Are gov't-union dues recession-proof?

For the state public employee unions whose contracts come up this year, the timing couldn't be worse. It's a bargaining season where an $8 billion budget deficit provides the economic backdrop, and just about all the parties agree the atmosphere surrounding the talks is going to be dismal. "It's sort of like having Christmas during the Depression," said Terry McHale, a lobbyist who represents the California Department of Forestry Firefighters.

A union known as the California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges & Hearing Officers in State Government offers an example of the difficulty facing state workers this year.

The lawyers say they are so far behind in their pay scales and the state's proposals so lacking that they went to court to see whether they could go out on strike – against their client, the government. A judge denied the request.

Altogether, 18 of the 21 contracts covering the state public employee unions go up in smoke June 30. Deals on two other groups have already expired. The attorneys have been working without a deal since last June 30, and the correctional officers union saw its contract expire in July 2006. The California Highway Patrol union is the only labor group at peace. Its contract runs through July 2010.

Last week, the state Department of Personnel Administration invited the nine unions representing the 18 bargaining units under the contract gun to submit their proposals. Only one did.

Representatives of the rest said they're still surveying members or measuring their initial contract moves against a state budget projected to run at least $8 billion in the red through the next fiscal year.

Negotiators at the Department of Personnel Administration are bracing for the worst.

"We know it's going to be difficult – that's a given," said DPA spokeswoman Lynelle Jolley. "But we're going into negotiations with the greatest respect for our employees and their union representatives, and we're looking forward to hearing their ideas."

The contracts about to expire cover more than 140,000 of state government's 182,576 unionized employees. They include administrative and clerical workers, scientists, psychiatric technicians, firefighters, plumbers, janitors, heavy-equipment operators, teachers, nurses and more.

Jim Hard, the president of Service Employees International Union Local 1000, which represents nine of the bargaining units, said his organization is not ready yet to unveil its contract opener. Right now, he said, the union is more interested in pushing a plan to resolve the state budget problem by compelling state agencies to collect $8.5 billion in unpaid taxes that SEIU 1000 believes are owed.

"We're not interested in rushing to the bargaining table," Hard said. "The budget is actually our priority right now."

Only the California Association of Professional Scientists forwarded a contract opener in Thursday's "sunshine" proceeding. The union asked for an "equity" increase to match "corresponding classifications and jurisdictions," as well as a cost of living adjustment. Union spokesman Chris Voight said the scientists who staff California's environmental and public health programs need the raises badly, or the state risks losing them.

"We can't wait any longer," Voight said. "The natives are getting restless."

In this contract year, no bargaining unit is more ill at ease than the state attorneys' union. Its 3,654 members have been working without an agreement since June. They've gone without a raise since July 2006, and the state, in its initial contract proposal, said the unit's senior attorneys could forget getting one until July 2009. Entry-level lawyers, meanwhile, some of whom make less than $60,000 a year, were in line for a raise of 2 percent to 4 percent this July 1, under the DPA's pay proposal, which it has since withdrawn.

With state lawyers lagging behind public-sector lawyers in the state's biggest cities by double-digit percentages, their union filed suit against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration last year claiming that California is failing to meet its constitutional, civil-service obligation to provide "like pay for like work."

Attorney General Jerry Brown, who has about 900 deputies who are union members, filed a declaration in the case on behalf of the employees.

"In many parts of the state, our lawyers are so underpaid that it's not only unfair, but it's a grave disservice to the state of California," Brown said in an interview. "It's affecting recruitment and it's forcing some good lawyers to look elsewhere."

The lawyers' case was thrown out of Sacramento Superior Court, but it's still alive on appeal.

Brown did not submit a declaration in support of the attorneys' strike request, but he said the action speaks to "their discontent."

"I'm not going to encourage anyone to withhold their service," Brown said. "But I will say that over time, the state's going to start losing cases. You're not going to have the legal firepower to defend the state's interests. And we have big lawsuits, in the prisons and everywhere else."

On the prison front, the 30,500 members of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association are now approaching two years of working without a contract. When the state imposed its "last, best and final" offer on the union last year, its negotiators said they'd be going to the Legislature this year asking to give the covered employees a 5 percent raise. So far, nobody in the Legislature has stepped up to carry the proposal, and contract talks are moribund.

"We remain where we were at two years ago," union spokesman Lance Corcoran said.

Everybody else is preparing for what they believe will be labor's version of trench warfare.

"Everybody knows it's a tight budget year," said Bruce Blanning of the Professional Engineers in California Government, "and that always presents a challenge."


Gov't-union CBA requires local voters' approval

Voters at Saturday's Winnisquam (NH) Regional School District Meeting said "yes" to people but "no" to buildings, approving two labor agreements but rejecting a bond that would have expanded the vocational Agricultural Center to offer animal science classes. Over the course of five-plus hours, voters approved a $22,333,232 budget for next year.

As a result of approving that budget, the voters who gathered in the WRHS gym also adopted the first budget proposed by the new WRSD Budget Committee as well as what may be the first school district budget in the region that actually went down — 3 percent — over the prior year.

The budget committee, school board and voters exchanged compliments over how well the committee — established at the 2007 school district meeting — worked with the board and other parties to come up with its budget proposal.

That proposal, in Article 1 of the WRSD warrant, began with a committee recommendation that voters not appropriate $675,570 to build a two-level, 1,820 square-foot addition to the agricultural building.

The article was a response to both a long-term goal of adding an animal science element to the agricultural center curriculum and a survey of Winnisquam students that found 40 percent favored studies could lead them to jobs in animal care or veterinary medicine.

Supporters also noted the animal science program, which would entail high-level anatomy and physiology courses, might inspire students to go into medicine and beyond.

The school board said the state would pick up half the cost of the project, while a federal grant would pay for equipping the new space. Tuition from other school districts whose students wanted to study animal science may have generated a revenue stream that lessened the burden on taxpayers.

With a burgeoning pet population, 13 veterinarians and an equal number of groomers in the area, there was a market for skills that could be learned in an animal science program, said School Board Vice-Chairwoman Nina Gardner and Janet Rosequist, who heads the agricultural center.

As to the timing of the agricultural center plan, it has been "on the drawing board for a number of years," said Gardner, who added flatly that "there is never a good year to bring you a bond."

Regardless of whether the expansion was okayed, the center was showing its age and needed repairs to its roof and heating and cooling system, Gardner said.

More than a dozen district voters spoke on the article, nearly all in favor, though several questioned the value of a program that would create student interest in an admittedly growing field, but one offering only modest wages.

Gorrell said the budget committee nixed the agricultural center request because only a small number of students would qualify academically for the animal sciences program; the building came at a high per-square-foot building cost; and the structure had few "green," energy-efficient features.

The Winnisquam student population is decreasing, he said, and there is no guarantee other districts actually would send their students to the center to study animal sciences. In fact, Gorrell continued, should those districts feel a budgetary pinch, out-of-district programs were the first thing they might likely cut.

Patsy Wells, a Sanbornton representative to the budget committee, echoed Gorrell's concerns.

She added that given the warrant articles still before voters to ratify contracts between the district and the unions that represent its teachers and paraprofessionals, "my recommendation is that we put our bucks into people," not buildings.

Later, voters did just that, approving the one-year, $379,508 collective bargaining agreement with the Winnisquam Regional Teachers' Association by a vote of 205 in favor, 22 opposed. The $118,354 contract with the Winnisquam Para-Professional Employees AFSCME Local 3158 passed 153 to 66.

The agricultural center article, requiring a two-thirds vote — roughly 200 of the 299 voters had to say "yes" — got 151 votes for and 148 against.

The tally surprised Moderator Ken Randall as there were three more votes than registered voters and it caused him to demand in mock shock "who stuffed the ballot box?"

Randall — backed by the school district's legal counsel — said the matter was moot because the three votes would not have changed the outcome.


SEIU balks at open shop, worker-choice

About eight years ago, Indiana Regional Medical Center took 18 months to work out its first contract with newly unionized registered nurses. The next contract took three months, and the most recent just a few hours — illustrating an increasingly comfortable relationship between management and the bargaining unit for registered nurses — all of whom pay dues in an arrangement called a “union shop.”

Indiana’s experience should be a lesson to Altoona Regional Health System as it confronts a strike threat by RNs, triggered by management insistence on an “open shop” — in which nonunion members wouldn’t contribute to union support, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania professor said.

Charlie McCollester, director of the Pennsylvania Center for the Study of Labor Relations at IUP, and three other Pennsylvania labor-management professors said Altoona’s insistence on an open shop is unusual for a non-right-to-work state and probably counterproductive.

Three of the professors also say that insistence on an open shop is probably part of a strategy to erode support for the Service Employees International Union local, whose members last week authorized their negotiating committee to file a 14-day strike notice after talks broke down on the verge of working out a contract.

The union is demanding an “agency shop,” in which nonmembers pay a representation fee equal to 87 percent of dues.

Unions routinely negotiate provisions for full or discounted dues payments because unions by law must represent nonunion members equally, said Jerry Kobell, regional director of the National Labor Relations Board.

The responsibility includes bargaining for wages and benefits, arbitration and grievance support — although nonmembers don’t get the right to vote, hold office or attend conventions, conferences and social activities, Kobell said.

Unions want the money from nonmembers to help pay a myriad of expenses, including staff salaries, office rental, phone service, computers, stationery and travel.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed about,” Kobell said.

The hospital is insisting on an open shop to preserve “freedom to choose” for a significant number of nurses who oppose the union, which won the right to represent all the RNs in a May election, hospital Operations Director Ron McConnell said.

Of the 667 nurses who voted, 288 were against unionization.

Recently, 119 nurses petitioned management not to pay the fees.

“Our board feels a moral responsibility to honor these nurses’ wishes,” even as the union is ignoring them, hospital spokesman Dave Cuzzolina said.

The open-shop position has support in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, he said, referring to the 22 right-to-work states that make forced unionization illegal.

The union demand for representation fees is purely mercenary, McConnell said. He said last week that if 400 nurses didn’t join, the union would lose $1 million over three years.

**‘Formula for misery’**

Altoona’s insistence on an open shop is ‘‘highly unusual,’’ Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in an e-mail.

An open shop would make the union’s work ‘‘more difficult, which is presumably why management wants it,’’ Cappelli wrote.

Even if an open shop doesn’t ‘‘lead to collapse of the union, which is typically what they [managers] hope,’’ it can ‘‘lead to constant campaigning by the union, [which] can be disruptive,’’ he wrote.

‘‘Obviously, [management] is trying to drive a wedge,’’ McCollister said. ‘‘It’s a formula for ongoing misery and contentious internal bickering,’’ institutionalizing conflict ‘‘in the heart of the operation.”

‘‘My guess is it’s a stalling tactic,’’ part of ‘‘a calculated strategy,’’ said Marick Masters, a professor of business administration at the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School of Business.

‘‘Throwing a roadblock out at the last minute,’’ derailing negotiations and keeping a contract resolution at bay could ‘‘change the whole dynamic’’ — especially if a strike occurs and the hospital replaces nurses permanently with workers less union-friendly, he said.

If the first contract isn’t completed by May, the union could face a decertification election, because a year would have elapsed after the election that brought it into power, Masters said.

The intervening period of uncertainty can make a union look highly ineffective to employees, especially in light of its initial promises of better wages and working conditions, he said.

Masters didn’t rule out that management is acting in good faith, however. It may genuinely not want to see workers compelled to pay dues, and it may want to identify who the real union supporters are, he said.

‘Freedom of choice’

By insisting on an open shop, the hospital ‘‘in no way’’ intends to drive out the union, delay negotiations or drive a wedge between union supporters and others, Cuzzolina said.

‘‘This is about freedom of choice,’’ he said.

Taking away that freedom would complicate the hospital’s struggle to retain and recruit nurses, who are in short supply, he said. Nurses put off by a requirement to pay representation fees easily could go elsewhere to work, he said.

Management’s insistence on an open shop is ‘‘a little unusual,’’ said Paul Clark, professor of labor studies and employment relations at Penn State University.

‘‘Normally, an employer wouldn’t go to the wall on agency shop,’’ he said.

Still, most hospital boards are comprised of mainly business people, so this one may have ‘‘ideological objections to unions,’’ he said.

Even Jim Trivisonno, president of IRI Consultants to Management, co-publisher of the Health Care Labor Report, said it’s unusual when unions don’t get ‘‘security’’ in a first contract — it happens only occasionally, he said.

But he didn’t condemn Altoona management for the open shop stance.

‘‘It sounds in this case like they want to respect the wishes of the RNs to decide for themselves,’’ Trivisonno said. ‘‘I think it’s reasonable,’’ especially given the 119 petitioners’ willingness to put a ‘‘bull’s-eye’’ on themselves.

The professors’ accusation of union-busting is probably ‘‘just rhetoric,’’ he said.

Likewise, the apparent willingness of the union to strike over the open shop provision is a ‘‘pretty dramatic’’ response, given that striking nurses would need to ‘‘leave bedsides,’’ he said.

Still, he understands why security is important to the union.

Unions aren’t charities, and dues are their one source of income, Trivisonno said.

He also understands why the union would be concerned about erosion of support, which could endanger its majority, given the underwhelming margin by which it took power last year, he said.

Altoona Regional respects the right of the union to bargain collectively for the RNs, Cuzzolina said. But union security is a matter for contract negotiations, he said.

Indiana’s union

When unionization occurred at Indiana, the hospital had serious problems with RN bitterness over staffing and mandatory overtime, McCollester said.

But unionization helped nurses and management work out a uniform system to handle scheduling, salving the soreness, he said.

Indiana Regional officials had a friendly “no comment,” but they didn’t dispute the professor’s assessment.

Unionists sometimes call those who would benefit from collective bargaining without contributing financially ‘‘free riders,’’ Clark said.

They respond to charges that forced payment is undemocratic by pointing out that once a unionization vote creates a bargaining unit, it’s ‘‘majority rules,’’ he said.

That ‘‘democratic’’ analogy is ‘‘silly, inapt,’’ wrote Charles Baird, a professor of economics at California State University in East Bay, in a research paper called “The Perils of Faculty Unionism.”

‘‘Democracy, forcing a numerical minority to submit to the will of a numerical majority, is appropriate in governmental matters, but not in private matters,’’ he wrote. ‘‘The sale and purchase of one’s labor services is a private matter.’’

The right-to-work states — mostly the Southern and prairie states — prohibit union security provisions that require workers to join a union as a condition of employment or require nonmembers to contribute, according to the U.S. History Encyclopedia.

While contract provisions may require a contribution to a union, an employee is never required to join, Kobell said.


Leftists seek no-vote unionization scheme

Thousands at the “Take Back America” conference here March 17-19 cheered as speakers called for a concerted get-out-the-vote drive to end 30 years of right-wing Republican dominance and open the way for progressive change. “Today, progressives are on the march,” said the opening declaration of the Campaign for America’s Future, sponsor of the three-day event. “The objective conditions are present for a sea-change election, one that launches a new era of progressive reform.”

CAF Co-Director Bob Borosage said the get-out-the-vote campaign by the AFL-CIO, Change to Win and other progressive organizations will be the “largest and most expensive mobilization in history designed to drive the debate this election season and to define a mandate after the elections.”

Borosage told a news conference as much as $350 million will be devoted to registering millions of voters and getting them to the polls. He credited Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s spirited race for the Democratic presidential nomination with galvanizing a huge turnout in the primaries. But now, he said, the two senators “are focusing too much on the division and the fight and not enough on the excitement and the unity and the demand of the people for a change in course.”

AFL-CIO Political Director Karen Ackerman said the AFL-CIO will devote $53.4 million to mobilizing union members to vote, and affiliates will spend an additional $150 million. (See story, page 3.)

Also at the news conference were representatives of MoveOn.org, National Council of La Raza, Women Vote Action Fund, ACORN and Rock the Vote.

Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen, addressing a conference luncheon, said either of the Democratic presidential candidates, if elected, will sign the Employee Free Choice Act, making it easy for workers to join unions.

“When workers have unions and a real voice on the job, we can change our own lives and unite with you to change all of America,” he said to applause.

Van Jones, president of the Oakland-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, said the lesson of the Bush administration’s callous response to Hurricane Katrina is, “We will not leave our sisters and brothers to ‘sink or swim,’ we are all in this together.”

In a workshop panel of antiwar leaders, Tom Swan, executive director of Connecticut Citizen Action, told the crowd, “While we’re here, John McCain and Dick Cheney are in Iraq proclaiming ‘victory’ once again. They say the surge is working. And meanwhile sometime this week we’ll hit 4,000 soldiers who have died since the Iraq war began.”

He cited gasoline soaring toward $4 per gallon, millions of homes in foreclosure, unemployment surging and markets plummeting.

“What can Washington do to turn around the economy? End the war in Iraq,” he said. “It is incumbent upon us to put forward the concept that the war is driving the nation into recession.”

He spoke of the need for the peace movement to throw itself into the election campaign. “I want to wake up that cold morning next November and know that I did everything I possibly could do to set the framework to end this war.”

After adjourning, conference participants planned to join an antiwar march to the White House sponsored by United for Peace and Justice.

Greeted with an ovation was Donna Edwards who defeated incumbent Democratic Rep. Albert Wynn in Maryland’s Feb. 12 primary largely because Wynn voted for the Iraq war resolution. Edwards was one of six candidates for Congress who spoke in a panel about their joint “plan to end the Iraq war responsibly.”

“Three thousand nine hundred eighty-eight,” she said. “I think it’s important to repeat that number, the number of honorable service men and women who lost their lives in Iraq.” She spoke of visiting Walter Reed Army Medical Center and seeing “triple amputees, soldiers with severe brain injuries. We should make their sacrifices valuable by bringing the troops home.”

Edwards told the World she was not surprised by her landslide victory. “When you knock on doors, canvas in the neighborhoods, make phone calls, you know something is happening out there. I think the American people are ready for a change.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) told the World she found the candidates on the panel “so impressive.” She said, “Many of these candidates are running in districts that are traditionally Republican. They think they can win on the basis of ending the Iraq war.”

“We just did that in Dennis Hastert’s district in Illinois,” where Democrat Bill Foster ran on an antiwar platform and won, she said. “There is no district that is safe for the Republicans.”

William McNary, president of USAction, told the World he believes the nation is on the verge of sweeping change not seen in a generation. He emphasized, “Real change can only happen when real, ordinary people get in motion.”


Striking nurses fail to enforce picket line

Representatives of the Bay Area Sutter Health hospitals weathering a strike by registered nurses said it was business as usual Saturday with babies delivered smoothly, trauma patients treated quickly and elective surgeries, except in one case, going ahead as planned. Several said that a third to more than half of the nurses were crossing their own picket lines and that with replacement workers already hired, their staffing levels were about normal.

Officials with the California Nurses Association, however, said 95 percent of the 4,000 registered nurses who work at the eight Bay Area hospitals being targeted are refusing to work for the duration of the 10-day strike that began Friday.

"We have overwhelming participation by the registered nurses," said Chuck Idelson, spokesman for the California Nurses Association. "The spirit of the nurses is very high - they're very dedicated to making an impact."

The two sides even disagree on what the core issues behind the strike are. Union officials say they want nurses to have the right to take meals and breaks, to have help lifting patients so as not to strain their backs, and to have improved health benefits.

Hospital representatives say the strike, which follows two-day strikes by the nurses in October and December, is really about getting a master contract for nurses at all eight hospitals. Currently, the union negotiates separately with the hospitals. No negotiation dates are scheduled between the union and any of the hospitals.

Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley and Oakland reported one change in normal operations - a temporary cap on elective surgeries on Friday. The hospital will re-evaluate the situation Monday, said spokeswoman Carolyn Kemp.

About 1,800 registered nurses work at the center's two hospitals in Berkeley and Oakland, and 500 replacement workers have been hired. About 57 percent of nurses reported to work Friday, and 30 percent showed up Saturday, Alta Bates Summit officials said.

In San Francisco, Kevin McCormack, spokesman for California Pacific Medical Center, said everything was going fine at the California Street campus and at St. Luke's Hospital. Nurses at the center's other two sites aren't unionized.

He said 50 percent of nurses were working their shifts at the California location, and a third had crossed the picket line at St. Luke's.

"We have more staff than we normally do with so many regular nurses crossing over and a full complement of replacement nurses," he said.

About 800 nurses work at the two locations combined, and 240 replacement workers have been hired. McCormack said 47 surgeries took place Friday at the California campus, and 25 babies were delivered, making it a normal day.

Across the bay, 200 nurses work at San Leandro Hospital, and 200 work at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley; 190 replacement workers have been brought in to the two hospitals combined, said spokeswoman Johnnie Banks.

She said that a little over half of the nurses have been reporting to work and that no problems or slow-downs have been reported. She said 16 trauma cases and two mothers giving birth to sets of twins were admitted in the first 24 hours of the strike.

"I don't know whether it's the full moon or the strike or a combination of both, but it's been very busy," she said. "But it hasn't presented any kind of problem whatsoever. We haven't had a blip on the radar."


Strike fatigue sets in as nurses go out again

Patients who arrived Friday at Bay Area hospitals affiliated with Sutter Health were greeted by chanting nurses in picket lines under the watchful eyes of security guards. Hundreds of registered nurses have kicked off a 10-day strike, marking their third walkout in less than six months. Inside the hospitals, surgeries continued. Replacement nurses, many from other states, cared for patients. "It's just as smooth as glass here," said Jonnie Banks, a spokeswoman for Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley. "It's really been without incident." The picket lines seemed noticeably smaller than during the previous two walkouts, but that did not diminish the strikers' fervor.

The nurses carried signs reading "Safe Staffing Saves Lives," "Patients Before Profits," and "No Take Aways."

"We're doing this to retain nurses and to keep what we've worked hard for," said Bonnie Morgan, an operating room nurse at Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch.

Both sides agree the dispute is not about salaries.

Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland and Berkeley has offered a 16.5 percent wage hike over31/2years. That would increase the average pay for a full-time nurse from $123,000 to $145,000.

Sutter Delta, facing increased competition to keep its nurses from transferring to a recently opened Kaiser hospital nearby, raised pay 15 percent late last year. That brought the average annual salary for its nurses to more than $114,000.

Many of the hospitals have offered salary increases ranging from 18 to

20 percent over four years.

Rather than money, the dispute centers around meal and break relief, safe lifting policies, as well as health and retirement benefits, union leaders say.

Mary Ann Voellinger, a supervisory nurse who has worked in Eden's emergency room for 22 years, said there were three days last week when she did not get an afternoon break because there was no one to relieve her.

The hospital will provide penalty pay in such situations, she said, but that does not help create a better atmosphere for patients.

"We deserve a break," she said. "It's been exceedingly busy during flu season. If you could clone yourself or split yourself in two, it might be safe."

Eden spokeswoman Banks said the hospital recently hired 16 additional registered nurses for break relief, but Voellinger said that the hospital remains understaffed.

Viki Ardito, chief nursing officer at Alta Bates Summit, said the hospital has enough people for break relief but the union is upset that some are licensed vocational nurses instead of the more highly trained registered nurses.

Alta Bates Summit has agreed to replace these LVNs with RNs when the LVNs leave, Ardito said.

The nurses also are seeking a special team to lift patients because of the lifting injuries many nurses incur.

Alta Bates Summit spent $1.2 million for lift equipment last year. That resulted in an 83 percent drop in lift-related injuries for nurses, Ardito said.

Eden also has purchased such equipment, but nurse Tina Simon said it takes at least two people to use it and sometimes as many as four.

"I have nobody to help me, so rarely is the equipment being used," she said.

Alta Bates Summit and Eden reported that more than half of their nurses who were scheduled to work the day shift crossed the picket line. Union officials disputed those numbers.

The California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee said Friday it plans to file a grievance and unfair labor practice complaint against Mills-Peninsula Health Services. The union is upset about a letter mailed to nurses saying that those who went on strike would be billed for the full cost of their health insurance while they were out.

Mills-Peninsula spokeswoman Margie O'Clair said that is the hospital's standard policy for unauthorized leaves.

Dr. Junaid Khan, a cardiac surgeon at Alta Bates, said he had the same team of nurses as always Friday. By mid-day, he had finished one heart operation and was about to start a second.

But the strike has raised concerns at Sutter Delta, where 14 doctors this week signed an open letter calling on both sides to be "more open-minded and compromising in their stances." The doctors noted that many of the most experienced nurses are leaving the hospital.

"We fear that these actions will only harden ill feelings and resentments, lower morale and drive more nurses to leave," they said.

Several relatives of patients said they noticed little difference in care Friday.

But Max Rorty, who visited a patient at Alta Bates Summit in Oakland, said she noticed that the traveling nurses were having difficulty figuring out the chart system, and a supervisory nurse wasn't available.

"It's really hard to equal the care of people who have been doing this for years," she said.


Vincentian-backed labor-activism in Chicago

Founded by a group of labor leaders and liberal academics in the late 1940's, the Labor Education Center has trained thousands of Chicago area union leaders. It has never been more difficult to be a labor leader than it is right now. Whether it's deregulation or privatization, double-breasting or surface bargaining, plant closings or union busting, today's union leader faces tough problems that require new knowledge and skills.

Three-Year Labor Leadership Program

The Core of the Labor Education Center is a three-year labor leadership course. The program consists of weekly seminars where leaders from a wide variety of Chicago-area unions meet to expand traditional skills and discuss new strategies. Credit towards a bachelor's degree is available through DePaul University's School for New Learning.

The first year class includes writing skills, how to process grievances, public speaking, labor law and parliamentary procedure. The second year class includes collective bargaining, arbitration and issues for unionists in labor-management cooperation systems. The final year covers skills for organizing, economics, labor history, health and safety, and labor in politics.

We offer Extension Classes designed to meet the specific needs of your union.

Short Courses

Sexual Harassment Awareness is a one-day course that will teach you what sexual harassment is, court cases dealing with sexual harassment, and your rights.

Securing a Safe Work Place is a new course taught by Dr. Peter Orris, MD, MPH of the University of Illinois School of Public Health. Dr. Orris is an expert in occupational diseases and illnesses, 'sick building syndrome,' and chemical hazards in the work place.

High School Program

Each Spring the Labor Education Center offers a unique three-day program for high school students. The Regina V. Polk High School Union Program will begin its 12th year in the schools. On the first day, a Labor Education staff member visits the high school to talk to students about unions and prepare them for class two, the collective bargaining role play. About two weeks later, the students participate in role play to negotiate a collective bargaining contract. The final class includes a tour of Pullman.


SEIU demands sick-pay mandate, sick or not

Several weeks ago, this column explored the mandatory sick leave legislation currently pending in our state legislature. If you haven't yet heard much about the Ohio Healthy Families Act, there's a good chance you will soon. If passed into law, the act would require Ohio employers, with 25 or more employees, to guarantee seven days of paid sick leave each year to full-timers, and a prorated portion of the mandated leave to part-timers.

If the General Assembly fails to act by the end of April, the Service Employees International Union, who submitted the original petition, will need to gather 120,000 more signatures to place the issue on the November ballot for voters to decide. A Columbus Dispatch poll demonstrated overwhelming support for the law, with 76 percent of Democrats, and 45 percent of Republicans favoring it. It doesn't take a poll to realize that a ballot initiative like this would likely pass. Similar to the annual state minimum wage increase that Ohio voters passed, a majority of voters tend to support employment mandates where employees are beneficiaries, without responsibility for footing the bill.

As people become more aware of the proposed sick leave entitlement, concern is escalating. It's not just employers who are worried. The SHRM Ohio State Council, a group of human resource professionals, has posted some excellent talking points on their Web site that highlight key issues and concerns about the measure. Check out their talking points at ohioshrm.org, and follow the Governmental Affairs Updates link. Issues and consequences generally covered, supplemented by some of my own thoughts, are bulleted below.

- The proposed law would limit employer's flexibility to design compensation packages, tailored to meet the needs and preferences of their employees. Mandated paid leave removes choices and risks loss of flexible work hours that employees value, and which helps them balance work and life.

- Mandated paid leave will increase employer costs significantly. Because employers would be prohibited from reducing vacation and other leaves currently offered, they would be forced to seek other ways to re-coop costs. Employees could find themselves on the receiving end of reduced wage increases, scaled back hiring and staffing plans, increased share of medical benefit costs, and other cost saving measures. Common sense teaches us that employers can't blindly absorb the increased costs. Although the mandate is intended to benefit employees, there's likely to be unintended consequences that may end up hurting them instead.

- The proposed law duplicates and sometimes conflicts with current state and federal family leave laws that are already difficult and costly to administer. The proposed mandate is loosely written, and it presents more questions then answers about how it will interact with current law, and how employers will be required to administer it.

- The proposal will be a factor in deterring organizations from doing business in Ohio. Currently, there are no other states that require mandated sick leave. Why would a company move to Ohio where sick leave is mandated, and where the minimum wage exceeds the federal law? Businesses conducting due diligence will question what further mandates Ohio has up its sleeve. Ohio and our local communities have enough trouble attracting business. We don't need another roadblock to job growth and retention.

There's a good chance that we'll be casting a vote in November, either for, or against mandated paid sick leave. While voting, the question of a mandated benefit will be foremost in most voters' minds. The real ballot issue, however, would more accurately be characterized as a vote cast for, or against Ohio's economic and employment future.


Mayor holds out for union-only construction

Chula Vista (CA) Mayor Cheryl Cox says the city had a tough year financially, but she is optimistic about development plans for the bayfront and a future university. “Like cities around the nation, Chula Vista is struggling with the effects of an economic slowdown,” Cox said Tuesday in her second State of the City speech. She emphasized that although money is tight, the city's future “is filled with promise and extraordinary projects,” and she announced the formation of a city endowment fund.

Cox spoke to a standing-room-only audience of more than 350 people in the council chambers. A slide show displayed numerous design renditions of future projects. One potential project she didn't mention, however, was a Chargers football stadium.

Those in attendance included her husband, county Supervisor Greg Cox, and daughters, Elizabeth and Emily; Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego; San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders; Imperial Beach Mayor Jim Janney; several Port of San Diego commissioners; and other elected and appointed officials.

Finances: Faced with lower-than-projected property-tax revenue, Chula Vista has reduced its budget more than $15 million and is struggling with the nationwide economic slowdown. Mayor Cheryl Cox encouraged residents to shop in the city. Meanwhile, most capital projects are on hold.

Bayfront: Gaylord Entertainment is planning for its bayfront hotel and convention center, although there is no deal yet. The old bayfront factory buildings are being demolished and power towers along the bayfront are expected to be torn down next year.

University: City officials are negotiating with land owners in Otay Ranch to acquire land for a future university. The High Tech High charter school broke ground this month near the future university site.

Endowment: A fund-raising campaign seeks to build a permanent endowment fund for Chula Vista. Information is available at Chula Vista has been in belt-tightening mode for the past year, and in December the City Council approved $15.5 million in budget reductions. The city consolidated departments, eliminated vacant positions and offered incentives for early retirements, which 62 employees accepted, she said.

“The phenomenal growth rate that brought us the new communities of Eastlake, Otay Ranch and Rolling Hills has stalled,” Cox said. “Property and sales taxes are in a slump and development fees are nonexistent.”

That means the city isn't planning major capital projects such as renovating fire stations or building a library, she said.

Cox said she is not discouraged by the budget problems. The good news, she said, is continued growth of sales-tax revenue – helped by the addition of upscale shopping centers and the opening last fall of the South Bay Expressway toll road.

Her focus is on redeveloping the bayfront, Cox said. She pointed to the ongoing demolition of old factory buildings and a plan to remove the steel lattice power towers along the water by the end of 2009.

With those structures gone, the bayfront's potential will be clearly visible: “What a view it will be!” she said.

And even more exciting, she said, is Gaylord Entertainment's continued interest in building a resort hotel and convention center on the bayfront.

The Port of San Diego is finalizing a lease agreement with Gaylord for the land on which the project would be built, she said.

The project's public financing – $178 million for the infrastructure and $130 million for a portion of the convention center – will be paid back with tax revenues generated by the hotel and convention center.

Cox alluded to Gaylord's public dispute with construction unions over the company's refusal to sign a project labor agreement that would require contractors to hire union members or workers who pay union dues. She called for “open minds and positive attitudes” in future negotiations.

“The people of Chula Vista deserve a world-class bayfront,” Cox said, “and we will prevail.”

Cox also said city officials have long sought to establish a four-year university and related developments on land it owns in Otay Ranch. City officials are “inching forward in land negotiations with two major property owners” to acquire more property in the area designated as a University Park and Research Center, she said.

The university site already has lined up one tenant, she said. A conservation-themed charter school, High Tech High Chula Vista, broke ground this month on city-owned land in that area, she said.

“With its emphasis on the environment, it's a good beginning,” Cox said. “But it's just the beginning.”

Cox also announced what she described as a new kind of partnership for the city: a fund-raising campaign with the San Diego Foundation.

The goal for “Endow Chula Vista” is to raise $100,000 this year, she said, adding that $11,000 already has been pledged.

Half of any money raised will go into the endowment, where it will be invested to provide a future stream of revenue for projects. The other half will support emergency services and programs for the arts, animal care, environmental conservation and recreation, she said.


Teamsters criminal, mob legacy revived

There have been so many analyses, fantasies and theories devoted to the assassination of John F. Kennedy that anything purporting itself as a fresh perspective runs the risk of suffocation. Anything less than a smoking gun -- or two -- will cause many casual readers to shrug with the frustration that they've heard it all before.

The Road to Dallas (Belknap Press, 536 pages, $35), written by David Kaiser, tries to preempt that shrug by billing itself as the first book written on the subject by a professional historian who has pored over the volumes of recently declassified information.

Kaiser, a history professor at the Naval War College, not only reports on what he has researched, but at times he takes an active role in contacting pertinent subjects in the declassified material.

The result is a thorough recounting of facts interspersed with interpretations and opinions that carry the weight of someone who knows how to analyze history. The Road to Dallas is laboriously comprehensive at times and shockingly illuminating at others. It may not prove the conspiracy it suggests -- that while Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman he wasn't alone in planning the assassination -- but it provides unusual substance to its argument because of the nature of the material and the background of the author.

Kaiser isn't the first to suggest JFK was assassinated by a conspiracy of anti-Castro Cubans upset at Kennedy's failure to eliminate Fidel Castro and a Mafia enraged by the obsession of JFK's attorney general, his brother Robert Kennedy, to attack organized crime. But Kaiser may be the first to reach the depth of reporting the facts that support this theory.

The book is full of anecdotes that will make many wonder why these facts weren't reported before, or at least reported on a more mainstream level. It opens with three men visiting a Cuban woman -- Silvia Odio -- in Dallas in early October 1963. Odio testified that one of the men was Oswald, while the other two were believed to be American anti-Castro mercenaries Loran Hall and Lawrence Howard. Hall had spent time in a Cuban prison with Florida mob boss Santo Trafficante Jr., who owned several Havana casinos before Castro's rise to power. During their time in prison, Trafficante was visited by Jack Ruby.

The intermingling of key players in Kaiser's conspiracy theory, including Jimmy Hoffa and his alliance with the mob, allows him to connect the dots to effectively argue that Oswald did not act alone.

It was amazing to learn about the vast number of assassination plots and attempts against Castro that were conceived, encouraged or at least winked at by the U.S. government. Some of them were comical, such as a plan to employ exploding seashells and a poisoned diving suit. The incompetence of the endeavors was nearly as acute as the audacity.

Lyndon Johnson, as well as others, assumed Castro played a role in JFK's assassination.

The U.S. government's willingness to employ mob help to get rid of Castro while at the same time Robert Kennedy was trying to crack down on organized crime reflected the firewalls that existed between government agencies before 9/11.

Kaiser uncovered several quotes by people such as Hoffa calling for John Kennedy to be assassinated. Hoffa's mob associates relied on the money stolen from Hoffa's Teamsters Union, so many powerful and dangerous people suffered by RFK's personal quest to bring down Hoffa. The Kennedy administration was an enemy to many.

It would be hard to imagine anyone but Kennedy assassination scholars and historians not learning something new in Kaiser's book. For fans of Oliver Stone's movie "JFK" (1991) and JFK assassination junkies, the book is the latest -- and perhaps best -- view of the historic event.


News Guild journalism pimps for gov't-unions

Eight years ago Kelvin Haywood needed surgery for a dislocated spine after being choked unconscious by an inmate at the state hospital where he works. He's still being tested for HIV and hepatitis after being bitten on his upper arm by another inmate a year ago. His pay for dealing with dangerous inmates: $24,000 a year. "A lot of families, husbands and wives, put their paychecks together to make ends meet," said Haywood, who protects doctors and other professional staff at the state hospital in Chattahoochee.

Haywood, 47, is among thousands of low-paid state workers with dangerous jobs and has little hope of a raise this year. That's in a state that spends less per capita on its work force than any other, according to a recent study by the Pew Center on the States and Governing.

"Over the past 10 years we have fallen farther and farther behind," said Doug Martin, legislative and communications director for the Florida branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "Now when the budget turns down the public servants are the ones who have to suffer."

Although Pew gave the state a B-minus overall for its across-the-board governing performance in a recent analysis, it was dead last in the investment made in state employees.

"A travesty," responded state Rep. Lorranne Ausley, who blames much of that poor ranking on former Gov. Jeb Bush. "All they did was take away all the protections for state employees. There were two years during the Bush administration where they got no raises at all."

Ausley, a Tallahassee Democrat, contends that pay and benefits improvements for state workers should be lawmakers' top priority and not the last. But with lawmakers now slashing the budget with the economy in tatters, the outlook isn't a lot brighter.

Elva McCaig of Milton has been a licensed practical nurse for more than eight years at a Panhandle prison where she earns less than $30,000 annually and must use vacation time and spend her own money to maintain her professional credentials.

And to make things even more difficult for some workers, new hires are often paid more because starting salaries have increased since many long-time employees were hired. Those increased salaries weren't given to those already working.

"It does seem like a slap in the face when you have to train somebody with absolutely no experience that makes more money than you do," McCaig said.

State workers are looking at a second straight year without an across-the-board pay increase, although Gov. Charlie Crist has $94 million in his budget recommendation targeted for increasing salary in critical, high turnover jobs. The specific jobs, however, were not detailed in the appropriation.

"It's important to compensate people fairly," said Crist, conceding, "difficult budgetary times. The less you're making the harder it is, no questions about that."

Haywood knows that and says "anything would help" as far as a pay raise. He doesn't see it happening any time soon, though.

"I'll believe it when I see it," Haywood said.


Some teachers are crossing the picket line

A handful of part-time teachers spent another cold day on the picket line Thursday as the strike at Laurier Brantford continued. Picket captain Ron Ross, warming his hands with a hot cup of coffee, spent the day walking between downtown university buildings wearing a placard reading: "Our Vision? A Fair Wage." He said he's hoping for a quick resolution to the dispute but says the union is ready for a long haul.

"We are simply prepared to stay out. The membership is determined to get a settlement. This is not radical or ideological. It's about our conditions at work."

Talks between Wilfrid Laurier University and the Laurier Faculty Association, representing teachers at both the Brantford and Waterloo campuses, broke off early Wednesday after two days of mediation.

Laurier has 365 contract staff this term, including 27 at the Brantford campus. They work as part-time instructors and librarians, teaching about 30 per cent of Laurier's courses. Wages and seniority are key issues in the dispute.

Full-time instructors at the school are not affected by the strike. Leo Groarke, principal of the Brantford campus, said some part-time instructors at both campuses crossed picket lines Wednesday and Thursday to teach their classes as usual. Groarke said students are being advised to show up to their classes to find out whether they will proceed.

"It's a confusing situation for everybody," said Groarke. "The university is working hard to answer students' questions."

Ross said Thursday afternoon he was unaware of any teachers crossing the picket line at the Brantford campus but said that if they were "it's their own future that they're sabotaging."

Lists of cancelled classes were posted in the entrance at the university's Carnegie Building Thursday. Classrooms were quiet as many students slipped away early for the long Easter weekend.

Angeline Dhuman, a fourth-year contemporary studies student, and Stephanie Fuliere, a fourth-year psychology student, worked on their laptops in a near-empty lounge in the Students' Union building late Thursday morning. Each has a course taught by a part-time instructor.

"We were surprised when it (the strike) went through so close to exam time," said Dhuman. "The teachers were acting as if it wasn't going to happen, so we weren't too interested."

On its website, the university said it would try to avoid having students repeat their term or lose academic credits because of the strike.

Ross thought it unlikely the job action would cause students to lose credits, but worried that an altered school year could cut into their job and travel plans.

Part-time Laurier faculty, many of whom have the same qualifications as full-time teachers, earn $6,000 per course, less than part-time staff at neighbouring universities in Waterloo and Guelph.

The union rejected the school's offer of a 3.5 per cent increase. Union spokesman Herbert Pimlott said faculty are seeking pay increases that would bring their salaries closer to the $6,700 paid to their counterparts at the University of Waterloo.

Sue Horton, Laurier's vice president academic, said the university offered what it felt it could afford for a school with a $3-million deficit and plans to trim nearly two per cent of its budget.

Groarke said a lingering strike would create a difficult situation for students. The university is looking at several options for students, including applying for a deferred exam or withdrawing from courses.

Both sides say they are willing to return to negotiations, but no new talks have been scheduled.


Progressive hubris, defiance fails labor-state

The e-mail message was time-stamped Dec. 18, 2007. It was sent at 5 a.m. It did not mince words. “I’ve been up all night, I haven’t been able to sleep thinking how we’ve gotten to this position,” it began, according to one recipient’s recollection.

The author of the e-mail message was Eliot Spitzer, the 54th governor of New York. His administration was just days from the end of its first year, and his poll numbers were abysmal. And now the morning newspapers had another report of another set of subpoenas issued as part of an investigation into the administration’s effort to tarnish a Republican rival.

The heat of Mr. Spitzer’s frustration and anger, according to two senior aides who read the early morning message, all but radiated off their computers and BlackBerrys.

Mr. Spitzer ordered a 7:30 a.m. conference call. He canceled plans to attend a forum in the Bronx on predatory lending in poor neighborhoods, suggesting it was a waste of time when “everything was falling apart.”

One aide recalled the thrust of Mr. Spitzer’s fury: We’re disasters; I am surrounded by idiots. Another remembered it this way: Rome is burning, and I’m supposed to be up in the Bronx talking about predatory lending.

“He was clearly very upset,” one of the aides said. “It was somewhere between the typical thing and the far end of the typical thing.”

Mr. Spitzer announced his resignation 11 days ago, after reports of something that was substantially beyond “the far end of the typical thing” — his involvement as a client of a high-priced prostitution ring.

Interviews in recent days with a handful of people close to Mr. Spitzer, almost all of them still shocked and confused, suggested that no one had figured out, for certain, what had happened. Was Mr. Spitzer’s conduct an aberrant episode, as short-lived as it was out of character? Or had the man they had served with passion and devotion been living a secret second life for years?

“Nothing from my experience meshes with this, so it’s hard not to feel badly for him,” an aide said. “As torn as we are and confused by it all, he was great to work for and it’s a loss.”

It is hard to say what role, if any, Mr. Spitzer’s escalating disappointment in Albany played in his extraordinarily risky, self-destructive behavior, and it remains unclear when his once seemingly idyllic life went so awry. But the interviews with his aides and others who encountered him over the last several months made it clear that he had come to feel deeply ambivalent about his job as governor, the latest, grandest political prize in what many calculated would be a rise that could take him to the White House.

In fact, several aides said that 14 months into his term, he felt profoundly exasperated with the experience of trying to bend a powerful and divided State Legislature to his will.

He just could not accept the way things worked, or did not work, in Albany, the aides said. He was offended to the point of distraction by the fact that his chief rival, Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, was seen by many to have outmaneuvered and outwitted him. Mr. Bruno had taken to calling him “a spoiled rich-kid brat.”

And the aides, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity out of deference to the wounded Mr. Spitzer, said the former governor, for all of his estimable brilliance, was often a poor chief executive: combative, micromanaging, and unable to take a long view when things went wrong.

Despite Albany’s often dysfunctional ways, there were allies to be had, coalitions to be assembled. But he most often saw them as enemies, all part of a system that had thwarted reform.

“He was much too angry at too many people and too many institutions to be effective,” recalled Dan Cantor, executive director of the labor-backed Working Families Party. “His enemies were against him and his friends were deserting him.”

Fury and moments of surrender characterized his last nine months, but in truth Mr. Spitzer was always a politician of the most intense, high-strung order, whose outbursts were the stuff of legend. But his eruptions seemed particularly ill suited for the role of executive.

Mr. Spitzer’s unhappiness generated its own collateral damage. Several aides said Mr. Spitzer had begun drinking more than his usual nightly glass of scotch. And his wife, a loyal and reliable support during Mr. Spitzer’s years of unchecked success, appeared to find the role harder to play when each month seemed to bring some fresh setback.

But if much of Mr. Spitzer’s undoing remains hard to fathom, there are, for those who worked with him or encountered him of late, indelible images of a man who had seemed so suited to his last job, struggling to find his way in his new one.

Albany, July 9

The Capitol

Eliot Spitzer sat in his office on the second floor, on a chair in front of his desk.

He began the interview, talking with his usual bravura and staccato pace about the ugly breakdown in budget negotiations — hitting all his talking points, staying, as only he could, relentlessly on message.

Republicans had been spreading word that the governor had called Mr. Bruno “senile.” They said he had sent his men to spy on Mr. Bruno, too.

Mr. Spitzer seemed customarily confident, even defiant.

However, the life in his voice, like the sunlight late that afternoon, soon began to drain.

It was Day 190 of his administration — a term that had begun with his promise that everything that was dysfunctional and hopelessly partisan about Albany would change with his swearing-in.

But as the conversation wore on, that promise — that he would bring a kind of constructive passion back to Albany — began to feel distant, naïve, even lost.

And then he was asked a question about his wife. He was, in that moment, no longer a prosecutor trying a case, and the veneer of toughness that he and his handlers had taken years to build up fell away almost completely.

There was quiet for several seconds.

“This, this is harder,” he said, speaking with care about his wife, Silda, “because she looks at me and she says, ‘Do you really want this stuff? And do you want this for your kids and do you want them to see this stuff?’ ”

He paused again.

The reporter started to continue. “Just all the ——”

“Yeah,” Mr. Spitzer said. “It’s ugly.”

For a second, he flashed again with enthusiasm, speaking of a run he had taken with one of his daughters the day before.

“We had a great time,” he said. “I ran with Sarabeth in Utica, and it was spectacular. She beat me, which was great. But then you pick up the papers and you see this stuff.”

He paused again, looking nothing short of fragile.

“Well, you know,” he said. “There it is.”

His eyes were moist.

Manhattan, Sept. 21

The Grand Hyatt Hotel

The governor’s old allies had in mind tough love, not an arm-breaking session. Mr. Cantor and Bob Master, another leader of the Working Families Party, walked into the lobby of the Grand Hyatt New York.

Governor Spitzer was holding a morning of political meetings upstairs. The Working Families Party had endorsed Mr. Spitzer and worked hard for his election. But in the last eight months he had fought with the party over his effort to push through a campaign finance bill that would limit union spending on elections and he had repeatedly insulted the powerful health care workers’ union and the Democratic-controlled State Assembly.

Richard Baum, the secretary to the governor, greeted them in the lobby, three people who were at the meeting recalled. Mr. Cantor previewed his talk in the elevator: The governor had to massage his allies; he had to move on issues like family leave, which played to his political base. And he should not view the political world as divided between the virtuous and the venal.

Mr. Baum smiled, warily. “This should be interesting,” one person recalled him saying. The governor was not used to hearing that sort of criticism.

They took their seats in the governor’s suite, seven or eight men in a tight cluster. Mr. Cantor, glancing at his notes, cataloged their discontents. At the end the governor leaned in, his face less than 12 inches from Mr. Cantor’s.

And Mr. Spitzer began screaming.

“You have no standing to lecture me,” he said, expletives punctuating virtually every third syllable. “You’re part of the system that is the whole problem in this state.”

A year’s worth of perceived slights poured out, as he recalled old political races gone bad and proposals that had died in the Legislature. Curse piled upon curse, spittle flying.

“In the world of politics, calculated rage is really common,” recalled a man who was in the room. “But this was not calculated; this was pure rage and kind of scary to watch.”

Mr. Spitzer bolted upright and walked toward the door. He turned, and said: “I’m going to announce that I’m giving licenses to the undocumented.” Mr. Cantor did a double take. This was worst possible time for a wounded governor to embark on that initiative, no matter how progressive. “You’re going to get killed on this,” he warned, and in fact it would become another in the governor’s first-year collection of failures.

Mr. Spitzer waved him off. He suffered no deficit of confidence.

“No, no, no!” the governor said. “It’s all good. All good.”

Mr. Spitzer pivoted and walked out.

Manhattan, March 12

Office of the Governor

Eliot Spitzer had taken roughly 100 seconds to announce his resignation before a mob of TV cameras.

He exited the media room into an office hallway. The corridor was lined with young people — staff members, secretaries, idealists and overachievers. He could have easily averted them and walked directly to his office.

But if Mr. Spitzer was disgraced, he did not shrink from the challenge.

“He was at the far end, and he made the point of walking down the length of the hallway,” said one aide who was there. “There was a gantlet of people, and he said what he said.

“I don’t know how you find the words to talk to a young staff at a moment like that,” the aide noted, “but he did it.”

Mr. Spitzer reassured the young people that their futures were still ahead of them. He warned against making the same mistakes he had, from the modest to the catastrophic.

“People think it was hubris and that he must have been a fraud, but that’s not right,” another aide said of the former governor. “He was a very good man who lost himself due to a combination of factors.

“He wanted so much to change things in Albany, but it didn’t work out the way he planned. He couldn’t meet the expectations of the public or the expectations he set for himself. They said he was pushing too hard and not pushing hard enough, that he was Mr. Softee and a steamroller. He felt damned if he did and damned if he didn’t at every turn.”

In such circumstances, without the ability to adjust or relax, “it’s only a matter of time before you self-destruct,” the aide said. “Ironically, he knew full well that he was being watched. He even talked about it. He said: ‘If we ever stumble, they’ll be merciless.’ Those were his words.”

The walk down the hallway over, Mr. Spitzer cried, one of the aides said.

“I couldn’t look,” the aide said.


Workers blame strike on UAW betrayal

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