DINO: Democratic In Name Only

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Big Labor DINOs give democracy a bad name

There will be dark days ahead for American business and the economy if Barack Obama becomes the president. Especially if his coattails brings an avalanche of Democrats into Congress. All because the first order of business for the next Congress will be passage of the “card check” ideas that unions have been pushing for since 2003. Once Obama and his cadre of anti-business, anti-democracy associates get in place, the card check idea will be good as gold. And the safety of prospective union members everywhere will be endangered.

Deceivingly called the “Employee Free Choice Act,” it is an effort by unions to allow them to use intimidation to force new union voters to agree to union organization and representation. David Weigel of Reason Magazine has a short explanation in the current issue.
What’s the Employee Free Choice Act? If you aren’t a lobbyist in Washington, a union worker, or an employer nervously trying to prevent your staff from organizing, you might not have followed the twisty history of the latest attempt to increase private-sector unionization. “Card check,” as it is usually known, would allow employees at a company to bypass secret-ballot elections and declare their intent to unionize by simply signing cards.
In other words, the secret vote will be taken away from prospective union members. This means, if an employee votes against agreeing to unionize, his no vote will be instantly obvious to everyone with whom he works. This also means that union thugs will be able to know exactly who stands against them. This opens the employee up to harassment by union thugs who want to push through unions because they will know the identity of every single worker that voted against them.

Now, secret balloting, the security of a vote known only to the voter, is the single most important aspect of a free, democratic electoral system. And here we have unions proving that they don’t care a whit about democracy and want to be able to rely solely on coercion and thuggery to force their way into businesses that might very well be filled with workers who don’t want to be unionized.

But, with the card check system in place, workers could easily find themselves voting for a union they don’t want because of the pressure of their vote being openly known by everyone.

So, what we have here is a simple fact: unions hate democracy.

And if Obama becomes president, we will see LESS democracy in this country.


Labor's support falls to record low

Support for Britain's Labour Party has fallen to a record low, according to an opinion poll commissioned by The Sun newspaper. The YouGov survey puts support for the Conservatives at 49%, with Labour languishing at just 23%. The results are a further blow to Prime Minister Gordon Brown following Labour's poor showing at recent local elections in England and Wales.

The Sun says Labour's score is the worst since poll records began in the 1930s.


Teamster insider taps special-interests for Barack

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has promised he would not accept campaign donations from lobbyists, but apparently former lobbyists don’t fall into his self-imposed ban. Antill E. Trotter, who lobbied Congress from 2000-2004, is holding an “exclusive” fundraiser for him this evening, just blocks away from his Senate office at Union Station in Washington D.C.

According to Obama’s campaign website, the minimum donation to attend is $1,000 and donations are encouraged up to $10,000. Those who raised at least $10,000 are given access to a “special pre-reception” with Obama.

Senate lobbying records show Trotter was a registered federal lobbyist for Sher and Blackwell, LLP. Trotter specialized in telecommunications, transportation and environmental issues from 2000-2004. Some of Trotter's clients included AT&T, The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, NCS Healthcare and the World Shipping Council.

Trotter's lobbying record can be accessed here by searching for Antill Trotter under “lobbyist name.”

Although Obama has tried to distance himself from lobbyists as a presidential candidate, news reports have surfaced showing he’s worked closely with lobbyists as both a U.S. senator and an Illinois state senator.

ABC News found Obama introduced nine separate bills to make certain chemicals tax-exempt at the request of some corporate lobbyists working for an Australian corporation, Nufarm, worth $12 billion in tax breaks for the company.

Insurance lobbyist Phil Lackman told the Boston Globe he worked with Obama on health care legislation in Illinois. "Barack is a very reasonable person who clearly recognized the various roles involved in the healthcare system," said Lackman.

Lackman worked with Obama to make the “Health Care Justice Act” more acceptable to insurance companies.

- Amanda Carpenter is National Political Reporter for Townhall.com.


Hoffa reshapes Labor Dept. priorities

Obama Signals Less Union Oversight

The Labor Department’s seven-year effort to improve financial reporting and disclosure by unions could come to a screeching halt once President Bush leaves office. Sen. Barack Obama’s support for ending federal oversight of the Teamsters is the clearest indication yet of how a Democratic administration would treat labor unions.

Both Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton wooed the Teamsters in hopes of securing its coveted endorsement. But only Obama went so far as to say that government oversight had “run its course.” The union endorsed Obama in February.

Since then, Obama’s ties to Teamsters President James P. Hoffa have grown stronger. Hoffa has traveled with Obama on the campaign trail and acted as a surrogate on trade issues for the candidate.

History of Corruption

The Independent Brotherhood of Teamsters has a history of corruption problems dating back to 1959, when the Landrum-Griffith Act created many of the financial reporting and disclosure requirements in law today. Within years of the act’s passage, Hoffa’s father was sparring with then-U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy over union corruption.

But it wasn’t until 1992 that the Department of Justice took the unprecedented step of creating a three-member independent review board to help the Teamsters root out its mob influence. When the younger Hoffa became president in 1999, he made it a priority to end the government’s oversight.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported Obama’s promise to the Teamsters, notes that the review board’s caseload has declined over the years. Still, many problems remain with local Teamsters outfits, according to the Labor Department’s union enforcement agency.

In the last seven years, the Office of Labor-Management Standards has secured more than 30 convictions of Teamsters officials for crimes ranging from embezzlement and wire fraud to theft and falsifying union records.

Two former officers of Teamsters Local 743 in Illinois were convicted in March as part of a 14-count criminal complaint alleging conspiracy, mail fraud, theft and embezzlement. Another conviction in April involved a former bookkeeper charged with embezzling $140,000 from Houston’s Teamsters Local 19.

Increased Enforcement

These types of cases aren’t limited to the Teamsters. The Labor Department’s enforcement agency has secured 900 indictments and successfully prosecuted more than 850 individuals since 2001. During that time the office has a recouped more than $103 million for American workers.

This wasn’t always the case. The number of employees working for the Office of Labor-Management Standards fell from 392 in 1992 to just 260 in 2002 after years of cuts by the Clinton administration. Fewer employees meant fewer audits -- forcing the office to rely more heavily on unions to police themselves.

Since taking office, Bush has restored many of the positions cut under Clinton to boost auditing and enforcement. As of 2006, there were 384 employees working for the office.

The lean Clinton years could return, however. While other offices at Labor last year reaped budget increases from the Democratic-controlled Congress, the enforcement office saw its budget cut by $3 million.

And that wasn’t all. Congressional leaders and their Big Labor allies also tried to water down financial reporting requirements. A dispute arose last year over the revised LM-30 form that requires union bosses to “disclose possible conflicts between personal interests and the officer’s or employee’s duty to the union and its members.”

The Labor Department revised the rule to give the union rank-and-file more information about how their dues were spent. But union leaders such as John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO denounced the new reporting requirements as a “debilitating burden.”

With promises from Obama to ease union oversight, and endorsements from congressional Democrats for the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800), better known as the card check bill, Big Labor is salivating at the prospect of a return to “one-party government” in Washington next year.

- Robert B. Bluey


Unions vow to fight on past election

An employee vote Wednesday night couldn't resolve a tussle between unions battling to represent 1,100 local nurses, and more feuding could follow as labor groups argue over the election's results. The California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee fell just three votes short of the tally it needed to win representation of nurses working inside Southern Nevada's three St. Rose Dominican hospitals. The CNA required 403 votes to take over, but the group earned 400 votes in the secret balloting. In addition, 377 nurses voted to stick with their current group, the Service Employees International Union. Another 26 nurses opted for no union, and about 300 didn't vote at all.

Because the CNA "actually did very well" for an upstart group, and because the SEIU dominates representation of local nurses, neither side will quickly surrender the fight for St. Rose Dominican's nurses, said Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"(The vote) was quite a powerful statement," Lichtenstein said. "The SEIU has 1.9 million members around the country, and (union President) Andy Stern is a national figure. The CNA is this little union with 70,000 members. They got 400 votes in a hospital that the SEIU has represented for a while."

The CNA is already contesting four votes from Wednesday's election, and it's asking the SEIU to honor the simple majority vote it won and step aside as the nurses' union at St. Rose Dominican. The SEIU wants the National Labor Relations Board to seek a runoff election in the next few weeks.

The close vote makes it difficult to predict who will prevail.

"It's like Florida in 2000," Lichtenstein said. "It all becomes kind of random whether they win or not."

SEIU officials would use the time before a new vote to ramp up campaign initiatives.

"We're pretty confident about the results of a runoff," said Lynda Tran, an SEIU spokeswoman. "It'll give us time to expose more of the truth about what the CNA has been promising."

The CNA, for its part, will attempt to tap further into discontent among some area nurses as it looks to add to the 10,500 nurses it already represents regionally through Catholic Healthcare West, the parent company of St. Rose Dominican.

Melanie Sisson, a registered nurse at St. Rose Dominican's Siena campus and a 14-year SEIU organizer, said she voted for the CNA Wednesday because the SEIU hasn't been able to reduce nurse-to-patient ratios in Nevada. The CNA managed to fend off efforts in 2005 by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to roll back nurse-to-patient ratios in the Golden State, Sisson said.

Sisson also wanted representation through a nurse-run union. She's frustrated that the SEIU hasn't filed grievances inside local hospitals when staffing ratios go unenforced. Retirement packages for CNA-represented nurses at other hospitals are richer, she added. But the last straw for Sisson came when the SEIU asked members to sign loyalty agreements before they could participate in upcoming bargaining sessions.

Sisson said the CNA fell short of the necessary vote count because the SEIU deployed scare tactics, telling foreign nurses, for example, that years worked overseas wouldn't count any longer toward overall experience.

Tran said she hadn't heard of such tactics locally. Instead, she said, SEIU supporters reported threatening phone calls, as well as meeting disruptions from nonmembers who donned SEIU gear to make the group look bad.

The CNA, which began organizing locally in late 2007 after some nurses asked them to enter the market, hasn't always delivered on its vows, Tran added. Plus, it's divided local nurses just as bargaining on new labor agreements has started -- the worst time for nurses to face a new organizing drive, she said. Rather than pursuing new members who already belong to unions, Tran said, the CNA and other labor groups should focus on bringing in nurses who remain unrepresented.

So how tense could the battle between the unions grow?

There's potential for an especially tough fight, Lichtenstein said.

That's because each group belongs to different umbrella organizations -- the SEIU to Change to Win, and the CNA to the AFL-CIO. So there's no joint mechanism from a higher level to curb the bickering and force compromises.

Add to that the tension Sisson said she's noticed between CNA-supporting nurses and other SEIU bargaining units at St. Rose, such as food-service workers and medical technicians, and the discord isn't likely to abate soon.

Such labor strife is typically bad for workers, Lichtenstein said, because union divisions can give company executives more room to maneuver. In this case, though, workers and their patients could actually benefit, he said. If both unions look at where they went wrong, and how they can appease nurses with lower staffing ratios and improved contracts, then workers and consumers could both come out ahead.

In the meantime, locals needn't worry that the organizing tiff will wend its way toward patients as inattentive care, Lichtenstein said.

"Patients don't feel the infighting," Lichtenstein said. "About 99.99 percent of the time, nurses are just doing their jobs, and at the end of the shift, they'll pick up a leaflet. It's not as if nurses are running around handing out leaflets and forgetting about injections."


Ending federal oversight of Teamsters

Is Barack a Team(ster) Player?

Almost every week, a new damaging story emerges about Barack Obama. Lucky for this wounded "messiah" that his disciples in the mainstream media neglect, until the last possible minute, their duty to investigate these reports. This week, there's a brand-new one, which has surfaced too late to affect the critically important Indiana and North Carolina primaries, but demands scrutiny nonetheless.

The Wall Street Journal — admittedly a mainstream media outlet, save the editorial page — has started the ball rolling on this one with a May 5 article examining the possible reasons behind the International Brotherhood of Teamsters' endorsement of Obama. We'll have to see whether Barack's disciples follow up.

The public line — both of Obama and the Teamsters — is that Obama secured the union's support by strongly condemning NAFTA, which the Teamsters believe results in the exportation of jobs. Hillary Clinton has been critical of NAFTA, as well, and even says she opposed it from the beginning. But her assertion is almost as incredible as the Bosnian sniper-fire tale because she and her two-for-one co-president were instrumental in bringing the trade agreement to fruition.

So NAFTA might be a factor, though Obama doesn't completely toe the line on protectionism, favoring certain smaller-scale agreements the Teamsters oppose. He also opposes expanded oil drilling in Alaska against the preferences of the union and favors comprehensive immigration reform over strenuous Teamsters objection. So what does Barack have over Hillary, besides her lateness to the party in opposing NAFTA?

The Journal tells us on page A1, "Sen. Barack Obama won the endorsement of the Teamsters earlier this year after privately telling the union he supported ending the strict federal oversight imposed to root out corruption, according to officials from the union and the Obama campaign."

Whoa! What's this all about?

Well, 20 years ago, the Justice Department filed a federal civil racketeering complaint against the Teamsters, alleging the union had "made a devil's pact" with the Mafia. A year later, the union settled with the government, agreeing to a consent decree in exchange for a dismissal of the lawsuit.

The WSJ reports the decree established a three-member independent review board to investigate and monitor possible corruption within the union and "required the direct election of the union president and other officers by rank and file members, in an election overseen by a court-appointed officer." Prior to the decree, delegates elected the union president.

Teamsters President James P.
Hoffa has pushed for relaxation or elimination of federal involvement since he took office in 1999, arguing that oversight is very costly and that corruption has diminished dramatically. He reportedly lobbied Obama for a year to support his position.

While officials of the oversight board agree that corruption has been reduced, they insist that if the board were eliminated, it would surely re-emerge. The union, they say, is not equipped or inclined to police itself.

Interestingly, neither the Teamsters nor Obama denies that Obama has expressed the view that the consent decree has "run its course." They just deny there was any quid pro quo between Obama's position and the Teamsters' endorsement. After all, Obama came around to his position opposing federal oversight in July or August 2007, and the union didn't endorse him until February 2008. Why the delay?

Well, the WSJ reports that fellow Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards also agreed with the union on this issue, and "when Mr. Edwards dropped out of the race in January, the union endorsed Sen. Obama in February."

The timing is undeniably curious and perhaps suspicious. But what is more troubling to me than that or even Obama's substantive position on the issue is that he has voiced a position on it at all.

The issues surrounding the consent decree are a judicial matter, outside the purview of the executive branch. It's up to a federal judge to decide whether and when the consent decree should be relaxed or withdrawn.

But sadly, Obama understands, like Bill Clinton intimately understood, that judicial affairs can be affected by the political branches, such as through sympathetic appointments to the Justice Department and the courts. So it is no small matter that a presidential candidate would consider intervening, albeit indirectly, in a judicial question, especially one involving potential corruption.

Who can say at this point whether Obama has nefarious intentions concerning this? But it is difficult to understand what benign motives would lead him to take a position against the advice of the sitting review board that corruption and elections require continued supervision, especially in light of the union's endorsement. We'll see if the "watchdog" MSM pursue this story.

- David Limbaugh is a writer, author and attorney. His book "Bankrupt: The Intellectual and Moral Bankruptcy of Today's Democratic Party" was released recently in paperback.


California union defeats SEIU in Las Vegas

Vote by Nurses at 3 Vegas-Area Hospitals Disputed by Unions

A close vote by nurses at three Southern Nevada hospitals has union officials disputing the outcome of a labor representation ballot. Administrators with the current bargaining unit, the Service Employees International Union, called the results of the Tuesday and Wednesday voting inconclusive. Officials with the upstart California Nurses Association say more nurses voted against the SEIU than for it.

Neither side won the 50 percent plus one vote needed to claim representation of some 1,100 nurses at three St. Rose Dominican Hospital campuses in Henderson and Las Vegas.

The tally was 400 votes for the CNA, 377 for the SEIU and 26 votes for no union.

Officials say the National Labor Relations Board will be asked to review six challenged ballots and probably set a date for a runoff election.


Union-only thuggery for the children

Youth, labor programs considered

Some 300 people from Springfield (MA) churches, unions and community groups last night urged the city to take steps toward improving youth activities, parental involvement in schools and better jobs. In a community rally sponsored by the Pioneer Valley Project at the Holy Family Church on Eastern Avenue, speakers urged the city to do the following:

- Fund a program allowing teachers to visit parents in their homes;

- Support a project labor agreement for two school construction projects. Such an agreement would limit contractors to hiring local people to do the work;

- Locate three neighborhood youth centers in the North End, Indian Orchard and East Springfield.

All three endeavors combined would reduce youth violence and the dropout rate, create working-class jobs in the city, and help restore a sense of community in a city fractured by poverty, violence and despair, officials said.

"We're talking about common good for the commonwealth," said Springfield Education Association President Timothy P. Collins.

Looking out over the diverse crowd, Emma Woods Eady, president of the Pioneer Valley Project, a faith-based group, said, "This is the Springfield I remember."

Woods Eady told the group she knows firsthand about the violence in the city. She said her son was wounded recently by two teens who broke into his house and shot him. Referring to the two assailants as "individuals who have apparently lost their way," Woods Eady then asked, "What does it say about our city?"

The youth centers were proposed for the Brightwood section of the North End, Indian Orchard and Mallory Village in East Springfield.

Supporters said the centers would provide wholesome activities, educational and job-finding assistance to teens.

Darryl E. Moss, aide to Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, said Sarno supports the centers, "but I'd be lying if I said we had the money."

The city is willing to offer any technical assistance it can with the application of any grant funding for the centers, he said.

The teacher-visit program was urged as a way to increase parental involvement in their children's schooling. The cost of the program would be about $100,000 per year.

Supporter Charles Contant said the program has been successful in other cities, and in a limited trial basis in Springfield.

By teachers and principals meeting parents in their own homes, it helps parents become more involved in their children's education, he said.


Collective-bargaining costs kids

Two Seattle high schools are among seven statewide that will lose a chance to add and strengthen Advanced Placement courses in math and science because a $13.2 million grant that Washington state won last year has been scrapped. The National Math & Science Initiative (NMSI), based in Dallas, announced that it will end Washington's grant because NMSI was unable to reach agreement with Washington's schools on the terms of the contract.

NMSI declined to give any specifics, but state Rep. Bill Fromhold, who resigned his legislative post as of next year so he could help administer Washington's grant, said it had to do with how teachers would be paid for the time they spent in training, and how they would receive incentives for how well students scored on AP exams.

NMSI wanted to pay teachers directly, he said, while Washington's collective bargaining laws require that teacher pay be negotiated between teachers unions and school districts.

"We worked hard to try to find middle ground," Fromhold said. But at the end of the day "we got caught in the middle of the grant requirements and the collective bargaining laws in the state of Washington that have to be followed."

He didn't want to lay blame on either side, he added.

Washington was one of seven states to receive the six-year grants.

In Washington, NMSI said the grant would have provided teacher training and coaching, tutoring for students, materials and equipment, and incentives for teachers and students.

NMSI said that about 22 percent of the $13.2 million would have been spent on merit pay for teachers based on their participation and performance in the program.

Franklin High was one of the two Seattle schools signed up to be part of the grant. West Seattle could have been the other, although it recently voted against accepting it, in part because of concerns about teachers receiving merit pay for student test scores, said district spokesman David Tucker. Another Seattle school would have likely been added, however, if the grant had gone forward.

The other five high schools included two in the Evergreen School District in Vancouver, and three in the Spokane area.

Each school would have received roughly $114,000 this year. More schools would have been added in subsequent years.

In a prepared statement, Tom Luce, NMSI's CEO, said that NMSI understands some states and school districts "may have policies that do not accommodate this grant model and we respect those local preferences — this is a voluntary program."

NMSI is a nonprofit organization, created in 2007 to expand successful math and science programs.


SEIU organizers protest for card-check

Dozens picket Aramark

Aramark employees in Houston put down their mops, brooms and spoons Thursday to protest what they describe as low wages, unaffordable heath insurance and off-the-clock work assignments. About 60 housekeepers, food preparation workers and others who work at Aramark-managed venues marched in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center as part of a nationwide effort by the Service Employees International Union to organize the company's workers.

SEIU is seeking a nationwide card check neutrality agreement, which typically allows a union to organize workers at specific sites without company input and without a secret ballot election. But negotiations have been "going horribly," said Dan Schlademan, property services director for SEIU in Chicago who was on hand in Houston for the protest.

Such agreements make it easier for unions to win representation while companies can avoid the fallout from a nasty corporate campaign.

Aramark and SEIU had a previous deal, but Schlademan said it expired in August.

SEIU spokesman Kevin O'Donnell blamed Aramark's private equity buyout last year, which caused it take on debt. As a result, he said, the company is balancing its books "on the backs of workers."

Aramark spokeswoman Kristine Grow said the debt level isn't unusual and isn't causing the company undue stress.

Elena Chavez works in the pantry at the George R. Brown and said she wants health insurance and more respect on the job.

Chavez, who was dressed in her white chef jacket and black chef trousers, said she and her co-workers can't afford to buy Aramark's health insurance.

Conditions are rough too, said Chavez, who has worked for Aramark for seven years. She said she starts working at 5 a.m. but often doesn't get a lunch break until after 2 p.m.

Grow said Aramark has policies on breaks and encourages employees to bring complaints to their managers, human resources department or to the company's toll-free hotline.

Employees who work at least 20 hours a week can buy health insurance, she said. Some of the options cost as little as $11 a week.

Housekeepers Navarita Sparks and Edward Summons said they're forced to work off the clock as Aramark employees at Reliant Park.

Sparks, who earns $6.50 an hour, said he typically works 52 hours a week but is only paid for 40. He said he's complained to his bosses but was told he could leave "if you don't like it."

Summons, who also earns $6.50 hourly, said he typically works 40 hours a week but is only paid for 35 to 37 hours.

"We're not aware of any issues like what you describe, and they would be completely against our policy and training for our managers," according to Grow. "We'd encourage any employees with these complaints to contact us directly so that we can investigate the situation."

SEIU said the employees will return to their regular jobs today.


Labor-state school district reverses privatization

The food program provided to Detroit Public Schools students could soon be served, as well as managed, by school employees. The Detroit Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday night to allow the contract with Philadelphia-based Aramark Educational Services, LLC to expire on June 30. Aramark has managed the $44-million food-services operation since 2001. The district must now find a company to manage food operations for summer school. The board also voted to hire an executive director of food services.

The vote came after at least a year of lobbying and protests staged by union employees who argued that DPS employees could do a better and cheaper job of running the food services.

Prior to the privatization contract with Aramark, food services were managed by DPS employees.

Superintendent Connie Calloway said the district will seek proposals from companies, and could decide to hire the employees or one of a few other capable companies in the area -- or even Aramark -- to manage the system in the fall.

"We've opened the door to see, comparatively, who can provide the best food service. ... We have the opportunity to make that decision again," she said.

Union members and food-service employees applauded the vote Thursday night.

"We are ready," Phil Schloop, head of the operating engineers union, told the board.

This week, Aramark released findings from the Michigan Department of Education from March, when a sampling of 4,000 meals served was labeled as meeting standards.

Aramark President Dennis Maple wrote in a May 6 letter to Calloway that DPS should stick with his company. He also offered to work under contract to help transition to in-house management by employees.


Atlanta's gov't-unions protest dues hit

Atlanta (GA) Mayor Shirley Franklin's budget calls for a property tax hike of more than $40 million. She's already fired 441 city employees in an effort to erase a $140 million budget shortfall. All week, ousted city workers have told the council they don't think the firings were fair. Now, union leaders claim Mayor Franklin's administration didn't follow civil service code.

According to labor leaders, the city had to take intermediate steps first: like temporary furloughs or short work weeks, so no one permanently lost a job.

"Union heads needed to get together with the mayor, DHR, whatever we could have done to try to come up with some ideas well in advance," said Gina Pagnotta of the Professional Association of City Employees.

But Atlanta City Council Finance Chairman Howard Shook said the mayor is only required to consider short-term alternatives. He thinks pressures from higher pension costs are here to stay, making short-term fixes like furloughs pointless. "So we're going to have to do, not more with less, but probably less with less, moving into the future," he said.

So the city will privatize some services.

Union leaders said the city should require contractors to give fired city workers first shot at those jobs. "Because you're not doing the city any good when people are laid off, and then jobs that really still exist are filled by other people," said Nancy Lenk of AFSCME.

"I'm willing to consider it. I think it's just plain good management. If you're not listening to your workers to begin with, there's a problem. It would be a shame to just codify a common-sense dictate like that," Shook said.

One union leader said he's at least looking into possible legal action.

Mayor Franklin said the city must cut back because it has more employees per resident than most other cities of similar size.


Striking Steelworkers surrender in labor-state

Steel workers at Latrobe (PA) Specialty Steel voted last night to end their strike and return to work while continuing to negotiate a new contract, a union official said. The 360 members of the United Steelworkers Local 1537 walked out on the manufacturer of precision-engineered aerospace alloys May 1 after their contract expired.

The union will wait for the company to agree to allow members to go back to work while the contract is negotiated, said Howard Scott, of the USW's strategic campaigns department.

The union is looking for wage increases and to maintain its current health care and pension benefits plans. The company favors lump-sum bonuses over wage increases and wants new hires to have 401(k) plans rather than pensions, Mr. Scott said.


FedEx terms union lawsuit 'frivolous'

A shareholder of FedEx Corp filed a lawsuit against the package delivery company's board on Thursday alleging the directors exposed the company to damages by misclassifying employees as contractors. A FedEx spokesman dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of FedEx Corp against the board by the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 51 Pension Fund, a shareholder since 2000, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. FedEx is based in Memphis.

The pension fund did not disclose the size of its stake in FedEx.

The focus of the suit is FedEx's ground delivery unit, FedEx Ground, which uses some 15,000 independent contractors as drivers. FedEx describes these contractors as entrepreneurs.

Drivers at rival United Parcel Service Inc are represented by the Teamsters union. The Teamsters have been trying to unionize drivers at FedEx Ground at a number of facilities.

FedEx is fighting lawsuits in more than 30 states against this business model, which claim that FedEx exerts so much control over the behavior and time of these drivers, including forcing them to buy their own trucks, that they should be classified as employees. As employees, the lawsuits claim these drivers should be entitled to benefits.


GM offers to buy-off American Axle strikers

Related American Axle stories: here.
More UAW stories: here.
More GM stories: here.

A bitter, 10-week strike at auto parts supplier American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. could end soon now that General Motors Corp. has agreed to kick in up to $200 million to help settle the dispute, industry analysts said. GM said in a regulatory filing Thursday that it would provide the financial support for temporary payments to supplement reduced wages, and to fund employee buyout and early retirement packages.

About 3,600 United Auto Workers at five American Axle factories have been on strike since Feb. 26 in a dispute over the company's quest for lower wages and benefits. The work stoppage has crippled production of GM pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles and caused layoffs at 30 GM factories in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. GM is American Axle's former parent and largest customer.

No deal had been reached between American Axle and the UAW as of Thursday evening, but company spokeswoman Renee Rogers said talks were continuing.

"We are hopeful that GM's financial assistance to help fund the buyouts, retirement incentives and buy-downs ... will facilitate an expedited resolution to the international UAW strike," Rogers said. "It's been costly and disruptive. A quick return to work will be a win-win-win for everybody."

American Axle said in a separate filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the aid from GM is contingent on a quick end to the strike.

"We believe the offer will help bridge the gap between American Axle and the UAW and that they will be able to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement in the near future," GM spokesman Dan Flores said.

GM's announcement brought fresh optimism to the picket lines at American Axle's complex in Detroit.

"GM has to realize they've got a vested interest in this company doing well," said Bill Alford, president-elect of UAW Local 235, one of the striking locals. Alford said he had not heard from the union's bargaining team since GM made its announcement.

A phone message seeking comment was left for UAW spokesman Roger Kerson.

Worker Doug Sherrill, 44, of Macomb County's Macomb Township, said he is optimistic the strike will end, but he still was skeptical after spending 10 weeks on the picket line.

"We've heard things before and nothing's ever panned out," he said. "I really hope that they would use that money to their advantage for all three of them and end this thing."

Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who specializes in labor issues, said there are still some tough issues for negotiators to work through, but he believes the investment will resolve the strike sooner than it would have ended without GM's help.

"It was pretty much understood after a point that GM was going to have to do something. It was not simply an innocent bystander and it was going to be costly," Shaiken said. "I think GM's involvement was a necessary condition for a settlement, but whether the $200 million is a sufficient condition remains to be seen."

Shaiken pointed out that $200 million would work out to about $14,000 per employee over the life of a four-year contract.

American Axle makes axles, drive shafts and stabilizer bars mainly for GM's large sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks. The supplier, which formed from parts plants GM sold in 1994, has said its hourly labor costs are far greater than those at competitors who have reached agreements with the UAW, and it needs to lower its costs to gain new business. The company has threatened to move work done at its U.S. plants to foreign factories.

GM said in its filing that the strike has not hurt its ability to deliver trucks and SUVs because its dealers had large inventories of the vehicles. But its North American division lost $800 million due to the strike, and through April, the strike cost GM production of about 230,000 vehicles.

"We anticipate that this lost production will not be fully recovered after this work stoppage is resolved, due to the current economic environment in the United States and to the market shift away from the types of vehicles that have been most strongly affected by the action at American Axle," the automaker said.

GM also said the strike has cut its liquidity by $2.1 billion, but it said it has the money to meet its needs even if U.S. industrywide auto sales continue to drop.

The UAW also has gone on strike at two key GM factories and threatened strikes at several others in disputes over local contract issues. Local plants negotiate their own operating agreements separate from the national contract, which was settled last year.

Workers at a factory near Lansing, Mich., that makes GM's strong-selling crossovers — the Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia — have been on strike since April 17. A UAW local at another plant in Kansas City, Kan., that makes the hot-selling Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan has been on strike since Monday. Talks continue at both factories.

Auto industry analysts have said UAW struck the plants to pressure GM into getting involved in the American Axle dispute, although union officials have denied any connection. Both plants make vehicles that are selling well for GM even in a slumping U.S. auto market.

Himanshu Patel, an auto analyst with J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., said he believes GM's involvement was relatively recent and was motivated by the local strikes, since the company said as recently as April 30 that it wasn't playing a role in the negotiations. Patel said the cash will likely bring the strike to a speedier close.

Shortly before GM's government filing, a UAW local at a transmission plant in Warren that had threatened to go on strike reached a tentative agreement with GM. Local 909 had threatened to strike on April 18 but decided to stay on the job as negotiations continued.

Local 909 President Al Benchich said no date has been set for a vote on the deal, which he said covers seniority rights, work rules and transfers between jobs.

"I feel pretty good, given the economic climate and the general direction of things," Benchich said Thursday. "I think we protected our members' interests."

GM shares fell 25 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $21.15 Thursday, while American Axle shares rose 44 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $21.80.


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