Big Labor split explains violent thuggery

Getting to the root of this unionizing rift

Could it be that the fight to collectively bargain for Nevadan nurses is not limited to two unions, but rather between the two largest union conglomerations in the nation? On the surface it appears as a fight between the Service Employees International Union and the California Nurses Association.

But the torn history between the service workers' union and the AFL-CIO (which the nurses' association is affiliated with) could be the real reason behind the current rift, as well as the steady decline in union membership across the country.

In a letter forwarded to In Business Las Vegas from the California Nurses Union, and apparently signed by Jennifer Bergschneider, regional district director of the Labor Department, the service workers' union was found to be in violation of four provisions of the federal Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.

The Labor Department would neither confirm nor deny whether it was investigating the service workers' union Local 1107, the union's Las Vegas chapter and its alleged illegal use of employer funds to support particular candidates for office.

But in the letter (again, forwarded to the paper by the union trying to displace the service workers' union), Bergschneider states "these findings are not to be construed as a final determination by the Secretary of Labor (Elaine Chao) that violations have occurred, which may have affected the outcome of the election."

The investigation has discovered that Members United to Win candidates (a group associated with Jane McAlevey, executive director of the service workers' union) used union funds to promote select candidates through the use of membership lists, used $5,000 from a "solidarity fund" from service workers' union district 1199 (Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia), used employer funds through Phil Giarrizzo Campaigns printing and mailing campaign materials to promote select candidates and used employer funds to promote candidates of one slate at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals - Siena Campus, while candidates on the opposing side were denied access.

Hillary Haycock, spokeswoman for the service workers' union, said the charges, as she terms the Labor Department's findings, will turn out to be unjustified.

"We're really confident that they are going to uphold the elections that happened in November once they finish the whole process," she said.

The two unions have been at each others' throats for the past several months, as unionization campaigns have either been stymied, such as the failed organization effort of Ohio nurses by the service workers' union and the loss of St. Mary's hospital nurses to the California Nurses Association.

Then there was a scuffle between service workers' association and AFL-CIO members in Dearborn, Mich., in early April at a Labor Notes meeting where the California Nurses Association president was scheduled to speak, the Associated Press reported.

The nurses' association says the service workers' association stormed the union hall, while the other side says its protesters were pushed and shoved.

The nurses' association has launched a campaign, SEIU Watch, reworking the acronym to read "Serving Employers Instead of Us."

In response, the service workers' union has launched the "Shame on CNA" campaign.

Haycock questioned the nurses' association's motives in ousting the service employees' union, adding that the majority of hospitals across the country have no union representation.

"What's happening here in Nevada is very different, I think, than the SEIU-CNA fight nationally, because here the nurses are already unionized," she said. "They are SEIU nurses ... They are actively in bargaining right now, putting together proposals and trying to figure out how to improve their contract."

Haycock said that although the failed election by Ohio nurses to join the service workers' union was "horrible," the nurses' association action in Nevada is different.

"That type of stuff that's been happening on more of a national level isn't going on here in Nevada," she said.

In July 2005 the service workers' union split from the AFL-CIO, ending the 50-year partnership after service workers' union leadership unsuccessfully called on the union conglomerate to reform, the Washington Post reported at the time. The Teamsters joined the service workers' union in the exodus, adding to the AFL-CIO's already declining membership, the newspaper reported.

The service workers' union, the country's largest labor union with 1.9 million members, and the Teamsters went on to form the rival union conglomeration, Change to Win. Unite Here, whose membership includes the Culinary Workers Local 226, is a Change to Win member.

The nurses' association represents 80,000 nurses in 170 facilities, according to its Web site.

The service workers' union in Nevada, led by McAlevey, represents 17,500 hospital workers and nurses, as well as public-sector employees.

And the internal strife doesn't seem to be limited to the nurses who the service workers' union represents.

In a YouTube video, Connie Kalski, a courtroom clerk and service workers' union member, said, "I've been there when board members have told me to shut up. This is how the executive board of local 1107 now behaves."

It's not the members of service workers' union who are engaging in the Teamsters-esque behavior, but rather the staff, whose salaries are paid by members' dues, said Chuck Idelson, spokesman for the California Nurses Association.

When asked if the service workers' union is replacing the Teamsters of the 20th century, Idelson said, "Some people say that."

"Just because you don't get your way, you can't result to bullying and threats," he added. "They think their behavior is innocent. It's harassment."

"SEIU Nevada does not engage in harassing or bullying behaviors," Haycock said. "That's just not how we operate. If you really want to look at what is harassing behavior, I think a union like CNA going into a hospital where there is already a union and membership is high and workers are at the table to negotiate a new contract, I think that is a better example of bullying."

The members of the service workers' union are employed not only as hospital workers and nurses, but also county employees and public health workers, she said.

"Their day jobs are helping our community and that's kind of what folks are focused on over here," Haycock said.

- Nicole Lucht covers health care, workplace and banking issues for In Business Las Vegas and its sister publication, the Las Vegas Sun.


Labor-state underperformance documented

Right-to-work states have generally had higher economic growth than compulsory unionism states, which can be seen through historical trends in key metrics such as unemployment rate, employment growth, state GDP growth and interstate migration.

The unemployment rate measures the number of people in the labor force looking for work. A growing economy has jobs for everyone who is looking for one. As you can see by the chart above, with the exception of a period in the late 1980s, right-to-work states over the past 30 years have consistently had lower unemployment rates than states with compulsory union membership laws. Michigan, since 2000, has had higher than average unemployment, and with a rate of 7.2 percent has the highest rate in the nation. The current gap between right-to-work states and non-right-to-work states is seven percentage points. Also notice that in 2007, non-right-to-work states ended up with a higher unemployment rate than in 2006, but right-to-work states wound up with a lower unemployment rate compared to 2006.

In the late 1990s, employment was growing nationwide. As you can see in the chart above, right-to-work states were adding jobs at a higher rate than non-right-to-work states during the boom times. When the recession hit in 2001, employment in right-to-work states still grew. Michigan, meanwhile, took a bit hit — it lost more than 2 percent of employment in a single year. When employment grew again in 2004, right-to-work states grew more than twice as fast as non-right-to-work states. Michigan has lost jobs every year since 2000, a decline that began in June of that year.

Have the positive effects of right-to-work laws become enhanced in recent years? If nothing else, employment trends indicate they have. Here’s another indicator:

Real state gross domestic product, one of the broadest measures of economic well being, is the inflation-adjusted value of all goods and services produced in a state. Again we see that right-to-work states were more robust during the 2001 recession and that the gap between them and non-right-to-work states increased afterwards.

The next metric is what economists call the best measure of state economic growth: per-capita personal income. As you can see, right-to-work states and non-right–to-work states have tracked pretty closely since the mid-1990s. There’s a little bit of an edge to right-to-work states in recent years, but they’re similar. Michigan, however, has been stagnant, and the average per-capita personal income in right-to-work states is now higher than here in the Great Lake State.

Underlying per-capita personal income are two separate metrics — personal income and population — both statements of economic growth in their own right. And as you can see, right-to-work states consistently outpace non-right-to-work states on both fronts.

Sticking with the population theme, there are a couple ways to grow population. One is a so-called natural increase — more births in a state than funerals. Another is through immigration. The last is through internal migration. In economics, there is what is called the Tiebout-Tullock hypothesis, or basically, that if you don’t like the policies or economy of your state, you’re going to vote with your feet. Internal migration is a key indicator for where people find economic opportunity.

While IRS data is the standard for migration research, it offers significant lags in publishing. United Van Lines data, on the other hand, is available from the company shortly after year-end and also at mid-year. There is a strong correlation, however, between the two datasets.

Right-to-work states clearly have a better rate of inbound migration. Over the whole course of the data, the only time that non-right-to-work states had a better rate of in-migration was in 1987, and it was only by less than two percentage points.

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight publishes an index of housing prices for each state. Housing is important because home values are very sensitive to economic trends. They may also be a leading indicator for recessions. Homes tend to be the largest investment a household will make, and fluctuations in housing prices have a large impact on a family’s net worth.

Housing trends overall stagnated in 2007. However, it should be noted that there were many states where home prices increased. California, for instance, decreased 6.65 percent while Utah gained 9.27 percent. Overall, 41 states grew and nine declined. As you can see by the chart above, right-to-work states have been robust against housing slumps that have hit places like Michigan.

In the key metrics of economic growth, right-to-work states have a distinct advantage when it comes to unemployment rates, income growth, population increases and jobs.

- James M. Hohman is a fiscal policy research assistant at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich.


Working people reject union membership

Once again, David Sirota (“Anti-union movement going strong,” April 21) engages in class warfare by lionizing the thuggery of union organizers. He asserts that “corporations kill unions before they are born,” but his words are simply not borne out by the facts. Unions are being put out to field by working people themselves who vote in elections not to allow their jobs to be jeopardized by union thuggery.

In representation elections across America, working people are voting “no union” on ballots provided by and counted by (generally unionized) federal employees. Sirota may call that “persecution,” but what’s at work here is something called “democracy.”

Sirota writes about the Democratic governor of Colorado who, while allowing government employees to unionize, will not allow them to strike. Sirota excoriates him for that. This is exactly the system President John F. Kennedy instituted for federal employees. Does Sirota think JFK was some kind of reactionary? Apparently so. At any rate, when the previous Republican governor of Colorado ended the dues check-off, whereby the state government was the collection agent for the union thugs Sirota lionizes, union membership fell by 80 percent. Working people vote with their checkbooks, too.

All of this comes down to union intimidation. Because unions lose so many representation elections, they are attempting — with the help of their anti-business political hack, Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Palm Beach Gardens — to pass legislation that would circumvent the democratic process and institute a system allowing these thugs to gain control of a business based on a “card check,” which would make working people they say they wish to help subject to intimidation.

This must be prevented and, due to the Senate filibuster the Democrats insisted be maintained in the last Congress, it will be.

Thank God for that!

- David S. Levine, Hobe Sound (FL)


Union voter-blockers protect racial preferences

Tim Asher sat calmly and appeared unfazed moments before he was to address a roomful of Latino leaders, some of whom were likely to be hostile to his message — that Missouri should end affirmative action programs based on race and gender. In the last couple of months, Asher, 45, has become accustomed to speaking before skeptical crowds like this one at Hispanic Day at the Capitol.

Asher, with his boy-next-door looks, has become the face of the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative.

The initiative calls for an end to racial and gender preferences in public higher education and state and local government.

If Asher and a cadre of hundreds of signature-gatherers can get enough names on their petitions by the end of this week, the issue will be brought before voters on the November ballot.

In Asher's view, it's a grass-roots movement that many Missourians support. And he says it all traces back to the day when, as a college admissions director, he took a stand against race-based scholarships.

Asher believes his position is common sense — that the state should treat everyone the same. So when he stands before the crowd in Jefferson City, he assumes he can win it over.

On this day, he was greeted with polite applause. By the time he was done, he faced a series of pointed questions and angry retorts about discrimination and the need for affirmative action programs.

"Sir," one Latino woman said to Asher, "try to walk in our shoes."

In the eyes of his critics, Asher is merely the front for a well-funded campaign that has methodically sought to topple affirmative action initiatives in state after state.

That effort, led by California businessman Ward Connerly, helped end gender and racial preferences through successful ballot efforts in California, Washington, and Michigan.

Buoyed by those victories and armed with millions of dollars, Connerly has connected with local residents such as Asher to take his crusade into Missouri as well as Colorado, Arizona and Nebraska. His campaign in Oklahoma recently failed.

Connerly, a former member of the University of California Board of Regents, has become the nation's most identifiable critic of affirmative action.

He says he has learned first-hand, being part black and growing up in the Deep South, the importance of not treating people differently based on skin color — whether that's discriminating against blacks at the lunch counter, or offering them special treatment to get into college.

Almost from the moment Connerly hinted last year that he would bring his campaign to Missouri, labor leaders and workers' advocates began organizing into a coalition called Working to Empower Community Action Now.

"We think until we have a level playing field, affirmative action must remain in place as one of the most effective tools to level the playing field for women and minorities," said Brandon Davis, a coalition member and political director of the regional chapter of the Service Employees International Union.


With the battle lines drawn early, the fight almost immediately centered on the effort to gather signatures.

For the opposition, that's meant sending volunteers to seek to interrupt the work of those who are circulating petitions.

Opponents, working through the WeCAN coalition, have trained more than 90 volunteers in the St. Louis area who have spent weekend shifts driving around the region, patrolling grocery store parking lots and outside of Cardinals games, looking for Asher's signature-gatherers. They try to approach people before they're asked to sign a petition, telling them not to be fooled by circulators who may say only that the initiative would ban discrimination.

WeCAN has also hired local workers through the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now to do similar work as paid canvassers.

Asher and Connerly, in turn, complain that their opponents are using intimidation tactics — following circulators from site to site and sometimes ripping petitions from clipboards.

In recent weeks, ads have been popping up on websites asking for more circulators from around the country in a last-minute push to meet the deadline. The ads note that circulators can make as much as $1,000 per week (the going rate being $1.25 per signature) and have all expenses paid.

To get their issue on the November ballot, Asher and Connerly need 140,000 to 150,000 signatures by May 4 of registered voters spread out among at least six of the state's nine congressional districts. Asher has repeatedly declined to say how many signatures he has secured.

"We're well on our way to getting where we need to be," Asher says simply.

Even as critics accuse him of running the initiative drive from out of state, Connerly does not shy away from his involvement and that of his organization, the American Civil Rights Institute.

He said he's probably raised a couple million of dollars in his "Super Tuesday for Equal Rights" fund to financially back the anti-affirmative action campaigns in five states. The fund helps cover Asher's salary.


Missouri campaign finance records show that nearly all of the $160,000 raised by April 15 for the Missouri initiative comes from Connerly's Super Tuesday fund.

"Yes, we're assisting them," Connerly said. "But we're not the ones providing the emotional capital there . . . We're not the ones who are fronting this."

Most of the money has been spent on National Ballot Access, a Georgia-based company that is coordinating the petition-gathering effort.

Asher acknowledges that many of his paid petitioners are from out of the state. But he said they are joined by Missouri volunteers who are passionate about the issue.

"We seek the support of the people of the state, be they black, white, red, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or Constitutional Party," Asher said. "In the end, all that matters is what the people decide."

The WeCAN coalition, in contrast, had about $77,500 on hand as of April 15.

In some ways, Missouri seems a strange target for these efforts.

Unlike the University of Michigan or the University of California, Missouri's public universities by and large do not have caps on enrollment and accept as many people who meet their admissions criteria. Most Missouri schools also say they do not factor in race or gender when making admissions decisions.

"It's not a zero-sum game out here, and so the issue should not be so hotly debated here," said Michael Middleton, deputy chancellor of the University of Missouri-Columbia. "But we have people who fan the flames of divisiveness."

Still, Asher's initiative would affect race-based scholarships and mentoring and tutoring programs for minority students at public universities. It would also affect hiring and business contracts with state and local government.

Connerly says he decided to focus on Missouri largely for one reason: Asher reached out to him for help.

Asher first contacted Connerly in late 2004 after complaining about the diversity scholarships at North Central Missouri College, a community college in Trenton. Asher had been the admissions director there until his contract was not renewed earlier that year.


Connerly and others wrote to the college, insisting it open up the scholarships. In response, the college adjusted the scholarships so they were no longer contingent on race.

After he was let go from the college, Asher first alleged gender discrimination in a complaint he filed with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The claim was not substantiated.

Later, Asher sued the college, alleging that he had been fired in part because he had raised concerns about the legality of the school's race-based scholarships as well as about whether the college was correctly appropriating some state funds.

The college denied all of Asher's claims, saying he raised questions about the scholarship only once, and that was more than a year before his contract was not renewed. The college said the reason it cut ties with Asher was because of insubordination. College lawyers say he held an unauthorized meeting with college employees about building a student center and had a negative change in behavior after being placed on probation.

A circuit judge in Grundy County ruled last year that Asher's lawsuit had no merit. Asher has appealed.


These days, Asher works out of his home in Odessa, near Kansas City, where he has most recently worked in construction. He often criss-crosses the state for media interviews and speaking engagements like the one last week in Jefferson City.

During that half-hour panel, the atmosphere in the room of about 30 people began to get more tense as audience members stood to speak about how the initiative would affect them personally.

As voices begin to rise, Asher asked them to give him one example of discrimination that still exists today in Missouri. Audience members laughed and dropped their heads back.

"We're business owners," responded Omar Maldonado, who runs Puckett Floor Coverings in Florissant. "We face it every day."

Maldonado said the discrimination he encounters isn't explicit — something that people say to your face — but he knows it exists.

A moderator eventually cut off the discussion, saying it was time for the next panel.

Those still riled by the discussion took their conversation into the hallway, where they continued to vent. Asher, meanwhile, left the room undeterred.

"People have a right to have different opinions on things," he said later. "But I always enjoy the opportunity to talk about the initiative."


Learning labor-activism at Harvard Law School

The Labor and Worklife Program (LWP) is Harvard University’s forum for research and teaching on the world of work and its implications for society. Located at the Harvard Law School, the LWP brings together scholars and policy experts from a variety of disciplines to analyze critical labor issues in the law, economy, and society.

The LWP also provides unique education for labor leaders throughout the world via the oldest executive training program at Harvard University, the Harvard Trade Union Program, founded in 1942.

As a multidisciplinary research and policy network, the LWP organizes projects and programs that seek to understand critical changes in labor markets and labor law, and to analyze the role of unions, business, and government as they affect the world of work. By engaging scholars, students, and members of the labor community, the program coordinates legal, educational, and cultural activities designed to improve the quality of work life.

The faculty, staff, and research associates of the Program include some of the nation’s premier scholars of labor studies and an array of internationally renowned intellectuals. The executive training program (HTUP) works closely with trade unions around the world to bring excellence in labor education to trade union leadership. The LWP regularly holds forums, conferences, and discussion groups on labor issues of concern to business, unions, and the government.

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Threatening SEIU organizers frighten nurses

Back-and-forth battle between nurses unions

When Malinda Markowitz got home from work to find a camera crew waiting in her driveway, she called the cops. Markowitz, a surgical nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital and a union leader with the California Nurses Association, knew the people with the camera weren't from CNN or "Entertainment Tonight." They were from the Service Employees International Union, and they made her nervous.

"They came toward me with a camera and said, 'We don't want to hurt you, we just want to talk to you.' Now why would they say something like that?"

Markowitz, a San Jose resident, is on one side of a nasty battle between rival unions about who gets to represent the nation's registered nurses.

I'm always wary of writing about union battles. Each side claims the other is lying and up to no good. With all the conflicting sets of facts, I feel trapped between parallel universes.

But this fight is about more than just bragging rights. It's about the changing health care system, the struggle of unions to survive and the efforts of registered nurses, those front-line care providers, to attract and retain qualified people to their ranks.

Based just on numbers, it would not appear to be much of a fight.

Different agendas

SEIU is the nation's largest union, representing 1.7 million health care, government and other service workers. It includes about 150,000 nurses.

SEIU has tried to build strength by bringing
all hospital workers together. It openly collaborates with hospital companies so workers have a voice in the changing health care world.

CNA is a boutique union, only representing registered nurses. It fought successfully for a state law limiting the number of patients each nurse can care for. Since the limits went into effect in 2004, CNA has been expanding. Today it has 65,000 members in California and another 15,000 scattered across the country who are affiliated with its national arm, the National Nurses Organizing Committee.

CNA doesn't want registered nurses lumped in with other nurses and hospital workers during union bargaining. And it believes that SEIU is too cozy with management.

"Nurses have a legal and ethical obligation to protect rights of patients," said CNA spokesman Michael Lighty. "We can't represent our employers' interests and our patients' interests."

Last month CNA activists showed up in Ohio, where SEIU was organizing 8,000 employees, including nurses, at hospitals owned by Catholic Healthcare Partners. The nurses union tried to convince RNs to affiliate with them instead of SEIU.

Knocking on doors

Things got tense, and the hospital company canceled the election. Some angry SEIU supporters flew out to California and started knocking on doors at CNA leaders' homes.

On April 14, the man and woman with the camera showed up at Markowitz's house.

"They said: 'We want to talk about what you did in Ohio.' I was really frightened."

Lynda Tran, an SEIU spokeswoman, said the people who knocked on doors were just nice nurses from Ohio who wanted to chat.

"They didn't threaten anyone," she said. "The things the CNA is saying are really out there."

CNA got a temporary restraining order against SEIU.

"That was just a publicity stunt," Tran said.

And what SEIU was doing - confronting people at their homes on camera - wasn't a publicity stunt?

Oops. I'm getting into those parallel universes again.

SEIU folks are right about one thing: CNA is an elitist group concerned only about RNs. But what's wrong with being elitist? Nurses are leaving the profession in droves. If they need their own union to focus attention on their needs - and the needs of patients - then they shouldn't let the SEIU paparazzi scare them.


UAW-GM striker: 'None of us know why we're here'

When the United Auto Workers launched a national strike last year against General Motors Corp., the reasons were obvious. The automaker was demanding unprecedented cuts and historic changes in how employees are cared for after retirement. The union wanted job guarantees and security for the next generation of auto workers.

But GM is under fire again from the UAW, with one strike under way at a critical factory and several more threatened around the country. This time, the motive is far from certain.

"None of us know why we're here," said striking GM worker Michael Schrubbe, as he walked a picket line in Delta Township, where workers have been off the job since April 17 at the factory that builds GM's popular crossovers.

The automaker avoided two walkouts on Friday, at a Grand Rapids stamping plant and a Kansas City, Kan., factory that builds the hot-selling Chevrolet Malibu. A stamping plant in Mansfield, Ohio, is threatening to strike today, and negotiations have continued through a strike deadline that passed April 18 at a Warren transmission factory. But two lines at the Warren plant that build 6-speed transmissions will go down today because of the strike in Delta Township.

GM believes the UAW threats, all against factories that either make critical models for the automaker or supply the parts to build them, are a tactic being used to draw the company into the strike against American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc., according to several sources familiar with negotiations. Labor law prohibits the union from striking because of a dispute elsewhere; many think the union is using local negotiations to apply indirect pressure.

"There's a feeling among workers that their jobs are being jeopardized by things beyond their control," Gary Chaison, a labor specialist at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. "Their expectations were when everything was tied up nationally everything would fall into place. Now it appears to be unraveling so fast."

The American Axle strike, in its ninth week, has created a parts shortage that has forced GM to idle or cut production at more than two dozen North American factories. But GM's bottom line has been relatively unscathed since the affected factories produce slow-selling large trucks and SUV that were backing up on dealer lots.

At one point, it seemed the strike threatened production of GM's hot-selling Malibu. Then Bo Andersson, GM's purchasing chief, told reporters that the Malibu was safe no matter what happened with American Axle. Within days, the UAW local representing the Malibu plant in Kansas City threatened a walkout.

Many industry watchers -- and company insiders -- think the move was just one more signal that the union is pushing the automaker to ante up cash so American Axle will offer its workers a richer deal.

That's not the story the UAW is telling its members. The union's top leaders at the national level have been mum on the issue of local strikes. But local leaders, those in charge of carrying out a strike order and managing day-to-day life on the factory floors, have outlined issues they say are behind the local disputes.

Word is coming though one-on-one chats at local union halls, in online newsletters and through interviews with the media.

The issues, the local union leaders say, range from disputes over work rules to unresolved grievances that have piled up over the years. Leaders at UAW Local 730 posted an online message that said talks are hung up on "manpower issues" and 183 grievances involving subcontracting.

Another online notice by UAW Local 602 in Delta Township lists nine issues behind the strike, including work rules, grievances and rules governing non-union workers on the plant floor.

"We build the best products in the world right here for GM," UAW Local 602 President Doug Radamacher said last week from the picket line in Delta Township. The strike, he said, is strictly over local contract issues.

"This work force deserves respect."


UAW-AAM striker arrested, VW looks elsewhere

Adrian King, president of UAW Local 235, said Thursday's rally at the headquarters of American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. was successful despite the arrest of one UAW member. "It was a very peaceful demonstration," King said.

But while peaceful, it was also tense. At times, protesters blocked entrances to the company's parking lots by walking in front of cars and yelling at drivers.

Detroit police arrested Ada Walker at the rally. Police said she was cited for disorderly conduct and released.

Hundreds attended the rally to protest the auto supplier's efforts to slash wages and support UAW members who have been on strike since Feb. 26.

King said the purpose of the rally was "to get out and show a great amount of support and try to change the wave of these negotiations to sway more in favor of the union."
CTS converts a critic

Cadillac has won over one critic with the CTS. On the Consumer Reports blog, David Champion, senior director of auto testing for the magazine, said he was impressed with the CTS on a recent drive.

"I'm sure someone could write a book about how Cadillac came to be the 'aspirational' car, and then quickly morphed into GM making its cars bloated and overstuffed. The division's rebirth with the CTS can bode well for the future, but it hinges on whether or not it proves reliable. This is, perhaps, the first time I'd consider putting a Cadillac in my driveway," he wrote.

Looking for edge with VW

Michigan is vying with two southern states for an assembly plant from Volkswagen. The folks in Tennessee and Alabama say each state has the edge.

"Alabama has had an enduring love affair with Germany, from Mercedes' initial investment in the mid-1990s to German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp's choice last year of a site near Mobile for a $3.7-billion steel processing plant," the Birmingham (Ala.) News wrote Thursday. "In between, a host of German companies have opted to call the state home. Economic developers have been known to call on existing German companies in the state to help lure others, which happened with the ThyssenKrupp recruitment."

The Nashville Tennessean's story on VW's plans was headlined "Tenn. has edge for VW plant, analysts say." Analysts told the paper that Michigan's unionized workforce and a shortage of workers in Alabama would work in Tennessee's favor.


Teachers union official resolves confusion

The story “Teachers' union gets new director” (Tribune, April 21) stated that “Utah's largest teachers' union has a new executive director,” and explained changes within the Utah Education Association. AFT Utah is the state's only union for educators. It's affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO. Its membership includes teachers, paraprofessionals such as office workers, librarians, bus drivers, and health-care workers, but it does not include administrators. As a union, part of its mission is to negotiate salaries, benefits and grievances. An administrator would be conflicted, representing both sides.

The UEA is an association. It is surprising that it allows itself to be confused with a union of workers in this “right-to-work” state. Membership in the association is open to anyone who works for a public institution devoted primarily to education, including administrators.

The two organizations are often confused because both work to improve education. The ways they work to accomplish their missions are different, and the differences should be recognized.

Dale K. Nelson
AFT Utah
Vice-president for higher education
Salt Lake City


Special effort by Hoffa in labor-state

National Teamsters President James P. Hoffa and former Missouri Gov. Roger Wilson headlined Friday night's campaign kickoff for state Rep. Clint Zweifel, a Democrat running for state treasurer. Zweifel, of Florissant, promised that he would use the office to promote financial policies regarding housing, affordable college and other daily concerns of Missourians. Hoffa said he flew to St. Louis solely to help Zweifel, a fellow Teamster whom the labor leader praised as a prime example of Hoffa's national push to get "working people involved in the process" and running for office.

The kickoff event was at the Teamsters regional office.

Zweifel is among three Democrats competing for their party's nomination in the Aug. 5 primary. The others are Arnold Mayor Mark Powell and Andria Simckes of St. Louis County, who works in the financial industry. State Sen. Brad Lager of Maryville is the only Republican in the race.

All are seeking to succeed Sarah Steelman, a Republican not seeking re-election because she is running for governor.


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