Big Labor Bada Bing

And the Oscar for best performance in a humorous political ad goes to ... Vince Curatola, better known as "Johnny Sack" in the Sopranos, for a new ad about unfair union organizing.

Big Labor has been desperate to replace the system of secret ballots in union-organizing elections with a "card check" method, in which a majority of employees would simply have to sign a card.

The Democratic House passed a "card check" bill last year at union bidding, but polls shows a majority of the public hates the idea, recognizing that workers would be subject to intimidation and peer pressure.

Related video: "Coalition for a Democratic Workplace"

In the ad, created by the business-backed Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, a worker walks into a voting booth to cast a ballot. A hand suddenly clamps him on the shoulder and "Johnny Sack" appears in the booth, looking as mobsterish as ever. "Whaddya got there?" he asks. My "secret ballot" replies the worker. "Not any more it ain't," says Mr. Curatola, who snaps his fingers to make the curtains disappear, leaving the man in front of a crowd of intimidating colleagues pressuring him to sign a card.

The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace is made up of about 500 business associations and groups across the country fighting card-check legislation. It will soon start running the educational ad on national cable stations, and will presumably tailor it for districts of specific Democratic House members who last year voted to get rid of the secret ballot. As for Mr. Curatola, word is he's simply a paid actor, and takes no public stand on card check one way or another. But his menacing mob face is sure to stick in voters' minds come November.

- Kim Strassel


UPS welcomes Hoffa, Teamsters to Utah

About 200 workers at UPS Freight terminals in Utah have signed authorization cards to unionize, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said Thursday. The workers would join the Teamsters' Local 222 in Salt Lake City, said Tom Monthey, secretary-treasurer of Local 222.

Since January, about 10,400 UPS drivers and dockworkers nationwide have signed cards to unionize. Monthey said the 200 UPS Freight workers in Utah will join the 3,500 members, from various companies in the area, already enrolled with Local 222. He said contract negotiations with UPS could begin within 60 days.

Related video: "Hoffa: This is all about power"

"There have been seniority issues, which comes under a union contract, and health and welfare issues," Monthey said. "A contract will give them better wages, better health and welfare benefits, pensions."

Earlier this month, more than 89 percent of UPS Freight workers nationwide who are already Teamsters members ratified a new contract, which improves wages, benefits and working conditions, the Teamsters said in a news release.

UPS Freight spokesman Ira Rosenfeld said the company would have to verify the signatures on the authorization cards through an arbitrator before negotiations on a new contract could proceed. That process usually takes about one week, he said.

"Once he has verified it, the company will recognize the Teamsters as the bargaining agent for the Salt Lake City center," Rosenfeld said.

The new contract for the Utah workers likely would mirror the nationwide one ratified early this month.

"The company respects the employees' decision on representation, and we will honor that decision," he said. "UPS and the Teamsters have had a long-standing relationship going back about 80 years."

Rosenfeld said the company expects to continue its mutually beneficial relationship with the union, with no adverse impact on either side or the consumer.

"There should be no changes as far as rates, and as far as the operations go, we don't anticipate any changes," he said. "The public won't see any difference."


UAW-American Axle strike, week 9

For related American Axle stories, click: here.
For UAW stories, click: here.

American Axle Chairman and CEO Richard Dauch said Thursday that five U.S. plants where workers have been on strike for nearly two months are holding back the auto parts supplier's overall ability to compete. As he spoke to the company's annual meeting of shareholders at American Axle's headquarters, hundreds of striking United Auto Workers members rallied outside. Workers blocked traffic, carried picket signs and jeered vehicles carrying people to the meeting.

Related video: "Socialists back UAW strike v. American Axle"

"We have to go where the business is," Dauch said in response to a question about global competitiveness from a union member who also is a shareholder. "We have to be competitive. We are competitive everywhere else in the world except the original five plants."

Dauch repeatedly cited the importance of the company's workforce in helping to improve quality and productivity. But he also said problems with absenteeism - a rate he says was 20 percent in Detroit, for example - stand in the way.

"It is absolutely criminal what is happening with people not coming to work," Dauch said.

A message seeking comment was left with a UAW spokesman.

Dauch said he remains committed to negotiating a deal. But he said since the UAW has reached deals with competing suppliers such as Dana Corp. to cut costs for the U.S. market, American Axle needs similar considerations.

"The competitors are going around us and laughing at us," Dauch said.

About 3,600 UAW members went on strike Feb. 26 at the five plants in Michigan and New York in a dispute over wage and benefit cuts the company is seeking and failing to reach a new contract agreement.

Steve Conner, a 46-year-old from Madison Heights who has worked for American Axle since 1994, asked Dauch about how long the strike would last. Dauch said he didn't know, and was sorry a strike came at all.

After the meeting, Conner said even a contract deal might not guarantee future work for the plants.

"I think he's still holding the hard line," Conner said. "I can't compete with China. I personally can't compete with Mexico."

At the meeting, shareholders reelected three board members, including Dauch, to terms that run until the company's 2011 meeting. But they rejected a proposal to approve the company's 2008 long-term incentive plan.

Talks have continued between American Axle and the union after the company issued a statement Tuesday saying the UAW has rejected wage-andbenefit offers that are better than those paid by competitors. "We can still compete here if we get the labor market competitiveness," Dauch said.

American Axle, which is scheduled to release its first-quarter earnings Friday, says it could close some or all of its original U.S. facilities if the UAW won't consider "a U.S. market-competitive labor agreement."

American Axle makes axles, drive shafts, stabilizer bars and other components mainly for certain General Motors Corp. vehicles.


Tribal Casino War hinges on sovereignty

Attorneys representing the tribe that owns and operates Foxwoods Resort Casino once again argued that federal labor laws should not apply to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation because of tribal sovereignty. Attorneys representing both the tribe and the United Auto Workers union were in Hartford Thursday morning to determine whether a union election should be held at Foxwoods.

The UAW filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board in Hartford two weeks ago, stating it has the support of a substantial number of racebook writers and dual-rate racebook writers at Foxwoods.

Related video: "UAW unionizes Foxwoods dealers"

The prospective bargaining unit would include just under 40 employees who work in the casino's off-track betting area.

This is the fifth such petition to be filed at Foxwoods, one of two tribally owned casinos in the state.

The UAW filed its first petition last year seeking to unionize table-game and poker dealers. An election was held in late November in which dealers voted in favor of union representation.

The tribe is currently appealing an administrative law judge's ruling, delivered in March, that stated that the results from the election should be certified.

The International Union of Operating Engineers filed the second petition. That union election is scheduled for Thursday.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers followed, filing a petition to unionize slot technicians earlier in the month. The UAW then filed a petition the following week, seeking to organize the same set of workers.

With each filing, the tribe has questioned whether federal labor laws apply to the tribe and its gaming enterprise and whether the NLRB has jurisdiction over the tribe.

Thursday was no different.

”We will continue to challenge the board's jurisdiction in this case,” said Alston D. Correll, an attorney representing the tribe.“The hearing went very well and the region continues to be respectful of the tribe's challenge of the board's jurisdiction.”

Correll said he will submit a legal brief outlining the jurisdictional issue by May 1.

NLRB Regional Director Peter B. Hoffman will then issue a decision as to whether an election should be held. That decision is expected in the coming weeks.

Cynthia McGee, a 15-year employee at Foxwoods and a racebook writer for more than two years said she is hopeful that workers will have the opportunity to vote in favor of unionization.

”We're on the winning track to make Foxwoods a better place to work,” McGee said in a prepared statement. “Racebook writers are glad to be joining the dealers in a strong union - the UAW at Foxwoods.”


Stern's illusion and democracy's nightmare

Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union and labor's latest celebrity, seems to be resurrecting a neglected ideology: the concept of a militarized "democratic" centralism.

For him and his followers, the hope of imposing it upon a newly invigorated labor movement may be a utopian illusion. For union democracy, it is a nightmare. Hints, but only hints, of his underlying philosophy were implicit in his schemes for reorganizing his own SEIU and the whole labor movement. But its trend has become manifest as he is apparently moving to crush critics on the west coast, impose a repressive trusteeship over the 140,000-member United Healthcare Workers-West, and cut down Sal Rosselli, its president.

In February this year, Rosselli resigned from the SEIU International Executive Committee so that he could feel free to criticize what he charged was the "undemocratic practices we have experienced first hand." The SEIU convention was coming up at the end of May. "In good conscience," he wrote, "I can longer allow simple majorities of the Executive Committee to outweigh my responsibility to our members to act out of principle on these critically important matters. I say this with no ill will, but with a deep sense of conviction." [Rosselli to Stern 2/9/08]

They differ over bargaining strategy, over the role of the international and locals, over the right of the membership to veto the merger and dissolution of local unions, over whether to go easy on employers to get a foot in the door for unionism. The issues in dispute are not trivial, and the charges and countercharges are correspondingly harsh. Rosselli accuses the Stern people of "company unionism" and "top-down organizing" to beef up membership statistics by any means whatsoever. They denounce him for sabotaging the SEIU drive to organize, for falsifying the record, for hypocritically benefiting from policies he now derogates.

This is no idle talk at a cocktail party; it is a serious difference over policy. He attacks vigorously; they reply in kind. So far, routine. That's what democracy is for, to allow an outlet even for the bitterest of debates. But the problem is that Rosselli's critics go beyond denouncing him for criticizing. They would make his very right to criticize illicit. And, because they are armed with organizational power, they would resolve the dispute not simply by democratic decision but by suppression. The irony is that they wrap autocratic intentions in the flag of a democratic "majority". Rosselli, they insist, must go along with the "majority." But a majority in power can always take care of itself. The essence of democracy is to preserve an orderly means of opposing a majority.

In replying to its self-posed question, "What is real union democracy?" The SEIU's anti-Rosselli web site, "Fact Checker," pandering to the bias against any genuine spirit of democracy asks, "Is democracy abiding by majority rule just when you like the outcome but ignoring it when you don't?" But democracy, as we practice it in America, cherishes precisely the right of a minority to oppose the majority. "Fact Checker" continues in line with what has become official SEIU ideology, "Is it democracy when 11 out of 12 workers in an industry are not even at the table?" What they mean by this muddle is what they have suggested before more clearly: members must abstain from exercising their union democracy until most workers, now nonunion, are organized. By that standard, union democracy must wait patiently for a long time, perhaps forever.

They use the boilerplate language available to any overbearing union official annoyed anytime by any critical dissident. Mary Kay Henry, international executive SEIU vice president, writes in the course of a long attack on Rosselli [Calitics.com website 3/25/08], "he is giving employers ammunition to use against workers..."

Three members of the SEIU international executive committee found Rosselli's decision to speak out impermissible. "Just as we expect members of our local unions to unite behind a common strategy after there has been a full debate," they wrote, "and a majority has reached a democratic decision, we as leaders must do the same." There it is. Once a "democratic decision" is reached everyone, members and leaders, must swallow their opinions, keep quiet, and toe the line. We discuss, we decide, we unite, you shut up, we remain a fighting force. If you open your mouth against the line we discipline you. (How some might love to apply this principle to the Iraq War! The irony in this case is that, as they wrote, the SEIU was on the eve of an international convention to open in three months. If now is not the time for that democratic discussion, when?) [Regan et al to Rosselli 2/11/08]

That same tone now permeates life in the SEIU. In 2006, as the SEIU was about to run a membership referendum on creating those huge California megalocals, Stern turned the union into one advocacy monolith to guarantee a favorable outcome. He ordered, "All local unions, union officers, and assigned staff must fully cooperate in the implementation and transition process to assure that this decision is carried out in an orderly fashion... No union funds, resources or staff may be used to oppose, interfere or undermine in any way the IEB determination in this matter." (The referendum carried, but according to one report, only 16% of the membership voted.)

In the same spirit, applicants for appointment to the executive board of the new 45,000-member Local 521 had to sign an oath of loyalty to the union administration, including these assurances: "I will not ... engage in personal attacks on other members, staff, or leaders at unions meetings, in the press, or other literature, or venues". Once a decision has been made, I will support that decision to members and others... I will not ... take ... legal action against the union for actions they take in their legal role as leaders as long as I remain a member of this appointed board or committee." Come weal, come woe; high or low, no one can remain in any official union position and ever ever act against any misdeeds by other officials.

Here then is how the labor movement would operate if the system being implanted by Stern could take root and flourish: A policy is adopted, say at the international convention, the union's highest constitutional authority --- for the sake of argument we make the generous assumption that it has been a "democratic" decision. Then for the next five years until the next convention (four years for the SEIU) every union institution and representative, must fall in line. No criticism permitted: every hired staff employee, every elected officer in every local and in the international, every steward appointed or elected, every editor and PR spokesperson, every executive board member of every local must propagate the vaunted "democratic" decision. None can oppose it or publicly express misgivings on pain of swift dismissal. Stern envisions a monolithic disciplined army of thousands, all spouting the politically correct official line. After five years, during which everyone sang the same notes in harmony, comes the next convention; and at last, presumably, democracy's brief moment has arrived.

Proceedings at the convention, as always, are carefully manipulated by the administration. Under the Stern regimen, those in power will already have been safely protected against criticism for the previous five years. If, at the convention, venturesome critics are unusually resilient, if they are not demoralized by five years of deadly uniformity, if they are lucky enough to get the floor and keep it before the question is called, they might get five minutes in the sun, maybe even seven or ten. Then it is all over. The delegates, people who knew how to stay on top during those five silent years, adopt the new official policy. The period for "democratic" debate is over. Time to unite and fight and bite your tongue. Five new silent years loom.

But is this bureaucrat's dream likely to come alive? Perhaps in part, but never in full panoply. By now, websites and the Internet afford too many ways for members and officers alike to evade the proscriptions on democracy. Federal law offers some protection for civil liberties for members in their unions. Stern will never have full scope for the fulfillment of his dream; nevertheless, as we see in California, federal law and the union constitution still provide ample means for chilling dissent.


SEIU: 'No-vote' unionism is more democratic

US employers believe their workers face a fundamental attack on their basic rights, in the form of Democrat-backed proposals that could alter labor law. "Our members believe this legislation is really detrimental to democracy and freedom of choice," says Jeri Gillespie, vice-president of human resource policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, about the proposed legislation the Democrats call the Employee Free Choice Act.

"It is terribly unfortunate that people are not talking about the fact that you are giving up your right to a secret ballot," says Lee Scott, chief executive of Wal-Mart, a company with a robustly anti-union record.

But both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the two Democratic presidential hopefuls, say that if elected they will support changes in labor law that unions say are needed to protect the ability of workers to join a organise if they want to.

Anna Burger, the international secretary-treasurer for the SEIU service workers union, argues that the -legislation - which is likely to return to the legislative agenda in 2009 - "is about having employees exercising their voice, free of intimidation".

"The reality is that, in fact, they are intimidated, threatened and fired . . . So it is basically giving workers the democratic right to form a union."

Under current labour law, dating back to 1936, employers can choose to recognize a union based simply on a majority of workers signing a petition asking for representation. However, they also have the right to insist on a secret ballot, overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

The ballot allows employers to hold mandatory "captive audience" meetings with workers to put the case against the union. Labour lawyers and "union avoidance consultants" are also regularly called in to support the management's position.

Bruce Raynor, head of the Unite Here textile and service workers union, points out that even if the union wins, there is no legal mechanism for enforcing a contract should the employer fail to negotiate in good faith. His members, he says, spent seven years unsuccessfully seeking a contract with Goya, a food processor in Miami, after winning a ballot.

As a result, Unite Here no longer attempts to organize in workplaces where employers insist upon an NLRB ballot.

"US labour law is set up in such a way that if the union chooses the procedure laid out in the law to organise and the employer opposes it, then the union simply cannot organise," he says. "It simply doesn't work, so we have abandoned it."

Unite Here, with 440,000 members in the US and Canada, is continuing to expand, adding more than 15,000 members last year. But it does so by first reaching deals under which the employer agrees to remain neutral as the workers debate representation and commits to negotiate a contract with the union if it wins their support. The UFCW grocery union has also abandoned its efforts to organise Wal-Mart workers, focusing instead on a broader political campaign against the retailer.

The Canadian province of Quebec shows the difference a card-count system could make for US unions. Provincial law allows union recognition without a ballot, leading to local union victories against both Wal-Mart and Cintas, a laundry services company. In the US, both are adamantly anti-union companies. Quebec law also allows a government-appointed mediator to impose a contract on the parties.

The current level of employer opposition provides an indication of how fiercely US employers will fight a similar situation developing, even if the Democrats control both the White House and Congress.


Nurses rip Stern

Desperate to hide the truth about a brutal attack on a labor conference in Michigan April 12, Andy Stern's Service Employees International Union is now peddling a video that does not show the violence … as proof that the attack never happened. Stern's denials contradict dozens of first-person accounts of journalists, non-partisan trade unionists, and the organizers of the conference.

As a result, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee call on Stern to "renounce the use of violence, end the lies, and stop targeting women, nurses, and working people for threats and harassment."

Related video: "SEIU's violent eruption up-close, on-scene"

The labor movement was shocked by SEIU's attack, which sent one woman to the hospital, introduced the use of violence to labor politics, and was widely covered and reported on by the 1,000 attendees.

"The violence in Michigan and the specific targeting of women labor leaders is reprehensible and should have no place in our labor movement or our country," said Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of CNA/NNOC. "For Andy Stern to direct this attack and its cover up is abusive, immoral, and unacceptable behavior. He demonstrates why RNs across the country want no part of an organization like SEIU."

In a letter sent out after the attacks, John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO said, "There is no justification - none - for the violent attack orchestrated by SEIU at the Labor Notes conference in Detroit. While there may well be multiple sides to any dispute, violence in any form is reprehensible. Violence in attacking freedom of speech must be strongly condemned. Any attempt to deny the right of free speech threatens the foundation of our movement and the future of working people."

Below is a brief recounting of the events in Dearborn, Mich., with five of over nearly two-dozen first-person accounts of the violence. Full details are available at http://www.ServingEmployersInsteadofUs.org.

Steve Early, journalist: A rent-a-mob of rowdy, punch-throwing demonstrators burst into Labor Notes' biennial labor conference in Dearborn, Michigan, last Saturday night. When it was over, the local cops had been called in, one demonstrator had collapsed and died and SEIU's chieftain Andy Stern had etched himself another benchmark for intolerance... Several leaders of the pack wore purple bandanas to conceal their faces; others started pushing, shoving, and throwing punches when their path was blocked by the linked arms of a hastily assembled but experienced group of Labor Notes marshals (among them, veterans of many past encounters with far more formidable Teamster goon squads).

Bill Ornash, trade unionist and journalist: By now most of you have heard of a scandalous physical attack on the gathering mobilized by the leadership of SEIU. At least two bus loads-some say more-of SEIU staffers were determined to invade the banquet and take it over. Some wore masks.

David Moberg, journalist: According to eyewitness accounts, the most aggressive leaders of the group--some with purple bandanas on their faces--hit and kicked some of the Labor Notes staff and supporters who were blocking the doors. But another line of conference attendees locked arms to hold back the rest of the crowd.

The non-partisan staff at Labor Notes: The Service Employees International Union turned their dispute with the California Nurses Association violent by attacking a labor conference April 12, injuring several and sending an American Axle striker to the hospital.

A recently retired member of United Auto Workers Local 235, Dianne Feeley, suffered a head wound after being knocked to the ground by SEIU International staff and local members. Other conference-goers--members of the Teamsters, UAW, UNITE HERE, International Longshoremen's Association, and SEIU itself--were punched, kicked, shoved, and pushed to the floor. Dearborn police responded and evicted the three bus loads of SEIU International staff and members of local and regional health care unions.

Ken Paff, Teamsters: The advance line of SEIU staffers led the chanting group forward and pushed and punched and tried to break in, and almost did. My friend Dan Campbell had his glasses broken from a glancing punch.

By their own admission, quoted in an SEIU press release after the event, SEIU said it sent 800 people to the event

to confront CNA/NNOC Rose Ann DeMoro, the scheduled banquet speaker that night, and other female CNA/NNOC leaders who were at the conference. Male SEIU staff members were in the first two buses

Concurrently, SEIU representatives were engaged in stalking and harassing CNA/NNOC women board members in their homes and in their nursing departments over the past few days. For example, last Saturday, one team arrived at the house of CNA/NNOC board member Veronica Rocha, RN as she and two family members had just got into her car to drive to a memorial service. The SEIU team in the car followed them and at one point began yelling at them in the car.

"I really felt threatened and personally violated when they show up at our place of residence uninvited and continued to follow us knowing I did not want to interact with them. Nobody deserves to be stalked in this manner," Rocha said. "I really don't believe that they would appreciate an unannounced visit from CNA at their homes disrupting their personal family life. I am proud to represent CNA, a professional organization with membership that supports and advocates for patients and safe staffing."


Unions play critical role in world hunger

As global food prices continue to skyrocket, regulations that entrench union special privileges are delaying critical food shipments from reaching their intended destinations. According to the Center for Global Development and The Los Angeles Times, union-imposed labor requirements have slowed food shipments because aid agencies are forced to rely on U.S.-flagged ships for transportation:
... US policy compounds the problem by requiring that food aid must be purchased and packaged in the United States and shipped mainly on US-flagged ships. Thus, a good chunk of the US food aid budget gets diverted to higher distribution and transportation costs, which are also going up as a result of oil price hikes and rising freight costs.
The Center for Global Development also estimates that these regulations increase the cost of foreign assistance by up to 30%, eroding the benefits of aid through massive overhead costs. Union officials support this wasteful policy because it forces ports to rely on a heavily unionized workforce that generates millions of dollars in dues payments each year.

This isn’t a new problem, either. Union-boss-inspired maritime regulations have plagued the delivery of foreign aid consignments for over a decade. With food prices soaring throughout the Third World, however, now is an ideal time to jettison these obstructionist compulsory unionism privileges.

The opinions expressed on the Freedom @ Work blog originate from their authors and should not be attributed to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation or any other organization.


VW searches for a Right to Work state

Alabama and Tennessee should be favored over Michigan to land a new Volkswagen assembly plant, analysts said Thursday, based on the auto industry’s ongoing migration into the Sun Belt and concerns about labor’s heavy influence in Michigan. Volkswagen confirmed that it was considering the three states for a potential plant, offering a crown jewel of economic development that could help the states expand their auto industry presence.

The Wolfsburg, Germany-based company has said it wants to expand in the U.S., where it has a small slice of the market. Volkswagen executives have said they want to triple U.S. sales by 2018 to 1 million. Currently, Volkswagen’s only assembly plant in North America is in Puebla, Mexico, where it builds the Jetta and New Beetle.

Jim Cashman, a professor of management and marketing at the University of Alabama, said Alabama has several locations that could prove attractive to Volkswagen.

“Volkswagen has to be in the U.S., because that’s where they’re trying to sell more cars, and the dollar is so weak they have to get out of Germany,” he said.

Volkswagen has not yet committed to a new plant in the U.S., but the move is expected. With the euro currency reaching record highs against the U.S. dollar, goods exported from Germany are more expensive in the United States.

A big question mark surrounds the incentive packages being developed by the states to woo Volkswagen. State economic development officials have declined to detail their efforts for the plant, which would be slated to carry a maximum capacity of 250,000 vehicles a year.


Among some likely sites in Alabama, Cashman said, would be the Tuscaloosa or Mobile areas because of the proximity of other German manufacturing plants. Tuscaloosa is the site of Mercedes-Benz’s only American auto plant, and Mobile recently landed a plant for steelmaker ThyssenKrupp, which promises to create 2,700 jobs in that area.

“The beauty of coming anywhere close to here is there is a supplier system set up that you can add to,” he said in reference to Tuscaloosa County. “With Mobile, there’s ThyssenKrupp, people they’d be comfortable with.

“We have a well-developed supplier network that would make us interesting to VW. And with the price of gas, particularly diesel, my tea leaves tell me they’ve got to be somewhere close by here. I’d be shocked if they weren’t seriously considering this area.”

Cashman suggested that the northwest Shoals area is also a contender, given the presence of a skilled automotive workforce. Ford Motor Co. had a manufacturing plant in the Shoals in the 1980s, and a Delphi auto parts plant in Athens, which had more than 2,000 employees as recently as 2005, is scheduled to close next year.

“There is a manufacturing history in northwest Alabama,” Cashman said. “That says people there understand the discipline it takes to work in that type of business. There are probably still folks who have an awareness of the Ford activity up there and people who have, over the years, been shut out of the Delphi plant. It has dwindled for years and you have people who are probably anxious to go back to what they did.”

One site that may also be a possibility is in the Black Belt, on land straddling the Alabama-Mississippi line, near Interstate 20/59. That area, which is near Meridian, Miss., and Cuba in Sumter County, was floated in 2006 as the possible site of a Kia plant, with the governors of both states pledging to work together to attract more economic development to the area.

The Kia plant eventually located in Georgia. After that disappointment, officials from Alabama and Mississippi said they would continue to market the site for any future development.


“We have a good work force that’s trainable,” said Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Gallion, whose district includes Sumter County. “You have Meridian that has a huge work force and you also would be able to draw on Columbus, Miss., and also from Tuscaloosa.”

Erich Merkle, vice president of auto industry forecasting for the consulting firm IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich., said Alabama is the likely front-runner, followed by Tennessee.

Three auto companies have already landed in Alabama, including Mercedes. Honda Motor Co. produces minivans and SUVs in Lincoln and Hyundai Motor Co. brought its first U.S. assembly plant to Montgomery, where it builds the Sonata and the Santa Fe SUV. Tennessee is the home of Nissan Motor Co.’s North American headquarters near Nashville and has plants in Smyrna and Decherd. The state also has a General Motors assembly plant in Spring Hill.

“There’s no question, the bottom line is they’re going to come, and if I were a betting guy, it would be this part of the world,” Cashman said. “That’s where everybody else is.”

Michigan, meanwhile, could be undercut by the long-standing dominance of the United Auto Workers in the state. VW executives have been evaluating potential sites at a time when GM has faced a local strike at a plant near Lansing, Mich., and threats of strikes elsewhere.

The UAW’s attempts at organizing North American plants run by Toyota, Honda and others have been unsuccessful.

Michigan would have a considerable edge in its availability of skilled workers, thanks to the recent rounds of buyouts from the Detroit Three. And given the state’s economic problems, it would be highly motivated to land another assembly plant, said Jeremy Anwyl, chief executive of the Edmunds.com automotive Web site.

Cashman said that while Michigan’s autoworkers already have needed skills, the presence of the UAW would make Michigan less attractive, even though VW’s plants in Germany are unionized.

“They would certainly have an enormous amount of pressure to organize,” he said.


Iowa Gov. leans quietly toward unions

A controversial labor-backed bill will soon head to the governor's desk and union officials believe that's a sign that Iowa Gov. Chet Culver may sign it into law. Culver, however, has not yet decided what he intends to do, Democratic leaders said.

After a month of silence about what, if anything, troubles him about the collective bargaining bill, Culver met on Thursday with House Speaker Pat Murphy, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate President Jack Kibbie.

Afterward, the leaders said the bill will go to Culver this week upon adjournment of the session. If Culver doesn't sign the bill into law within 30 days of receiving it, the bill will be considered vetoed.

"We remain hopeful that he will sign the bill," McCarthy said. "He has not made up his mind yet and he's going to weigh the competing concerns and contemplate what to do. He'd like more time."

Culver on Thursday sent a message to reporters saying that after more than 30 meetings with managers, union members, lawmakers and the public, he realized there's no way to rewrite the bill in a way that would satisfy all parties.

"Through these meetings and communications, we have attempted to reach consensus among the many stakeholders who would be affected by this legislation," Culver said in the statement. "Unfortunately, it has become clear that it is not possible to amend or revise this bill in a way that reflects a genuine consensus."

Culver spokesman Brad Anderson on Thursday declined to set up an interview with Culver, and wouldn't speculate about the likelihood that Culver would sign the bill. He said Culver's statement would have to speak for itself.

Last month, Culver said there was a strong possibility he would veto the bill unless there was a real effort to listen to the concerns of stakeholders and to try to reach common ground.

The proposal, House File 2645, would allow public employee unions the ability to negotiate a wider range of issues at the collective bargaining table. House and the Senate Democrats had intended to pass the bill within two days, but Republicans over a six-day period used delay tactics to allow more time for public input.

Opponents say the proposal would take key decisions out of the hands of elected officials and could result in higher taxes. That's because if public employers and employees can't reach an agreement on the broader array of topics, an arbitrator would make the final decision.

Advocates say the new union powers would foster a stronger work environment, and increase safety and productivity. They said less than 1 percent of negotiations end in arbitration.

The news from the governor Thursday prompted a flurry of reaction from advocates and opponents.

Brad Hudson, a lobbyist for the Iowa State Education Association, a teachers' union, said he predicts Culver will sign the bill into law.

"If after five weeks, if he hasn't raised any concerns, it makes me think he's supportive of it," said Hudson, who was called into a meeting with Culver on Thursday morning along with Marcia Nichols, a lobbyist with AFSCME Iowa Council 61, and Jan Laue, a lobbyist for the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

Culver told them he had asked legislative leaders to release the bill to him so that he could make a decision over the next 30 days.

Republican leaders at the Statehouse immediately urged Culver to veto.

"The governor has two options: to stand with Iowans and veto or to side with big union bosses and sign the bill," said House Republican Leader Christopher Rants, from Sioux City. "I'm hopeful he will listen to the outcry of Iowans."

The bill tilts the playing field in favor of big labor and ends provisions that provide a balance between management and labor, Rants said.

"It's a bad bill that will eventually raise Iowans' property taxes and make it extremely hard to get rid of bad teachers," said Senate Republican Leader Ron Wieck of Sioux City. "What should truly concern Iowans is that this bill is so bad that the Democrat governor is contemplating a veto."

Advocates say the process for deciding whether a teacher should be fired would be more streamlined and more fair. A neutral adjudicator would decide whether a teacher should be fired rather than a school board, and that decision would be final.

Groups such as the Iowa League of Cities and the Iowa State Association of Counties registered in opposition to House File 2645. Several unions registered in favor, as did the American Civil Liberties Union.

Bill Peterson, executive director of the counties association, predicts arbitrators will give union employees slightly better deals each time they negotiate. The result would not be immediate but, little by little, counties would likely have to give more, which will cost taxpayers more money, he said.

"The employee groups won't win everything on the first run, but over time they will always win," he said.

The Iowa Association of School Boards opposes the bill because neither school officials nor teachers could appeal a teacher firing in court, and because there would no longer be a probationary period for new teachers.


Labor-state painters reject shady Carpenters

A New Jersey unit of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades has voted not to jump ship and seek representation with another union, the National Labor Relations Board announced Thursday. The unit - belonging to District Council 711 in Egg Harbor Township - is made up of about 580 members working in the drywall finishing trade. They had the choice to join the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, which has headquarters in Washington, D.C., and has several locals throughout New Jersey.

The official vote count was unavailable late Thursday.

"The fight here in New Jersey has been going on for almost two years now, and I'm proud of our members holding strong and voting for what is in their best interests," William Candelori, general vice president of the international painters union, said in a statement.

The carpenters union could not be reached for comment late Thursday. The union, saying it could better represent workers, has tried previously throughout the country to organize drywall finishing workers belonging to the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.

The painters union in New Jersey has an overall membership of more than 3,500.

A year ago, District Council 711 was involved in allegations of financial misconduct and the violation of union laws by former district council leaders.

As a result, the district council was taken over by its parent union in Washington, D.C. It's been under a special trusteeship since, with outside auditors hired to implement "proper practices" and train staff, according to a trusteeship report filed with the U.S. Labor Department in November.

When exactly District Council 711 can become autonomous again is uncertain.

"Business there has returned to as it should be," parent union spokesman Gavin McDonald said. "That's what's given us full confidence that it will be running on its own in the future."


Supports worker-choice in Colorado

I would like to thank the Craig Chamber of Commerce for its endorsement of the right to work measure that will appear on the November ballot. Not only is the freedom to choose whether I want to belong to a union a fundamental right, the amendment would help Colorado’s economy at a time when we need the help.

Further, the chamber was right on in criticizing the absurd measure being pushed by big labor. Anytime we talk about “mandates” on business, a red flag should be raised. I find it ironic that unions, who are supposed to be helping their members, are pushing laws that would actually destroy jobs in Colorado.

In November, vote “yes” on right to work and “no” on any of those union mandates.

Ben Hegwer, Craig, Colorado


News union mischaracterizes Right To Work

The latest spate of ballot initiatives aimed at Colorado businesses comes from a group of lawyers that wants voters to back limits on executive pay and real estate commissions. In an apparent retaliation for an earlier filing to limit attorney fees, the head of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association has filed with the state to put nine measures on the November ballot.

"For too long, corporate interests have been put ahead of consumer interests in this state," said John Sadwith, executive director of the 1,200-member trial lawyers' group. "Real people in this state deserve a break."

Sadwith declined to comment directly on a March ballot filing by former State Treasurer Mike Hillman designed to curtail the amount of money attorneys can collect in contingency fees.

"These measures give consumers the choice to support better consumer protection vs. a measure that is designed to weaken consumer protection," Sadwith said.

Hillman did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Business and labor interests have been locked in an unrelated battle over a host of ballot measures.

The most controversial of that earlier lot would make Colorado a "right-to-work" state by banning all-union workplaces.

Labor groups filed several countermeasures, including one that would make it harder to fire workers without "just cause" and another that would require cost-of- living increases for all workers.

The new measures filed by the attorneys include one that would subject farmers to state taxes on any subsidies they collect from the federal government.

Another proposed initiative involves stripping doctors of licenses after three incidents of medical malpractice.

The executive compensation measure, which would limit pay to no greater than 50 times that of company's lowest-paid employee, drew immediate criticism from pay experts.

"That sounds unconstitutional to me," said Peter Miterko of Denver Management Advisors. "That's crazy. Everyone would bolt the state."

Miterko, head of his firm's executive compensation practice, maintained that shareholders should decide such issues instead of the general public.

Colorado Association of Realtors spokesman Tyrone Adams described the broker compensation measure as "unproductive," noting that "current commission rates are negotiable regardless of the selling price of a property."


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