Progressives seethe at violent SEIU

Just as we are on the precipice of a major political realignment, a possible resurgence of progressive politics in Washington, the backbone of that movement -- organized labor -- is engaged in a self-destructive internal battle.

This could not only undermine efforts to revive the labor movement, but also hurt chances of electing a liberal Democrat to the White House and then expanding a progressive Democratic majority in Congress. It could also threaten progressives' ability to mobilize the grassroots political clout that will be needed to pass health care reform, end the war in Iraq, address global warming, reduce poverty, and ironically - to pass labor law reform.

Just this week, violence broke out at a union conference in Michigan when members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) - the nation's largest labor organization - attempted to protest a scheduled speech by the president of the California Nurses Association (CNA). The two unions have been attacking each other vociferously for months, each organization claiming that the other was at fault for one or another transgression, and in recent weeks the war has escalated out of control.

Regardless of who is at fault - both organizations claim the other has interfered to disrupt organizing drives - the fighting among these two dynamic workers organizations has to stop. There is only one result that is predictable if the conflict continues - hostile employers and right wing forces in general will benefit.

Throughout the course of U.S. labor history, bloody battles have occurred between intransigent employers and workers who have tried to organize to improve their lives. Corporations once used hired guns to thwart workers' rights. But in recent years big business has used lawyers and consultants to help them fire workers for participating in organizing drivers and have threatened to close workplaces if employees unionize. Indeed, keeping American workplaces "union-free" has evolved into a billion dollar industry.

But there have also been critical moments when unions have fought one another. The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) was formed in 1935 from a split with the American Federation of Labor (AFL), when legendary Mineworkers leader John L. Lewis led the effort to establish a separate organization dedicated to organizing workers in the industrial sector of the American economy. The CIO helped usher in a dramatic wave of successful union organizing.

During the Cold War of the 1950s, the labor movement was divided by ideology and power struggles, when the major union federations ousted unions led by radicals, a split that business groups encouraged. In the California grape fields, the United Farm Workers and Teamsters fought over the right to organize farmworkers in the 1960s. Two years ago, a number of the nation's largest unions -- including SEIU, the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers, UNITE HERE, and others -- split from the AFL-CIO to form the Change to Win coalition, critical of other unions' failure to invest more resources into organizing the unorganized workforce. And in Los Angeles, two unions representing actors and radio artists are currently at odds over several issues as critical negotiations have just begun with powerful Hollywood producers.

Some labor historians have argued that competition among labor groups can be beneficial - by pushing unions to find innovative ways to organize the unorganized - but the current fights are mainly self-destructive. For example, both SEIU and CNA are in many cases attempting to represent the same workers at the same health care facilities. Unions should be spending their time, money and energy organizing the 89 percent of American workers who are unorganized rather than fighting each other.

Ironically, organized labor's self-inflicted wounds are taking place just as the movement was resurging. Last year, for the first time in decades, the proportion of American workers in unions increased. A number of unions have been creative in winning organizing drives in places and industries that some thought would never see a labor victory -- such as janitors in Houston. In Los Angeles, carwash workers - some of the most exploited people in the country - have recently turned to organized labor for help.

Ironically, the confrontation between SEIU and CNA has occurred just as Los Angeles' growing labor movement was putting on a show of strength. This week it sponsored a three-day 28-mile march from Hollywood to the shipping docks in San Pedro, weaving across the city, to unite its diverse unions and its allies among community groups, clergy, and environmentalists.

Over the next few months, 30 unions with close to 400,000 members will be negotiating new contracts. Under the leadership of Maria Elena Durazo, the charismatic head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, these unions are mobilizing public support for their contract talks, calling it a "fight for good jobs." Actors, nurses, hotel workers, janitors, garment workers, truck drivers, security guards, school teachers and other union members have joined forces to highlight the centrality of the labor movement to restoring the key components of the middle class -- secure and well-paying jobs, health insurance, decent housing, and the ability to save to send children to college, take a yearly vacation, and retire with dignity.

Indeed, for over a decade, Los Angeles has been a bright spot among organized labor. Los Angeles unions have been adding members , building bridges between ethnic and racial groups, and exercising their political muscle to help elect pro-labor candidates in City Hall, the state legislature and Congress. The Los Angeles labor movement has found strength, energy and a new generation of leaders, many of them immigrants. It has renewed the concept of "social unionism" by reaching out to groups concerned about affordable housing, public schools, immigrants' rights, women's rights, and the environment. In one of its most creative efforts, the Campaign for Clean and Safe Ports, the Teamsters union has joined environmentalists, religious leaders, community activists and civil rights leaders to push for fundamental changes in the way the movement of goods is conducted in LA and Long Beach, the nation's largest port and the biggest source of pollution in the region. If the campaign is successful, the air will be cleaner, the port will be safer, and the truck drivers will gain wages and benefits that will dramatically improve their lives.

The rest of the labor movement needs to learn from the Los Angeles approach. In the next decade, organized labor as a social, political and economic force will either grow or die. Today, union's collective bargaining agreements play a less important role in the United States than in other affluent nations. Only France, with 10% of its workers represented by unions, ranks lower than the United States (11%) among industrialized nations in the density of union membership.

In the 1950s, unions represented more than one-third of all U.S. workers. The decline of union membership, which accelerated starting in the 1970s, coincided with the upsurge of Big Business and the Religious Right, the network of right-wing think tanks, TV and radio shows, newspapers and magazines, and the GOP takeover of Congress and many state governments. Over the past 30 years, we've seen a protracted battle over women's rights, environmental regulations, workplace safety, housing reform, health care, militarism, and the widening gap between the rich and the rest.

Countries that were behind the US on measures of economic and social well-being have now surpassed us. For example, Americans work more hours each year than employees in Canada, Western Europe, Japan, or Australia. In 2004, the most recent data collected by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), employed Americans worked an average of 1,824 hours annually, compared with 1,816 in Australia, 1,789 hours in Japan, 1,751 hours in Canada, 1,669 in England, 1,585 n Sweden, 1,443 in Germany, 1,441 in France, and 1,363 in Norway.

Unlike every other affluent country, the U.S. has no statutory minimum vacation policy. As a result, American workers spend fewer weeks on vacation than workers elsewhere. Most countries mandate that workers get at least four weeks of paid vacation a year. France, Austria, Denmark and Sweden require five weeks.

And we know that the U.S. is the only country without a system of universal health insurance. It is also the only country without mandated paid maternity leave. We spend less on job training, child care, and affordable housing, and much more on prisons, than other well-off nations. Our workplace safety laws are weak and poorly-enforced compared with elsewhere. The U.S. also has the widest gap between rich and poor and the highest poverty rate among developed nations.

The weakness of the American labor movement, compared to its counterparts in other affluent, democratic societies, accounts for many of these disparities. But Americans are not generally anti-union. A recent poll found that 58 percent of non-managerial workers would join a union if they could. But they won't vote for a union, much less participate openly in an organizing drive, if they fear losing their jobs for doing so. That's why the next President and Congress needs to make reform of our nation's outdated and pro-management labor laws a top priority.

Organized labor still has a significant capacity to moblize both money and members to influence the outcome of elections. Union members are more likely to vote, more likely to vote for Democrats, and more likely to volunteer for campaigns than people with similar demographic and job characteristics who are not unionized. In the 2004 presidential election, union members represented 12 percent of all workers but union households represented 24 percent of all voters. Despite John Kerry's tepid campaign and upper-crust demeanor, union members gave him 61 percent of their votes over George W. Bush. In the battleground states, where unions focused their turnout efforts, they did even better. In Ohio, for example, union members favored Kerry by a 67 to 31 percent margin.

When voters' loyalties were divided between their economic interests and other concerns, union membership was a crucial determinant of their votes. For example, gun owners favored Bush by a 63 to 36 percent margin, but union members who own guns supported Kerry 55 percent to 43 percent, according to an AFL-CIO survey. Bush carried all weekly church-goers by a 61 to 39 percent margin, but Kerry won among union members who attend church weekly by a 55 to 43 percent split. Among white males, a group that Democrats have had difficulty attracting in recent Presidential elections, Bush won by a 62 to 37 percent margin. But again, Kerry carried white males who were union members by a 59 to 38 percent difference. Bush won among white women by 55 to 44 percent but Kerry won white women union members by 67 percent to 32 percent

The prospects for a progressive resurgence haven't looked brighter since the 1960s. In the political arena, the labor movement is expected to form the backbone of the Democratic Party's efforts to take the White House and expand its majority in Congress in November. Unions, with more trained organizers and rank-and-file activists than the rest of the progressive movement together, have been poised to send their troops, and their funds, to Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Florida, Colorado, Minnesota and other battleground states to register voters and get them to the polls on election day.

The upcoming election will be the most important in memory. But will the labor movement be able to marshall its potential resources to bring about "regime change" in Washington? A few months ago, the answer seemed to be yes. But now the situation is cloudier.

There's room for disagreement about how the labor movement should change its structure to accommodate the transformation of the economy and business. But in addition to honest disagreements among labor activists about how to move forward, there are also unnecessary turf wars and ideological splits, what Freud called the "narcissism of small differences." While labor engages in these internal fights, Republicans and their allies among Big Business and the Religious Right -- who until recently anticipated major setbacks in this election season -- are coalescing around McCain.

It's bad enough that the two remaining contenders for the Democratic Party's Presidential nomination are attacking each other, giving presumptive Republican nominee John McCain ammunition to increase his chance for victory in November. But when unions -- the institutions that provide the most effective ground troops and other resources for Democratic candidates, progressive legislation, and building a movement for change -- are also at each others' throats, Republicans and corporate America can only sit back and smile.

Peter Dreier is E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics at Occidental College and chair of the Horizon Institute, a progressive think tank based in Los Angeles. Kelly Candaele is the Horizon Institute's Executive Director.


SEIU, Stern grieve TRO

Related story: "Stern, SEIU stalkers slapped with TRO"

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) today announced plans to file a motion to dismiss the temporary restraining order filed yesterday by the California Nurses Association against SEIU President Andy Stern and SEIU.

"This is an entirely frivolous injunction being used for political purposes," said Attorney Stephen Berzon, a partner with Altshuler Berzon LLP, the San Francisco-based law firm handling the case. "The CNA designed their suit to interfere with SEIU's legitimate, constitutionally-protected free speech activity. The CNA ran into court and procured the order without giving SEIU notice or an opportunity to be heard. Once SEIU gets its day in court, this illegal injunction will be overturned very quickly."

This week's legal maneuvering by the CNA is the latest tactic in a campaign of untruths and misinformation led by the California-based union. After waging a vicious "vote no" operation at Catholic Healthcare Partners hospitals in Ohio that sabotaged a three-year effort by nurses and hospital workers to win a fair process to freely choose whether to form a union with SEIU, the CNA has inaccurately characterized efforts by CHP workers and supporters to engage CNA leadership over the union's anti-union tactics as "harassment." Video footage shows what the CNA called "5 male staffers harassing CNA Board members" was actually a registered nurse and respiratory therapist going door-to-door to try to speak to CNA leadership: (available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGw2QJTgw4I).

The temporary restraining order -- filed Wednesday afternoon by the CNA without providing notice to either SEIU or SEIU President Andy Stern -- was issued under the California Code of Civil Procedure 527.8 intended for "Employees subject to violence or threats of violence at the workplace."

"Under no circumstances have SEIU members or staff harassed CNA members or leadership," said Andy Stern in response to the temporary restraining order. "It's shameful that the CNA is continuing to spread misinformation and distorting reality to divert focus from the real issues -- the anti-union tactics that sabotaged the opportunity for more than 8,000 nurses and other hospital workers in Ohio to freely choose whether to form a union with SEIU."

For more information visit http://www.ShameOnCNA.org.


SEIU reformers blast Stern's fascist leadership

As SEIU members who attended the Labor Notes conference held on April 11-13, 2008 in Dearborn, Michigan, we denounce the attempts by SEIU International to violently disrupt a fundraising banquet on Saturday, April 12 attended by nearly one thousand labor activists from around the world who gathered to discuss ways to rebuild labor’s power.
Seven busloads of SEIU staff and members (mostly from SEIU Healthcare Michigan and SEIU District 1199 WV/OH/KY) stormed the hotel to disrupt the event, allegedly to protest the scheduled keynote speech by Rose Ann DeMoro, Executive Director of the California Nurses Association. The CNA and SEIU have been engaged in a years-long conflict over organizing jurisdiction. The dispute has resulted in CNA efforts to undermine union elections with SEIU, and accusations that SEIU has sent staff to intimidate and harass CNA leaders in their homes and workplaces.
The violent action taken by some in SEIU on this night only worsened this inter-union dispute, in which workers are the big losers. It succeeded only in alienating many of the labor leaders at the event who did not agree with the CNA’s actions in Ohio and Nevada.

When conference participants (mostly rank-and-filers from unions around the country) tried to stop protesters from disrupting the dinner, the protesters (including some SEIU staff) pushed their way through the crowd by throwing punches and shoving people to the ground. One UAW retiree who had organized strike support for American Axle workers that day was taken to the hospital with a head injury, and others suffered minor injuries. One protester rushed the stage and attempted to speak to the crowd.

Some of us saw an SEIU member, who had collapsed on the ground, being moved onto a stretcher by police and EMTs. On Sunday, SEIU's Michigan health care local posted an obituary for home healthcare member-David Smith. It informed Smith's co-workers that "he passed away....during a rally to give healthcare workers the right to organize in Ohio." It is tragic that a member died at this shameful protest.

This protest action by some in SEIU was an embarrassment to the labor movement. Rose Ann DeMoro had earlier announced she would not attend, a fact well-known by SEIU staff in attendance, some of whom later assisted protesters in their violent attempt at disruption. The action was unsuccessful at disrupting the rest of the conference, and the protester who spoke could not be understood by anyone. Most attendees were left offended and confused, and denounced the violence some protesters used against other rank-and-file workers. In the International SEIU’s Orwellian press release, International Executive Vice-President Mary Kay Henry states:

"Open debate serves an important role as we work to strengthen our movement. The Labor Notes Conference is the right time and place to discuss our differences."

But this action was clearly intended to harass and intimidate workers, not to promote discussion and debate about the future of our movement. In fact, several workshops at the conference encouraged debate and discussion of the very issues of concern within SEIU, including the escalating war between SEIU and CNA. Among the dozens of workshops held were:

Solidarity Under Attack
Running for Union Office
Contract Campaigns and Bargaining Tactics
Organizing Immigrant Workers; Organizing Right-to-Work States
Member-Driven Organizing
Neutrality Agreements and Organizing Deals
Innovative Organizing Strategies: Building Unions from the Bottom Up
Patients’ Rights, Workers’ Rights
Labor Media and New Technology
Democracy is Power

These topics and more were the subject of discussion and debate all weekend at the Labor Notes conference, with full participation by SEIU members and staff. Some SEIU members and staff were disruptive and rude in these discussions, and later participated in the violent attempt to disrupt the fundraising dinner, which honored striking American Axle workers in UAW, the New York Taxi Drivers’ Alliance, United Workers Baltimore, and John Sferazo, an ironworker who helped search for survivors at the World Trade Center.

From our own conversations with SEIU protesters at the conference, we learned that many had no idea they were protesting an international labor activists' conference. Staff appeared to lead the action (sometimes wearing bandannas to hide their identity) with workers following in tow who may or may not have understood what and who they were protesting. The organizers of this action put their own members and other rank-and-file union workers in harms way for an action that was a humiliating failure without any message.

As SEIU members, we believe it was precisely open debate and discussion that were the target of this hostile attack. SEIU International does not want workers learning how to build real power in our shops and in our union. SEU International does not want an open debate about democracy or worker empowerment. The International wants us to know that we become targets when we talk about democracy, worker power, and the future of the labor movement. They will evidently embrace the crudest tactics, using violence to make their point.

SEIU International failed to disrupt the conference, and will fail to silence us as members.

We call on Mary Kay Henry and SEIU International to denounce the use of violence, and specifically denounce the violent actions taken against us and other rank-and-file union workers at the Labor Notes conference on April 12, 2008.

We further call on SEIU International and Executive Vice-President Mary Kay Henry to demonstrate that “open debate serves an important role as we work to strengthen our movement.” An open debate has never been encouraged at an International level in SEIU to discuss these issues, which are critical to our future. If Mary Kay and our International leaders want to demonstrate their credibility, they will entertain exactly such a debate and discussion among our membership at the 2008 Convention.

We also call upon SEIU’s rank and file members to denounce the SEIU International’s use violence and to tell the International Officers of SEIU that we will not tolerate the use of our union dues to attack rank-and-file union members. We are proud to be members of SEIU and call upon our International leadership to put SEIU back on the right path as a growing, dynamic member-driven union.


Brian Cruz
City College of San Francisco
SEIU 2008 International Convention Delegate
SEIU Local 1021

Joe Iosbaker
Chief Steward, University of Illinois – Chicago (UIC)
Executive Board Member
SEIU Local 73

Helen York-Jones
Chief Steward, CPMC Medical Center
SEIU 2008 International Convention Delegate
SEIU UHW-West Executive Board Vice-President
(Boycotted the fundraising banquet portion of the conference to protest CNA’s actions in Ohio and Nevada)

Zev Kvitky
President and Executive Director, SEIU Local 2007
Higher Education Workers-CA
SEIU California State Council

Maya Morris
Steward, Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, CHW
SEIU 2008 International Convention Delegate
SEIU UHW-West Executive Board Vice-President
(Boycotted the fundraising banquet portion of the conference to protest CNA’s actions in Ohio and Nevada)

Randy Evans
Steward, University of Illinois - Chicago (UIC) Medical Center
SEIU Local 73


Pilots use secret-ballot to decertify ALPA

Frustrated by an internal dispute over seniority, pilots at US Airways ousted their union of 59 years yesterday and agreed to be represented by another group. The rare decertification election, supervised by the federal National Mediation Board, gave the fledgling US Airline Pilots Association the right to represent the 5,300 pilots in US Airways' system and dismissed the Air Line Pilots Association as the pilots' bargaining agent. The new union's victory margin was slim, with the vote at 2,723 to 2,554.

The pilots' group was created and is supported mostly by pilots from US Airways who clashed with other pilots after their carrier was acquired in 2005 by America West Holdings Corp., of Tempe, Ariz.

Seniority is extremely important for pilots because it determines how much they are paid. Their place in the company pecking order decides what planes they can fly, what routes they will take, and when they can go on vacation.

As pilots gain seniority, they move up to flying larger airplanes and get hefty pay raises with each move.

Scott Theuer, a 737 captain based in Philadelphia and spokesman for the US Airline Pilots Association, said the group had been unhappy for years with the way the Air Line Pilots Association represented US Airways pilots, providing them contracts they considered inferior to other airlines'.

The final straw, Theuer said, was an arbitration process the pilots' union oversaw that resulted in many pilots with the old US Airways winding up lower on the seniority list than some from the former America West who had less time on the job.

Theuer said the new union had slightly more support from pilots for the old US Airways than those at America West, but that the desire for a change "was pretty much all over."

Pilots have said that disagreements over seniority led to shouting matches in airport terminals. Supporters of the rival unions have sent one another threatening e-mails, engaged in at least one shoving match, and called one another to the parking lot to settle their arguments.

Their struggles have become a cautionary tale as a new wave of merger talks sweeps through the industry.

Northwest Airlines Corp. and Delta Air Lines Inc. hoped their pilots would agree on seniority before announcing plans to join forces earlier this week. But Northwest pilots refused to go along, and the companies moved ahead without a pilot agreement.

In statements, the Northwest pilots said they were being asked to accept a seniority structure that would put them on a lower pay scale than Delta pilots.

US Airways Group Inc. said in a statement that its "position throughout this process has been that we'll honor the union representation choices made by our employees." It said the new group would "inherit the contracts currently in place for East and West pilots."

The company said it would "reach out" to the new pilot group for talks "toward a single agreement for our pilots."

US Airways has agreed to contracts with all its employee groups except pilots, flight attendants and baggage and ramp employees. The union representing baggage and ramp employees signed off on a tentative agreement last week.


UAW members get no explanation for GM strike

More than 2,600 UAW employees work at the Delta Township plant and all of them are off the job. Some of those workers are at home while others have been picketing since the strike started Thursday morning. I'm really hearing mixed reaction from workers. For the first 48 hours, the only people who will walk the picket lines are elected and appointed union members.

A lot of the people were not assigned to be out, but instead came to show their support for the strike. Other workers I talked to aren't sure why it had to come to this. The clock struck ten and still no deal was done, so one by one UAW Local 602 workers walked off the job.

Chris Zausten, works at Delta Twp. Plant: "We were just given the word by our shop committee that we were striking, and we just got our folks and said we were walking, and they got information at the gate."

That flier told workers to head to the union hall to sign up for strike duty, but it didn't say why union leaders decided to strike.

Gwen Bayne, works at Delta Twp. Plant: "I knew there was a possibility that we were walking out, but I don't know why, nobody knows why. They won't tell us."

Which she doesn't think is fair to all the workers who are now out a paycheck.

Gwen Bayne: "I just don't like it, I don't. You know, I wish they'd tell us what the issues were, we don't have a say in it."

But other workers say they don't need to know what's at issue in their contract. They're more than willing to walk the picket line around the clock.

Troy Schafer, works at Delta Twp. Plant: "We're all going to stick together and we're going to work management for what we deserve."

A union representative tells me there will be people out at all hours until a deal is reached. He says every worker is required to participate in strike duty, but they are still figuring out how long each group will be out there.


UAW on strike v. GM Lansing

Workers from GM's Delta Township plant are on the picket line after walking off the job Thursday at 10am. Union officials and GM management had been working around the clock to reach a deal on a local contract but those talks broke down. Workers walked out shortly after contract negotiations between the union and GM management officially broke down. Union officials say the local contract deals with issues specific to the Delta Township plant like workplace safety and overtime.

That's different than the national contract, which focuses on big ticket items like health care and pensions. Neither the union nor GM will go into any specifics about what's holding up a deal but both sides say they are disappointed that it came to this.

Doug Rademacher, President Local Union 602: "It's not a matter of convenience, this is about respect in the work place and language where our workers have some improvements in how we're going to work forward. That's what we're here to do today."

Dan Flores, GM Spokesperson: "From a management perspective, we want to resolve this as soon as we can. There are a lot of customers who want Acadias and Enclaves and we want to build them and sell them to them."

The union says they'll strike for as long as it takes. But both sides will be back at the bargaining table Friday at 10 am.

While the workers are off the job they are getting some compensation from the union. Workers will get paid $200 a week for walking the picket line once they've been on strike for 10 days. In addition to that, the union is covering major health benefits. This isn't the first time workers at the Delta plant have taken to the picket lines. Just last fall workers walked off the job as part of the UAW's national strike against GM. The Delta plant is one of GM's premier plants and its newest. It produces some of the automaker's hottest vehicles including the GMC Acadia, the Saturn Outlook, and the Buick Enclave. All three of the crossover vehicles have been hugely successful on the market since the 1.5 billion dollar Delta Township plant opened in 2006 to make these vehicles.


Labor agenda compromise proposed in Nevada

They say government is the art of compromise, so herewith is my compromise proposal for raising taxes in Nevada. I'll agree to put tax hikes on the table if the other side will agree to the following:

• Whatever amount of revenue is increased must be matched by cuts in existing expenditures, which myself and a "star chamber" of four others of my choosing would determine unilaterally. Say good-bye, Civil Rights Commission and the Nevada Arts Council.

• Any future tax increases that appear on a ballot must be approved by a 2/3 super-majority vote of the people.

• Any future budget increases that exceed the combined rate of population growth plus inflation would have to be approved by a 2/3 super-majority vote of the Legislature.

• Any new spending programs must be offset by reductions or eliminations in "old" spending.

• Zero-based budgeting is hereby imposed. Department heads start with nothing each biennium rather than starting with the last biennium's budget and adding to it. Every dime must be justified every two years.

• The governor is granted line-item veto power.

• A public Web site showing each and every expenditure by the state government must be created and available by Labor Day.

• The minimum wage law is hereby repealed.

• The prevailing wage law is hereby repealed.

• All collective bargaining agreements for government workers that result in a net increase in the cost to taxpayers must be approved by a vote of the people.

• The government will no longer collect union dues via payroll deductions. Labor unions must collect dues from their members themselves, just like the Rotary Club and Boy Scouts.

• No union dues money may be used for political purposes without the worker's expressed, written consent.

• All public sector unions must publicly file an annual financial report showing where all its money came from and where it all went.

• All collective bargaining sessions involving public employee unions must be done in public.

• All collective bargaining contracts must be posted on a public Web site at the union's expense.

• Public employees are banned from serving in the Legislature.

• Teacher unions are banned permanently. True professional educator organizations with no hostility to school choice would still be allowed.

• All parents will be offered school vouchers to send their kids to the private school of their choice.

• The Nevada Board of Education moratorium on new charter schools is immediately lifted.

• The Board of Education is disbanded and all current members, along with Charter School "Consultant" Tom McCormack, are released into the Nevada wilderness with nothing more than a hunting knife, a pack of Chicklets and one canteen of water.

• The Department of Education will be transferred over to the executive branch of government and the superintendent will be appointed by the governor.

• Nevada immediately withdraws from participation in the No Child Left Behind program.

• Illegal aliens in our prisons are to be deported immediately, and subject to summary execution if they're caught returning illegally. (OK, I might be a little flexible on that last part).

• No taxpayer-funded welfare benefits for illegal aliens.

• English is designated as our official language, and no more bi-lingual ballots at government expense no matter what the feds say.

• An individual's property will not be reassessed for tax purposes until sold or ownership is otherwise transferred.

• A flat, one-time fee of $50 will be charged whenever you register a new car. No more annual renewals.

There. I might still come up with a few more negotiating points, but this is a pretty good start. If the other side is willing to agree to the above, then I'm open to raising taxes.

See, I can compromise.

• Chuck Muth, of Carson City, is president and CEO of Citizen Outreach and a political blogger. Read his views Fridays on the Appeal Opinion page or visit www.muthstruths.com.


Labor-state employers back worker-choice

HealthOne, which owns seven for-profit hospitals in metro Denver, and American Furniture Warehouse are among several financial backers of the Colorado right-to-work initiative. "We have made a contribution to it (the campaign)," HealthOne spokeswoman Leslie Horna said Thursday. "It's not something we're working on actively."

She declined to say why the company supports the movement, which seeks to prohibit workers from being forced to join a union and pay dues or fees.

The Service Employees International Union, a leading health care union, has said it would like to organize more than 50,000 registered nurses in Colorado. The SEIU Local 105 represents about 2,000 health care employees in the state but none at HealthOne.

The SEIU also operates the Nurse Alliance of Colorado, a grassroots movement of nurses focusing on political activism, employer partnerships and public education.

HealthOne has 8,900 employees. In 2006, its hospitals, which include Swedish Medical Center in Englewood and Presbyterian/St. Luke's in Denver, earned nearly $284 million in pretax net income, according to a report released this month.

HealthOne contributed to the signature-collection part of the campaign. American Furniture, owned by Jake Jabs, also contributed, along with several other corporate donors, according to a source.

It's unclear how much they have provided, but the campaign spent $300,000 to $400,000 gathering more than 133,000 signatures to put the measure on November's ballot. Those signatures were turned in to the secretary of state last week, and if the necessary 76,000 are certified, the measure will be put on the ballot.

The group, called the Colorado Right-to-Work Committee, is expected to file financial records with the state by May 1.

A separate group calling itself A Better Colorado will finance and lead the measure's public outreach. That campaign is expected to cost millions of dollars.

A Better Colorado is also slated to file financial records by May 1.

American Furniture spokeswoman Charlie Shaulis and general manager Andrew Zuppa didn't return calls seeking comment.

Zuppa sits on the board of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, a proponent of the measure. Jonathan Coors, a key leader of A Better Colorado, is also a member of the CACI board.

Labor unions have countered by proposing a number of competing initiatives, including measures that would require employers to give workers annual cost-of-living increases and mandate health-insurance coverage for businesses with 20 or more employees.


Teamsters face secret-ballot decert election

Workers at Standard Ready Mix Concrete in Sioux City and Ludey's Ready Mix in Vermillion, S.D., will vote April 25 on whether they want to decertify Teamsters Local 554 as their representative. Standard Ready Mix president Mark Jensen said he has known for about a month that the vote was coming but received notice Friday that the National Labor Relations Board has set the vote for April 25. Messages left at the Teamsters Local 554 office were not returned Wednesday.

Jensen said a group of his company's current employees filed a petition last November, triggering the vote. He said it takes the signatures of at least 30 percent of potential employees in the worker group to force a decertification election.

Meanwhile, he said, no agreement has been reached in a labor dispute over which then-Standard Ready Mix employees went on strike 18 months ago. Jensen said all unfair practices charges have either been withdrawn by the union or dismissed by the NLRB. A lawsuit filed by the company against the union remains on the calendar in U.S. District Court in Omaha.

Jensen said a number of older employees who were on strike decided to retire and the company has also hired new workers to replace others, who remain on strike. He declined to say how many employees the company has but said not everyone has been recalled from the winter layoff.

Ludey's Ready Mix is a separate company from Standard Ready Mix, but Teamsters Local 554 is the bargaining unit for both sets of employees.


Teamsters labor-state strike, month 2

Truck drivers and warehouse workers at Johnson Brothers Liquor Company's distribution facility in St. Paul have been on strike since St. Patrick's Day, and the 700 Teamsters are asking supporters who drink Phillips liquors, Gallo wines or Karkov Vodka to boycott those labels until the dispute is settled.

The previous contract between Teamsters Local 792 and Johnson Brothers expired Feb. 28, and Larry Yoswa, principal officer of the local, said negotiations quickly broke down in March, when management attempted to drive a wedge into the bargaining unit by unilaterally giving raises to supplemental employees.

"We were at the table, but we weren't even talking economics yet," Yoswa said. "Management was trying to split the group."

In response, Local 792 filed a complaint of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board, which is investigating. Negotiations resumed, but it soon became apparent, Yoswa said, that Johnson Brothers had no interest in a new contract.

"They weren't putting offers on the table," he said. "They weren't bargaining in good faith."

Union members walked off the job at 4 a.m. on March 17, and they declared a statewide boycott of the brands distributed exclusively by Johnson Brothers: Phillips, Gallo and Karkov.

Johnson Brothers, a national distribution firm headquartered in St. Paul, hired replacement workers immediately after the strike began and has since placed advertisements seeking permanent replacements – a move that prompted a second NLRB complaint from Local 792.

"We feel this is an unfair-labor-practices strike, and it's illegal for the company to hire permanent replacements," Yoswa said.

Still, Johnson Brothers' message was not lost on striking members.

"What we're hearing from the inside is the owner is saying the union isn't coming back," Yoswa said. "He's going to try to break them. That's why he's put out an ad for permanent replacements."

Meanwhile, Local 792 believes the temporary replacement drivers were "fast-tracked" into their positions. If management bypassed the drug screenings, background checks and physical exams that usually go into hiring process, Johnson Brothers is putting Minnesotans' safety and security at risk.

"Our members take their jobs seriously and conform to safety requirements that keep the workplace and the public safe," Yoswa said. "Now Johnson Brothers is taking a risk by disregarding proven safety standards and sending untested drivers out on public streets."

Striking members of Local 792 have seen the safety hazard posed by replacement drivers firsthand the past few weeks, as the Teamsters have begun employing "roving pickets." In the maneuver, designed to spread the pain of the strike from Johnson Brothers to its clients, strikers follow replacement drivers' trucks and erect picket lines wherever they attempt to unload.

"The beer (delivery) guys, the pop guys – those are all 792 members," Yoswa said. "They'll go right by. They won't cross those picket lines."

Yoswa estimated that Johnson Brothers is making about 35 percent of its regular deliveries – and losing accounts as a result.

Last weekend, Local 792 increased the pressure on Johnson Brothers' clients, distributing fliers announcing the boycott of Phillips, Gallo and Karkov at liquor stores throughout the Twin Cities.

"We're going to be out there in full force on the weekends, when people do their shopping, to let people know about the boycott," Yoswa said.

Although Johnson Brothers could cave under the Teamsters' pressure any day, Local 792 has dug in for a protracted struggle. The last meeting between the two sides, according to Yoswa, was March 31.

"Our members have been out a while, and they want to get back to work," Yoswa said. "But the end game for us is a contract.

"I think we're beating them. Any support people can give by stopping by the line or getting word out about the boycott would be greatly appreciated."


Stern locals in pre-convention blast v. UHW

Leaders of three SEIU local unions called for a committee from SEIU local union United Health Care Workers-West (UHW-W) to apologize to UHW-W members for a deliberate and undemocratic effort to exclude the rank and file from participation in delegate elections for the SEIU International Convention. The UHW-W Delegate Election Committee is led by UHW-W senior staffperson Dan Martin.

The letter, sent today by Kristi Sermersheim, President of SEIU Local 521 in California, Rickman Jackson, President SEIU Healthcare Michigan, and Keith Kelleher, President of SEIU Local 880 in Illinois, reads in part:

"It has become clear it was not a mistake to deny UHW-W members the ability to run for delegate and participate in our union's convention. UHW-W's response to members' complaints about rank-and-file disenfranchisement speaks volumes about the value UHW-W places on union democracy and the respect it has for members' opinions. A letter to one of these members explains why you excluded rank and file members from running for the local's convention delegation, stating" ... UHW specifically did this to insure that the people who know the most about the Union and are most actively involved in it would be delegates ...

"What's worse is the contempt you express for your own rank-and-file membership. According to committee member [Michael] Rivera, "We had several meetings to establish guidelines for eligibility and one of the questions raised was how, once the membership was informed that the convention was being held in Puerto Rico, do we conduct an election that best served the members while avoiding a run of hopefuls in search only of a free vacation to Puerto Rico?" These hardly sound like the deliberations of a "bottom-up" organization ...

"We welcome healthy debate about SEIU and the future of the labor movement, but your hypocrisy undermines principled discussions. Democracy begins at home."


Another $1 million of SEIU dues for Barack

Barack Obama is closing steadily in polls in Pennsylvania, where he hopes to finally knock out Hillary Clinton from the Democratic race.

A Quinnipiac University poll out yesterday had Clinton leading 50 percent to 44 percent, but that 6-point edge is down from 9 percentage points last week and 12 points in mid-March in the same survey. The new poll, conducted Thursday through Sunday among 1,340 likely Democratic voters, had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

Obama is being buoyed leading up to the April 22 primary in Pennsylvania by a barrage of TV ads; as of Sunday, the senator from Illinois had spent $3.6 million in the state to Clinton's $1.3 million, according to data compiled by TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group. Obama is currently spending an unprecedented $2.2 million per week on television, said Democratic media consultant Neil Oxman, who is not working for a candidate. "That's unbelievable," Oxman said.

Obama is also being helped by nearly $1 million worth of door-to-door canvassing from the Service Employees International Union and a local healthcare union.

With her lead in the polls dwindling, Clinton is flooding the state's airwaves with new TV ads.

The five ads include glowing praise from her highest-profile supporters in the state, Governor Ed Rendell and Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia. Rendell predicts the senator from New York will be a "spectacular president." "It's going to take a fighter to get us out of the mess this country's in," he says, citing her proposals on jobs and healthcare. "When she believes something has to be done, she just won't quit."

Another ad is a sepia-tone ode to Clinton's family ties to Scranton, where she says she was raised "on pinochle and the American dream." There is also a Spanish-language spot and another, which has aired in earlier-voting states, that emphasizes economic populism.

"Clinton, no doubt with the new ads, is going to start to turn up the volume in Pennsylvania," said Evan Tracey, head of TNS Media.

As of Sunday, Obama was running three statewide ads and had a Spanish-language ad in Philadelphia. Yesterday, he introduced four more spots, including one featuring his wife, Michelle, his half sister, and his grandmother.

As her ads went up, the Clinton campaign sent out a fund-raising appeal.

"Don't let a sea of Obama ads overwhelm our powerful message in Pennsylvania," an e-mail to supporters says. "Contribute now."


Big Print campaigns for forced-unionism

As Colorado's battle over a "right-to-work" initiative escalates, state labor data analyzed by the Rocky Mountain News suggest that the number of people directly affected by the controversy has dwindled in recent years.

The frequency of elections to form all-union workplaces - a practice that would be outlawed under a November ballot initiative - has decreased sharply from labor's heyday to just a handful in each of the past five years, according to three decades' worth of statistics obtained from the state's labor division.

At the same time, many of the votes to create all-union pacts show workers overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, back the concept voluntarily. Under the state's current labor law, a second, secret-ballot vote is required to approve all-union arrangements - the ones that compel all workers to pay fees if they are covered by a collective-bargaining contract.

"What this data indicates is the 'right-to-work' issue in Colorado is a triumph of ideology over reality," said Harley Shaiken, a University of California at Berkeley professor who specializes in labor issues. "Given this second-election law, it's a nuclear option that doesn't really seem to be justified even from the perspective of its proponents."

Adds Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper: "It's become symbolic."

The Colorado Division of Labor, which oversees the second- election process, only recently transcribed decades of handwritten data on union vote results onto computer spreadsheets. Staff members had turned up files filled with index cards covering elections dating to 1977.

In that era, unions conducted several dozen elections a year. In each of the past five years, only six or seven of the elections have taken place.

"There has been a significant decline in the number of elections," noted Michael McArdle, director of the Division of Labor since 2004.

What the data don't provide is a complete picture of how many all-union arrangements remain in place throughout the state.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Colorado workers reporting themselves as union members stood at 191,000, or 8.7 percent of the work force, at the end of last year. The number of workers covered by union contracts - whether they belong to that union or not - stood at 202,000, about 9.2 percent of the state's work force.

While those numbers reflect slight gains from the year earlier, Colorado's union membership continues to trail the national average of 12 percent. And the national numbers have declined steadily from 20.1 percent in 1983, the first year the government began collecting comparable figures.

Still, a growing sentiment that unions have been making inroads both in their organizing and political clout has helped drive an effort by conservative business interests to persuade Colorado voters to OK a "right-to-work" measure. Part of the impetus: Last year's attempt by the state legislature to eliminate the second election altogether, a move ultimately vetoed by Gov. Bill Ritter after business interests objected.

Since then, many business groups have become vocal advocates of the longstanding law, especially when labor groups began to fight back with competing proposals employers say would impose extra costs on businesses.

"Our hybrid system has worked for a long time," said John Brackney, president of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce.

The two-step process was imposed by Colorado's 1943 Labor Peace Act. After workers vote to form a union, another election requires that at least 75 percent of the votes cast be in favor of an all-union workplace.

In five of the six winning elections last year, 100 percent of the workers who voted cast their ballots in favor of requiring all eligible workers to pay dues or fees for union representation.

In one instance last year, an 88.9 percent vote carried the day at the Colorado Ballet Co. In that case, employees represented by the American Guild of Musical Artists cast votes 24-3 in favor of an all-union workplace.

That troubles "right-to-work" supporters who maintain that each worker should have a choice of whether to financially support a union.

"The Labor Peace Act is unique and offers some protection, but it doesn't offer complete protection," said Benjamin DeGrow, an analyst at the Independence Institute. "Anything that best protects the individual worker's right to decide what they want is the right sort of policy."

The "freedom-of-choice" argument promoted by the "right-to- work" advocates falls flat with some longtime labor observers. "The folks who want 'right-to- work' understand it just simply undermines the ability for unions to finance what they do," said Roland Zullo of the University of Michigan Labor Studies Center. "It's not about giving people the right to choose."

Zullo noted that workers in the states without "right-to-work" laws can opt not to pay the portion of fees that go toward political activities.

If the measure winds up on the ballot this fall, labor groups hope Colorado voters will leave the decision over requiring union fees to employees.

"I don't think they can make a better decision than the employees themselves," said Julie Spears, business representative with the Office and Professional Employees Union.


AFL-CIO chief wants to take control

"Labor can not stand still. It must not retreat. It must go on, or go under." - Harry Bridges

On April 8, 2008, the President of the AFL-CIO, John J. Sweeney spoke at the U. of Baltimore Law School, as part of its inaugural "Leaders in Labor" lecture series. He said that, as he travels around the country, he finds more and more people are "worried to death about the economy and tired of spending too many hours on the job for too little pay." Mr. Sweeney underscored that the folks he has been speaking with "are distrustful of government and....see the American dream as a fading hope." He said: "If we don´t take control, we will all be living out different versions of the American nightmare." Mr. Sweeney emphasized: "Our country is headed in the wrong direction!"

A native of the Bronx, New York, Mr. Sweeney spoke to the audience about the influence his immigrant Irish parents, his Catholic education and union experiences had on him as a young man. He told how his father had worked as a bus driver out of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, then headed by the legendary Mike Quill. Mr. Sweeney recounted: "I grew up going to union meetings with my father and getting involved at a very young age in so many different activities as a volunteer." At Iona College, he said he learned from the Brothers, [Congregation of Christian Brothers], "that economic and social justice are the goals we must all fight for, and that is what drew me into the Labor Movement."

Before he delivered his prepared remarks, Mr. Sweeney lashed out at the pending U. S. Free Trade agreement with Columbia. (The AFL-CIO is strongly opposed to the measure). (1) Mr. Sweeney expressed his concerns about the gross "human rights" violations in that country, the threatened status of its unions, and the "murders" of those fighting for workers´ rights. At press time, it was revealed that former President Bill Clinton has received over "$800,000 in speaking fees" from a group that advocates a Free Trade pact with Columbia. As President, Bill Clinton was a willing shill for the GATT, NAFTA, CAFTA pushers, which led to the out sourcing of millions of middle class jobs. As a result of all the negative publicity over this issue, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) was forced to come out against any deal with Columbia. (2)

Mr. Sweeney said that the U.S. has been headed in the wrong direction "for more than 30 years. Workers´ productivity has increased by about 75 percent, but workers´ wages are frozen right where they were in 1973."

Some pundits believe that one of the turning points in the ongoing saga of Labor was in 1981, when President Ronald Reagan crushed the striking Professional Air Traffic Controllers (PATC0) workers. If Labor would have then taken a strong stand against Reagan--an arch pimp for Deregulation--including using the full arsenal of its power, it´s possible the country wouldn´t be in the sad predicament it is in today. (3) But, Labor didn´t take a stand. And, things have just gotten worse, with the fox taking over the chicken coop.

"Last year," Mr. Sweeney continued, "even household income declined and many families had to draw down equity in their homes to make ends meet exacerbating our housing and credit crisis. Where did all the dough go? It went into swollen corporate profits and skyrocketing CEO´s salaries, while the pocketbooks of the middle class and the poor were pinched. Several years back, one of our most prominent economists called it, ´the greatest transfer of wealth without a revolution in history.´" Meanwhile, according to a 2004 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study, "61 percent of U.S. corporation paid no taxes."

The AFL-CIO is a federation of 56 national and international labor unions, headquartered in Washington, D.C. Mr. Sweeney has been its chief executive since 1995. He was formerly the president of the SEIU. The SEIU is a public service workers union with 1.9 million members. (4) It is supporting Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) for president. Its current leader, Andy Stern, led the SEIU out of the AFL-CIO federation back in 2005, in a heated dispute with Mr. Sweeney over policy. Also leaving the big tent, were the Teamsters, headed by James P. Hoffa, the son of the late Jimmy Hoffa. (5) The AFL-CIO currently has about 13 million members, which is about the same total it had in 1970. It has yet to announce its endorsement for president. I was shocked when Mr. Sweeney said that "twenty-five percent" of his members are Republicans.

"On Bush´s [President George W. Bush] watch," Mr. Sweeney said, "poverty had increased 25 percent, the price of gasoline has risen from $1 a gallon to $3 a gallon, and it is sure to make it to $4--a price our president wasn´t able to comprehend. Now, our nation is almost as squeezed as working families themselves. [It has been] financing tax breaks for the wealthy and a war that is costing $12 billion a month, yet neglecting the priorities of our people."

Continuing Mr. Sweeney asserted: "Nowhere is the damage to our society more evident than in health care. And the threat to our country and to our way of life is so big and so dangerous, that it compels us to work together with great urgency." Citing all of the damning statistics, he added: "Health care should be a right."

There are a lot of fine activists in the AFL-CIO at the federal, state and local levels. One of them was in the audience listening to Mr. Sweeney´s talk. I´m referring to Fred Mason, President of the MD/DC´s AFL-CIO. He has been a strong opponent of the Iraq War and a regular speaker at Peace rallies in the D.C. area. Mr. Mason was recently on the picket line, in Baltimore, MD, supporting the then-striking members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA). (6)

On another Labor front, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) plans to "shut down" all the West coast ports on May 1, 2008, to demonstrate its moral outrage and opposition to the U.S. wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. (7) I´m not surprised to note that Local 10 of the ILWU, based in San Francisco, is leading this charge. (8) Local 10 represents all the finest qualities of what a progressive union should look like in the Age of Bush and Cheney. It would surely please the ghost of the great Harry Bridges, one of the founders of the ILWU, to see Messrs. Sweeney, Stern and Hoffa, and other Labor chieftains, as well, on that picket line, on May 1st.

As for Labor itself, its story over the years reminds me in some ways of the tragic history of Native Americans and their bitter struggle against the early English settlers in this country. In the beginning, the Native American leaders thought they had time on their side and that they could easily, at their choosing, defeat the settler movement. They were wrong! The longer they waited to strike a decisive blow, the stronger the settlers became and the weaker their position grew, particularly in the region of the Chesapeake Bay. (9) Tribal rivalries also permitted the settlers to play one group off against another. In the end, the Native Americans lost and they paid a horrific price for their failed strategy. Will that eventually be the fate of Labor, too? Its past tendencies towards divisive splits, which has allowed the globalist schemers to dominate the playing field, doesn´t speak well about its future. Stay tuned.

Finally, Mr. Sweeney said there has been a "calculated war on workers" by corporate America for nearly 30 years. He insisted that this year, in the November election, "we have an opportunity to reverse these awful trends." (10)


1. http://www.aflcio.org/mediacenter/prsptm/pr04092008a.cfm

2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/the-clinton-colombia-conn_b_95929.html

3. http://patcodocumentary.com/ and



4. http://www.seiu.org/index.cfm

5. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/25/AR2005072500251.html

6. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0cPLFkQYWA

7. http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/03/01/18482849.php

8. http://usa.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/10588

9. http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2007/05/360056.shtml

10. To view excerpts of Mr. Sweeney´s remarks, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5b2M2lIVCI; and to listen to his comments, in the Q&A period, on the AFTRA/SAG dispute, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5aWGoArqiE. To view Mr. Sweeney taking a stand on behalf of locked-out Canadian workers, TNG-GWA, check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMjqIJdfp1Y


Without PLA, 100 flowers bloom in Broome

Broome County officials will open bids April 30 for the delayed $16.9 million George Harvey Justice Building renovation project, more than four months after bids were scheduled to be opened, county officials said. As of Thursday, eight general prime contractors had picked up bid specification packets from the county, said Leigh Ann Scheider, Broome County spokeswoman. Broome officials were pleased with the showing. "There's definitely been a lot of interest in the project," Scheider said.

More bidders translate into stronger competition and possibly lower costs for the project, county officials said.

The original bidding for the George Harvey Justice Building was put on hold in December when non-union contractors took Broome to court over a project labor agreement.

That agreement would have limited non-union labor on the project to 10 percent. A judge agreed with non-union contractors and voided the agreement.

Work crews have already gutted the inside of the building, built in 1939. The building will house the Broome County District Attorney's Office, the Public Defender's Office and the county Probation Department.

County officials hope to save $500,000 a year taxpayers now pay for the three county offices to rent space in Binghamton.

Six other general contractors have applied for bid packets to subcontract and to supply items for the project, Scheider said.

Other contractors who obtained bid packets include:

* Five mechanical prime contractors.

* Five plumbing prime contractors.

* Four mechanical, plumbing and electrical supply contractors.

* Four electrical prime contractors.


Students cross Catholic teachers picket lines

Teachers at five Catholic schools in New York City wrapped up their second day on the picket line Wednesday, with no resolution in sight. The schools remained open, but some were operating on modified schedules. At Manhattan's Cathedral High School Wednesday morning, students crossed the picket lines of their striking teachers to get to class.

About 20 teachers held class for juniors, and seniors. Freshmen and sophomores were sent home.

Students weren't talking to reporters, but striking teachers were.

"I would much rather be teaching and preparing my students for whatever finals might be coming up," said teacher Michael McDermott.

The archdiocese says the only thing keeping 450 teachers of the Lay Faculty Association from teaching is their stubbornness in turning down a four-year-deal they had requested.

"This is something they suggested back in January as a way of getting the deal done," said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese. "We thought about, talked about it, and agreed to it."

Zwilling says the deal would raise salaries by 13 percent, up for $60,000 in that fourth year.

However, the union argues that it wanted that top salary at the end of a three-year deal. Its members are also complaining about a provision they say would more than triple their medical insurance premiums.

"They've never provided us with documentation of what their health care program costs," said teacher Vincent Doyle. "We don't see why we should accept ten percent of an unknown number."

As a result, things remain stuck -- including the schooling for kids whose families pay tuition at these schools.

"Se would love to be with our students. We love our students. But it's impossible to work under present conditions," said Doyle.

"In the end, it is the students who suffer, but we've been suffering without a contract for months now," said McDermott.

Zwilling says that with some striking teachers back on the job, hopefully a break is close.

"I think those teachers know this is a very good deal, and responded to that by being in the classrooms today," he said.

Catholic schools are set to reopen Monday after two days off in honor of the pope's visit.

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