Bud-Teamsters wasteful inefficiencies exposed

Related story: "Teamsters may try to block Bud sale"

Teamster dues flow, labor-peace threatened by InBev's US move

The union representing workers at Anheuser-Busch, the largest US brewer, has told its members that InBev's $46bn bid for the company could threaten their livelihood and lead to job losses.

The warning underlines the potential political hurdles facing the unsolicited bid, which has drawn fire from politicians of both parties in Anheuser's home state of Missouri.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters said InBev's record "shows that workers and communities that depend on Anheuser-Busch could suffer from a possible erosion of working conditions and even [job losses]" in such a deal.

The union represents about 7,500 of the brewer's 30,000 US employees and also workers among the company's 500-plus local distributors.

InBev, based in Belgium, said last week it had no plans to close any of Anheuser's 12 breweries, and sought to play down the prospect of job cuts.

It also pledged to keep the headquarters of Anheuser's Budweiser brand in St Louis.

However, in a letter to members, the Teamsters argued that "to recoup the huge purchase price, experts say that InBev would probably have to cut Anheuser-Busch's operations to the bone".

"If the pattern InBev management has followed overseas is any clue, labor costs will likely be one of the first places it will seek to make cuts," it said.

InBev's bid may also face opposition from independent companies that distribute Anheuser-Busch products in the US - about 60 per cent of them working under exclusive contracts.

InBev has sought to address concerns among wholesalers, saying it is committed to the existing system, which is "an important part of the rationale for this transaction".


EFCA: Unconstitutional on arrival?

EFCA Violates Constitutional Provisions and Supreme Court Precedent

There is more evidence today that the Supreme Court might be the last line of defense against the the deceptively-named Employee Free Choice Act. Harold Coxson, a management attorney with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart in Washington, D.C., argues that EFCA potentially violates the Takings Clause of the Constitution and that the legislation contradicts long-standing Supreme Court precedent:
This provision would violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in H.K. Porter Co. v. NLRB, 397 U.S. 99, 73 LRRM 2561 (1970), Coxson said. In that decision, the court held that NLRB did not have the power to compel an employer or union to agree to any substantive contractual provisions of a collective bargaining agreement.
Coxson also provided evidence from Canada that EFCA-like labor laws do not expedite labor dispute negotiations:
Coxson said provisions of labor law in Quebec, Canada, are similar to those in the proposed EFCA and that on average it takes 290 days from the time a first contract dispute is referred to arbitration until there is a decision. Contending that this does not address the concerns of delay in negotiating a first contract, Coxson quipped, “That is hardly time saving.”

Democracy sacrificed on altar of union-dues

Related story: "Union dues bonanza in Colorado"

A minority of workers given the power to unionize the majority

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter's unnecessary gift to labor unions last fall finally has borne fruit: Some 22,500 state workers soon will fall under a union contract — even though a majority of eligible workers didn't even cast ballots to decide their fate. That's good news for Ritter's friends in labor, who can now grow their ranks and eventually collect millions in union dues.

It's also good for some politicians, mostly Democrats, who will benefit from Ritter's executive order as some of those union dues filter into campaign war chests through what are known as "small donor committees."

But what about the rest of Colorado?

Well, the news isn't as good.

Ritter's executive order granting collective bargaining rights has damaged the coalition (see: business leaders, moderate Republicans) that helped get him elected.

Without that coalition, it was impossible for Ritter to push forward key agenda items (see: failure to secure more transportation funding) during this year's legislative session.

His order also provoked the business-sponsored right-to-work initiative on the November ballot, which allows states to prohibit requiring workers to join a union or pay "agency fees" to unions as a condition of employment.

That initiative has prompted labor unions, already empowered by Ritter's order, to continue pushing to two very bad-for-business proposals for this November ballot. And a weakened Ritter has been unable to convince both business and labor to lay down their arms.

Ritter and his defenders have said for months that the governor's executive order granting collective bargaining to state employees would have little impact. So why do it? Better yet, why would a state worker pay union dues for nothing?

Workers won't pay union dues just to get a seat at the table so they can demand faster computers to increase customer service.

Ritter's order, as we're now seeing, has had an impact, a negative one, on Colorado. To think otherwise is naive.


EFCA = Employee Forced Choice Act

Private ballot elections or a public Card Check: Which protects a worker’s rights?

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would take away a worker’s right to a federally supervised private ballot when deciding whether or not to join a union. It would replace the private ballot with a biased and inferior process called “Card Check” that allows a union to organize if a majority of workers simply sign a card. Under this system, the workers’ votes are made public to the employer, the union organizers and co-workers.

EFCA, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives with a 241 to 185 majority, missed Senate passage by only nine votes. Don’t let the Employee Free Choice Act become law and take away workers’ privacy rights.

- EFCA - Before and After

- Top 10 EFCA Negatives

- Card Check in the News: Television Ad | News Articles

- Please visit our Grassroots website to urge your elected officials to oppose any Card Check legislation.

- Tips for Lobbying Card Check (PDF)


SEIU drives Ohio to economic disadvantage

Statewide sick leave mandate a bad idea

With a name like the “Ohio Healthy Families Act” and the promise of seven paid sick days per employee, how can voters say “no”? With a little education, that’s how. The Healthy Families Act is neither good for families nor good for health as it stands.

The Service Employees International Union drafted the legislation as a citizen initiative under the Ohio Constitution. The state legislature was wise enough to try to let the act die a meaningful death on the table, but the backers of the proposal are gathering signatures to have voters consider the proposal in November.

Voters must defeat this proposal.

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with workers being guaranteed a certain level of sick time.

But the problem is that under the Ohio Healthy Families Act, it will not be up to employers to set the terms of employment for their workers based on what the business can afford, nor will companies that already have policies in place be able to continue using those policies unfettered by state interference.

In addition to being an unwarranted interference in the employee-employer relationship by government, the act brings a spate of concerns.

Workers are apparently assumed to be upright and honest, while employers are assumed to stand ready to make sure workers never get a day off. The act would allow employees to take time off in increments of as short as an hour or as long as three consecutive work days without having to provide an excuse to the employer.

The worker needs only inform the employer he intends to take time off, either in writing or verbally, and then the employer can’t ask further questions. It’s time off for the worker. The hour-at-a-time provision allows those who want to leave early every Friday to simply get “sick” an hour before closing time. Seven full days of sick time annually amounts to 56 hours a week. There are 52 weeks in a year.

There also is a fallacy about sick time not having an associated cost. If you’ve got a job and you’re being paid, obviously there is some worth you provide to product, service, customer and company. If you’re not there, someone has to take up the slack, either in overtime, or in work that plain doesn’t get done.

The act also states that employers cannot use an assessment of the employee’s use of sick time as a basis for making personnel decisions. And, workplaces that have sick leave policies that are better than the proposed statewide policy would not be able to reduce their policy if the act becomes law. That means that if tough times hit your firm ahead, sick leave policy cannot be visited as a cost-saving measure.

And all of that is before considering the potential legal ramifications of the act, with its ambiguous language that surely will lead to costly lawsuits.

Voters have to think about this one. The slick campaign that will surely come this fall once signatures to put the act on the ballot will feature tug-at-the-heartstrings images, tales of families that fell apart because the head of the household had to choose between work or caring for a sick child or parent.

Emotion is not, however, an economic staple.

Jobs and employment are.

Employers know they have to compete for good workers, and that means being flexible about working hours and time off. Rigid policy enforced across the spectrum of every employer with 25 employees or more won’t allow flexibility.

There’s a reason such laws aren’t in place in any other state. They’re a bad idea.

Ohio doesn’t need to put itself at an economic disadvantage with a statewide sick leave mandate.


Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona DINO

Related story: "Public opinion survey on card-check"

Democrat wants to end secret-ballot union elections

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney joined Congressional leaders, civil rights activists and workers to announce the introduction of the Employee Free Choice Act, a critical piece of legislation that would help restore workers' freedom to form or join unions to bargain for better wages and working conditions. The bill was introduced today by George Miller (D-CA) in the House of Representatives. There are currently 230 co-sponsors in the House. The Co-Sponsors for Arizona include: Congresspersons: Ed Pastor, Raul Grijalva, Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords.

President Sweeney stated, "The best opportunity for working women and men to get ahead economically is by coming together with their co-workers to bargain with their employer for a better life – through a union. The Employee Free Choice Act is desperately needed to level the playing field for working people by fixing a badly broken system in which workers are routinely denied their freedom form or join unions to improve their lives." The bill would strengthen penalties for companies that break the law by coercing or intimidating employers. It also establishes a third-party mediation process when employers and employees can't agree on a first contract. It also enables employees to form unions when a majority have express their decision to join the union by signing authorization card.

Unions have long given working people a toehold on the middle class. Government statistics show that working men and women who have a union today make 30 percent more than workers who don't have a union, and are much more likely to have health insurance and retirement plans.

"The benefits of workers uniting to bargain for a better life are clear – that's why more than half of workers -- 60 million -- who don't already have a union say they would join one today if given the chance," Sweeney said. "Yet far too few working people ever get that chance. The current system for forming unions and bargaining is badly broken."

Recent opinion research shows that the vast majority of Americans support the Employee Free Choice Act. Seventy-seven percent of Americans say it's important to have strong laws that give workers the freedom to choose to have a union without interference from employers, according to research by Peter D. Hart Research Associates. Sixty-nine percent of voters said they were supportive of the Employee Free Choice Act as a means to help workers level the playing field. Sixty-five percent of the public says it approves of unions, and only 25 percent disapprove.

The legislation is a key element of the new Democratic majority in Congress' plan to fortify the nation's middle class, which has been hit hard by outsourcing, a lack of good paying jobs with benefits and a growing income gap, Miller said.

"We cannot continue on our nation's current path, where CEOs have complete freedom to negotiate lavish pay and retirement packages for themselves while workers have no leverage to make their own lives better," Miller said. "Our economy is more unequal than it has been at any point since before the New Deal."

If you would like to see Arizona workers in action to following link as to why we need to get EFCA passed!


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Union-only requirement zapped by accident

Neglectful oversight caught just in time

A paperwork error will add a few months to the timetable for starting work on a new Cumberland County (NJ) Prosecutor's Office complex. Deputy Freeholder Director Bruce Peterson said a project labor agreement was left out of the county's advertised request for bids to construct the complex. The omission was caught before a scheduled June 4 pre-bid conference with prospective bidders.

A project labor agreement sets exact terms and conditions for workers, including wages and benefits, and often bans union strikes or lockouts.

Peterson, who oversees the county's public property issues, said the county should issue a revised bid request within 30 days. The county doesn't expect much delay because of the readvertisement, he said.

"It's been a long saga," Prosecutor Ronald J. Casella said Friday. "As long as they stay on track, we're OK."

The county is under a court order to construct a new office for the prosecutor so he has adequate resources. It would replace a nearly century-old building behind the county courthouse.

The Board of Freeholders gave its approval April 24 to advertise the specifications for the project. Any bids it received would have been opened June 25.

The proposed three-story prosecutor's office is to go up behind the county government administration complex on East Commerce Street.

At their meeting Thursday night, freeholders voted 6-1 to condemn a property at 21 S. Burlington Road near the future construction site.

It was a rare use of eminent domain power at the county level. Freeholders went to lengths to say they were reluctantly using their power to seize private land for public use, even though the property seller didn't oppose the action.

Peterson said the condemnation was necessary to clear up a problem with the title to the property that prevented its sale.

The purchase price is $62,000 with a 6 percent commission deducted from the price.

The price is a good indication the owner wanted to sell the property, which consists of a house on about 1.8 acres, Peterson said.

Freeholder Douglas Rainear was the lone no vote on the resolution. He did not explain his opposition.


Striking Teamsters bankrupt employer

Related story: "Teamster strike expands"

Union kills the goose that lays golden eggs

Performance Transportation Services Inc.'s president said Friday that the car hauler and its related companies were ceasing operations, five days after 1,250 Teamster-member employees went on strike.

Allen Park-based PTS is North America's second-largest hauler of new vehicles and was operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

In a letter to PTS employees, company president and CEO Jeff Cornish said the bankruptcy court on June 4 authorized a 15 percent wage cut for Teamsters-represented employees for two months.

The company anticipated negotiating a new, long-term contract during that time, but the Teamsters instead went on strike Monday. Both sides met Thursday to discuss PTS' proposal, which Cornish said included salary cuts for both hourly and salaried workers.

"Unfortunately, for reasons we do not fully understand, the Teamsters concluded that it was not in their interest to accept our offer," Cornish wrote.

"Management and many of our Teamster members were willing to make the requested sacrifices to save the company, but the leadership of the union had a different agenda," Cornish added.

Messages seeking comment from Teamsters officials were left at union headquarters in Washington after business hours Friday.

PTS delivered more than 4 million new and used cars annually from 24 facilities nationwide with its fleet of 1,800 trucks for many North American automakers, including General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.

Teamsters officials said Friday that they were close to a tentative agreement on a national car haulers contract.

PTS was not part of those negotiations.

International Brotherhood of Teamsters chief negotiator Fred Zuckerman said a few economic proposals were left in the multi-employer negotiations.

The sides were to meet next week in Detroit to hammer out a deal.


Union thugs go door-to-door in Portland

Related story: "Public opinion survey on card-check"

Unions' free-choice fakeout

Organized labor flexed its political muscles in South Portland on Saturday. Members of the AFL-CIO went door to door, handing out pamphlets to build support for the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act. The act would end secret-ballot union recognition elections, substituting union organizers' pressure for a majority of workers to sign 'cards', instead. There would be no choice and no election.

After spending a couple of hours knocking on doors, union members converged on the Wyndham Hotel to cap off their weekend convention.

The group used the gathering to give its endorsement to Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, in his race to unseat Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.


Barack's Town: Teamster Corruption Rules

Related story: "Hoffa dawdles on corruption clean-up"
Related story: "Hoffa dawdles on corrupt Chicago local fix"

Hoffa's inadequate stewardship exposed

For the second time, Teamsters union officials have taken Local 714 out of the hands of a member of the Hogan family. Saying the heads of the influential 10,000-member organization had rebuffed efforts of an official sent to work with them in September, Teamsters Union President James P. Hoffa this week imposed an emergency trusteeship over the local.

He named Terry Hancock, president of Local 731 and an official with the Teamsters Joint Council, as the local's temporary trustee.

Teamster officials said that James Hogan, the local's president, who had retired in February but remained on as a trustee of the local's health and welfare fund, was removed from that job.

Similarly, in a note posted on the local's Web site (www .teamsters714.org), Hoffa said the union's government-appointed review board is continuing its investigation of Robert Hogan, the local's secretary-treasurer.

The review board, according to Hoffa, had rejected as "inadequate" his decision in December to hand Robert Hogan a six-month suspension.

The union's moves against the local stem from the review board's call in August for the local to be placed into a trusteeship.

Besides citing the board's finding that the local had signed questionable contracts with several companies, Hoffa pointed to its assertion that the local continued to refer lucrative movie industry jobs to friends and relatives of the Hogans.

Hoffa said the local's workers in the movie and trade show industry were shifted in May to Local 727.

But Local 714 officials refused to cooperate with the shift, Hoffa said.

In 1996 the local was put under trusteeship after a union oversight panel said it was run for the benefit of the Hogan family and their friends, a move that ousted William Hogan Jr. as the local's top leader.

The local was founded in the Great Depression by William Hogan Sr.


Striking nurses caught on vacation

Wrist-slap expected for truant unionists

Five members of the Danish Nurses Association are facing sanctions from their labor union for going on holiday when they should have been on the picket lines, reports Berlingske Tidende newspaper. And both the nurses' union and daycare teachers' union BUPL, which is also striking, are sticking to that principle.

'In the worst case scenario the five nurses will be expelled from the union and be forced to pay back the money they've received from the union during the strike,' said John Christiansen, vice-president of the nurses' union. 'You can't take a holiday while you're on strike.'

Christiansen pointed out that it costs the union a considerable amount of money to conduct a strike.

Many nurses and daycare teachers have reportedly contacted their employers to find out what the rules are for taking vacation time while on strike.

'We tell them that it's a matter between them and their unions,' said Mads Lebech, head negotiator for KL, the national association of local councils.

But Lebech added that employees who choose to defy their union and go on holiday anyway should be prepared to show up for work when the strike is over.

'If the strike ends, then everyone scheduled to work the next day must show up or it will be considered an illegal absence,' he said.

More bad news for strikers thinking of going on holiday is that travel agencies do not consider the strike as a valid reason for cancelling a trip.

'Those people risk losing their money,' said Stig Elling, managing director of Star Tour travel bureau.

The nurses' association will determine what sanctions its five holidaying members will face sometime next week.


Teachers union official defends monopoly

Putting union-dues first in labor-state

It's apparent from The Los Angeles Times editorial, "Hope for Locke High,” and two previous articles why this newspaper deserves its poor reputation among local educators and informed community members when it comes to public education. A runaway bureaucracy, top-down authoritarian school administrations and a decided lack of collaboration are the real issues. It's too bad that they remain hidden behind The Times' blame-the-bad-teacher cries and charter-school cheerleading.

Can we at least talk about the real problem, the state budget, for a moment? Because California is one of the largest economies in the world, it's a crime that the state ranks among the lowest in per-pupil spending and has such large teacher-student ratios. It would make sense to give a much greater financial priority to public education. What we don't spend on now, we will have to spend much more on later. Incarceration, healthcare and welfare already cost our society too much.

Senior Deputy Supt. Ramon C. Cortines (who really should be called the superintendent in light of the vacant leadership of David L. Brewer) was clear and correct in taking responsibility for the latest outburst of violence at Locke High School. The Los Angeles Unified School District has "abdicated [its] responsibility” for too many years at a host of schools in inner-city Los Angeles. Years of inexperienced or despotic administrators have helped drive excellent, experienced teachers away. A lack of true collaboration with teachers and parents, turning a blind eye to the collective bargaining agreement and ignoring student-centered reforms lowered morale. When teachers aren't valued, they try to find places where they are.

Real help for these schools is not stalled by union contracts "larded with rigid work rules," as The Times writes in its editorial. The main problem has always been not listening to the experts on education: the teachers. Most people would be shocked if they understood just how very little teachers, parents and students were respected, especially in the inner city. It's a bloated bureaucracy far from the classroom that directs ill-conceived and failed reforms.

The No. 1 indicator for success in urban schools is teacher experience and retention of those experienced teachers. At Locke High next year, there will be many new teachers, the vast majority with little or no experience. Many will learn quickly. Many will not. The kids will certainly suffer while Green Dot works out this pesky little detail.

Most teachers I know are not "just marching toward retirement," as Times columnist Sandy Banks recently suggested. Most teachers, young or experienced, have a "good heart" and "genuinely care about the students." The issue really is LAUSD officials. Why do they reject teacher input and ignore student concerns? Why do they act like the boss instead of lending the kind of support they are supposed to? Schools and school districts don't move forward without clear respect. And they most certainly don't just give up on a school like they have Locke and give it away to educational profiteers.

Yes, there are "bad" teachers, but they are a small minority and certainly not what is holding back large-scale success for our schools. As far as it being "virtually impossible to fire apathetic employees," that urban myth needs to be put to rest. As an experienced teacher, I know how easy it is to fire the nonpermanent teacher or to set up a permanent one for removal through unfounded accusations or with an outdated LAUSD evaluation system.

The well-funded movement to privatize education is in full swing with folks like The Times touting its agenda. The goal to privatize the last big enchilada of public money will leave us all much poorer in spirit and pocketbook. The goal has been to portray public education as a failure (particularly in the inner cities) and then to promote 100% charter schools as the answer. Far from being saviors, charters in fact drain public money. Clearly they represent a real danger to the historic democratic value that is public education.

Teachers and their unions have many great ideas and clear solutions for schools, even with a budget crisis. But many wealthy "philanthropists," CEOs and newspapers would have us believe otherwise. I urge a balanced and equitable public discussion, not the one-sided charter-school campaign we've seen of late.

- Mathew C. Taylor, the south area chairman for United Teachers Los Angeles, has taught English in Los Angeles schools for 23 years.


Gov't-union power-grab in Maryland

Hiring union foxes to guard the pension chicken coop

Isiah Leggett, the Montgomery County (MD) executive, is proving to have no more backbone than his predecessor, Douglas M. Duncan, in standing up to the county's powerful public employee unions.

Having negotiated contracts that grant union members far bigger raises than are common in the private sector, plus staggeringly generous new benefits, Mr. Leggett has now bowed to a blatant power grab by the county's main general employees' union. In the interest of county taxpayers, who pay the bills for this unaffordable largesse, the County Council should overcome its own history as a pawn of the unions and say no.

The stakes in the current dispute seem obscure: whether to change the composition of Montgomery's Board of Investment Trustees, which manages more than $3 billion in assets for the county's employee pensions. Three of the board's 13 current trustees are union representatives (up from one out of nine until 2004); under the proposal now before the County Council, the board would grow to 16 trustees, five of whom would be union representatives.

This is a terrifically bad idea. Retirement plans should be overseen by investment experts, not labor figures whose agendas can be, and often are, political. There is abundant historical evidence, in Montgomery and elsewhere, that when investment decisions are tainted by sweetheart deals with union-friendly advisers and other shenanigans, retirement funds suffer. The county itself is responsible for meeting its employees' pension obligations, which are funded overwhelmingly by taxpayers; that also means taxpayers -- not the unions -- would foot the bill for less-than-optimal fund management.

In a deeply researched memorandum, Stephen B. Farber, the experienced chief adviser to the County Council, urged council members to oppose wider union influence on the board. Offering examples of funds that have suffered from union influence, he concluded, "As many jurisdictions (including the State of Maryland) have learned from bitter experience . . . politics and pension funds are a toxic mix."

The unions argue that they merit a greater say in the investments that support their members' retirement benefits. In fact, there are more nonunionized retirees with a stake in the plans -- around 5,500 -- than current unionized workers, who number fewer than 5,000. And the association representing retired county employees is bitterly opposed to packing the board with more union trustees.

Montgomery has long prided itself as a bastion of good government, but the County Council's weak knees regarding organized labor are becoming an embarrassment. The union has made it clear that it will not stop at controlling five of 16 seats on the board. If council members approve this expansion now, it will only lead to further such demands, along with parallel calls by retirees, who currently have just one trustee representative, to increase their own clout. Chances are nil that all this will enhance the management of the $3 billion in retirement assets. When the bill will come due, it will be paid by angry voters.


Locked out Steelworkers rally in Ohio

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