Forced-labor unionism exposed in Colo. ads

It's all about state-mandated union dues, fees

Throughout the 2008 election season, 9NEWS is committed to holding those who take out political commercials on our station accountable for what they say. The following is a Truth Test about two separate 30-second ads being run by the Center for Union Facts (www.unionfacts.com). The non-profit is registered as a 501©4 under the federal tax code, as a "social welfare organization." Its donors do not have to be disclosed under federal law. It is spending more than $150,000 to advertise on 9NEWS, My20 and other stations in the Denver television market.

"We're running these ads across the country to raise awareness of union bosses' deceptive attempt to take away employees right to a private ballot vote," wrote Tim Miller, the organization's communications director, in an e-mail. "We're running the ads in a number of different markets across the country where labor issues are getting a lot of attention."

Critics called the Center's Executive Director Rick Berman "a political hit man." Jess Knox, who is with a group called Protect Colorado's Future (http://www.protectcoloradosfuture.org/) that is advocating for ballot initiatives that are supported by Colorado's major unions, said Berman's history includes attacking Mothers Against Drunk Driving for proposing stiffer alcohol limits for drivers. He said the ads "interfere with a legitimate conversation taking place in Colorado," over worker rights.

The commercials include "union workers" critical of their bosses for, among other things, donating their wages to politicians they don't like. It also highlights a mock-school election where a young boy tells the class their votes for student body president will not be secret, an example of how "labor bosses have a new scheme to do away with the secret ballot."

AD #1 - "Why I Love My Union"

QUOTE: What do you love about your union? You know what I love? Paying union dues just so I can keep my job.

TRUTH: This needs some explanation.

First of all, federal law states that no one can be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. The National Labor Relations Act states full union membership cannot be compelled. (Source: American Bar Association overview of labor law published by the Bureau of National Affairs: http://www.bna.com/bnabooks/ababna/special/us.pdf.)

However, if someone's working in a union shop, meaning an election has been overseen by the National Labor Relations Board and a majority of workers have chosen to be represented by the union in talks with management, they can be required to pay what are called "agency fees." What that means is, if the union is representing all of the workers on issues like wages and benefits with management, every worker can be required to pay agency fees to cover the costs of collective bargaining. Failure to do so could lead to a worker being fired. (Source: American Bar Association overview of labor law published by the Bureau of National Affairs: http://www.bna.com/bnabooks/ababna/special/us.pdf.)

Union critics will call that a distinction without a difference, while union supporters will argue if workers get the benefits of having collective bargaining by the union in terms of higher wages and better benefits, they ought to pay for that representation. Further, they'll argue people agree to work at a job knowing full well whether it's a union shop or not. Critics say they should not be required to leave their jobs if they don't like unions and vote in the minority when it comes to union representation.

Colorado's labor law is unique. In 1943, state lawmakers passed and Gov. John Vivian (R-Colorado) signed into law the Labor Peace Act which requires two secret-ballot votes, the second of which must be a 75 percent supermajority, in order to create a union and a so-called "closed shop." (Source: CO Department of Labor and Employment, Labor Peace Act: http://www.coworkforce.com/lab/LaborPeaceAct.pdf.)

QUOTE: I think it's great my union dues are going to politicians I don't even like.

TRUTH: This could be true.

Each union operates differently in how or if it donates to political candidates. Some have specific political action fund boards created and staffed by members to determine where donations could go. Others have executive committees make those decisions. In some cases, whatever political donations are made come from a fund separate of regular union dues. Still, it's entirely possible that individual members end up having money from their union go to political candidates they don't support.

In Colorado, Gov. Bill Ritter (D-Colorado) last year reversed a decision by the previous Gov. Bill Owens (R-Colorado), and Colorado state workers who belong to unions will now have their union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks. Owens had issued an executive order to provide for what's sometimes called "paycheck protection," to require unions to prove its importance to its members. State union workers were given the choice to opt in, rather than to opt out. Ritter reversed that in 2007. (Source: Colorado Governor's Office Executive Orders.)

There does not appear to be any definitive answer legally as to whether a union worker can ask that their dues NOT go to a particular political candidate. When queried on the topic, Nate Strauch, the Communications Director for Colorado's Attorney General's office, wrote in an e-mail, "According to our employment law experts, it's a grey area. To our knowledge, no employee in Colorado has ever sued to determine whether or not that sort of request has to be honored. But as far as any statutory requirement, there isn't one."

QUOTE: It's super. I work harder but get paid less just because I don't have seniority.

TRUTH: This is opinion.

However, this is not a feature exclusive to union shops. There are numerous anecdotal examples of seniority being valued over productivity through the history of America. (Source: Law Professor Blogs: http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/laborprof_blog/2006/10/european_court_.html.) There are also stories where the opposite is true. (Source: Workplace Blog: http://weblogs.elearning.ubc.ca/workplace/archives/045865.php.)

QUOTE: I think it's cool how you can legally harass people into joining a union.

TRUTH: This is false.

As we mentioned earlier, federal law states that no one can be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. The National Labor Relations Act states full union membership cannot be compelled. (Source: American Bar Association overview of labor law published by the Bureau of National Affairs: http://www.bna.com/bnabooks/ababna/special/us.pdf.) Critics may say we're being naïve and that colleague pressure, if not outright harassment, while illegal, takes place all the time. Union supporters say it's the employers who do the harassing towards workers who want to negotiate for better wages and benefits.

However, the sentiment conveyed in the commercial is regularly investigated by federal law enforcement activities. For example, the Office of the Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Labor stated in a November, 2004 report that, "Schemes involving bribery, extortion, deprivation of union rights by violence, and embezzlement used by early racketeers are still employed to abuse the power of unions." (Source: http://www.oig.dol.gov/public/reports/laborracpaper.pdf.)

The Center for Union Facts has posted a number of examples of union harassment it says has been documented through the years. (Source: http://unionfacts.com/articles/crimeViolence.cfm.)

AD #2 - Student Election

QUOTE: Labor bosses have a new scheme to do away with the secret ballot. You can help us fight for democracy.

TRUTH: This is false.

The so-called "new" scheme is actually the "Employee Free Choice Act" that passed the House of Representatives in March 2007 before stalling out in the Senate on June 26,2007 (Source: Congressional Record: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:HR00800:@@@R.)

Technically, as introduced, H.R. 800 would not "do away with the secret ballot" currently being used to decide whether a workforce joins a union. It allows workers to also form a union by collecting the signatures of a majority of workers. (Source: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:HR00800:@@@R.) It's called a "card-check" option.

Union critics say the fact their votes will no longer be secret and overseen by the government opens workers up to intimidation and harassment. In reality, they say the secret ballot will never be used again as union organizers will always want to confront employees in person until they sign the card authorizing the union.

Union supporters meanwhile say it simply gives workers another, more direct way, of creating a union through a democratic process. More specifically, they believe it gives more workers access to "bargain for a better life," according to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. (Source: AFL-CIO Press Release: http://www.aflcio.org/mediacenter/prsptm/pr06262007a.cfm.)

In the House vote, 228 Democrats voted for the measure with two others voting against it. Thirteen Republicans voted for the plan while 183 voted against it. Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) voted for the measure and his opponent for Colorado's U.S. Senate seat, former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-Colorado), is opposed to it. The Center for Union Facts is running these commercials in other states with competitive U.S. Senate races (i.e. Maine and Oregon) in an effort to highlight differences between the candidates. (Source: Phone interview with Tim Miller, Center for Union Facts Communications Director, on June 18, 2008.)

In Colorado, a group called Coloradans for Employee Freedom plans to weigh in on the card check issue and other labor issues as a sister organization of the Center for Union Facts. (Source: Coloradans for Employee Freedom: http://laborpains.org/?cat=55.) A group called Protect Colorado's Future has been formed to advocate for the state's union interests. (Source: Protect Colorado's Future: http://www.protectcoloradosfuture.org/.)


Why you should care about card check

Related story: "PLA + Card Check = Maximum Union Dues"

Union organizer describes labor-coercion to Congress

Here's a good example of why unions want to pass card-check, and how the DFL is helping them: Workers at the newest hotel in Minneapolis, Hotel Ivy, have signed union cards and organized as part of UNITE HERE Local 17.

The employer was bound to a card-check agreement under the terms of financing provided by the City of Minneapolis to help build the hotel. The City provided $6 million in tax increment financing for the $100 million development, which renovated a historic 1930 Moorish-style tower as part of a larger project that includes 136 hotel rooms, 92 condos, and a 17,000 square foot health club.

The new bargaining unit will include about 50 workers, reported Martin Goff, director of organization for UNITE HERE Local 17. ...

"It took about two weeks to organize," Goff said. "We had some people we knew inside from our other hotels." Once Local 17 recruited an organizing committee, Goff reported, "the committee signed up virtually everyone." Goff said 86 percent of the workers signed union cards.

Now I'm not defending Hotel Ivy here, because if you take the dime of TIF, you do the time of dealing with card-check. But understand how a union card works, versus a private ballot. Let's hear it from a former organizer for UNITE HERE, in testimony before Congress.
A “card check” campaign begins with union organizers going to the homes of workers over a weekend, a tactic called “housecalling,” with the sole intent of having those workers sign authorization cards. Called a “blitz” by the unions, it entails teams of two or more organizers going directly to the homes of workers. The workers’ personal information and home addresses used during the blitz was obtained from license plates and other sources that were used to create a master list.

In most cases, the workers have no idea that there is a union campaign underway. Organizers are taught to play upon this element of surprise to get “into the door.” They are trained to perform a five part house call strategy that includes: Introductions, Listening, Agitation, Union Solution, and Commitment. The goal of the organizer is to quickly establish a trust relationship with the worker, move from talking about what their job entails to what they would like to change about their job, agitate them by insisting that management won’t fix their workplace problems without a union and finally convincing the worker to sign a card.

... From my experience, the number of cards signed appear to have little relationship to the ultimate vote count. During a private election campaign, even though a union still sends organizers out to workers’ homes on frequent canvassing in attempts to gain support, the worker has a better chance to get perspective on the questions at hand. The time allocated for the election to go forward allows the worker a chance to think through his or her own issues without undue influence—thus avoiding an immediate, impulsive decision based on little or no fact. After all, the decision to join a union is often life-changing, and workers should be afforded the time to debate, discuss and research all of the options available to them.

As an organizer working under a “card check” system versus an election system, I knew that “card check” gave me the ability to quickly agitate a set of workers into signing cards. I did not have to prove the union’s case, answer more informed questions from workers or be held accountable for the service record of my union.

... In addition to the “housecall,” the union frequently employs other tactics to manipulate the card numbers and add legitimacy to their organizing drive. One strategy is to manipulate unit size. One of the most common ways that we ensured the union could claim that we had reached a majority was to change the size of the group of workers we were going to organize after the drive was finished. During the blitz, workers in every department would be “housecalled,” but if need be, certain groups of workers would be removed from the final unit, regardless of their level of union support. In doing so, the union reduced the number of cards needed to reach a majority. Another such strategy is that organizers are told to train workers to “provoke” unfair labor practices on the part of the company in an attempt to create campaign legitimacy and coerce a “card check” agreement.

One egregious example was when Ernest Bennett, the Director of Organizing for UNITE at the time, told a room full of organizers during a training meeting for the Cintas campaign that if three workers weren’t fired by the end of the first week of organizing, UNITE would not win the campaign. Another strategy is that organizers are told not to file any unfair labor practice charges because it would slow the “card check” process and make time for the workers to question their decisions.
Coercion in voting should offend us all; we watch Zimbabwe this week where an opposition party that won a plurality of the votes in a primary has chosen to withdraw rather than risk violence against its supporters by the Mugabe government. But we hear very, very little about the legitimate threats made to workers -- not violence, but getting workers fired so that you could pass a unionization effort -- in order to support the L of DFL. That's what the city council in Minneapolis did to those workers at the Hotel Ivy. Do they care?

The AFL-CIO reports that Barack Obama has said he would sign the bill that creates card-check for all workplaces, not just those that take government money. They are hoping for change that reduces employee freedom.


Connerly exposes 'community organizing'

Related ACORN stories: here

Affirmative action expert deconstructs Barack, ACORN

Ward Connerly: Well, good morning to all of you, and thank you, Manny, for such a great introduction. Are there any questions? I always enjoy these events because I see them as sort of refueling stations, where I can meet with people of like mind. It's not often that I get that experience on college campuses and the like.

But I do want to pause for one moment and thank David for that recognition back in 1995. I had just come forth as a regent during my sentence -- 12-year unpaid sentence on the Board of Regents to put forth a view that in the activities of the university, college hiring and contracting and admissions, that all of us should be treated as equals, and I thought that that was a principle that was pretty well established in the culture of our nation, but I soon learned that doesn't matter whether something is established; it's what the environment is willing to accept.

And the president of the university and many of my colleagues, conservative Republicans they were, really distanced themselves from me and wanted nothing to do with me. And I went overnight from a quiet businessman working behind the scenes, helping the political establishment, my good friend Pete Wilson, to a pariah almost overnight. Even my dog would run the other way when I approached.

And so it was that David and the Center invited me to visit with them and to give me a little recognition, and it really had a great effect. I don't need reinforcement to do what I think is right. But it's very lonely when you're out there swimming against the tide and everybody says, "You're wrong, you're wrong, you're wrong," or "You're right, but not now," or, "You're going to upset the faculty," and all of those things. It gets very lonely.

And so these kinds of events have a big effect, believe me. When you recognize someone and you tell them, "You haven't lost your mind, you're sane, stay with it," it has a lot to do with reinforcing ideas and the wisdom of ideas and the importance of pursuing them.

When I first, as a regent, shared with my colleagues that it is morally wrong -- apart from the fact that we were breaking the law, race wasn't one of many factors at the University of California; race was the factor. We only hid behind the fig leaf that it was one of many factors to avoid litigation, but once I began to do my due diligence as the chair of the Finance Committee, which was the major oversight committee, and I saw the extent to which race was being used, I said to the general counsel, "Race is not one of many factors at this university; we are a lawsuit waiting to happen, and you know it and I know it and everybody else knows it."

When I shared that with Pete Wilson, who, by the way, in the fullness of time, as we look back on the Wilson years, regardless of how you may feel about his position on taxes or whatever, Pete Wilson was one of the greatest governors this state has ever had because he was willing to walk into the lion's den and say what he believed, and Pete never backed away from something he believed in. Whether you agreed with him or not, once he took a position, he had thought through that position, and he did not veer from that position. We need more of those kinds of people. We need more of those kinds of people in public office.

But once we begin to understand the magnitude of the university's breaking of the law, then as a fiduciary, we had no choice, it seems to me, but to deal with it.

Manny talked a little bit about the significance of today’s date and I want to pause for a moment. I don't give addresses; I just ramble about race, and I want to do that today because I feel more comfortable doing that, and you're not paying me, so I do what I think is comfortable.

William E.B. DuBois talked about the talented tenth. The whole idea was to benefit the top 10% of black people, the talented 10th, as he called them, and by helping that 10%, that would draw up everybody else. That philosophy, the talented 10th, really was the basis of modern-day "affirmative action." Help the 10%, help the top kids go to Berkeley instead of Riverside, and somehow that is going to benefit the masses. Hasn't worked. It just hasn't worked.

Apart from the moral question of whether we should treat our citizens differently on the basis of skin color or race, whatever that is, hair color, texture, if you have any, skin color, whatever race is, the notion that we should treat people differently on the basis of those factors is abhorrent.

But apart from that, affirmative action, as we have seen it over the years, just hasn't worked. It hasn't brought up the masses. The masses are still lingering in lousy communities, not pursuing the goodness of this nation for whatever reason, but that talented 10th concept has not worked. DuBois's view there was really a colossal failure.

You know, this year was supposed to be the year that was transformative about race, and we had this great candidate, young candidate, who came along, and he transcended race. He was going to take us to a new place, and we were going to get beyond race, and his campaign workers were chanting in South Carolina the night of the victory, "Race doesn't matter," and yet here we are with a campaign that will be decided, in my view, on the basis of race.

And as it plays out, the moment is a very important one for us as a people. It's a very important one. With all my heart and soul, I hope we reject Senator Obama, but I hope that we reject him for the right reason, and the right reason is that the philosophy that he would bring to our nation on taxes, on healthcare, on a whole range of issues is totally at variance with life as we know it, with what we believe, most of us -- I hope all of us in this room -- is the right remedy for giving people a chance to lead a productive life, a life of freedom, a life of independence, based on their contribution.

In my private life, where I began, I worked at the Redevelopment Agency of Sacramento. That was my first job out of college. And my job was to go out and buy properties for the Redevelopment Agency that we would put into more productive uses through the power of eminent domain but in a different context, by defining a neighborhood, and I always had some misgivings about redevelopment process, but nonetheless, a guy's got to eat, and I had a young family, so I went to work right out of college for the Redevelopment Agency.

That's where I learned something about community organizing. My great enemies were community organizers. I have never met in 40-some years a community organizer who was not a socialist.

Now, I don't like to stereotype, but I want to tell you that when you are a community organizer, you have to have a certain view of the world, a certain view of things that puts you at variance with free enterprise, puts you at variance with the notion of individual rights, makes you want to redistribute the wealth. That's what community organization is.

The country seemed surprised by Reverend Wright and Father Phleger's comments. I don't know why you're surprised because if you've had one debate about affirmative action on a college campus, the rhetoric of institutional racism, the nation just heard it with Phleger and Reverend Wright. The problem is the media doesn't understand the debate enough to be able to ask the right questions of Senator Obama, not whether you think the rhetoric is divisive.

You know, when I first got involved in all of this, some of my fellow Republicans would say, "We can't support that because it's divisive." Not a question of divisive. Public policy is divisive. The question is, do you agree or do you disagree with the merits of the issue?

So when Senator Obama says it's divisive, he is very artfully avoiding the question of whether he agrees or disagrees with the inherent philosophy. And what Phleger and Wright are saying is that view of the nation in which whites, basically white males, are inherently evil and don't want to share the good life with anybody else and that the order has to be changed in our nation, change -- change -- so that all of this is reconfigured, this is a defining moment.

To his credit, Senator Obama has been very artful. He has not shucked and jived his way by saying, "I don't agree with the inherent philosophy." He has been artful, and if we let him get away with it, shame on us. But there is a profound change that is being offered to the American people, a profound change about our economic system, about the relationship between the government and its citizens, and if we embrace that, our kids and our grandkids are going to have a tough life from here on out because America, as we know it, folks, will not be the same. It will not be the same.

If I'm frightening you, then my purpose is served because I don't think that we have paused long enough to really think through what the Obama phenomenon is really all about. The country wants to change. It wasn’t to give him the benefit of the doubt. More people want to vote for him because of his skin color than those who do not want to vote for him and who will not vote for him regardless of what he says because of skin color. There is that debate going on, and there are those who will never vote for him because he's a brown-skinned guy. They're wrong. But there are more of us, I believe, who really want to examine what he has to offer and make the decision on that basis, and I confess, the minute that I knew that he was a community organizer, my mind was made up.

But for the rest of the notion, we do have to take a look at what he offers. I would never vote against someone because of sex or because of skin color or religion or ethnic background. I would never vote against someone because of that. But just as I would never vote for or against someone because of that, I would never vote for them because of that. There are a lot of people who are willing to do that, who are willing to do that.

Tom Sowell wrote a column about a baseball player who had 2,999 hits, and he hit one up the field, up the middle, and it was fielded not so well. Scorekeeper gave him a hit, 3,000th hit. When the inning was over, the ballplayer went to the scorekeeper and said, "I don't want to go into the record books with a flawed hit." A couple of nights later, he got his 3,000th hit, a clean one. Tom's point is some day there will be a black president, but let's not soil the record books by going with an error. This would be an error. This would be a terrible error.

When I was in college, I had a professor for whom I was the reader, Dr. Thompson, Bob Thompson. They don't get any more left than Dr. Thompson, but I loved him dearly, and he induced me into joining the NAACP and the ACLU, and I went to one meeting of each and never went back. And he asked me why, and I said, "I don't feel comfortable at either organization." And we talked a little further.

And he always ended his lectures by saying, "We shall overcome." And one day I was being a smartass, and I said, "Dr. Thompson, how will we know when we have overcome?" And he said, "Mr. Connerly," -- and he always had these glasses and he looked over them and peered down at me -- he said, "There are three things that will determine when we have overcome. First of all, when a white girl can bring her black fiancée home to mom and dad and have the father not become apoplectic. Remember those days, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? He said, "That's test one. Test number two is when any white, no matter how impoverished, would be willing to take the place of any black, no matter how successful." I think a lot of people would be willing to switch places with Oprah and a lot of other prominent blacks. The third test was when the nation would be ready to consider -- to consider, not necessarily elect, a black person for president.

Profound wisdom, foresight. We are there. We are considering this man. He is a formidable candidate. I think that he has polished his rhetoric, except there is a difference when he is talking -- improvising and when he is delivering a speech, a major difference in the delivery. But he's packaged himself in such a way that he seems to be acceptable to us until we open the package. And the challenge for us is to open that package, that we don't destroy all the paper, that we not shred the package to bits, still, leave it intact for us to examine.

We're going to win the fight on preferences. There's no doubt in my mind about that. We're going to win it. Before I move on to another place, we're going to win this battle about preferences. Victory is in sight. The question is whether we're going to win the race about race. That's the larger challenge, so it's important that we do this the right way. It's important that we are honest with ourselves about the issue of race. It's important that we look at its horrible consequences.

I mean think about it. With all the problems that we're facing in the nation about the issue of the war, about the looming prospect of a one-party government controlling the House, the Senate, the presidency, able to control the Judiciary, with the battles that are going on in our country between representative government and direct democracy -- and they are large. I could take 30 minutes to tell you about the blockers who are trying to deny people from putting their signatures on petitions -- and about the warriors of Obama, ACORN, namely, but the fact is that we're fighting over race. That is the issue. It transcends the war. It transcends the consideration of taxes and healthcare and this stuff about global warming. Whether it's real or not, I don't know, but regardless of all that, race is transcending all of that.

No value is being added to the conversation. There's no value added when we talk about the issue of race. And once we start talking about race, as a good friend says, "That's all we talk about." You turn on any channel, and the issue is race, skin color. Now, Senator Obama has brought that to us, but we have to get beyond it. We have to use this moment somehow to navigate ourselves out of this morass where race is so terribly important in our nation. That is the real challenge that we face, and every one of us has a duty, has an obligation to help accomplish that. We see people marrying across lines of race and ethnicity, and we don't even care, thank God, but the reality is that it is still the most potent issue in American life. It is the most potent issue in American life, and we have to get beyond it.

And probably those of us like us in this room are the ones who will have to provide the leadership for that to happen, but until we can accomplish that and make it totally irrelevant in American life and live, as John F. Kennedy said, "where race has no place in American life or law," we will not be the nation that we were, I think, ordained to be.

So thank you for inviting me to visit with you. This is a great family that David has convened, and I’m delighted to be a part of it. Thank you all very much. God bless you.

Unidentified Audience Participant: Could you just expand a little bit more on exactly what a community organizer does? I honestly have no idea of specifics what they do.

Ward Connerly: First of all, I am totally serious about that. I mean I despise labels, political labels. I am generally conservative, but I am libertarian in many things. And I detest labels, but I have learned over the years that there are certain occupations that attract certain beliefs, certain mindsets. Community organizing is one of them.

To be an effective community organizer, you have to believe that the people you're serving who are "the disenfranchised" largely are getting a bad deal in life. Your job is to try to improve their lives, all good -- that's a good mission.

But what you do in the course of that is you challenge any rent -- you challenge any rent structure. You want rent control. You want to make sure that they're not paying more than they can afford. Well, if you're unemployed and if you're homeless, you can't afford very much. So that means that there has to be some rent control. That's one of the policies that's there.

Number two, you want to make sure that people who are low income, that their lives are uplifted. Fine. But the uplifting does not come from working, getting a job, working, earning your way in the capitalistic system; it comes from the government somehow giving you the benefits -- the benefits.

Think about how the argument about healthcare, universal healthcare, is articulated. The government has a duty -- this is the argument -- the government has a duty to make sure its people all have healthcare. That is the foundation of a community organizer's belief. What you do is you're trying to change the order.

If you go back and you read what Senator Obama has said and the things that he has done when he ran for the state senate, he talked about change. The word change is not new for him. Change was always a part of what he wanted to do. But what it means is changing the system, changing the system. He's even said things about the poverty of -- I forgot what it was exactly, but in a recent commencement address, and he talked about not going out and getting a job necessarily and all those things. Think carefully about what he is saying. He wants to change the system.

Community organizers -- Phleger, Wright, the system -- they're uncomfortable with capitalism. They're very uncomfortable with it. He wants to change the system. It's not just changing the peace of the people who are sitting at the table in the White House. It's changing the system economically. I don't think he is -- I don't think that he is as deeply enmeshed in race as, say, Reverend Sharpton or Jesse Jackson would be, but the essence of what he wants to do is the same. It's a distinction without a difference. It's changing the system. Every community organizer that I have known believes that the system is inherently flawed. Capitalism doesn't work, in their view, because it doesn't distribute enough of its benefits to enough people. It's only certain people who get the benefits.

So any time someone tells you they're a community organizer, watch your wallet. The job itself does not allow you to believe in things like capitalism. It just doesn't.

Unidentified Audience Participant: Thank you for coming here today. Appreciate it. I have a couple of questions. Can't you use the same principles of community organizations for conservatives? I mean can't we just use that same principles and overlay it unto what we're trying to do? In other words, we want to go out to the community, and we want to uplift the community. We want to apply our principles to the community.

Ward Connerly: I'm not so sure that we could take a conservative ethic and apply that the way it's being applied right now. I'm not so sure that we can find a conservative community organizational structure. Conservatives believe in individuals. We believe that it's your job as an individual to go out and pursue your life. It's not the government's job to do it for you. Community organization brings with it a certain groupism, a certain responsibility, a benevolence of the government that is essential. You're trying to change the order of things. There may come a time when we need to organize to change, but --

The nation still believes in the basic system that we have. That's why you have such a variance between the people in most states, especially California, and representative government because the people still believe in that basic system. There are places where that belief is being tested and places that you would not suspect.

I never would've thought that there would be the ACLU, the Service Employees International Union, ACORN that would be so powerful in the state of Missouri. I mean these are people who are actually employing fascist tactics to prevent people from signing petitions.

Let's say that I approach you and I want to get your signature on a petition. One of those community organizers will actually come between us and put their leaflet on top of my petition and say, "He's a racist. He's with the Ku Klux Klan. Don't sign the petition." It amounts to identity theft. That's what they will say. The citizen turns and walks away. They shouldn't be allowed to do that, but they are, and they're aided by the police.

Circulator is arrested for trying to get signatures standing on the sidewalk in front of the Kansas City library, public property. The librarian says, "You can't circulate on the streets here, but we have a table inside the library for you, but you can't talk." So you go in and you sit at the table, but you can't talk to anybody to tell them what the initiative is about. The process has changed. The street people, the community organizers have taken over.

I don't think that Senator Obama is getting the examination that he would otherwise get with the same views. I don't think he would get the pass that he's getting. I think he's getting a free pass on a lot of things. He's not being examined. There's no vetting at all that's genuinely taking place about Senator Obama. No one is asking, "Senator Obama, do you really believe in institutional racism?" The question is at this level, "Do you distance yourself from Reverend Wright?" "Well, yeah, I distance myself from Reverend Wright," but there's on explanation of why. Nobody is vetting him and asking him what he believes because to ask that possibly invokes the question of whether you're a racist. You can't even ask questions about his wife.

So I would submit to you that if Senator McCain identified with the policies of Wright and Phleger and took so long to distance himself from them, from those views, he would've been history a long time ago. He wouldn't have made it through the primaries. All you have to do is go to Bob Jones University and you're dead meat. Doesn't matter that you belong to the church. For 20-some years, you had that close relationship.

They're saying things that are from the playbook about -- of those who believe in institutional racism and using preferences as a way to compensate, to level the playing field. None of that's getting vetted. None of it. The eight-minute segments on cable television do not allow for the real vetting of issues like this.

So as a result, as long as Senator Obama keeps his voice mild, doesn't get upset, is not flappable, he can skate right through with questions never being asked -- "Do you really believe that stuff? Tell me, do you believe in institutional racism?" That's the only -- you ask that one question alone, and that will tell you a lot about Senator Obama, just that one question. "Do you believe in institutional racism?" I have yet to hear it asked.

Institutional racism? It's a belief that American society is basically racist, that there are policies that apply that may not be deliberate -- deliberately racist, but they're racist in their effect.

You get pulled over by the police solely because of your skin color, at night, by the way, when they can't really tell necessarily who's in the car, but you get pulled over by the police.

You can't get a cab because of your skin color without examining the fact that the cab driver perhaps is Ethiopian, who was slashed on the neck by young black kids in New York or Washington, D.C. There are all kinds of explanations that you -- when you're a kid, you're followed in the grocery store, you're followed in the shopping malls solely because of your skin color, apart from the fact that owners of stores are always nervous, regardless of skin color, of a bunch of kids who are carousing through the shopping area. But institutional racism suggests that the whole institution is racist. More blacks are in prison solely because they're black rather than because of the number of crimes that are possibly committed.

So if Senator Obama said, "Yes, I believe in institutional racism," bingo, but I don't think he'll answer it.


Sowell: U.S. apes European labor-states

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Welfare-state socialism fails elsewhere

If anyone suggested that Tiger Woods should try to be more like other golfers, people would question the sanity of whoever made that suggestion. Why should Tiger Woods try to be more like Phil Mickelson? If Woods turned around and tried to golf left-handed, like Mickelson, he probably wouldn’t be as good as Mickelson, much less as good as he is golfing the way he does right-handed.

Yet there are those who think that the United States should follow policies more like those in Europe, often with no stronger reason than the fact that Europeans follow such policies. For some Americans, it is considered chic to be like Europeans.

If Europeans have a higher minimum wage and more welfare-state benefits, then we should have a higher minimum wage and more welfare-state benefits, according to such people. If Europeans restrict pharmaceutical companies’ patents and profits, then we should do the same.

Some justices of the U.S. Supreme Court even seem to think that they should incorporate ideas from European laws in interpreting American laws.

Before we start imitating someone, we should first find out whether the results they get are better than the results we get. Across a very wide spectrum, the U.S. has been doing better than Europe for a very long time.

By comparison with most of the rest of the world, Europe is doing fine. But they are like Phil Mickelson, not Tiger Woods.

Minimum-wage laws have the same effects in Europe as they have had in other places around the world. They price many low-skilled and inexperienced workers out of a job.

Because minimum-wage laws are more generous in Europe than in the U.S., they lead to chronically higher rates of unemployment in general and longer periods of unemployment than in the U.S. — but especially among younger, less-experienced and less-skilled workers.

Unemployment rates of 20 percent or more for young workers are common in a number of European countries. Among workers who are both younger and minorities, such as young Muslims in France, unemployment rates are estimated at about 40 percent.

The American minimum-wage laws do enough damage without our imitating European minimum-wage laws. The last year in which the black unemployment rate was lower than the white unemployment rate in the United States was 1930.

The next year, the first federal minimum-wage law, the Davis-Bacon Act, was passed. One of its sponsors explicitly stated that the purpose was to keep blacks from taking jobs from whites.

No one says things like that any more — which is a shame, because the effect of a minimum-wage law does not depend on what anybody says. Blacks in general, and younger blacks in particular, are the biggest losers from such laws, just as younger and minority workers are in Europe.

Those Americans who are pushing us toward the kinds of policies that Europeans impose on pharmaceutical companies show not the slightest interest in what the consequences of such laws have been.

One consequence is that even European pharmaceutical companies do much of their research and development of new medications in the U.S., in order to take advantage of American patent protections and freedom from price controls.

These are the very policies that the European imitators want us to change.

It is not a coincidence that such a high proportion of the major pharmaceutical drugs are developed in the United States. If we kill the goose that lays the golden egg, as the Europeans have done, both we and the Europeans — as well as the rest of the world — will be worse off, because there are few other places for such medications to be developed.

There are a lot of diseases still waiting for a cure, or even for relief for those suffering from those diseases. People stricken with these diseases will pay the price for blind imitation of Europe.

The United States leads the world in too many areas for us to start imitating those who are trailing behind.


Exposing ACORN Gone Wild

Related ACORN stories: here

Chicago-based union front-group knows Barack

If you don't know what ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) is all about, you better bone up. This left-wing group takes in 40 percent of its revenues from American taxpayers -- you and me -- and has leveraged nearly four decades of government subsidies to fund affiliates that promote the welfare state and undermine capitalism and self-reliance, some of which have been implicated in perpetuating illegal immigration and encouraging voter fraud.

A new whistleblower report from the Consumer Rights League claims that Chicago-based ACORN has commingled public tax dollars with political projects. Who in Washington will fight to ensure that your money isn't being spent on these radical activities?

Don't bother asking Barack Obama. He cut his ideological teeth working with ACORN as a "community organizer" and legal representative. Naturally, ACORN's political action committee has warmly endorsed his presidential candidacy. ACORN head Maude Hurd gushes that Obama is the candidate who "best understands and can affect change on the issues ACORN cares about" -- like ensuring their massive pipeline to your hard-earned money. Let's take a closer look at the ACORN Obama knows.

Last July, ACORN settled the largest case of voter fraud in the history of Washington State. Seven ACORN workers had submitted nearly 2,000 bogus voter registration forms. According to case records, they flipped through phone books for names to use on the forms, including "Leon Spinks," "Frekkie Magoal" and "Fruto Boy Crispila." Three ACORN election hoaxers pleaded guilty in October. A King County prosecutor called ACORN's criminal sabotage "an act of vandalism upon the voter rolls."

The group's vandalism on electoral integrity is systemic. ACORN has been implicated in similar voter fraud schemes in Missouri, Ohio and at least 12 other states. The Wall Street Journal noted: "In Ohio in 2004, a worker for one affiliate was given crack cocaine in exchange for fraudulent registrations that included underage voters, dead voters and pillars of the community named Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy and Jive Turkey. During a congressional hearing in Ohio in the aftermath of the 2004 election, officials from several counties in the state explained ACORN's practice of dumping thousands of registration forms in their lap on the submission deadline, even though the forms had been collected months earlier."

In March, Philadelphia elections officials accused the nonprofit advocacy group of filing fraudulent voter registrations in advance of the April 22nd Pennsylvania primary. The charges have been forwarded to the city district attorney's office.

Under the guise of "consumer advocacy," ACORN has received money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD funds hundreds, if not thousands, of left-wing "anti-poverty" groups across the country led by ACORN. Last October, HUD announced more than $44 million in new housing counseling grants to over 400 state and local efforts. The White House has increased funding for housing counseling by 150 percent since taking office in 2001, despite the role most of these recipients play as activist satellites of the Democratic Party. The AARP scored nearly $400,000 for training; the National Council of La Raza ("The Race") scooped up more than $1.3 million; the National Urban League raked in nearly $1 million; and the ACORN Housing Corporation received more than $1.6 million.

As the Consumer Rights League points out in its new expose, the ACORN Housing Corporation has worked to obtain mortgages for illegal aliens in partnership with Citibank. It relies on undocumented income, "under the table" money, which may not be reported to the Internal Revenue Service. Moreover, the group's "financial justice" operations attack lenders for "exotic" loans, while recommending 10-year interest-only loans (which deny equity to the buyer) and risky reverse mortgages. Whistleblower documents reveal internal discussions among the group that blur the lines between its tax-exempt housing work and its aggressive electioneering activities. The group appears to shake down corporate interests with relentless PR attacks, and then enters "no lobby" agreements with targeted corporations after receiving payment.

Republicans have largely looked the other way as ACORN has expanded its government-funded empire. But finally, a few conservative voices in Congress have called for investigation of the group's apparent extortion schemes. This week, GOP Reps. Tom Feeney, Jeb Hensarling and Ed Royce called on Democrat Barney Frank, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, to convene a hearing to probe potential illegalities and abuse of taxpayer funds by ACORN's management and minions alike.

Where does the candidate of Hope and Change -- the candidate of Reform and New Politics -- stand on the issue? Barack Obama, ACORN's senator, is for more of the same old, same old subsidizing of far-left politics in the name of fighting for the poor while enriching ideological cronies. It's the Chicago way.

- Michelle Malkin is author of "Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild."


Teamster ads chill labor-state beer distributor

Related story: "Teamsters boycott Miller, Coors"

More than 10 billboards proclaiming that "Miller is Tasteless" went up across West Virginia today to protest efforts by Capitol Beverage Company, a distributor of Miller and Coors products in the state, to force its Teamster employees to accept grossly substandard wages and an expensive family health care plan.

The large roadside billboards read "Tell Miller: Destroying West Virginia Jobs is Tasteless." Teamsters Local 175 in Charleston has represented Miller drivers and warehouse workers for over 30 years.

Capitol wants to pay its Miller and Coors delivery drivers and warehousemen up to 40 percent less than other beverage distributors in the area and force longtime employees to pay as much as $11,000 a year for family health care. Capitol's plan would also eliminate health care coverage for retired Miller and Coors beer delivery drivers.

After Miller delivery workers voted to reject the company's contract offer last month, Jim Waugh, the owner of Capitol Beverage, threatened to permanently replace workers who exercise their right to strike. Capitol's employees have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board charging the company with violating federal labor law and refusing to bargain in good faith.

"We've made every effort to work with Miller's distributor to negotiate a fair contract that positions the company as the premier distributor of Miller Beer in West Virginia and meets the standards set by its competitors," said Ken Hall, Teamsters International Vice President and President of Local 175. "Unfortunately, the company seems to be more interested in bullying workers than negotiating a contract that provides a fair living for hard working Miller delivery drivers and warehousemen."

The dispute could lead to a strike against Capitol, a company founded in 1935 that now delivers a variety of beers -- including Corona, Old Milwaukee and Guinness -- along with Miller and Coors, to state retailers.

"Miller and Capitol Beverage generate millions of dollars in profits in West Virginia every year," said Luke Farley, a Local 175 representative. "Both of these companies can afford to provide good jobs that support local families."

Within the next two weeks, Local 175 will begin placing additional billboards in Morgantown Charleston and other areas in the state.

The Teamsters Union was founded in 1903 and represents more than 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.


Brace for aggressive union organizing

Barack, Stern set national unionization goal

With Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) having secured the delegates to become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, employers should be braced for a possible dramatic change in the labor landscape, according to Jackson Lewis LLP, a national employment law firm that represents management. "Employers across all industries must prepare for extremely aggressive union organizing campaigns that will be waged on a national scale," says Michael J. Lotito, a partner at Jackson Lewis and recognized workplace law expert.

Speaking via satellite to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) convention in Puerto Rico, Obama vowed to stand by re-elected SEIU president Andy Stern and union members by ushering in a union-friendly administration, the law firm noted. He also vowed, if elected, to pass the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act.

"Anna Burger, Secretary-Treasurer of the SEIU, predicts that the labor movement will add 1 million members per year if EFCA becomes law," notes Lotito.

"The so-called Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would grant unions certification as soon as they had collected signature cards from half the workers, effectively stripping workers of their right to vote in a government supervised secret ballot election," Jackson Lewis stated. "EFCA would also impose substantial fines for employers' mistakes, as well as force first contracts determined by a third party arbitrator, even if the employer and the union both might disagree with the mandated final contract terms."

The SEIU, one of the nation's largest and most powerful unions, has campaigned aggressively in support of EFCA. It plans to spend $75 million on federal and state elections in the current two-year political cycle. According to Jackson Lewis, part of this plan includes aggressively pressuring or punishing political candidates who fail to follow through on pro-union vows after being elected.

The convention also established a new direction for the SEIU, voting to fund international, industry-specific campaigns over the traditionally favored local initiatives.

"With its new plans for consolidating power, the SEIU's leadership will effectively be able to dictate who will be targeted for corporate campaigns, how long they will last, and the terms under which they will end. The time for employers to define themselves positively before the union defines them negatively is now," says Philip B. Rosen, managing partner and chair of the Jackson Lewis LLP Labor Practice Group.


Union-happy Gov. fools business backers

Related story: "Big Business in cahoots with Big Labor"

Big Business turns its back on worker-choice scheme

Two weeks ago, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce blew it. Chamber leadership turned its back on its mission, its small-business members, and its principles when it voted to oppose Amendment 47 - Colorado's Right to Work Amendment - on this November's ballot. The move is a misguided effort to appease Gov. Bill Ritter and big labor bosses.

By opposing the basic concept that nobody should be forced to support a union against his or her will, the chamber invites the question of whose interests it really represents. The chamber's Web site states, "The Chamber is a powerful and effective advocate for both small and large businesses at the local, state and federal levels." But small and large businesses support right to work overwhelmingly.

This is an unfortunate reflection of the new pressure on Colorado civic leaders under the Ritter administration. When Colorado elected Ritter in 2006, much of the business community was open to his promises he would be a pro-commerce, pro-growth Democrat. Business was fooled.

Until Ritter took office, Colorado's unique law, the Labor Peace Act, had maintained a half-century of rough balance that business and labor could live with. That peace was doomed even before the election, with Ritter's secret pledge to sign union-shop legislation that would make it easier to force employees to support unions. In 2007, state lawmakers did labor bosses' bidding by passing HB 1072. They trashed the Peace Act and the uneasy peace.

Business leaders felt double-crossed by the new governor and launched a firestorm of protest that ultimately pressured him to veto the bill, restoring the status quo. But after spending millions to take over state government, big labor wasn't satisfied with the status quo. Pressure for payback intensified.

Last November, Ritter obliged with his infamous Friday afternoon executive order opening the state work force to exclusive representation, labor recruiting and collective bargaining. The payback has continued in the legislature, with lawmakers passing numerous bills to benefit unions and strengthen their muscle in the workplace.

Much has been made of "the war between business and labor" in this year's election season. But the business community didn't ask for any of this. Colorado was emerging from the recession of a few years back and business leaders looked forward to working with Ritter to move forward.

Now, as our economic security is battered by rising oil prices, spiraling grocery prices and climbing unemployment, Colorado needs an inviting economic climate, focused on bringing new businesses and jobs. Creating a hostile, expensive-employment environment is exactly the wrong move.

Amendment 47 is a turn back toward growth and expanding opportunity.

But the administration and labor bosses are pushing back, threatening formal and informal consequences for opposition to their agenda. Two weeks ago, the chamber blinked, hoping for peace by appeasement. That one of the state's largest business groups would take a position so far from the mainstream of its membership, its mission and basic economics is startling and disappointing.

The Denver chamber itself acknowledged Amendment 47 is "a basic business principle," and it further stated that "allowing unions the ability to organize, but not requiring workers to participate or pay dues, makes sense in our world." An unidentified "major downtown employer who also is a prominent member of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce" admitted as much in "Chamber has its reasons for right-to-work stand," Rocky Mountain News business editor Rob Reuteman's June 14 column: "If it gets on the ballot, I'll vote for it." This, even though he is advocating to keep it off the ballot.

The Denver chamber and its members understand that Amendment 47 is good for Colorado. Reuteman's column reveals their "vote 'no' on everything" strategy as a basic lack of leadership and putting politics over principle.

This is shortsighted. We haven't heard the last from Ritter, compliant lawmakers or activist groups with a radical vision for Colorado. We should not allow ourselves to be fooled again. We should repair the damage already done.

Now is the time for the business community - and everyone who values freedom of choice and conscience - to stand and support Colorado families' economic security and help make this a jobs-friendly, growth-friendly state. We can accomplish this in part by passing Amendment 47.

- Republican Sen. Shawn Mitchell represents Broomfield in the Colorado General Assembly.


Colorado's Labor Peace Act exposed

Putting forced-labor unionism first

Labor relations in Colorado have been conducted under the Colorado Peace Act, enacted in 1943. That Act established rules of the game for collective bargaining in the private sector; public employees were specifically excluded from these provisions. Colorado lawmakers have never enacted legislation for collective bargaining for public employees.

Last fall Governor Ritter shocked many Colorado citizens by granting collective bargaining rights for state employees through executive order. That executive order certainly complicates the rules of the game governing labor relations in the public sector. The order declares that any state employees joining a 'partnership' must give up the right to strike as a condition of their membership.

Ritter's Executive Order is in conflict with a ruling by the Supreme Court in 1992. The Court ruled that public employees do have the right to strike, citing a statute passed in 1915.

Further complicating Colorado labor law will be a series of initiatives proposed for the November ballot. A Right To Work initiative would protect the right of workers to choose whether or not to join a union, outlawing union shop agreements. Labor unions are proposing a number of initiatives that would mandate cost of living raises, health benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. Other labor union initiatives would restrict layoffs, and impose other constraints on employers.

Just when you thought that Colorado labor law is complicated enough, the federal government has decided to get into the act. HR 980, which has been approved in the United States House of Representatives , and is winding its way through the Senate, would require state and local governments to bargain collectively with public safety employees, including law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical service personnel.

The bill grants authority to public safety employees to form a union, and requires public safety employers to bargain collectively with the union regarding wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment. The bill would grant power to the Federal Labor Relations Authority to enforce these rules for collective bargaining between public safety employees and employers.

HR 980 states that the Act shall not be construed to invalidate some existing rules enacted by state and local governments. However, the proposed federal legislation would conflict with current state and local laws governing labor relations in the public sector, and it is not clear how these conflicts would be resolved. For example, the new federal law would prohibit public safety employees, or their union, from engaging in a strike against their employer. On the one hand we would have the Federal Labor Relations Authority and Governor Ritter saying that public employees do not have the right to strike; and, on the other hand, the Colorado Supreme Court ruling that these employees do have the right to strike.

It is not clear what Colorado labor law will look like if HR 980 becomes law, as it almost certainly would should Barack Obama be elected President . What is clear is that the last thing the state needs is federal meddling in our labor laws governing public employees. HR 980 would create a new federal bureaucracy with powers to regulate labor relations at both the state and local level.

If there ever was a time when Colorado citizens should draw a line in the sand over states rights issues, it is to challenge this proposed federal legislation. Colorado citizens should communicate to their representatives in Congress that we are quite capable of designing rules of the game for labor relations without such federal meddling.

- Barry Poulson is a Distinguished Scholar with the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and a Senior Fellow with the Independence Institute.


Labor-state's selective mandates

Forced union-dues OK, but mandatory overtime gets banned

Nurses in New York state will soon see the end of a practice dangerous for both nurses and patients: mandatory overtime. Unions representing New York registered nurses and licensed practical nurses have been fighting for years to achieve a ban on forced overtime. Many hospitals and other health care facilities have strongly opposed overtime limits.

Under an agreement reached last week among the state Assembly, Senate and Gov. David Paterson (D), legislation to eliminate mandatory overtime soon will be passed and on the governor’s desk.

Denis Hughes, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, says the ban on mandatory overtime: "is a tremendous victory for health care workers all across New York state."

The legislation prohibits employers from forcing nurses to work longer than their regular shifts. It applies to hospitals, nursing homes and state and locally run facilities. There is an exception for emergencies and health care disasters. The ban will take effect July 1, 2009.

Says Anne Goldman, head of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Health Care Professionals Council: "Mandatory overtime will no longer be an acceptable tool for managers to use to staff our hospitals. The abuses of staff have occurred for far too long, and now it is time to have health care managers do the job of staffing."

Mandatory overtime forces nurses to work long hours with little rest, potentially compromising the quality of care in our health care facilities. Paterson says the legislatio "will help increase the quality of care nurses are able to provide to patients…and will allow our facilities to retain and recruit a vital nursing workforce."

Forced overtime is cited by most health care professional as a key factor in nurses leaving the profession. Nurses say that working long hours far beyond their normal shifts, sometimes to the point of exhaustion, not only puts their health at risk but, but patient care, too.

Tina Gerardi, an RN and chief executive officer of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), puts it this way: "An end to mandatory overtime will ensure that nurses are not forced to work beyond the point where they can provide safe patient care."

Ken Brynien, president of the New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF), says elimination of mandatory overtime will help ease the state’s nursing shortage. "Ending mandatory overtime will help recruit and retain nurses, which is an essential step toward ending the nursing crisis and improving patient safety."

Along with the PEF, NYSNA and NYSUT, the coalition of unions that worked to win the mandatory overtime ban includes AFT, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and SEIU.


Voter-fraud group arouses suspicions

Related ACORN stories: here

ACORN, AFSCME involved in criminal episode

An advocacy group working on voter registration has reported that 90 completed voter registration applications were stolen during a burglary Friday night. ACORN — Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — said a lock box with the registrations was taken during a burglary of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees offices, from which ACORN is subleasing space.

Mark Gerring, ACORN board member, said ACORN tracks all voters it registers, and will send a letter to inform those whose registration applications were stolen.

"While we're outraged that someone would take new voters' applications, we can at least be sure that all of these future voters can have the opportunity to complete an application and mail it directly to the county clerk," Gerring said.


Gov't-union takes dues hit in labor-state

Public housing security privatized over SEIU objection

For at the fifth time in the last two years, the Newark Housing Authority is laying off staff and contracting with a private company to provide services. The authority's board of commissioners is set to vote Thursday on a $4.5 million contract to hire Winfield Security Corp. of Bloomfield to provide unarmed security guards at all of its senior sites and camera coverage at all buildings. Eighty security guards now on the authority's payroll will be laid off.

Executive Director Keith Kinard said the authority needs 120 guards to provide security at all senior buildings. It would cost the authority $7.86 million to provide those services in-house, Kinard said.

Since Kinard arrived almost two years ago, the troubled authority has privatized its housing inspection, payroll, supply delivery and housing voucher program. The authority has laid off almost half its workforce in the last two years.

Chief administrative officer Tory Gunsolley said many authority security guards are not certified by the state but make an average salary of $28,000 and cost the authority an average of $40,000 a piece when adding in benefits.

The nine accepted bids offered certified security guards at a total of about $30,000, said Kinard. Both acknowledge that Winfield pays lower wages than the authority and offers less benefits.

Rahaman Muhammad, president of Service Employees International Union Local 617, represents the authority's security guards. He said the agency could have provided training for the guards and supplemented their ranks with per diem employees instead of laying them off.

"For some reason the Newark Housing Authority wants to privatize everything. They are getting out of the business of housing poor folks and employing poor folks," Muhammad said.

He also called the layoffs and continuing privatization of authority functions hypocritical, given the raises that Kinard's executive staff has received over the last year. The chief financial officer, Debra Toothman, received a $19,500 raise in January and chief operations officer, Janet Abraham, received a $15,000 raise in December, among others.

Kinard said the security issue is about efficiency and not money. His executive staff has three less people than his predecessor's executive staff. Combined, Kinard said his staff makes a total of $200,000 less than his predecessor's staff.


100,000 SEIU operatives take time off

Politics is job #1 for jumbo union

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama cited Republican attack groups in his decision last week to opt out of public financing for the general election. For now, though, it looks in Iowa like it’s the left that’s moving first with an independent effort.

The Service Employees International Union this morning announced it’s launching an $85 million general election effort. The union mentioned 10 states, including Iowa, that will see mail and organizing efforts as well as “extensive outreach to voters on (GOP candidate John) McCain’s record of putting working families last.”

“More than 100,000 SEIU members will be volunteering their time to elect a pro-worker majority in Congress and elect Barack Obama as our next president,” said SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger. “They will reach out to voters in their communities with a clear message about which candidate will end the war in Iraq, ensure guaranteed affordable health care for everyone and build a new American Dream for workers.”



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