

Board Vice President Steve Lilly said that he hopes the district doesn't have to lay anyone off, but acknowledged it may be necessary.

"We, in fact, have to bear the brunt of making the final budget decisions," Lily said.

Discussions on what will be cut are only beginning, and there's plenty of work left to do, board President Jim Gibson said.

"This is not as cut and dry as a lot of people would first view it," he said. "It isn't something that you just throw spaghetti on the wall and hope that it sticks."

Also at the meeting, district administrators gave an update on the status of the budget and potential cuts. District officials are expecting to have to cut between $8 million and $12 million from what they were expecting to spend next year.

"There will be major changes - across the state and certainly in Vista," said Sandy Gecewicz, chief academic officer.

Discusson of saving money by delaying the opening of Mission Vista High Schools stirred up emotions. District officials had planned to open the magnet schools in August on an incomplete campus near the intersection of Highway 76 and Melrose Drive in eastern Oceanside. Now, they're contemplating waiting a year.

Several parents passionately pleaded with the trustees to get it opened this year.

"The community feels betrayed, and they feel let down," said Elizabeth Jaka, who has a daughter attending Vista High School. "We've been promised and promised and promised and promised these schools."

It will cost the district at least $1.3 million to open the schools, said Pam Hayden, chief financial officer.

Trustees heard from dozens of parents and teachers Thursday as they discussed priorities in response to looming budget cuts next fiscal year.

District administrators presented a list they compiled from recommendations that have poured in throughout the month from more than 1,000 district employees and hundreds of parents.

At the top of the list are reducing the number of district administrators, which 190 people recommended; offering early retirement benefits, which 183 people suggested, and eliminating the Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes, which 160 people picked. The district uses the reading program to help students struggling with English.

Many of the parents who spoke said they think the district should form a committee of parents, teachers and students to make recommendations on potential cuts.

Most of the parents who sent recommendations to the district this month didn't have the information they needed to make the best decisions, said Elizabeth Jaka, who is in four separate parent groups that have discussed the cuts. She also served on a budget committee a few years ago.

"I appreciate the district's efforts to involve all of the stakeholders," she said, "but we're operating in an informational vacuum."


State to unionize day-care workers by fiat

Democrats who control the Washington Legislature are moving to pass a bill that would unionize about 12,000 child care workers. Supporters say it would improve the quality of child care. Conservative critics, like Liv Finne of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center, say the state is becoming the bill collector for the union.

The bill would allow the day care workers to join either the Service Employees International Union or a separate teachers union. The state would negotiate reimbursement rates for children from low-income families.

The SEIU Local 925 President Kim Cook says the bill would not directly increase wages, but a higher reimbursement rate from the state to day care centers would allow them to pay more in wages.


N.J. gov't-unions fret over dues hit

State employees and their allies said yesterday Gov. Corzine's plan to cut as many as 3,500 jobs from the state workforce would ravage state services and the economy. "If, in fact, the knife is used, state services would be totally gutted," said Sherryl Gordon, executive director of Council 1 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents workers in state mental hospitals. "Those places already are overpopulated. They're already operating at minimum staffing levels to the point where a person or two calling off sick endangers the operation."

While it was not clear yesterday which departments would be hit hardest, Bob Master, spokesman for the Communications Workers of America, said a massive workforce reduction would be "devastating to the quality of public services."

"I think people are living in a fantasy world about how this budget actually works and how it's possible to change it," said Master, whose union represents about 40,000 state workers.

He said residents want good schools and roads, a clean environment and quality higher education.

"The notion that you can have these services and cut the budget . . . I don't know how else to describe it except as a fantasy," he said.

Losing so many workers, on top of a two-year hiring freeze that has reduced the state's workforce of about 68,000 by 2,000, also has union leaders worried about those left behind.

"There will be dramatic cuts in services across the board and an added burden on the current workforce," said Carla Katz, president of one of the CWA's largest locals.

Katz said the governor needs to cut contractors, consultants and political appointees before coming after rank-and-file workers.

She said there is a "hidden government of 8,000 employees," which costs about $100 million a year. They are temporary workers who do full-time work but are not paid health or pension benefits.

"If they're serious, they need to start in the right place," said Katz.

Some workers could be laid off, which has State Sen. Shirley Turner (D., Mercer) wondering about the overall impact on the state's economy.

"Layoffs would decimate the economy in the capital county of Mercer," she said.

Turner said she doubted the private sector could absorb laid-off workers and worried that they may wind up needing state services.

"There's nowhere [for laid-off state workers] to go. There are no other jobs. There is no place to turn to when you lose a job," under current conditions, she said.

Most of the job cuts would be achieved through early retirements. Workers who are 50 years old and over would receive varying sweeteners in their pensions, depending on how many years of service they have with the state.

That would add a new burden to the state pension system, which already has a huge unfunded liability, argue opponents of the buyouts.

"I am greatly suspicious of early retirement programs because the long-term costs are enormous," said State Sen. Leonard Lance (R., Hunterdon). "My initial concern is that this is simply another gimmick that will cost us a great deal of money in the long term as has been indisputably demonstrated in programs of this type."

In 2002, when about 5,000 state workers took advantage of an early retirement program, many of their old jobs were refilled, leaving the state with little or no savings and added pension costs.

Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Louis Greenwald (D., Camden) said taxpayers are weary of paying the nation's highest property taxes and have been telling the government they can no longer afford to foot the bill for government services.

Over the next five months of budget negotiations, the balancing act, he said, will be between protecting the most vulnerable citizens and the taxpayers.

"The hardest challenge facing government today is to say we can't afford it," he said.


Special Ed teachers plan to go out on strike

Despite last-minute pleas to board members of the Grundy County (IL) Special Education Cooperative, teachers for the Grundy County Special Education Association plan to go on strike today. Teachers' assistants will go on strike Wednesday, if a settlement is not reached.

Association teachers notified a federal mediator, Jerry Hughes, of their intent to strike just before 5 p.m. Saturday. The union had not received a response as of Monday evening with a date to mediate, Laura Cuchra, association president, said in a statement to the media.

Representatives from the teachers union and teachers' aides union, which are separate entities, spoke at area district school board meetings over the last week.

On Thursday, Kelly Thompson, special education teacher at Minooka High School, urged the Minooka board and Superintendent David Middleton, who sits on the cooperative's board, to give the teachers a "fair and equitable contract."

"We don't want to strike. That is our last option," Thompson said.

The union represents 130 special education teachers and speech and language pathologists in 12 school districts in Grundy County. Countywide, 1,900 students will be affected by the strike.

Teachers filed an intent to strike in January and the aides filed in February. Both unions brought in a mediator to help with negotiations.

The sides have not been able to come to an agreement on salary and insurance benefits. In a statement, the cooperative's attorney and chief negotiator, Stan Eisenhammer, said the salary proposal was increased by 1.25 percent between Feb. 8 and Feb. 22, bringing the increase to 15.75 percent over three years.

The offer is approximately 3 percent higher than the raise teachers in Morris Grade School District received.

The teachers and aides were urged to split from the Morris union in 2006, said Jane Lagerstrom, negotiating team member for the teachers' aides, and each formed its own union. Morris settled its contract before the start of the school year.

"It was supposed to be in our best interest," Thompson said.

The statement also said the cooperative's proposal offered a starting salary $1,000 higher than Morris' starting salary in the first year of the contract. By the third year, the starting salary would be more than $2,000 higher.

"The teachers refused to move from their prior position," said Eisenhammer. "It appears that the union leadership is more interested in using disabled children as pawns in an attempt to blackmail the cooperative than negotiating in good faith."

Lagerstrom said the 40 percent increase they are seeking sounds ridiculous, but when the base pay is $9,320 it only amounts to an increase of $100 a month over the three years.

The aides aren't holding out much hope to settle before Wednesday, said Lagerstrom.

Cuchra said it was hard for staff to read some of the letters sent home to students and their families from the districts.

"We have been working over 100 days without a contract. We are here nonstop for our students, day in and day out. Our children become our life," she said.


SEIU-member security officers walk out

Security guards lined the streets of downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul on Monday as part of a one-day labor strike. Members of the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) voted Feb. 9 to authorize a strike, and the daylong picketing and support rallies were scheduled after negotiators failed Saturday to agree on the terms of a new contract.

The approximately 800 striking security officers are expected to be back at work Tuesday. But if negotiators fail to reach a deal at their next meeting March 6, Monday’s demonstrations could be a prelude to a longer labor strike.

In Minneapolis, the striking workers carried numerous signs and chanted a warning to their employers: “If it needs to get bigger, it will get bigger.”

The key issues for the union are hourly wages and health care costs. Other sticking points cited by workers Monday included increased training for security officers and additional supplies, such as bullet-proof vests, for officers working in potentially dangerous areas.

Security workers in the Twin Cities signed their first union contract in 2005, and the young chapter is waging an unprecedented battle as members negotiate their second contract. The SEIU Local 26 currently operates within the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and represents approximately 80 percent of the private security workforce in those cities.

The five security companies represented in the negotiations are ABM Security Services, AlliedBarton Security Services, American Security, Viking Security and Securitas Security Services USA. Buildings affected by the strike include Block E, the IDS Center, Ameriprise Financial Center and the U.S. Bank Building.

Guy Thomas, the lead representative for the security companies, said buildings in the Twin Cities maintained continuous security service throughout the day Monday, as the security companies had prepared for the walk-out.

Negotiators for the two sides have met eight times since Dec. 1. Professional mediators took part in the last two meetings, and are scheduled to do so again at the March 6 session.

A union member familiar with the negotiations said representatives for the security companies walked away from the table Saturday without making any real progress on the subject of health care.

But Thomas said in a phone interview Monday that Saturday’s negotiations were “very positive,” and that the security companies had offered an hourly wage increase and made progress on refining the geographic area in which the union can operate.

He said the two sides “have made progress on [health care] and we believe the negotiation process should continue to play out. Each of the five security companies is committed to the goal that our employees will have an affordable health care plan when this is done.”

A gap between the two sides also remains on wage increases. A union member said the yearly wage increases offered by the security companies are smaller than those in the previous contract, which expired Jan. 1. David Zaffrann, a spokesman for the union, said the average security officer in the Local 26 earns $11.75 an hour.

Gregg Zavitz, a security officer at Ameriprise Financial Center in Minneapolis, said a major reason for the one-day demonstrations is simply “to show that we can do it.”

Dozens of workers rallied at the Nicollet Mall on Monday morning and proceeded to march through the sidewalks of Minneapolis. A similar rally was held at Town Square, 444 Cedar St., in St. Paul.

“Today is about wages. It’s about health care. But it’s also about dignity,” Javier Morillo, president of the SEIU Local 26, said at the Minneapolis rally.

Comments by union members focused heavily on the high cost of health care. Their sentiments were echoed in remarks by U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken and State Rep. Paul Thissen, D-Minneapolis, who marched with the striking workers. Morillo also announced the union’s endorsement of Franken during the rally.

Morillo said the union is willing to return to the negotiating table at any time. He said future walk-outs aren’t likely to occur before the March 6 negotiations, but added that a longer strike is possible as the two sides have a long way to go to reach a middle ground.

The first contract proposal submitted by the union represented a 125 percent increase in hourly wages and a 650 percent increase in health care costs for the security companies.

The security firms publicly balked at those demands in a press release Monday, but Morillo said the proposal was simply a high-ball starting point to begin negotiations.

“You don’t start where you think you’re going to end up,” Morillo said. “We’ve talked with them (about) what kind of a figure we can accept. And right now, what they’ve given to us as their bottom line isn’t going to get our members the health care they need.”

The SEIU Local 26 also includes a janitorial branch, and many members work in the same buildings protected by the union security officers. Morillo said the security guards are seeking the same health care benefits that janitors received in contract negotiations last year.

Henry Lowe, 53, works for ABM Security Services in the Minneapolis parking ramp system and joined a worker march through downtown Minneapolis on Monday morning.

Lowe said his wife has been hospitalized since 2006 with sarcosis, and he pays $579 per month in health care premiums for the two of them, plus a steady stream of medical bills.

With 20 years experience in the security field, Lowe said he has been troubled by regular increases in health care premiums in recent years, combined with rising deductibles and reduced coverage.

But he’s optimistic his union representatives will help to control his spiraling health care costs.

“The union will get us the health care we need,” Lowe said. “The private companies don’t want to give us anything they don’t have to. I’m tired of being pushed around.”


Discouraging non-union labor in Massachusetts

The City Council voted unanimously tonight to grant a special permit to Baystate Medical Center for its $259 million expansion in the North End. The project will feature 559,100 square feet of construction at the Chestnut Street campus, including a seven-story building, 48 beds, eight operating rooms, 550 permanent jobs and 300 to 500 construction jobs, officials said.

Baystate, the region's largest hospital, now has 653 beds. The expansion is needed to ease the strain on the emergency room, said Mark R. Tolosky, Baystate Health president and chief executive officer.

Of the new jobs, 50 will be physicians and 500 will be clinical and support staff, he said.

He told the City Council during a public hearing at City Hall that an emergency department designed for about 40,000 patient visits a year instead gets nearly 110,000.

"It's constantly backed up. Our community counts on us. Our commitment to our community, our commitment to our patients, is long-standing and well known," Tolosky said.

The average length of stay in Baystate's emergency room rose to 3.3 hours in fiscal 2006 from 3.1 hours the year before, according to the Massachusetts Health Data Consortium. The consortium tracks such figures for public and private health-care organizations. The statewide average length of emergency room stay was 2.9 hours in fiscal year 2006.

Demolition of Baystate's Porter Building will begin in the fall with construction to begin in January.

Though nothing in the way of opposition to Baystate's request was expressed during the hearing, a feature that made the plan even more attractive for some councilors was that the project will have a project labor agreement with local unions.

Supporters say benefits of such agreements include that they ensure much of the job goes to local workers, that the job's workers get fair wages, benefits and safety training, that a percentage of jobs go to minorities and that the job will be completed on time and on budget.

Opponents say such agreements are anti-competitive. But Baystate officials have used such partnerships with local labor on recent projects and said they will do so on the expansion.

"Got my vote," Councilor Kateri B. Walsh said.

Daniel D'Alma, business manager of Local 7, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers of Western Massachusetts, urged approval of the special permit in remarks that highlighted what he said are the benefits of project labor agreements.

Leaders of the Atwater Park Civic Association and the New North Citizens Council, both of which voted unanimously for Baystate's expansion, praised the project during the public hearing.

Specifically, the neighborhood representatives said they appreciated how Baystate officials have gone out of their way to communicate with neighbors about all facets of the plan, from the architecture to traffic to landscaping.

The hospital needed a special permit to extend its use as a hospital in a residential zone at 759 Chestnut St.

City Council President Bud L. Williams said the size of the investment and the number of jobs make Baystate's expansion a turning point for this city that is showing a budget surplus after nearly going bankrupt in 2004.

"I really believe this day, Feb. 25, the renaissance of Springfield has happened," Williams said.

Baystate was represented by a dozen officials and engineers.


Union political front-group prowls labor-state

Brimming with confidence, the N.Y. State Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, declared today that he still had the solid backing of one of the state’s most powerful labor unions — no matter what campaign finance reports might show.

The union, 1199 S.E.I.U. United Healthcare Workers East, a longtime backer of Mr. Bruno and the Republicans who hold a thin majority in the Senate, has been quietly donating campaign money to the Working Families Party, a group with ties to organized labor that has been promoting the Democratic candidate in a special election upstate on Tuesday to fill the vacated seat of State Senator James W. Wright.

The stakes for Mr. Bruno and his slim Republican majority in the Senate could not be higher. If the Republicans lose the seat, their two-seat advantage in the chamber (currently 33 to 29) would shrink to just one seat (32 to 30). (In the event of a 31-31 tie, Lt. Gov. David A. Paterson, a Democrat, would cast the deciding vote.)

So what does Mr. Bruno make of the 1199’s contributions? Apparently, not much.

“They couldn’t be more supportive,” Mr. Bruno told reporters this afternoon, dismissing the idea that the union was hedging its bets in case the Republican candidate in the race, Assemblyman William A. Barclay, loses to his Democratic challenger, Assemblyman Darrel J. Aubertine.

Mr. Bruno continued, “I talked to the president, George Gresham, this morning and he called to reaffirm their total and complete commitment to us and our majority.”

And in case anyone doubted whether Mr. Gresham did actually call, Mr. Bruno offered up the precise time of the call: 10:35 a.m. “So you ought to print it,” he added.

If Mr. Bruno was at all nervous about the election, he wasn’t showing it.

“Assemblyman Will Barclay will be a senator Wednesday,” he said. “We’re very confident of that. Why? Because No. 1, he is the best candidate that’s there. But No. 2, the people in that district understand the ramifications of turning over the seat to a Democrat that will be part of the downstate coalition.”


Teachers union issues strike notice

Months of negotiations between Hardin County (IL) teachers and school board members have come up short, and a contract dispute has reached the boiling point. The teachers' union has filed an intent to strike. That means there could be a walk out this week, forcing the school to shut down.

Right now, a strike date has not been set.

Both sides say they're willing to work toward a deal and avoid interrupting the school year, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Since negotiations began in November, school board members and teachers have not been able to agree on salaries and benefits.

It's not only teachers who want a raise. Educational support staff, like cafeteria workers and teacher's aides, have joined with the teacher's union. "We just want them to be treated fairly. We want them to be offered things like we have" says Patti Koch, a spokesperson for Hardin County teachers.

Superintendent Ernie Fowler says that's made the negotiation process more complicated. "We are starting from ground zero in putting together a contract with those individuals and that alone is very tedious."

Fowler also argues that the district is poor and facing a declining enrollment, and he doesn't want local residents to shoulder any burdens. "The Board of Education also has to safeguard the tax payers. They can't afford large tax increases yearly."

To that, Koch argues that the school board is paying thousands of dollars for an attorney to head up the negotiations process. "That's not cheap and so the money spent there could have funded programs in the school. It could have given us an increase in our salary."

Teachers and school board members will meet Wednesday night to try to reach an agreement. Koch says it's likely that faculty members will wait until after that meeting before deciding whether to strike.


SEIU takes dues hit

Seattle's Group Health Cooperative has told 363 hospital employees they will be laid off as the nonprofit system's Eastside campus in Redmond begins shutting down. But the precise number of people who will be out of work is hard to determine.

That's because Group Health says some of the affected workers may be hired to fill openings at its outpatient facilities, or at Bellevue's newly expanded Overlake Hospital Medical Center. "It's a complicated situation," Group Health spokesman Mike Foley said.

About half the affected employees are nurses, with the rest serving as supervisors, lab assistants, pharmacists, pharmacist technicians, clerks, janitors and food servers, Foley said.

All work at Group Health's Hospital & Specialty Center, at 2700 152nd Ave. N.E. in Redmond, which will stop providing inpatient services May 1. After that, Group Health will house all its inpatients at Overlake, though its own doctors will care for them.

Overlake, which recently built a 120-bed inpatient tower, has made job offers to about 50 laid-off Group Health workers, 35 of them nurses, Overlake spokeswoman Karen Johnson said.

She confirmed the hospital is creating up to 400 new jobs as a result of opening its new south tower in September.

But the Group Health workers must apply for positions at Overlake -- it's not just a question of transferring. That doesn't sit well with Chris Barton, secretary treasurer of Service Employees International Union Health Care 1199 Northwest, which represents most of the affected workers.

"Overlake should have offered incentives and guaranteed them jobs right upfront, because jobs are being created by patients going there," Barton said.

"It's a big mistake they didn't do that, because RNs don't grow on trees."

Group Health's Foley called the layoff situation complicated, because "people with seniority bump those with less seniority for existing positions and bid for jobs."

Even SEIU's Barton couldn't say how many of the affected workers might end up jobless.

"We're just now having people ID the jobs they'd be interested in and deciding whether they want a severance package," she said.

The laid-off workers got notice about two weeks ago, though the state's Employment Security Department released news of the layoffs only Monday.

Group Health's Eastside campus consists of three facilities: the Hospital & Specialty Center, the Primary Care Center and the Behavioral Health Services.

The latter also offers vision and hearing services.

Outpatient medical specialties, such as cardiology and urology -- now offered at the Hospital & Specialty Center -- are scheduled to move July 1 to a new outpatient center next to Overlake Hospital.

The Primary Care Center is scheduled to close in October and move to a new facility in Redmond.

Foley said the layoffs "have nothing to do" with cuts promised in a November memo from Group Health Chief Executive Scott Armstrong and Medical Director Hugh Straley. They told the system's 9,700 employees that its current cost structure was "unsustainable."

They also said Group Health will cut $108 million from its 2008 budget by laying off employees and cutting some functions, in an attempt to keep its rates below those of competitors.

In a previous round of layoffs, Group Health cut at least 75 workers late last year. In August, it moved into new headquarters in the Westlake/Terry Building on South Lake Union.


AFSCME slapped with ULP

The University of California filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees last week, citing concerns regarding patient safety at UC medical centers and claiming that the union is not bargaining in good faith.

The charge is a response to a temporary restraining order that AFSCME filed against the university earlier this month, after campus security threatened to arrest individuals distributing union leaflets at the UC San Francisco Medical Center.

Nicole Savickas, coordinator of Human Resources and Labor for the UC Office of the President, said the union violated Article One of its access agreement with the university, which states, “AFSCME will abide by the reasonable access rules and regulations promulgated at each campus/laboratory.”

She said that the university has received complaints from patients at UCSF and UCLA medical centers who claim they have been harassed.

“Access policies are laid out with respect to patients and their families to provide them unfettered access to the medical centers,” Savickas said. “In order to provide the standard of care we are known for, we have to uphold these policies.”

In addition, she said the union’s decision to go directly to court to prevent university intervention in its activities demonstrated bad faith bargaining, and that it should have taken its complaints to PERB, which is responsible for regulating access issues and bargaining conduct.

Anne Swinburn, a researcher for AFSCME Local 3299, said that Article One simply refers to meetings with union members, not communication with the public. She said the university’s charge is simply an attempt to limit free speech, and that PERB has nothing to do with this issue.

“They’re basically saying that we signed our free speech rights away when we signed up with a union,” Swinburn said. “Our free speech with the public is governed by the California Constitution, not PERB.”

AFSCME Local 3299 President Lakesha Harrison said she agrees that the university’s attempt to link the issue to PERB is baseless. She said that she and other union representatives had been distributing materials at all five UC medical centers for three weeks before any complaints arose, and that the distribution operations have all been “peaceful and pleasant,” never consisting of more than two or three people.

“We’re not being confrontational,” Harrison said. “We’re not picketing. People just take [the leaflet] and keep walking.”

Meanwhile, UC-AFSCME negotiations regarding the university’s 11,000 patient care technical employees have lasted over five months, and, in a statement last week, the university related AFSCME’s leafleting to the union’s recent concerns about the quality of employee and patient care at UC medical centers.

The statement included a list of rankings and specific honors that the university’s medical centers have received in the past year.

Staff turnover rates, high stress environments and low worker morale have all been items of contention in recent months, and union members — including Swinburn — believe that poor employee conditions lead to poor patient conditions.

However, Swinburn said that although these issues are controversial, it is inappropriate for the university to even mention the content of the leaflets when making a case against their distribution.

“This is a clear-cut free speech case,” she said. “The university doesn’t want us to communicate with patients about these issues, and that’s why they are trying to limit our free speech. This is a violation of our fundamental rights.”

Harrison said that over the past few years, AFSCME has conducted extensive research comparing state wages and benefits and their effects on the overall level of hospital care, and union members believe they have a responsibility to publicize this information.

“We are not saying anything that we have not researched to the bone,” she said. “As workers, we’ve always known it is a problem. Now we finally have the research to back up what we’re concerned about, and the public has a right to know.”


Writers strike killed the Oscars

The Academy Awards are expected to experience their lowest ratings in 20 years, when they are released later today. Following the lowest-rated Emmys in 18 years, a strike-caused, non-existent Golden Globes, and a disappointing Grammy Awards show, it appeared that the Academy Awards were in for a disappointing night.

But it appears that Sunday night’s Oscars did worse than expected, hitting a record low, according to The Hollywood Reporter. According to ABC’s early household metered market oversights, the Awards reportedly averaged a 21.9 rating and 33 share. These numbers are a 21 percent drop from the 2007 Awards, and the lowest in 20 years. More accurate numbers should be available late Monday.

Last night’s Oscar telecast, where No Country for Old Men dominated many notable awards, was expected to underperform because of the lack of box office success of many of the nominated films.

Another factor playing into the show’s underperformance was the WGA strike, which allowed only two weeks of preparation for those involved. But the strike figures also to have played a factor in that there weren’t many promotional opportunities, because hit ABC shows such as Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy have run out of new episodes.

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