Big Business in cahoots with Big Labor

Employer group backs forced-labor unionism over worker-choice

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce is opposing the business-backed right-to-work ballot initiative, an unusual stance for a group representing the metro area's business community. The chamber's board of directors voted Thursday to fight the union-restricting measure, saying that existing Colorado labor law provides balance for businesses and unions.

Chamber president Joe Blake acknowledged that a right-to-work law, which would prohibit workers from being forced to join a union and pay dues as a condition of employment, "makes sense in our world."

But the prospect of supporting Amendment 47 is outweighed by the danger of having voters approve several union-backed countermeasures, Blake said in a message to members. "Support of 'right to work' is not worth the risk to the health of our economy, our business climate and the competitiveness of Colorado," Blake said. The board's vote does not mean the chamber will financially support "no" campaigns against right-to-work, said spokeswoman Kate Horle.

Kelley Harp, a spokesman for Amendment 47, blasted the chamber's position. "It's unfortunate that the Denver chamber bought into the unions' threats and dissuasion campaigns and decided to put political expedience in front of principle," Harp said.

The right-to-work initiative has received funding from businesses such as CoorsTek, Health One and American Furniture Warehouse.

An official from a chamber of commerce in Oklahoma, the last state to pass a right-to-work law, said the business community typically advocates the need for such measures.

"Normally that rises to chambers of commerce being a part of that effort — being the voice of business throughout the state and in their respective communities," said Dean Schirf, vice president of government relations for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, which helped fund the state's measure.

The Denver chamber's position conflicts with the stance of the statewide Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, which has voted unanimously to support the amendment.

The Denver chamber's vote was not unanimous, but an overwhelming majority of the roughly 40 members who voted supported the group's position, said board member Penfield Tate, a former state senator and current shareholder with the law firm Greenberg Traurig. He said there were a couple of dissenters and a couple of members who abstained from voting.

The two business-advocacy groups, which have some of the same companies on their respective boards, usually are aligned on statewide business issues.

Both chambers voted previously to oppose all union- backed initiatives, including proposals that would hold executives criminally liable for corporate wrongdoings and require businesses to give reasons for firing workers.

The labor proposals were spurred by the right-to-work measure, which has been certified for the November ballot. Union interests have until Aug. 4 to submit the required 76,000 signatures for each of their proposals.

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar and U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, both Democrats, and Protect Colorado's Future, a group pushing a pair of pro-labor ballot initiatives, praised the Denver chamber's position.

Don Childears, president of the Colorado Bankers Association, said his group decided Thursday to oppose Amendment 47 after the Denver chamber's position was disclosed, with hopes that the initiative and union countermeasures will be pulled.


Dem whacked by card-check ads

Related story: "Voters cool to anti-democratic Democrat"

Citizens begin to learn about false choice

The Employee Freedom Action Committee has launched a campaign against U.S. Rep. Tom Allen, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Sen. Susan Collins. Thursday a full page ad appeared in several daily newspapers slamming Allen for his support of the mis-named Employee Free Choice Act. The act is designed to make it easier for worker groups to unionize and has drawn fire from certain labor groups such as EFAC.

The bill’s opponents refer to it as the “card-check” legislation.

Collins opposes the bill because of a provision that takes away secret ballots in the union process, and the committee drove home this point in their ad, which reads:

“Tom Allen won Tuesday’s Democratic primary through a private ballot vote. Incredibly, he supports a federal law that will force Maine employees into labor unions by eliminating their right to the same private ballot vote.”

The act is sponsored by a bi-partisan group in Congress and has the support of the AFL-CIO. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Millinocket, also supports it. Michaud prides himself on being a card carrying member of the United Steelworkers union.

The bill will:

- Allow workers to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation

- Create stronger penalties for employee rights violations when a union is formed and during first-contract negotiations

- Provide mediation and arbitration in contract disputes

Allen prides himself on standing up for working people, which is why he supports the legislation, said spokeswoman Carol Andrews in an e-mail. Union workers are able to get better wages and benefits because of the collective bargaining process, she said.

“It is no surprise to us that groups who are anti-working people would run attack ads to try to diminish Tom Allen’s hard work on behalf of our middle class and working families,” Andrews said. “And it is no surprise that they would run those attacks in an attempt to favor our opponent who opposed this important legislation that helps level the playing field for working people.”

Tim Miller, a spokesman for the Employee Freedom Action Committee, said there will be more ads coming in the state as a means to raise awareness on the issue. Miller said most Mainers oppose the legislation.

The committee contracted a poll at the beginning of May, which showed that 57 percent of the 400 voters polled opposed the act, where 27 percent support it. Among those polled, 32 percent said they were less likely to vote for Allen because of his support of the bill, and 11 percent said they were more likely to vote for him.

Miller said in existing unions, having a private ballot is a fundamental right, and taking away this right would have enormous implications.

Unions are bad for business, and have hurt the auto and steel industries, Miller said, and unions are the reason for factory shutdowns in the Midwest.

“What happens is that independent, small businesses for a union contract,” Miller said. “(Union leaders) have more interest in advancing their own political power and their own agenda than looking out for the workers.”

Sen. Collins opposes the legislation because it takes away private balloting, said campaign manager Steve Abbott.

“She strongly supports the right for workers to form unions,” Collins said. The bill shows “A clear difference between the two candidates.”


Barack taps corporate leftist economic team

AFL-CIO Slams Obama's Top Economics Aide

Acting quickly after securing his party’s presidential nomination, Barack Obama picked a well-known representative of Bill Clinton’s economic policies as his economic policy director and signaled this week that the major players from the Clinton economics team were now in his camp — starting with Robert E. Rubin.

Senator Obama, Democrat of Illinois, hired Jason Furman, a Harvard-trained economist closely associated with Mr. Rubin, a Wall Street insider who served as President Clinton’s Treasury secretary. Labor union leaders criticized the move, and said that “Rubinomics” focused too much on corporate America and not enough on workers.

“For years we’ve expressed strong concerns about corporate influence on the Democratic Party,” John J. Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, said Wednesday in a statement implicitly critical of the symbolism of the appointment, no matter Mr. Furman’s economic skills.

The Obama camp has cast Mr. Furman, 37, as an experienced operator in Democratic election campaigns, whose task is to tap the expertise of economists representing a broad spectrum of views. “My own views, such as they are, are irrelevant,” Mr. Furman said.

The Democratic Party often struggles to balance the conflicting demands of corporations and labor, and Mr. Furman’s appointment rang some alarm bells that Mr. Obama might be tilting toward the corporate side — a tilt that Mr. Rubin says does not exist. He argued in an interview on Wednesday that his views were essentially in line with Mr. Obama’s already stated policies.

“I totally support Obama,” Mr. Rubin said, acknowledging his long allegiance to Hillary Rodham Clinton. “I was not going to leave Hillary until she pulled out,” he said, adding: “I think Barack Obama is very well equipped to provide the presidential leadership that the country very badly needs in a rapidly changing world.”

Mr. Furman, who served as an adviser in John Kerry’s 2004 campaign for president, came to his new post suddenly on Monday, moving hastily to Chicago, where Mr. Obama has his headquarters. Until Friday, he was director of the Hamilton Project, a policy research operation founded by Mr. Rubin, who is now chairman of the executive committee at Citigroup. Mr. Rubin provides financing for the project, along with other wealthy Democrats.

Of particular concern to labor is the Hamilton approach to trade. While labor wants restrictions that would preserve jobs, the Rubin camp wants free trade that might cost jobs but would be offset by a broader safety net channeling more income support and job training to the job losers. Mr. Obama talks of “fair” trade agreements that include labor and environmental standards, a position that falls short of what Mr. Sweeney has in mind.

In his statement criticizing Mr. Furman’s appointment, Mr. Sweeney said, “The fact that our country’s economic policies have become so dominated by the Wall Street agenda — and that it is causing working families real pain — is a top issue we will be raising with Senator Obama.”

The Rubin camp and the group loosely led by union leaders also differ on which should take precedence: balancing the budget or public investment. The Rubin camp gives preference to budget balancing, but Mr. Rubin says the choice is no longer as stark as it was when Bill Clinton came to office in 1993. Then, the deficit represented a much bigger percentage of the nation’s economic activity and deficit reduction was a necessary priority in his view.

“We need today a multiyear path to a sound fiscal position, but in that context you need to make room for critical public investment,” Mr. Rubin said, arguing in effect that public spending could be increased in the current circumstances before the budget was brought into balance.

Mr. Obama, without regard for which should come first, calls for a balanced budget and, speaking in Raleigh, N.C., on Monday, he called for the creation of “millions of new jobs by rebuilding our schools, roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure.”

Months ago, Mr. Rubin had said that while he favored Mrs. Clinton as the better candidate, he could easily support Mr. Obama, if he won in the long primary process. He said, for example, that a passage on the impact of globalization in Mr. Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope” came out of a conversation the two men had. “Without question, the pressure on wages and incomes have become greater and we need to focus on those issues,” Mr. Rubin said, citing himself as a source for that point.

Mr. Furman, who served for a while as a special economic adviser in the Clinton administration, has taken some controversial positions. He argued in 2005, for example, that Wal-Mart, despite its conflicts with organized labor over pay and health insurance, was a good business model.

More recently, he argued that while the typical worker suffers from inadequate income, that worker’s living standards, broadly measured, are higher today than those of their counterparts 30 years ago — an argument in dispute among economists.

Dismissing such concerns, the Obama camp and Mr. Rubin say that there are few people with Mr. Furman’s skill and experience in running economic policy in a fast-moving election campaign. “He is very well respected by professional economists, and he also knows how to navigate in the world of policy and politics,” Mr. Rubin said. “This is not the time to run a training school” for economic policy directors.

Until now, Austan Goolsbee, an economist at the University of Chicago, had been Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser. He remains an unpaid adviser. He said he was not a candidate for Mr. Furman’s full-time job because of his university duties.

Mr. Obama’s campaign aides, among them Bill Burton, the press secretary, emphasize that Mr. Furman has already consulted a range of experts, from Mr. Rubin and Lawrence H. Summers, the Harvard economist who succeeded Mr. Rubin as Treasury secretary.

Others consulted include Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel laureate in economics who is critical of Rubinomics; Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the labor-oriented Economic Policy Institute; and James Galbraith, a University of Texas economist whose Keynesian approach and preference for public spending is to the left of Rubinomics.

“Of course, I’m part of it,” Mr. Galbraith said. “Jason is a guy I know, a professional I respect. If he wants my views, I’m quite happy to be giving them to him. The task before us is to develop practical steps for the problems before us now.”

Mr. Furman emphatically agreed. “I am not here to tell Senator Obama what to think about Wal-Mart,” he said, “but to help him implement his ideas, and they are ideas I share, like universal health insurance, progressive taxation and not privatizing Social Security.”


Excess union power detrimental to society

Balancing the evils of forced-labor unionism

No doubt, when unions were first started, they were meant for good, but like many other things, many of the leaders became power hungry, and it has at this point become a detriment to many. I understand that in many cases, belonging to a union ensures one of health care or some other necessity the employee is in need of. In so doing, they are gaining control in the workplace that gives them power over decisions that should not be theirs, making it detrimental to society as a whole.

It is my understanding that in some cases, you either belong to the union and vote as you're told or lose your employment. It is easy to see how they are getting control of our government. They acquire much money through these dues and use it to elect candidates that are opposed to the very things that the employee holds dear. This is not what our system should be endorsing. God tells us in his Holy Word that, "The love of money is the root of all evil." Money is buying power, and power used the wrong way can bring destruction. Let us pray for God's intervention. We have people in our government whose lifestyle is neither healthy or in keeping with God's will.

Two people of the same gender calling themselves married and being allowed to adopt children is, I'm sure, abominable to our heavenly Father and the poor children don't have a chance to grow up to be normal adults without the guidance of godly parents. That is very sad.

It should be absolutely illegal to use union fees to elect political candidates. If this continues, the union will be in complete control of who is elected, and in so doing, in control of most everything else. The NEA is a big hindrance to education reform.

It's not more money that's needed; it is the freedom to get back to basics, teach our true history and uphold the teachings so valuable to character and integrity, recognizing God as the supreme being, teaching the importance of obeying his Holy Word through the example of our teachers.

This would eliminate many problems our schools have today. Thank God for organizations like the National Right to work Legal Defense Foundation that is working to correct some of these maladies. may each of us sincerely pray that God will be merciful to us and show us what we need to do to correct some of these problems.

- Willie Clyde (Toole) Cloud, Sebring, FL


Free choice fake-out

Dues-hungry unions redefine compulsory unionism

Workplace relations and the economy have changed substantially since the 1930s, but federal labor law has not evolved with these changes. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) still reflects a top-down, adversarial view of management–labor relations that is foreign to many workers today.

Private-sector union membership has fallen over the past generation as many workers have concluded that traditional unions do not meet their needs. In response, the labor movement is pushing the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act. Instead of taking away workers' right to vote on joining a union by secret ballot, Congress should restore employers' and employees' right to explore innovative labor–management relations. Most workers want a voice in their workplace even if they do not want a traditional union.

Employee involvement (EI) programs enable workers to participate cooperatively in workplace decisions, but the NLRA prohibition on creating "company unions" is so broad that it bans any EI programs that give workers a real voice. The Act forces workers to choose between a traditional union and no formal representation at all.

Congress should modify the NLRA to prohibit only employer-dominated unions while allowing workers to participate in work councils and EI programs. This would enhance workers' voice in the workplace and allow employers and employees to seek labor–management relations that fit into the 21st century economy.

A Changed Economy
Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act in 1935 and has not substantially modified it since 1947. The Act assumes an adversarial relationship between workers and employers, with the gains of one coming at the expense of the other. Also underlying the NLRA is the assumption that employers and employees use a top-down management structure where managers dictate to employees exactly what to do and the employees simply follow those directions without providing feedback.[1]

That economy no longer exists. Businesses today rely on feedback and communication from employees. Employers do not simply give top-down orders, but incorporate bottom-up communication and employee discretion.[2] The line between workers and management has increasingly blurred, and most workers want cooperative—not adversarial—relations with their employers.[3]

Unions Have Not Modernized
Traditional unions are less relevant to workers in the modern economy than they were a generation ago because they have not modernized. Polls show that nonunion workers want to stay that way by a proportion of more than three to one.[4]

Collective bargaining assumes a hostile relationship between workers and management that few workers want.[5] Workers believe that they and their employers are on the same side. Consequently, as demand for union membership has fallen, private-sector union membership has decreased sharply over the past generation.[6] In 1974, 24.2 percent of private-sector workers belonged to unions. Today, that figure has fallen to 7.5 percent.[7]

The labor movement has responded to the decline in union membership by lobbying Congress to pass the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would end secret-ballot elections for joining unions. Under EFCA, unions could add members with a public card-check process. The elimination of the secret ballot enables the coercion of workers.

EFCA addresses the wrong problem. Union membership is not declining because secret-ballot elections make it too difficult for workers to join. Union membership is declining because few workers want to join unions.

Workers Want a Voice
The fact that few workers want to join traditional unions does not mean that they do not want a voice in workplace relations. Surveys show that workers want to participate in decisions in the workplace and want to be heard by their supervisors,[8] but they do not want hostile relations with management.

Employee Involvement Programs
What many employers and employees would like are employee involvement programs or work groups in which workers and supervisors can meet to discuss workplace issues. These programs are innovative and can take many forms. Examples include self-directed work teams, safety committees, and production committees.[9] The essential element is advancing employee interests through employee involvement. Polls show that 60 percent of workers prefer EI programs to improve working conditions over either more government regulations or labor unions.[10]

Examples of effective EI programs that advance worker interests abound. For instance:

* Webcor Packaging, Inc., a manufacturing company in Flint, Michigan, formed a plant council made up of five elected employees and three appointed managers to look at ways to improve work rules, wages, and benefits. The council members took suggestions from all employees and made recommendations to management based on those suggestions.

* Employees at Electromation, Inc., in Elkhart, Indiana, opposed a plan to change the attendance bonus the company offered. In response, the company met with randomly selected employees and formed action committees to solve various workplace problems. The company asked committee members to meet with other workers and promised to implement the solutions if they were not cost-prohibitive.[11]

Law Prohibits Most Employee Involvement Programs
These EI programs gave workers a say in the workplace and improved working conditions. They were also illegal.

The government forced Webcor and Electromation to disband their EI programs.[12] Section 8(a)(2) of the National Labor Relations Act prohibits employer-dominated labor organizations. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) defines a labor organization as an organization in which employees participate that exists in part to deal with employers over grievances, labor disputes, wages, hours of employment, or other working conditions.[13]

This bans virtually any work council or EI program that gives workers a real voice in the workplace. The law gives workers an all-or-nothing choice: They can speak with their employers through a labor union, or they cannot speak at all. The law forbids anything in between. Any form of two-way discussions between workers and management over working conditions outside of collective bargaining is illegal.

Employee Involvement No Threat to Choosing Unions
Congress passed this ban to prevent companies from creating and negotiating with employer-dominated "company unions" to fight off organizing drives. However, the employee involvement programs that modern employers want to create would not interfere with workers' ability to choose a union. Employers do not negotiate and sign collective bargaining agreements with action teams. EI programs complement the roles of traditional unions; they do not replace unions or prevent workers from organizing.

Some in the labor movement fear that employees and employers would turn to work councils and EI programs instead of unions, undermining attempts to organize. The experiences of other countries show that this fear is misplaced. Canada permits EI programs and has a union density over twice the American rate. German law requires companies to provide their workers with work councils, and unions often recruit new members from these councils.[14]

Employee Free Choice
Employee involvement programs would weaken unions only to the extent that workers prefer them to unions. That possibility should not prevent employees and managers from forming work councils. Congress should not make nonunion workplaces as unpleasant as possible in order to compel workers to unionize. Labor unions exist to serve workers, not vice versa. Any competition with EI programs would force traditional unions to innovate and modernize to better suit workers needs.

Workers should have the right to freely choose how to work with their employers. Congress should not force workers to choose between unions and no representation at all. By an 85 percent to 10 percent margin, workers prefer employee organizations run by employees and management together to organizations run by employees alone.[15] Congress should not deny workers that choice.

What Congress Should Do
Current law forces workers to make an all-or-nothing choice between no voice at work and speaking through a labor union, but the economy has changed since the 1930s, and many workers do not want the adversarial labor relations that unions offer. As a result, union membership has fallen. Rather than deprive workers of the right to choose to join a union in privacy, Congress should give employees free choice about how to express themselves in the workplace.

Congress should modify the National Labor Relations Act to define a labor organization as an organization that negotiates collectively bargained contracts with workers. If Congress did so, the NLRA ban on employer-dominated labor organizations would continue to ban company unions used to defeat organizing drives but would allow workers to choose to work with their employers through employee involvement programs and work councils.

These cooperative programs would allow employers and employees to innovate and adapt workplace relations to the modern economy. They would also attune employers to employees' desires and improve working conditions. Most workers want the option of having employee involvement programs, and Congress should permit them.

James Sherk is Bradley Fellow in Labor Policy in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation.

[1] Barry Hirsch and Jeffrey Hirsch, "The Rise and Fall of Private Sector Unionism: What Next for the NLRA?" FloridaStateUniversity Law Review, Vol. 34 (2007), p. 9.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Richard Freeman and Joel Rodgers, "What Workers Want," ILR Press, Updated 2006, pp. 56–58.

[4] Zogby International poll of 803 employed Americans conducted August 22–25, 2006, for the Public Service Research Foundation, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent. 74 percent of non-union workers say they would not "personally like to be a member of a labor union," while 20 percent would. Complete poll results ARE available from the author upon request.

[5] Ibid. Workers choose an organization that cooperates with management to discuss views but has no power to make decisions over one that has more power but is opposed by management by a 63 to 22 percent margin.

[6] Henry S. Farber and Alan B. Krueger, "Union Membership in the United States: The Decline Continues," National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 4216, 1992.

[7] Barry T. Hirsch and David A. Macpherson, "Union Membership and Coverage Database from the Current Population Survey," Unionstats.com, at http://www.trinity.edu/bhirsch/unionstats/.

[8] Hirsch and Hirsch, "The Rise and Fall of Private Sector Unionism," p. 16.

[9] Freeman and Rodgers, "What Workers Want," p. 101.

[10] Ibid., p. 8.

[11] Steven C. Bahls and Jane Easter Bahls, "Labor Pains: Employee Focus Groups May Seem Like a Good Idea, But They Could Land You in Court," Entrepreneur, December 1997.

[12] Ibid. Webcor was forced to disband their program in 1997, and Electromation was forced to abandon its program in 1994.

[13] Hirsch and Hirsch, "The Rise and Fall of Private Sector Unionism," p. 24.

[14] Ibid., pp. 28–29.

[15] Freeman and Rodgers, "What Workers Want," pp. 56–57.


Union Organizer-in-Chief?

Latino AFSCME organizer tapped by Barack

Ray Rivera has been named to head Barack Obama's presidential campaign in Colorado for the general election. "Ray brings years of organizing experience to Colorado," said David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager.

Rivera served as the Colorado state director of the Obama campaign last fall but was heading the Obama campaign in Puerto Rico in April. Prior to serving on Obama's campaign, Rivera was the political director and a union organizer for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.


Striking truckers battle police

Ruling Socialists defend free-market competition

Spain has deployed riot police to make arrests and lift blockades of a border crossing with France and a major highway outside Madrid as striking truckers disrupt food and fuel supplies. But unions representing the strikers vowed to press on, rejecting a package of measures presented by the government to end the three-day nationwide protests over rising fuel prices. One striker died on Tuesday when a van drove through a picket line, and a protester died in a similar incident in neighbouring Portugal, which has been hit by the same kind of strike since Monday.

One of the Spanish industries hit hardest by the strike - car manufacturing - warned that if the stoppage continued, the entire industry and its daily production of 13,000 vehicles would grind to a halt today because parts for assembly were not reaching factories.

The strike is being waged by self-employed drivers, who represent an estimated 20 per cent of Spain’s 380,000-vehicle trucking industry. They say big companies can cope better with fuel price increases by lowering their hauling rates to land more jobs.

The independent drivers are demanding a minimum, guaranteed rate for their services. The Socialist government refuses, saying that would interfere with free-market competition.

Spanish truck drivers say their diesel costs have risen 36 per cent in a year.

Spanish fishermen have been on strike since May 30th, also over fuel costs, and this is compounding problems getting fish supplies to consumers.

Yesterday, the National Federation of Fishermen, representing mostly small boat owners, announced it was returning to work because it could not maintain the strike. The bigger fishing boat owners are to continue their near two-week-old stoppage.


Strikers set scab on fire

Picketers display solidarity

A lorry driver who defied a strike against soaring global fuel prices received burns to 25 per cent of his body in an arson attack on his vehicle. Spain said it had arrested 71 picketers for offences including intimidation since the stoppage by 75,000 lorry drivers began on Sunday.

Oil prices have risen by roughly 40 per cent since the start of the year to a record high above $139 last week.

Spain and Malaysia tightened security yesterday to stop strikes turning violent, as well as blocking roads and slowing deliveries of food and raw materials.

With fishermen already on strike and Madrid taxi drivers due to stop working for 24 hours from today, Spain is being hit hard by the protests. Spain said deliveries of food and other goods were returning to normal although food distribution centres reported shortages.

Malaysia boosted security to halt a planned march of an expected 20,000 people after Muslim prayers today, from a poor, mainly ethnic Malay part of the city to the landmark twin towers in the centre.

Indian lorry drivers plan a strike for next month, taking four million vehicles off the roads. In Thailand, driver are ready to block roads into the capital and in the Netherlands, protesters slowed their lorries to 50kph (30mph) for half an hour yesterday against a rise in diesel tax.


SEIU expands invasion of AFL-CIO turf

Jumbo union diversifies dues sources

Montgomery College's adjunct professors voted last week for union representation with Service Employees International Union Local 500, resolving three months of negotiations between the college and faculty. The vote is a first for part-time college instructors in Maryland, union spokesman John VanDeventer said. The union also represents more than 1,200 part-time faculty members at George Washington University in the District and all supporting services workers at Montgomery County Public Schools.

The 365 to 105 vote was cast through mail-in ballots to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

The union contract will include all 1,075 adjunct faculty members who were eligible to vote for representation.

The union plans to help the adjunct professors obtain more compensation, better job security and sufficient teaching materials, VanDeventer said.

Part-time faculty members teach 42 percent of the college's instructional hours, according to Steve Simon, the school's director of communications.

Simon said that officials want to pay faculty members as much as possible and have a long history of working successfully with the full-time faculty, which is unionized under the American Association of University Professors, and its staff, which is represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.


Ohio: Sick-out from work, sick or not

Union 'free lunch' priority goes before voters

The effect of a hot-button ballot issue on the presidential election in crucial Ohio will be tested again this year if a mandatory sick-day proposal qualifies, experts say. Just as the 2004 election of President Bush was shaped in part on turnout for an issue banning gay marriages, Barack Obama should benefit from the sick-day issue, which is strongly backed by several Democrat-embracing unions.

The issue would require companies with at least 25 employees to give them seven sick days per year, with any unused sick time to be carried over to the next year. Backers have until Aug. 6 to collect the 120,683 signatures to put the issue on the ballot alongside Obama and Republican John McCain on Nov. 4. So far, about 100,000 have been collected, campaign spokesman Dale Butland said Thursday.

It has the support of the United Auto Workers, United Steelworkers and the Service Employees International Union, among other groups. Those unions have become adept at getting out the vote, especially for Democratic candidates.

In 2004, the Citizens for Community Values, a Cincinnati-based group that pushed the gay marriage ban, sent 2.5 million bulletins to 17,000 churches statewide. It also recruited then-Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a Bush campaign co-chairman, to record an automated phone call that went to millions of homes.

The ban passed with 62 percent of the vote in an election in which 72 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. A survey following the election by political scientists at four universities found that in the 11 states with gay marriage bans on the ballot, the mobilizing effect of the ballot measures increased the probability of voting for Bush by 15 percentage points, but the theory has been disputed.

Bush won the state 51 percent-49 percent over Democrat John Kerry and received the electoral votes he needed to claim a second term. Both Bush and the gay marriage ban were much stronger in rural Ohio than in urban areas.

Obama backers are hoping the sick days issue can perform for them, but the issue itself could be the main draw for certain voters, said Daniel Smith, a Florida State University political scientist who specializes in ballot issues.

"It may bring people out because they're hurting in the pocketbook," Smith said. "Even if these people may be likely Obama supporters, it has an immediate effect as opposed to hoping that a Democratic president and Democratic Congress can help them."

Although only three Legislature-approved issues are guaranteed ballot spots, campaigns are under way to bring casino gambling to southwest Ohio, repeal Ohio's new restrictions on payday loans and prohibit employers from deducting an employee's wages for political campaigns without the employee's permission.

The casino issue will draw major opposition _ statewide gambling expansion has failed three times since 1990 _ but the other issues are likely draw out voters who favor either McCain or Obama, said Paul Beck, a political scientist at Ohio State University.

"I don't see any of those being mobilizing issues, " Beck said. "Most of the ones I've seen for Ohio in '08, if they get on the ballot, are complicated enough and not salient enough to draw voters."


Union criminals kept OLMS very busy in May

An indictment is the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. As in all criminal cases, each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

On May 29, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Francis Pagan, former President of Boilermakers Local 3-M (located in East Cleveland, Ohio), was sentenced to six months home confinement and electronic monitoring, four years of probation, ordered to pay a $100 special assessment, and restitution. On February 29, 2008, Pagan pled guilty to embezzling union funds in the amount of $17,415. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office.

On May 29, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Scott Gehringer and Alex Margaritis, former President and Financial Secretary, respectively, of International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Local 594 (located in Hellertown, PA), were indicted on one count of aiding embezzlement and embezzling union fund sin the amounts of $3,500 for Gehringer and $13, 320.79 for Margaritis. The charges follow an investigation by the OLMS Philadelphia District Office.

On May 22, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Pauline M. Gibson, former President of Drivers, Warehousemen, Maintenance and Allied Workers of America Local 1 (located in Nashville, Tenn.), was sentenced to twelve months probation and a $25 special assessment. On February 27, 2008, Gibson pled guilty to one count of making a false statement and representation of a material fact, knowing it to be false, on the local’s annual financial report. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Nashville District Office.

On May 20, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia,Donna Roles, former Financial Secretary of Steelworkers Local 14310 (located in Mount Hope,WVa.), was charged with one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $76,420.37, and one count of falsifying union records. The charges follow an investigation by the OLMS Pittsburgh District Office.

On May 20, 2008, in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Thomas Wallace, former Financial Secretary-Treasurer of Amalgamated Transit Union 757 (located in Portland, Ore.), pled guilty to an information filed the same date charging him with embezzling and uttering forged securities. Wallace forged approximately 176 checks drawn on the union’s accounts to acquire funds in the amount of $454,406. The criminal information and plea follow an investigation by the OLMS Seattle District Office.

On May 20, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Randy Sanders, former Executive Vice President of Steelworkers Local 20 (located in Kaukauna, Wis.), was indicted on 13 counts of embezzling union funds in the amount of $3,298.66. The charges follow an investigation by the OLMS Milwaukee District Office.

On May 20, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Eugene Huss, Area Vice President of Steelworkers Local 20 (located in Kaukauna, Wis.), was indicted on 13 counts of embezzling union funds in the amount of $1,617.75. The charges follow an investigation by the OLMS Milwaukee District Office.

On May 20, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Mary Schaeuble, Insurance Committee Member of Steelworkers Local 20 (located in Kaukauna, Wis.), was indicted on 13 counts of embezzling union funds in the amount of $3,379.30. The charges follow an investigation by the OLMS Milwaukee District Office.

On May 16, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Bridgett Cardall Hooks, former Secretary-Treasurer of Postal Workers Local 332 (located in Dothan, Ala.), was sentenced to 48 months probation to include six months home confinement with electronic monitoring and a $100 special assessment. On February 7, 2008, Hooks pled guilty to one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $10,820.17. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Nashville District Office.

On May 15, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Carolyn M. Wallace, former President of Steelworkers Local 02-356 (located in Milwaukee, Wis.), was sentenced to180 days home confinement, five years probation, $100 special assessment, drug treatment and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $19,436.02. Wallace previously paid restitution in the amount of $7,000. On February 8, 2008, Wallace pled guilty to embezzling union funds in the amount of $25,200. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Milwaukee District Office.

On May 14, 2008, in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland, Rhonda Holmes, former Secretary-Treasurer of Laborers Local 481 (located in Baltimore, Md.), was indicted on one count of theft for allegedly stealing $6,349.55 from the local. The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Washington District Office.

On May 13, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, New York City School Bus Inspectors Neil Cremin, George Ortiz (retired), Milton Smith and Ira Sokol, were arrested following indictments for conspiracy to accept bribes, extortion, and bribery in a program that receives federal funds. On May 13, 2008 the four inspectors were arrested and entered pleas of not guilty. The charges follow a joint investigation of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 (the primary union that represents drivers and escorts for school bus companies in New York City) by the OLMS New York District Office, the FBI, and the Department of Labor's Office of the Inspector General.

On May 12, 2008, in the Superior Court of Dougherty County, Georgia, Barbara Dodson, former Financial-Secretary of Boilermakers Local 100 (located in Albany, Ga.), pled guilty to six counts of forgery in the first degree and one count of theft-by-taking of union funds in the amount of $1,400. Subsequently, Dodson was sentenced to 120 days in jail, 10 years probation, and a fine of $500. The plea and sentencing follow an investigation by the OLMS Atlanta District Office.

On May 9, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Kathy Thompson, former employee of Teamsters Local 325 (located in Rockford, Ill.), was sentenced to five years probation, including seven months of home confinement with electronic monitoring, and ordered to liquidate her retirement savings account and pay approximately $29,000 in restitution. On December 17, 2007, Thompson pled guilty to one count of embezzling union funds in the amount of $33,770. The sentencing follows a joint investigation by the OLMS Chicago District Office and the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General.

On May 6, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Donald B. Dawson, former director of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the Alliance of Professional Specialty Contractors (APSC) (located in Kansas City, MO), was charged with one count of bank fraud as a result of his embezzlement of $95,721.56 of APSC funds. The charge follows an investigation by the OLMS St. Louis District Office.

On May 6, 2008, in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, John Mullenix, former Secretary-Treasurer of APWU Local 441 (located in Ft. Morgan, Col.), was indicted on one count of embezzlement of union funds. The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Denver District Office.

On May 7, 2008, in the County Court for Lorain, Ohio, Gary Smink, former President of Steelworkers Local 1-962 (located in Elyria, Ohio), pled guilty to one count of theft totaling $770. On April 9, 2008, Smink was indicted on one count of theft in the same amount. The plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office.

On May 5, 2008, in the County Court of St. Lawrence County, New York, June E. Wilkins, former President of AFSCME Local 625 (located in Potsdam, NY), pled guilty to two counts of third degree grand larceny. Wilkins confessed to taking more than $15,000 in union funds. The plea follows an investigation by the Buffalo District Office

On May 5, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Chad M. Mowery, former Treasurer of Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLET) Division 282 (located in Springdale, Ohio), pled guilty to embezzling union funds in the amount of $2,537.00. On February 6, 2008, Mowery was charged with one count of embezzling union funds in the same amount. The plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Cincinnati District Office.


Union officials win, you lose

Empire State asserts national leadership

Key triumphs by New York union bosses this spring offer textbook lessons for how to keep Labor strong. Which is great news for the bosses and their members - but bad for everyone else. Consider two recent moves:

* Gov. Paterson last week issued an executive order making it harder for state agencies to use outside contractors.

* Earlier, he and the Legislature agreed to a state-budget provision that will make it tougher for non-union shops to win public jobs.

These nifty ploys address a longtime challenge for Big Labor: shrinking membership rolls, especially at private firms.

For decades, the bosses have watched their rank and file wane. A half-century ago, almost a third of America's nonfarm workforce belonged to a union; today, not even one worker in eight does.

In New York, unions have fared better, keeping their hooks in one of every four employees. Their secret? Big Government.

Unionstats.com researchers Barry Hirsch and David Macpherson report that 70 percent of the state's 1.4 million public-sector workers are unionized - versus just 37 percent nationwide.

And New York's impressive figure has held constant for years - though private-sector unions lost ground here, claiming 24 percent of workers in 1983 but only 16 percent last year.

Meanwhile, New York government has swelled. Today, one of every eight employees in the state is a unionized public servant.

Labor's government-sector successes in New York can be explained by a single word: politics.

As Steven Malanga notes in "The New New Left," public unions (along with social-service groups) have replaced political party bosses as the real power here. The public-employee bureaucracy became, as political scientist Theodore Lowi put it, "the new machine."

Perhaps nowhere else has Labor been so effective in deploying its considerable resources - wealth, manpower, political support - to dominate the political scene.

It uses several strategies:

* Pushing private-sector jobs into the grasp of government, where workers join Labor at higher rates.

* Backing rules that promote private-sector organizing and enrollment and that throw up roadblocks for non-union shops.

Paterson's order, forcing agencies to do jobs they've previously farmed out to consultants, meshes neatly with these goals. Why give such work to non-unionized private-sector folks, just because they can do the job better and for less money?

Meanwhile, a provision slipped into the state budget will require some public-work contractors to sign "agreements" forcing them, in effect, to use union labor - or at least accept union terms.

There's more. For some public projects, firms must have had state-approved apprenticeship programs for three years - another technique to block non-union contractors (many of them, you'll note, small minority firms) from competing.

Labor has also pressed to force nonprofits that get government help with financing to hire only union firms - or those paying union rates. That would open the door to unionizing all private firms that get government help.

Then there's the city teachers' union, which has kept up a drumbeat for smaller classes. That, of course, means . . . more unionized teachers.

Again, it's easy to see why Labor wants fresh blood. A fatter rank and file means more dues for union-staff salaries and expense accounts. More economic clout and respect at the bargaining table. And more votes, manpower and other resources that can go to politicians who do what the bosses want.

Of course, consumers and taxpayers are left to pick up the tab. Worse, the unions' power puts the local economy at risk, as businesses run from a costly Big Labor environment.

Let's face it: This is not a zero-sum game. No, you can't blame unions for practicing economic imperialism; it's what they do.


Barack's Town: Judge halts corruption clean-up

Steps in to protect union official from members

A Cook County judge on Thursday afternoon prevented Chicago Teachers Union officials from holding a meeting to oust the vice president. The meeting to discuss removing Ted Dallas, who has been involved in an ongoing dispute with President Marilyn Stewart over the spending of union money, had been scheduled for Thursday evening.

Stewart and others say Dallas has improperly used union money to pay for restaurant meals and to pay himself for sick days. Dallas counters that Stewart has mismanaged the union's finances and spent about a half-million dollars on food over a 12-month period.

In her ruling, Chancery Court Judge Dorothy Kinnard said Dallas and his opponents should be able to settle their own disputes. Kinnard suggested they meet with a mediator to settle the infighting that has divided the 30,000-member union. Kinnard's order banning the meeting to discuss firing Dallas is effective until at least July 7.

The union has long had a history of division. In 2004, Stewart and former CTU President Deborah Lynch were involved in a hotly disputed election that culminated with Lynch locking Stewart's group from the union's headquarters.

"This organization of highly educated individuals should be able to resolve its own disputes," Kinnard said. "It's an extremely unfortunate dispute."

But in her ruling, Kinnard sided with Dallas, who sought a temporary injunction after he said he was sandbagged at a May 28 meeting with the board's executive board. Dallas said the meeting was orchestrated by Stewart.

At that meeting, the executive board voted for permission to proceed with a "trial" against Dallas to remove him from his post. Kinnard ruled that "fundamental fairness" was denied Dallas.

In her view, Dallas was not given enough time to defend himself. Kinnard also said that Stewart failed to tell executive board members that the union had never sought to kick out a member using a provision of its bylaws that is usually reserved for strike-breakers.


Barack's Chicago hosts nation's longest strike

Related story: "Iconic Chicago strike-hotel rehab angers union"

Congress Hotel strike hits 5th year

Before his daily turn on the 6 a.m. shift, Jose Sanchez tries to bury his worries. He looks forward to joining fellow UNITE-HERE union members who have been marching the same short picket line in front of the Congress Hotel for the last five years.

"When we see each other, we are encouraged to keep going," said the 57-year-old cook on Wednesday as a handful of strikers paraded in front of the 14-story, 115-year-old building that looks out onto Grant Park.

With the hotel workers union and supporters poised Thursday to mark the strike's fifth anniversary, the prospects for a settlement remain as dim as ever, say union leaders and an attorney for the hotel. No talks have been held since August and none are planned, they said.

The union's 130 workers, most of whom are Latino and female, struck after the hotel declared an impasse in negotiations, cut wages by 7 percent, froze contributions to their health-care coverage and threatened to contract out their jobs.

"I knew it was going to be long and difficult. But I didn't think it would be this long," said Henry Tamarin, president of Local 1 of Unite Here.

The union stands by its original goal, Tamarin said, of boosting wages and conditions, as it did at other Chicago hotels in 2002 bargaining. The strike may have benefited union workers at other hotels.

"I do believe that it has helped us avoid some other strikes," Tamarin said.

Peter Andjelkovich, attorney for the independent hotel, said it cannot afford to be tied to the union's citywide contract because of the building's less attractive South Loop location and age. Union contracts in 2002 and in 2006 with 37 other Chicago hotels, he added, are "unreasonable and excessive."

During the strike, the union has regularly estimated the hotel's occupancy at about 30 percent, a figure markedly below what most hotels need to remain profitable.

Andjelkovich said hotel officials would not discuss occupancy figures.

Since the strike began, about 30 union members have returned to work. Of those, about 20 are still on the job, Andjelkovich said.

About 60 union members are still involved in the strike, earning $225 a week in strike benefits, said Annemarie Strassel, a spokeswoman for Local 1. Many have also picked up full-time or part-time jobs.

But not Sanchez, who put in 25 years at the hotel before the strike.

He has since drifted through jobs, the victim of layoffs and cutbacks. Out of work for the last two years, he has also run out of unemployment benefits. His wife lost her seamstress job three years ago and has not worked since.

Nazario Avalos, 56, one of Sanchez's picket line friends, has faced similar circumstances. A hotel steward before the strike, Avalos, a widower, has not worked in three years. And that has made it hard for him, he said, to send money to his mother and family in Mexico.

But on the picket line, where strikers shout "shame on you" as hotel guests walk by, Sanchez explained how he doesn't think about such hard luck or yesterday or tomorrow.

"You live for today," he said.


Teachers union puts dues first

Teacher points out educrats' hypocrisy

I consider myself a socially conscious, politically active young teacher, so it may seem strange that I wasn’t looking forward to protesting the governor’s budget cuts last Friday. I drove to school that morning in my red United Teachers of Los Angeles T-shirt, ready to do my union duty but feeling like a hypocrite.

I think UTLA has a necessary role to play in our schools. However, I also think that it is partly responsible for the poor quality of education endured by many of LAUSD’s 694,000-plus pupils. It’s a problem for schools nationwide: Because of the union’s strength, it is almost impossible to fire teachers for incompetence. LAUSD teachers are paid primarily according to the number of years they have been with the district, and veteran teachers at some schools are free to belittle and ignore their students without repercussions. Many veteran teachers are wonderful, of course, but the union sometimes acts as an enabler for the exceptions.

While UTLA theoretically supports a system of peer review for evaluating teacher performance, the general feeling among teachers where I work is that anyone who has been with the district for more than five years is “untouchable.”

Driving to the school that morning, I thought about the union’s claim that the demonstrations were “for the kids of L.A.” — though we all knew that they were planned as a “shot across the bow” (in the words of our union rep) to protect jobs. I wondered whether UTLA’s leadership (which is not made up of teachers) thinks about the kids of L.A. as much as it thinks about the union dues it will lose when the district starts cutting positions. It seemed strange to me that we were showing our support for our students by walking out on them for an hour, leaving them to whatever bare-bones supervision administrators could provide.

Such were my cynical musings — before I actually arrived at school. Then I saw the whistles, bullhorns and signs. I saw teachers laughing, cheering and acting like a big family at a Fourth of July picnic. For that hour, petty squabbles among our faculty seemed to evaporate, and our voices sounded in unison: “No Budget Cuts! No Budget Cuts!” Because even though UTLA is partly responsible for our schools’ persistent problems, the fact remains that these cuts will hurt kids. The district may have to increase class sizes and reduce funding for field trips, electives and professional development. Our students deserve to be a top fiscal priority, not one of the first items on the chopping block. The union stood up and said so, and this case I’m glad I stood with them. The union’s interests and the students’ interests happened to align last Friday — but UTLA is first and foremost an advocate for teachers, not kids.

- Tim Schlosser, an English teacher at Southeast Middle School in South Gate


School union deal kills privatization scheme

Agreement preserves union-dues flow

Privatizing noninstructional services has been averted now that a three-year contract has been approved between the Manchester Community Schools Board of Education and the Manchester Educational Support Personnel Association. Manchester Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin could not be reached for comment Wednesday on details of the new contract. However, in a news release, issued jointly by the school board and the union, Lewis-Lakin said: "We value all of our employees and are pleased to reach an agreement with them that removes the issue of privatization from consideration."

Prior to reaching the agreement, the union that represents about 85 bus drivers, custodians, food service workers, secretaries and clerks was concerned because the school board had taken steps to explore privatizing some of services.

Terry LaJeunesse from the Michigan Education Association, the lead negotiator for the employees, said in the same news release: "No one is ever happy taking concessions, but we worked hard to protect the current employees and to ensure that there would be employment for years to come for them and future employees.''

The statement further said "both parties ... worked to achieve financial savings so that noninstructional services could continue to be provided by district employees now and into the foreseeable future. "

LaJeunesse told The News Wednesday that concessions included some reductions in salary and hours and a change in insurance prescription coverage.

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