The New America: Worker-Choice states

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

The Southeast - Dispelling The Economic Gloom

There are a number of bright spots in the economic gloom that currently seems to have settled over the country. Consider the positive effects of the weak U.S. dollar. Businesses with profitable overseas activities will benefit. Those that rely heavily on exports will also do well. The Southeast and certain states outside that region - Texas and Delaware are typical - will continue to grow because their favorable business climate coupled with our devalued dollar will attract investments by foreign businesses, which will in turn stimulate the many businesses in those states that indirectly benefit from those investments.

The Southeast and states that have become magnets attracting foreign investment might be called "New America" because they have gotten the message that creating a business-friendly environment is the key to successfully attracting foreign investment.

Those states (Old America) that have not yet gotten that message will not be as successful in benefiting from the economic stimulus that foreign investment can bring.

The Southeast's Magic

Let's look at the chemistry. Why did the number of international companies seeking to locate in Jacksonville increase over the last three years from 10 percent to 25 percent? Why did two major shipping companies, Mitsui and Hanjin, decide to use the port of Jacksonville with the effect of setting the stage for Jacksonville to become the third largest port on the East Coast of the U.S. by 2011?

Why is Charlotte the largest city between Philadelphia and Jacksonville and the 5th fastest growing city among large U.S. cities? Why has it seemingly overnight become one of America's great financial centers?

Why did a Korean auto company, KIA, select Georgia for a project that will mean 2,500 jobs and an investment of $1.2 billion, which in turn will contribute to attracting top tier suppliers who will bring 3,500 additional jobs to the State? Why is Georgia, according to Commissioner Ken Stewart of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, enjoying the in-migration of 100,000 people annually from out-of-state and abroad, many of whom are "young and restless" highly educated 25- to 34-year olds? Was it only because that State has 11 international offices promoting its virtues?

Why has the population of metro Atlanta doubled in the last 20 years and why is it expecting that a population equivalent to that of greater Denver will be picking itself up and moving there over the next 25 years?

It is clear that the influx of new people and new businesses into the Southeast cannot be attributed solely to the dedicated interest of government in the states and cities throughout the area in attracting new businesses. It is clear that the law firms located there play an even more important role.

Insights into the role that the private bar has played in these developments can be found in the pages that follow. On page 55, Holland & Knight's George Gabel describes how he inspired Jacksonville to pursue a link with the Far East that culminated in the spectacular growth of Jacksonville's port. In 2002, Mr. Gabel was named International Person of the Year by the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce.

On page 55, Jefferson Brown, the Managing Partner of King & Spalding's Charlotte office talks about the advantages of Charlotte and how practice group integration and cross-office support will enable clients of his office to draw upon the full range of services of this international firm. Undoubtedly, through this chemistry many old and new clients of King & Spalding as they consider locations for their activities will be attracted to Charlotte.

Similarly on page 56, Lizanne Thomas, Partner-In-Charge of Jones Day's Atlanta office, describes the important role that the cooperation between the business community and the political leadership has played in making Atlanta a magnet for new businesses. Her office's involvement in the broad range of community activities she describes makes it a key player in that partnership.

Our Survey - How Firms Work Their Magic

We asked five firms with general practices and offices in the Southeast about the specific roles they played in the process of attracting foreign investment. We agreed that we would not mention names of the law firms responding so that they would not feel constrained in providing frank answers.

All five firms responded that counseling clients on the advantages of locating business facilities in the Southeast was an important area of their practices. Most said it was not only a growing area of their firm's practice, but that clients they helped find a location also asked for the firm's assistance handling issues relating to construction and relationships with governmental bodies. One indicated that this was not only an important and growing area for the firm, but that it had been ranked among the top three law firms in the U.S. by Southern Business & Development magazine for its reputation in economic development. The same firm has a public affairs subsidiary that works closely with key state and local decision makers to address the needs of relocating or expanding businesses throughout the Southeast. One responded that it frequently provided assistance across disciplines to clients who relocate to the Southeast and that many of their lawyers counsel on M&A by foreign investors as well as greenfield start-ups.

The respondents said the aspects of the business environment that attracted businesses to the Southeast included state and local economic incentives; a very pro-business legal climate; a well trained workforce with a strong work ethic ; right to work statutes and few unions; inexpensive land; a good transportation network, including excellent global transportation for supply and distribution chains (land, sea, air); low costs for skilled and unskilled laborers; good state-sponsored technological training programs; livable communities, including attractive places to live for migrating executives and their families; excellent year-round climate; lower taxes; port access, and building contractors that have a good track record for delivering a quality product in a timely manner.

The following areas in the Southeast were identified as the most attractive locations for the following reasons: in South Carolina: Greenville/Spartanburg/ Anderson Counties because all three have access to small, international airports, as well as direct interstate connection to the nearby ports of Charleston and Savannah. All of the advantages listed in the preceding paragraph fully apply in this tri-county region, which already boasts a large number of national and international companies. The region offers a superior quality of life and very solid public and private education, as well as a very strong university presence with Clemson, Furman, Wofford and excellent technical colleges with flexibility in creating training programs. Greenville possesses a heavy concentration of foreign companies and all that is ancillary to them.

In Georgia: Atlanta offers all the advantages associated with a major metropolitan area. One firm emphasized that from Atlanta you can do business anywhere in the world because you can fly out of Atlanta or have your clients fly directly in.

In North Carolina: Charlotte offers a world class financial service infrastructure, while Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill offer a superior knowledge and technology focus.

When asked how potential clients learned that their law firms could help them find a location, they said that potential clients learn about the firm through conferences, economic development networks, e.g., economic development officials with offices at state and local levels; site consultants; other professional consultants; accounting firms; and word of mouth.

When questioned about the importance of the activities of state and local bodies in attracting companies seeking a location, one firm indicated that the activities of such bodies were highly important and felt that the following South Carolina cities did the best jobs: Greenville, North Charleston, Greenwood and Columbia. Two firms stated that Atlanta does a good job and one of the firms added that the incentives package in Georgia is better than that of many other states. Another firm stated there is no easy answer to which state or local bodies do the best jobs since the match depends on the demands; incentives are fairly even among the states, but that the amount left in the budget and significance of the investor are keys to the decision process as to incentives. It also agreed that incentives offered by state and local bodies were important, but were only one of the factors in the decision to select a particular location. One firm mentioned that the incentives go beyond financial incentives by assuring a welcoming attitude of the community toward development, helping to find workers and making executives feel at home.

In responding to the question of whether counseling foreign clients requires lawyers with language skills, there was general agreement that language skills were important, but most felt that they were not essential. One firm had, however, established a Japanese business practice group with native speakers to help them better service Japanese clients. One firm mentioned that they dealt mostly with relocation experts, almost all of whom spoke English.

Some firms mentioned the special skills that lawyers working with foreign investors should have. Various firms included one or more of the following: cultural knowledge; a network of foreign consultants and law firms; international tax knowledge, immigration skills, and experience in export controls and economic development incentive deals.

One firm felt that in order for a firm to be competitive, it was important for its lawyers to understand the life cycle of the industry involved and know in detail every aspect of any start-up in which they may be involved. It also mentioned that the attorney doing the work must be honest about her experience in her practice area and in each of the following areas pertaining to the client: industry, product and region.

Dispelling The Gloom - What Can Corporate Counsel Do?

Our survey reveals that behind the success of the Southeast in attracting foreign investment is an increasingly sophisticated private bar infrastructure. Many of your outside counsel through their offices in the Southeast are already skilled in turning into reality a foreign company's interest in locating in what seems to be an attractive location. Old America has much to learn about the process before it too can successfully emulate the Southeast's success. Your outside counsel may have, or may be eager to acquire, experience in attracting investors to business locations throughout the U.S. Encourage them in those efforts! And, your company can also encourage states in Old America in which it does business to create the kinds of government-business partnerships that exist in the Southeast and in states like Texas and Delaware. They are the predicates for building the kind of business-friendly environment throughout America that can attract foreign investment and contribute to dispelling the economic gloom.

Our survey indicates that, whereas many governmental bodies are doing a fine job in arousing the interest of prospective foreign investors, the law firms that they seek out to help them to find a specific location and to counsel them with respect to next steps are critical to converting that interest into a solid commitment. It is clear from our survey that, even in the Southeast, some firms have put far greater emphasis on the practice areas involved than others. On behalf of America and your clients' dependence on its future, you all have a stake in the ability of your law firms to close the deal.


Dearborn-Gate: Big Labor uses nurses to act out crisis

Details of the clash between the nation's largest union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the smaller California Nurses Association (CNA) can be confusing--including, most recently, the accusation that the CNA derailed an SEIU organizing drive in Ohio. Next came the violent disruption by SEIU officials and members at the Labor Notes conference in Dearborn, Mich., to try and shut down a scheduled speech by a CNA leader.

On the surface, SEIU's attack on the Labor Notes conference was the result of the rival unions' battle over registered nurses in Ohio. However, the conflict runs much deeper. SEIU President Andy Stern's strategy of partnering with employers to increase union membership--which is what the CNA was opposing in Ohio--has in recent months undergone intense scrutiny and criticism within our union.

Stern's pursuit of partnership is the source of the major rift between the leadership at the SEIU International office in Washington, D.C., and the top officials of the 140,000-member West Coast SEIU local known as United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW). Member opposition to partnership provides fuel for the union democracy movement embodied in the new group, SEIU Member Activists for Reform Today (SMART).

In order for pro-democracy labor activists to take advantage of all the opportunities opening up because of the challenge to Stern, it is important to not simply take sides on the Ohio issue, but to use it to challenge the business union practices of SEIU that pit unions against each other.

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THE SAGA began in Catholic Healthcare Partners (CHP) hospitals in Ohio, where last month, some 8,000 health care workers were to have union elections, but under questionable circumstances.

Although SEIU had tried for years to organize these facilities with little success, a deal had apparently been struck between CHP and SEIU, and in February, CHP filed for a union election to happen within two weeks.

Management used an "RM petition" in which an employer can petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to have a union election without demonstrating employee support for the union. It is thus an excellent tool for employers who favor one union over another.

As part of the agreement between SEIU and CHP, neither side would actively campaign during the union vote, bringing new meaning to what is often called a "neutrality agreement."

According to the magazine Labor Notes, a letter to the staffers at St. Regis hospital in Lima, Ohio, read, "To avoid the conflict and negative tension typically caused by organizing campaigns...neither managers nor union representatives will approach you or even answer questions if you approach them."

Thus, any of the workers at these hospitals who wanted to participate in the unionization drive were quickly shuffled into SEIU's organize-the-employers campaign, despite their good intentions.

One nurse at Mercy Western Hills hospital in Cincinnati remarked, "It became apparent that if we were going to get anywhere we needed to work from the top of the organization down...In the last year and a half, there hasn't been much door-to-door contact. I would tell people, we're working on a different level to make sure we could have an election without the intimidation we saw at the beginning of the campaign."

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UNDER THESE circumstances, in which a union is not bargaining from a position of strength, one can only expect concessions to management and a sweetheart deal--good for the boss, bad for the workers.

Furthermore, such a deal would have set a low standard for organizing health care workers nationwide. And it didn't take long for the industry to show its support. According to the Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun, "The Ohio Hospital Association called the non-interference agreement between CHP and the SEIU refreshing."

At this point, the CNA had no previous base of support within the hospitals and no previous plans to organize them. But it was stuck in a Catch-22.

The CNA could let the election go on as planned, and watch SEIU be selected as the de facto choice for health care employers in future campaigns, undermining the CNA's and other unions' campaigns. This type of union-employer collusion is exactly what happened in California in 2003, when SEIU cut a deal with Tenet Hospitals that prevented the CNA from even appearing on the election ballot, even though both unions had been campaigning there.

Or instead, the CNA could challenge the vote at CHP, where it had even less support than SEIU, due to the fact that the CNA is far smaller than SEIU and lacks its resources. By intervening, the CNA took the chance that the Ohio nurses wouldn't join any union.

The CNA decided to challenge CHP. Upon hearing of the employer-initiated union election, the CNA sent staff to Ohio to campaign against SEIU, calling the process a "rigged scam" in which SEIU would accept a substandard contract.

Unfortunately, part of the CNA's argument was that nurses should be in a separate union from other workers in the hospital. SEIU has shown, however, that organizing on an industrial basis doesn't necessarily lead to good contracts.

Feeling the heat, SEIU asked to have the election stopped, and the employers obliged. Since then, SEIU has been calling the CNA "union-busters" nonstop--on its anti-CNA Web site, in its press releases, outside CNA members' homes and, most notoriously, at the recent Labor Notes conference in Michigan.

On April 12, seven busloads of SEIU members and staff gathered in front of the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn, Mich., to protest against Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the CNA, at the Labor Notes banquet. DeMoro had earlier decided to skip the conference because of security concerns, but that didn't prevent what happened next.

An open letter to SEIU from SMART members who attended the Labor Notes conference recounts:

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 health care 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."

As AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said in a statement, "There is no justification--none--for the violent attack orchestrated by SEIU." SEIU President Stern responded that Sweeney "has the power to solve the problem" by reigning in the CNA, which recently affiliated to the AFL-CIO.

Ironically, SEIU can't use AFL-CIO procedures to mediate the conflict, since Stern led his union and others out of the federation in 2005 to launch the rival Change to Win coalition.

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THE ISSUE extends far beyond Ohio. It is intimately tied to the debate over how labor can buck the trend in declining union density (the percentage of workers in unions).

The SEIU International contends that the low numbers justify an organize-at-any-cost method that surrenders many members' rights. This method of organizing, which offers concessions and support of pro-business legislation for the employer's blessing to organize, is being challenged by Sal Rosselli, president of the union's second largest local, UHW.

Rosselli led a UHW rebellion against a partnership deal with California nursing homes that allowed for the unionization of 3,000 workers.

The union and the employers lobbied the state legislature together to obtain increased funding for the industry. In exchange, employers allowed 3,000 workers to join SEIU--but only under a pre-arranged "template" contract that banned union members from speaking out on patient ratios, prohibited strikes and otherwise limited workers' rights.

Under pressure from UHW members--including a petition campaign signed by 20,000 workers--the SEIU International canceled the partnership deal in May 2007, more than four years after its inception.

But the partnership strategy wasn't abandoned. Earlier this year, the SEIU International unilaterally dissolved the union's West Coast council for bargaining with Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) in order to take the negotiations into their own hands at the national level.

According to an inside source, the union was negotiating to gain possibly 300,000 members from Catholic hospitals nationwide in exchange for a health care "reform" bill that would be lucrative for employers--while the newly organized workers would have substandard contracts.

These partnerships explain SEIU's support of bills that fall short of what is really necessary to fix our broken health care system: removing the private insurers and the establishment of a national health care system.

What's more, Stern wants the SEIU International to take control over our locals' organizing funds in order to pursue this strategy--and will try to gain approval for this at the union's convention in Puerto Rico in June.

This is not the way that unions will be rebuilt in the country.

The SEIU International's attempts to consolidate power have spurred an all-out fight within the union. UHW has been running an opposition campaign through petitions and organizing rallies, and by putting forward a platform for union democracy for the convention.

In response, the SEIU International charged that UHW violated labor law in the election of its convention delegates and demanded that the elections be rerun.

What's more, the massive mergers in California have left union activists upset about the lack of democracy. Members in Southern California are fighting the jurisdictional changes that placed them in SEIU Local 721 without a direct vote in their legacy local, 347.

In the Bay Area, members of SEIU Local 1021 are challenging its appointed leadership that broke union rules in the election for convention delegates in order to discredit pro-democracy forces, an attempt which for the most part failed.

All this has created an opening for the formation of SMART, which now has members in all the California locals and in 16 locals outside of California.

Many SEIU reformers believe the real culprit in Ohio was SEIU's employers-first strategy for organizing that invariably pits unions against each other. The best possibility to challenge it comes from within our union, not outside of it. SMART can be a vehicle for that struggle.

But any reform movement within SEIU needs to develop an analysis that criticizes the partnership model and offers a concrete alternative for workers.

By doing so, it can link the disparate and isolated struggles within the union against bad health care, bad immigration deals, privatization and public-sector cuts--and combine them with a movement for union democracy.


Union organizers scare away employers

Political issue committees are popping up across the business community to fight the “onslaught of ballot measures” that are being proposed by Colorado’s union advocates. A total of 12 initiatives have so far been proposed by organized labor advocates. Voters could face an abundance of issues, including mandates for employers to provide health insurance, the elimination of the so-called at-will employment termination system, and a proposal to hold chief executives criminally responsible for corporate violations.

Title language for a competing initiative was approved this week for the so-called right-to-work initiative that would ask voters to ban mandatory union membership statewide. While Coloradans for Responsible Reform would not take a stance on the right-to-work initiative, it said it is in the beginning stages of forming a coalition to fight all of the proposed labor measures. The group is being led by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Scaring away business?

Spokeswoman Kate Horle said the issue comes down to defending a pro-business atmosphere in Colorado. She said the initiatives being proposed by organized labor advocates would likely lead to businesses packing up and leaving Colorado for a friendlier environment.

“Just the cost alone — what it will cost companies to do business in the state — will drive them out,” Horle said. “We’re already seeing job losses, a recession, rising food prices, rising gas prices. We face a terrifying future as it relates to the strength of the dollar … the fact is, we can’t lose employers in Colorado on the basis of some ballot initiatives.”

One of the groups proposing pro-labor legislation said voters should not compromise corporate accountability only for the sake of economic growth.

“These are the same people that clearly believe that a strong economic atmosphere includes allowing people to commit corporate fraud,” said Jess Knox, executive director of Protect Colorado’s Future. “If that’s the kind of economy they’re promoting, that’s bad news for Colorado.”

Two initiatives

Protect Colorado’s Future has proposed two initiatives. The first would require business executives to provide a reason for firing an employee. The second would hold corporate executives criminally responsible for not taking action to prevent wrongdoings. Knox said there is a gap in state law that prevents prosecutors from taking action on the state level.

“Right now, if an employer knows that they have a legal duty not to pollute the river, but they ignore that duty by polluting it, then they can’t be held liable for that lack of acting,” he said.

Defend our Economy is another group that is organizing against the pro-labor initiatives. The Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry is leading Defend Our Economy’s efforts. The group is also pushing for the right-to-work initiative (Amendment 47), which is being spearheaded by A Better Colorado.

Joe Blake, president of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, said his opposition to the 12 proposed initiatives is about campaigning for what is best for Colorado’s economy.


“There are real consequences to these actions,” he said. “The Denver Metro Chamber and other business groups have consistently opposed ballot measures that are detrimental to Colorado’s economy … we will do so again if any of these 12 initiatives are on the ballot in November.”


Forced-labor unionists reject worker-choice

In the 2008 Colorado initiative game, the best defense is not just a good offense but an overwhelming one. Traditionally, when an initiative is filed, the target group prepares a defensive strategy or files a countermeasure. This year, it responds to a single missile by launching a flurry of its own. The purpose is to take out not only the enemy but all his philosophical and financial allies.

When Jonathan Coors and friends submitted a right-to-work initiative, the Colorado AFL-CIO filed measures that would make it more difficult to fire employees and easier to sue business executives in civil court for misconduct.

Local 7 of the United Food and Commercial Workers quickly jumped in by filing five more anti-business initiatives, including one mandating annual cost-of-living wage increases pegged to the Consumer Price Index.

But that response was mild compared to what the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association had in store for Mark Hillman. The former Senate GOP leader is not their friend and he has filed a ballot issue that would cap their contingency fees: 30 percent on the first $250,000, 25 percent on the next $250,000 and only 10 percent on amounts over $500,000. What's more, they would have to disclose to clients the number of hours they actually worked on the case and their fees could be further reduced if their take exceeded $500 an hour.

The trial lawyers, offended by this attack on their right to make contracts, fired back with nine initiatives of their own.

Ascertaining that Hillman was backed by some Colorado Springs developers, they proposed making "construction professionals" subject to triple damages of up to $750,000 when their work is found defective.

And they would cap real-estate brokers' fees in the same way Hillman would cap theirs: 6 percent on the first $250,000, 3 percent on the next $250,000 and 1 percent over $500,000. And of course no more than $500 per hour.

They would make both civil trials and the "freedom to contract with licensed professionals" (i.e., lawyers) constitutional rights, and they would limit a chief executive's pay to 50 times that of his lowest paid employee.

There is a trio of proposals making it easier to recover damages from physicians, the trial lawyers' favorite target. Finally, they stick their thumb directly in Hillman's eye by proposing that the state of Colorado tax federal farm subsidies at 25 percent "in addition to any other tax."

Hillman is a wheat farmer near Burlington. According to the Environmental Working Group, which tracks these things, he was paid $256,924 in subsidies from 1995 through 2006, or an average of $21,410 a year. But he's a penny-ante subsidy collector compared to other Colorado farmers, ranking No. 2,768 in the 4th Congressional District alone.

The barrage caught the attention of Hillman and his allies. They sat down with the trial lawyers Tuesday afternoon but did not end up trading hostages in the middle of a border bridge.

"A dialog is continuing," said John Sadwith, executive director of the trial lawyers. "We still believe our initiatives are in the best interest of working families and consumers in Colorado."

Hillman downplayed the lawyers' initiatives. "Seems to me they were intended more for intimidation than they were as viable initiatives," he said.

Meanwhile, the trial lawyers will try to get the Colorado Supreme Court to do what the title board hasn't yet done: Find a violation of the single-subject rule in Hillman's initiative. No doubt Hillman will also claim single-subject violations in the lawyers' proposals if a truce isn't reached.

Local 7 President Ernest Duran said Tuesday there have been no negotiations with the right-to-work folks. He claims he can afford to put all five of his measures on the ballot. "My name is on every one and they can't bargain over our initiatives without contacting me."

The voters can only hope that in this three-way war pitting labor and the trial lawyers against the business community, everybody blinks before it's too late.


UPS welcomes Hoffa, Teamsters to RTW states

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

An overwhelming majority of more than 150 workers at UPS Freight (formerly Overnite Transportation) terminals in Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio and Oklahoma have signed authorization cards to become Teamsters, bringing the total number of drivers and dockworkers who have signed cards to 10,700 since January 16, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa announced.

The workers will be joining Local 483 in Boise, Idaho; Local 50 based in Belleville, Illinois which covers the Mt. Vernon terminal; Local 61 in Asheville, North Carolina which covers the Hickory terminal; Local 957 in Dayton, Ohio, and; Local 886 in Oklahoma City.

"Our organizing campaign gained members in two new states this week, Idaho and Oklahoma," said Teamsters Package Division Director Ken Hall. "We now have members in 39 states and we are nearing our goal of organizing 12,600 UPS Freight workers. This campaign has never lost momentum."

"The UPS Freight workers in Oklahoma City knew what other workers across the country were gaining by joining the Teamsters and they jumped aboard," said Randall Loewenkamp, President of Local 886. "We are a right-to-work state so this is tremendous."

"It's a great day for the workers in Boise and they will quickly see the advantages of being in a union," said Mark Briggs, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 483. "Idaho is also a right-to-work state and these protections really count more than ever here."

"It's a huge victory for us because these workers have waited so long to join the Teamsters," said Bill Bradley, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 50. "They will be gaining many benefits."

"UPS Freight workers in Dayton now are guaranteed a more secure future as Teamsters," said Varney Richmond, President of Local 957. "We are proud to represent them."

Earlier this month, more than 89 percent of UPS Freight workers who are already Teamster members ratified a new contract, which improves wages, benefits and working conditions.

A majority of UPS Freight workers in 39 states have submitted cards: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Victories have come in numerous large cities, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, Minneapolis, Nashville, Oakland, Orlando, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Jose, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.

Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.


A shot of adrenalin for the union movement

Editor: Would you tell us about the potential impact of the Employee Free Choice Act?

Salvatore: This is something of a misnomer: the proposed law that Congress almost passed this past term essentially does away with the secret ballot as a way for a union to be voted into a company. This is a potential seismic change in American labor law and labor relations, and if it - or something like it - passes next time around and is signed into law by a new administration, the shot of adrenalin for the union movement could be extraordinary.

As it stands now, in the private sector, the union movement has declined over the past 20 years to about seven percent of the workforce, down from a high of 30 percent.

Under the proposed legislation, a showing of 51 percent of the employees signing authorized cards will be enough for the union to be their bargaining representative and there are heightened, substantial penalties if there are violations in the way in which the employer deals with the employees' organizing efforts. For the first time, in addition, the proposed legislation imposes what it called interest arbitration on management and the union if they cannot agree to an initial contract. A government arbitrator essentially will impose the contract terms. This is common in the public sector - where employees do not have the right to strike - but it is very unusual in the private sector. If corporate America has forgotten about the labor movement, this is certainly a wakeup call.


Denying 'no-vote' unionism in Hawaii

It is amusing that defenders of Hawaii's card check bill list protection from being bullied as one of its benefits, since the purpose of this bill is to make a public worker’s personal decision to join a union or not open to public scrutiny and judgment. How would Rep. Sylvia Luke’s card check bill, or its national version, the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), make the choice safer or “freer” when both the employer and the union bosses are watching and wielding the power to intimidate the voters?

The right to a private ballot is a cornerstone of our democracy. For well over a century it has been the American standard at the ballot box, allowing voters to make tough and even controversial election choices without fear of reprisal or intimidation. This fundamental right is under assault in the United States Congress and in several states, including Hawaii.

Perhaps the most telling statistic comes from the union members themselves. Although labor unions claim they are pro-worker, a private poll shows that 91 percent of union members oppose the loss of a right to a private ballot union election. Apparently, this is not enough for the Hawaii legislature to vehemently reject this legislation and protect the workers of their states.

Rep. Luke cannot really want perspective union members and the overall Hawaii workforce to be coerced and intimidated into joining a union can she? In listening to organized labor and by sponsoring H.B. 2974, she is doing just that.

It is of grave importance that Hawaii, and all states reject any and every for of coercion that is masquerading as “free choice.” The only free choice comes when workers have the fundamental right, and indeed freedom, to have a private ballot vote when deciding on union membership.

Brian M Johnson is the Director of Policy at the Alliance for Worker Freedom, a special project of Americans for Tax Reform based in Washington, D.C.


Dems take marching orders from Big Labor

In a rare clash with the state's business establishment, Sen. Mark Pryor on Wednesday said the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce has "probably exaggerated" claims about the impact of a controversial labor union bill to the state economy. Pryor, D-Ark., supports a measure to allow workers to form unions without secret ballot elections. The state chamber has made opposition to the pending "card check" bill one of its top priorities. Workers could sign authorization cards to join unions, thus making it much easier to unionize, employers maintain.

Pryor said the state group is taking its marching orders from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with its vocal assault on the bill.

The chamber overstates concerns that the bill, if approved, would stunt job growth in the Arkansas, he said.

"I think they're probably exaggerated, and I think the get a lot of this from the national organization," Pryor said. "I think the people in Arkansas are very common-sense. They're very hard-working. They expect when they work in a place to be treated fairly. Arkansas is a very good place to have a business."

The chamber leaned on Arkansas lawmakers to oppose the bill during a presentation at the chamber's 49th annual congressional dinner on Monday.

The card check bill is one of three major legislative issues championed by the chamber, said Kenny Hall, executive vice president of the group. It puts the union-endorsed measure beside health care and education as key priorities.

"What we really fear is that every small business in Arkansas would wind up unionized, and I don't see how that does not have an impact on the state economy," Hall said.

Card check likely will not come up for a vote in Congress this year. The bill cleared the House on a party-line vote in March 2007, but died in the Senate.

Pryor supported the bill last year. Like last year, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., remains uncommitted.

"I continue to hear from constituents on both sides and want to give supporters and opponents of the legislation an opportunity to weigh in as I consider the best approach to the issue," Lincoln said in a statement.

Pryor was the target of an anti-card check advertising blitz a year ago, funded by a national coalition that lists the state chamber and the Arkansas Hospitality Association among its membership.

"I think the national people are trying to rev up a lot of their local chambers all over the country on this issue," Pryor said on Wednesday.

Employers say they fear labor organizers may intimidate workers into joining unions without secret ballot elections.

Card-check supporters maintain that the intimidation comes from employers, who they say coerce their employees into voting against union membership.

Rep. John Boozman, R-Rogers, stands with the chamber on the issue. Both he and Hall said it is unfair to owners of medium-sized and small businesses for unions to organize in that manner.

"All it would take is six out of 10 employees to sign a card. That's a low bar for union organizers to cross," Hall said.

Pryor has said the bill is a first step toward modernizing American labor law.


Lawsuit over huge union political warchest

On Tuesday, the national leadership of the Service Employees International Union filed a lawsuit against one of its largest California affiliates, United Healthcare Workers-West, for diverting members' dues to an outside fund under their control, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports (Goldmacher [1], Sacramento Bee, "Capitol Alert," 4/29). Sal Rosselli, president of UHW-W, said the fund was created in the midst of the California health care reform debate in 2007 in anticipation of a November 2008 ballot measure that would have established a funding mechanism for the plan. He said, "We wanted to be able to raise the huge dollars necessary."

SEIU President Andy Stern began raising questions about the fund last month, prompting UHW-W to pass a resolution to "initiate the process of winding down" the fund, called the United Healthcare Workers and Patients Education Fund. UHW-W's action came on April 24 (Goldmacher [2], Sacramento Bee, "Capitol Alert," 4/29).

Lawsuit Details

The lawsuit states that the fund was meant "to establish a well-financed entity with access to a ready source of funds beyond the reach of SEIU's auditing, oversight and trustee powers."

In addition, SEIU spokesperson Andrew McDonald said UHW-W "intentionally deceived their own members and the federal government about how the money would be used" (Goldmacher [1], Sacramento Bee, "Capitol Alert," 4/29).

Rosselli dismissed the suit as "frivolous" (Goldmacher [2], Sacramento Bee, "Capitol Alert," 4/29).


Nike beds controversial union to oust Mayor

The two candidates for mayor have raised more than $111,000 combined, the most ever for a mayoral or council race in Beaverton. Mayor Rob Drake has collected $56,440, according to documents filed with the Oregon Secretary of State's Elections Division. Drake has received his largest contributions from car dealers, developers and land owners. Challenger Dennis Doyle, a city councilor, has received $54,803. His largest contributions are from the two unions representing city workers and Nike.

Doyle's source of money prompted Drake to remark, "It looks to me like Denny would be beholden to the unions."

Doyle said he has made no promises to the unions other than more open lines of communication. He said Drake's comment was wrong.

"I'm disappointed that that's his belief, and it's certainly not the case," Doyle said.

The six-figure fundraising is not high compared to local legislative races, but it is a lot for a city the size of Beaverton, said Jim Moore, a political science professor at Pacific University. "That's remarkable," he said.

Doyle has spent most of his campaign money, with a balance of nearly $2,500. He has mailed three fliers to city residents. Drake, who said he has not sent out his first mailing yet, still has a balance of $25,830.

That fits the traditional model for challengers, who want to get their names in front of the voters early, Moore said.

Drake's largest single contribution of $10,000 comes from Lanphere Enterprises Inc., which owns Beaverton Honda and several other auto dealerships.

Developer Polygon Northwest and its officers have given Drake $6,893. That includes $1,643 of services for a fundraising party. The company is developing two large residential sites in Beaverton -- Timberland and Progress Ridge.

Howard Dietrich's company, Park Plaza Offices, which owns the former Greenwood Inn site, gave Drake $5,000.

Drake has received $5,000 from Washington County Investments Ltd., which is controlled by George R. "Randy" Francis, former owner of Damerow Beaverton Ford.

Others who have contributed $1,000 or more to Drake's campaign include Diane Williams, a physician; Barry Cain, president of Gramor Development; Metropolitan Land Group of Beaverton; the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors Political Action Committee; Fuiten West Limited Partnership, which runs Metro West Ambulance; and public relations firm VTM Corp. of Beaverton.

Doyle's largest contribution of $7,250 in cash and services has come from the Citizen Action for Political Education, which is largely funded by the Service Employees International Union Local 503. The union has donated an additional $1,717 to Doyle.

Lawrence Arnbrister, president of the Beaverton service employees union, said he was offended by Drake's suggestion that his union was owed something for its contribution to Doyle. Arnbrister said Drake's suggestion could be turned around to ask whether the mayor owes something to the car dealers and developers.

"Is he beholden to them?" Arnbrister said. "No, I don't think so."

The Beaverton Police Association, the union representing the city's police officers, gave Doyle $7,000. Nike has contributed $5,750 in polling services. Doyle has also received $5,000 from Pat Reser of Reser's Fine Foods. Two companies controlled by Steve Biggi, a downtown property owner, have given Doyle a combined $2,000.

Others who have contributed $1,000 to Doyle include Porter Ventures Inc. of Beaverton; Hillsboro Investment Properties of Bethany; downtown property owner Ralph Holland; and Ronald F. Montplaisir, a property manager.

Neither candidate has yet reached the individual fundraising mark set two years ago by Bob Burke, who ran against council incumbent Betty Bode. In that race, Burke raised $64,900. Nike and Chairman Phil Knight contributed nearly $62,000 of that total.


Teamsters prefer pay cuts to dues hit

Reed Jetter came to a state employment office yesterday to apply for his current job at less than half the pay. He's one of 450 members of Teamsters union Local 89 who are the latest casualties of cost-cutting by Ford Motor Co. Ford switched rail companies that ship new vehicles from the Louisville Assembly and Kentucky Truck plants, meaning the Teamsters and their $20-$22 hourly pay scale will be gone by month's end.

Replacing RCS Transportation, based in Shelbyville, will be a Michigan firm that uses union labor, but pays $10 to $12 per hour for the same work loading F-Series Super Duty trucks and Explorer sport utility vehicles onto railcars.

"I feel rage inside," Jetter, 48, of Okolona, said as he stared at the job description informing him that he could interview next week with Auto Port Ltd., the new company Ford signed on. "I can't live on $400 a week. I can't even afford to drive to Kentucky Truck for that."

Rail contractors have come and gone before at Ford. But Teamsters have always stayed to work for the new company, Local 89 President Fred Zuckerman said yesterday. Teamsters have been loading Ford vehicles since the opening of Louisville Assembly in 1956 and Kentucky Truck in 1969, he added.

The Teamsters' contract expires June 1.

"That is not loyalty," Teamster Tony Dorsey, 55, said yesterday. Ford recently won $60 million in state tax incentives to upgrade production tooling at the truck plant and keep jobs here, Dorsey noted.

"It is all about the 'ching ching,' " Jetter said.

Shaving costs "is a routine part of doing business," Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said yesterday in an interview from the company's Dearborn, Mich., headquarters. Asked whether Ford had broken faith with the Teamsters and how much had been saved by the switch, Evans declined comment.

Auto Port employs members of the Machinists union, Evans said.

Ken Koch, president of Machinists Local 681 in Louisville, declined comment yesterday.

"I understand cost cutting," Teamster driver James Frensley, 50, of Taylorsville, said as he stood outside the employment office downtown contemplating paperwork informing him of state tuition assistance.

Auto Port, based in Flat Rock, Mich., is a subsidiary of CN Worldwide, which operates the Canadian National Railway.

Denise Weeks, human-relations manager at Auto Port, and Bryan Tucker, a CN spokesman at the company's Montreal headquarters, could not be reached for comment.

RCS Transportation served notice on Monday that it will no longer perform railyard work for Ford. RCS Transportation President Bruce Nethery could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Local 89, which has 17,000 members, will fight to keep the railyard jobs in Teamster hands, lobbying government officials who authorized recent state incentives for Ford and rallying other unions to stand behind them, including the United Auto Workers, Zuckerman said yesterday.

"That's not economic development when you're replacing good jobs with bad jobs," he said. "They are just destroying the jobs, and the Machinists are helping them."


Barack downplays unionism in N. Carolina

As he campaigns in advance of Tuesday's presidential primaries in North Carolina and Indiana, Barack Obama is offering a more programmatic and patriotic message to voters than he did in Pennsylvania. But he is beset by the same political problems as before - including opposition from top elected Democrats and what he yesterday called the "perpetual distraction" of his former pastor.

And while Obama remains in a strong position to win his party's presidential nomination, the wind seems to be in his face, as it has been for several weeks.

Most polls show Hillary Rodham Clinton within a few points of him nationally, narrowly ahead in Indiana, and edging closer in North Carolina, where he leads.

Obama's revised stump speech is more flag-waving than the Pennsylvania version, with the candidate, whose level of patriotism is much discussed on the Internet, speaking more forcefully about what the nation means to him.

"You want to know who am I? You want to know what's in me?" he asked 2,500 cheering supporters in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Tuesday. "It's a love for this country that made my life possible. It is a belief in the American dream."

In addition, the Illinois senator now talks less about reforming Washington for the sake of reform and more about the progress on health insurance, energy prices, and middle-class tax relief that he thinks his approach would make possible.

Obama addressed those issues yesterday in a conversation with blue-collar families in Indianapolis.

"We've got to change our politics so we can deliver concrete benefits," Obama said a few days ago in North Carolina.

Arrayed against him, though, are a familiar set of obstacles, both political and personal.

The controversy over the incendiary remarks of Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., has refused to go away, although perhaps it will start to fade in the wake of the candidate's strongly worded comments on the subject in North Carolina on Tuesday.

Yesterday, Obama told his listeners in Indianapolis that he wanted "to make sure that this doesn't continue to be a perpetual distraction. . . . We want to get back to talking about you, your struggles, your dreams."

His main political problem in Indiana and North Carolina, as it was in Ohio and Pennsylvania, is that the leading Democrat in each state has endorsed his opponent.

Sen. Evan Bayh, a political institution in Indiana, has taken charge of Clinton's campaign in that state, much as Gov. Rendell did in helping her win the Pennsylvania primary and as Gov. Ted Strickland did in Ohio.

In North Carolina, Clinton now has the backing of Gov. Mike Easley.

While Easley is considered more of a political loner than Rendell or Strickland - and he waited until a week before the voting to support her - he is popular among the small-town, blue-collar voters who have been a vital part of Clinton's winning coalition in several primary states.

Also unchanged is the financial advantage Obama has over Clinton in both states, although it wasn't enough to produce a win in Pennsylvania.

The most striking part of the new Obama speech is the ending, which appears designed to deal with any questions about his alleged "elitism" as well as his feelings about the country.

Instead of closing with mantras of hope and change, as he has for months, Obama now returns to his life story, which long has been essential to his political appeal.

He talks about having been raised by a single mother, by a grandmother from small-town Kansas, and a grandfather who fought in Europe in World War II.

He focuses on the role that federal assistance programs - as well as the American notions of opportunity, hard work, and merit-based success - have played in the lives of his family, his wife and himself.

While he may not always wear an American-flag pin on his lapel, "I always have the flag in my heart and in my head," Obama told a rally in Wilmington, N.C., this week.

Polls show him leading Clinton in North Carolina by 5 to 10 points and running slightly behind her in Indiana. Those polls were taken before his most recent comments about Wright.

Wins in both states would take him a huge step closer to wrapping up the Democratic nomination. Any other outcome would likely keep the battle going at least through the end of the primaries June 3.


Union-happy Gov. backfills Dems coffers

Thanks to Gov. Bill Ritter's gold-plated invitation, union leaders are on the verge of taking a major role in state government. Taxpayers and dissenting workers should pay attention. Under the terms of Ritter's November 2 executive order, 30 percent of the affected workers in an occupational group have to express formal interest in a union "partnership" election. The Colorado WINS union coalition that formed four days after the order has collected enough signatures to hold five separate elections that could make it the "exclusive representative" of more than 21,000 state employees.

On March 19, the Association of Colorado State Patrol Professionals (ACSPP) won the first union "partnership" election with roughly three-fourths of ballots cast, even though less than a true majority of state troopers actually voted for it.

The upcoming Colorado WINS elections could yield similar results.

Ritter has said he wants to introduce "employee partnerships" to state government, but he could have done so in his role as manager. Instead, his order empowers union leaders to act as "exclusive representatives" of state workers.

Make no mistake, exclusive representation means "collective bargaining."

Ritter has said the order is "not collective bargaining," but collective bargaining is commonly defined as "negotiation between organized workers and their employer or employers to determine wages, hours, rules, and working conditions." The executive order leaves all these topics on the table.

The euphemism "partnerships" represents more of an optimistic tone than any sort of a real distinction from "collective bargaining." The Service Employees International Union (SEIU)-part of Colorado WINS-indicates the only difference is that partnerships have a "focus on outcomes" rather than on "worker rights."

That partnership agreements might neglect "worker rights" is truer than union leaders care to admit. Ritter has said publicly that union leaders could not collect fees from state employees who refuse to join. In failing to forbid such agency fees, though, the executive order makes the topic a matter of private negotiation rather than public policy. And not even a majority of affected workers need to vote for representation for that to happen.

Union leaders would benefit financially by compelling payments from workers. Their appeals to state employees have tapped into a different kind of financial self-interest: overcoming the widespread discontent with rising health insurance costs. The question, though, is not whether state workers can get a perfect benefits package but how their benefits compare in the marketplace.

Union leaders and others have touted bleak statistics about Colorado state employee health insurance benefits. But the statistics measure employer contributions based on a HMO plan rather than the PPO that is most popular among the state workforce. Colorado state workers pay a smaller share of PPO costs than does the average worker in the western United States.

Yet even deducting contributions for the less generous HMO plan, Colorado state employees still earn more than six of seven neighboring states" employees. The average state employee also earns 3.8 percent more than the average Colorado private-sector worker.

State law provides a careful process to ensure state employees are compensated at fair market value, which an honest look at the data shows to have been successful. That there may be exceptional cases that could benefit fairly from a compensation adjustment does not call for a wholesale policy change.

None of this takes into account the generous Public Employee Retirement Association benefits for state employees, which Ritter's order says is off-limits. As a result, negotiations are likely to forge a one-way street to higher wages and greater health care payments, while costly, unsustainable retirement pensions are off the negotiating table.

There is good reason to anticipate such an expensive result. Academic research consistently shows that public sector unionization increases personnel costs.

Pressure from union leaders to fill the state with more union jobs and higher union wages will only lead Colorado closer to binding arbitration, which the order does not include. Only the governor's personal promise to protect the budget stands between union demands and taxpayers. Once union leaders publicize unmet demands and threaten conflict, binding arbitration may be presented as a reasonable legislative solution.

Yet binding arbitration is a costly practice to governments. In the first four years since binding arbitration was implemented, Washington State reportedly has increased personnel costs by more than $3 billion.

Claims that union-run "employee partnerships" will bolster government efficiency are grounded in wishful thinking, not research. The partnership approach has been found to bring some improvements to workplaces embroiled in conflict-oriented union bargaining. But these results are not transferable to Colorado state government, where collective bargaining did not exist before the order was issued.

Proponents have pointed to a collaborative partnership in the Department of Transportation as justification for Ritter's order. Yet in noting that a partnership existed without collective bargaining, they have argued against any need for the change.

True partnerships do not require giving exclusive representative authority to union leaders.

- Ben DeGrow is education policy analyst for the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Golden.


SEIU uses organizers as political ploy

The six employees working under McHenry County (IL) Coroner Marlene Lantz have taken steps to unionize as their boss prepares to take on a Democratic challenger in November’s general election. Coroner’s office employees have filed a petition with the Illinois Labor Relations Board seeking to be represented by the Service Employees International Union, county officials confirmed Tuesday.

The deputy coroners working under Lantz were mum when asked this week on their motives for organizing, saying it was too early to comment.

“At this point, it is all just very new to us,” said Paula Gallas, a McHenry County deputy coroner. “We still need to elect a representative to make our spokesperson so we could go about this the right way.”

Lantz was out of the office early this week and unavailable for comment. The coroner and her deputies examine all unnatural deaths in the county and oversee their autopsies.

County officials received notification of the employees’ intent to organize from the state’s labor relations board Friday. By Tuesday, a response to the notice had been sent back to the board, which verified the names, titles and signatures of the petitioning staff members, McHenry County Human Resources Director Bob Ivetic said.

“It’s really in the preliminary stages,” Ivetic said. “It’s their right to file that petition.”

County sheriff’s, facilities maintenance and highway workers already are represented by unions, Ivetic said.

Lantz will face Democratic challenger David Bachmann in November.

In February, Bachmann received about 1,000 more votes than Lantz in their respective primary races. Both were uncontested.

Of the more than 65,000 McHenry County ballots cast in the primary, 52 percent were Democratic, an anomaly for the traditionally Republican stronghold.


SEIU takes on terror

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