Pro-union, anti-worker avalanche coming

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Leftist labor-states offer less freedom

As the presidential campaign builds, one thing has become apparent--the political Left in this country is aligned with Big Labor in a big way. Union political contributions overwhelmingly favor Democrats over Republicans, with an average of 80 percent of all union contributions going toward the former.

At the same time, private-sector labor union membership is at a historic low of around 7 percent of the workforce. Public-sector union membership is skyrocketing, with membership rates over 36 percent nationally.

If the elections this November strongly favor the Left, we can expect to see pro-union, anti-worker legislation forced on the states like never before. Public-sector unions will wield more power over state budgets and virtually control the labor market through mandated wage requirements and complicated project labor agreements.

Variables, Hard Stats

With these developments in mind, the Alliance for Worker Freedom compiled its first state-by-state labor report card. The 2007 Index of Worker Freedom: A National Report Card (IWF) gives state legislators, policy analysts, and the public a "snapshot" of how their state ranks on a variety of labor issues.

While other labor publications focus on policy implementation or measure quantitative data such as union density, this index incorporates both policy variables and measurable labor statistics to provide an examination of all key labor issues.

In incorporating the important factors affecting worker freedom nationwide, the index focuses on 10 variables: right to work, minimum wage, union density, paycheck protection, prevailing wage, defined contribution pension for public-sector employees, public employee collective bargaining rights, public-sector union membership, entrepreneurial activity, and workers compensation.

The study analyzes data for all 50 states and analyzes and incorporates not only legislative data but also quantitative data from the U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS), plus data gathered from local- and state-level nonprofits and think tanks and other sources.

High Rankings, Strong Growth

The study found states in the higher (better) rankings of the IWF directly correlate, allowing for outliers, with population growth when compared to the national average. Interestingly, states with high IWF scores and high population growth rates have a relatively low level of union density. States were ranked on a 0 to 10 scale, with higher rankings indicating higher levels of worker freedom.

All the first-quartile states rank below the national average in union density and well above the overall U.S. population growth rate. Thus it seems plausible to conclude that a state's IWF score is a solid metric of worker freedom, as there is a positive correlation between a high IWF score and other key variables.

As one would expect, states that score in the bottom quartile on the IWF have relatively high population loss and high union density rankings. The bottom quartile states' average population growth rate is far below that of the United States as a whole, and their union density is almost double the national average.

Utah Has Most Freedom

"Red" states have fared better than "blue" states according to the index, and states that grow in population have higher scores than those experiencing population flight or no growth. Utah scored the highest on the index, with a nine out of 10, earning the state an "A" grade. No state earned a perfect 10.

Six states scored zero, meaning they have essentially no real worker freedom. Those states, in continuing to maintain heavily regulated and controlled labor markets, are forcing population flight and repressing economic growth.

As nearly any economist will note, having a large small-business and entrepreneurial class is one of the best formulas for job creation and economic growth. All the states that scored an "F" had small-business creation below the national average and union density well above the national average.

Dishonor Roll

The following states scored zero out of 10, earning an "F" grade:
* Connecticut, ranking 43rd in population growth;

* Hawaii, ranking 23rd (and I speculate it finished that high only because of its desirable geographic location);

* Minnesota, ranking 27th in population growth;

* New York, with a 47th population ranking, actually lost people, showing a -.05 percent growth rate and a union density almost double the national average;

* Pennsylvania, ranking 37th in population growth; and

* Rhode Island, ranking dead last at 50th in population growth, having lost 0.6 percent of its population.

The index shows a higher level of worker freedom provides a better environment for a state's workers and may actually bring an influx of population that further improves the state's economy.

For more information ...The Alliance for Worker Freedom's inaugural Index of Worker Freedom: http://www.workerfreedom.org/index.php?content=iwf07.

- Brian M. Johnson (bjohnson@workerfreedom.org) is Executive Director of policy for the Alliance for Worker Freedom, an organization dedicated to supporting worker freedom.


Barack's voter-fraud group raises concerns

Related Lori Swanson/AFSCME stories: here

Did state pay ACORN for political quid pro quo?

Today's meeting of the Legislative Audit Commission drew a crowd to hear a report on the state of Minnesota's charter schools, but it was the second agenda item that drew keen interest from some hangers-on: the first appearance by Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles since he issued a report on allegations of misconduct in the state attorney general's office under former head Mike Hatch and current office holder Lori Swanson.

Although the "preliminary assessment," released June 3 by Nobles' office, concluded there was no basis for further action by the auditor, it does not appear that matters are fully settled.

In fact, during the course of "assessing" Hatch's second term as attorney general, from 2002-06, and Swanson's first year, 2007, Nobles and his staffers found two allegations that may well be within his jurisdiction as a fiscal agent for the state. Nobles, who was more stern in his testimony today, alluded to both in his one hour of remarks and Q-and-A with lawmakers.

More sleuthing to come

The first is an allegation concerning the settlement of a Feb. 13, 2006, complaint filed by Hatch against Capital One. The matter is discussed in an exchange of letters with the two attorneys general.

In a May 12, 2008, letter to Swanson, Nobles writes:

"The judgment was signed by you, as Solicitor General … [and] provided for the distribution of money to the Legal Aid Society ($250,000), the Minnesota Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — ACORN — ($249,999) and the state of Minnesota."

What caught Nobles' interest here is that the complaint was settled for $749,999, perhaps in coincidence with a state statue that says any settlements of $750,000 or more go to individuals or the state. Anything less can be divvied up in other ways -- in this case, the money going to those three entities. But Nobles further notes:

"It is alleged that the distribution of money to Minnesota ACORN was connected to ACORN's endorsement of Mike Hatch for governor on March 8, 2006. Please address the allegation and explain the basis of distribution of $249,999 to ACORN, a political advocacy organization."

Swanson punts, and turns the matter over to Hatch, who writes back on May 16, 2008, in a five-page missive that he was worried about setting bad precedent that the state might be violating constitutional laws involving prior restraint.

"ACORN was proposed as a distributee by Capital One. … I was told that … Capital One conferred with ACORN on several matters. Indeed, Capital One has made other contributions to ACORN, at least one of which was over $500,000."

Later, Hatch notes:

"It is my understanding that, as a non-profit organization, ACORN may not endorse political candidates." He then makes a distinction of an ACORN PAC: "There is no linkage to ACORN PAC's endorsement of me and the … distribution to ACORN. I think most political commentators would tell you that the last organization that could be influenced by money is ACORN. If somebody truly believed such an allegation, they would not have waited 27 months to make the claim."

At the hearing today, Nobles told the commission that in the letters "Attorney General Hatch and Attorney General Swanson provide a defense of the settlement." But he made it clear that the matter was on his radar.

Nobles indicated that Swanson was invited to the hearing to tell her side of things, but she declined, instead replying by letter. The letter was circulated only to commission members.

Reached on his cell phone by MinnPost this afternoon, Hatch audibly chortled and said, "I'm not talking to you. Thank you," before hanging up. A voicemail message seeking specific comment on the matter was not returned.

Another red flag

Nobles also acknowledged that in his assessment and interviews with the seven witnesses, another matter had surfaced.

There are now allegations that money for Medicaid fraud investigations was used somewhere else. "Another one in the hopper," is how Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, put it. Simon, who worked in the AG's office from 1996 to 2001, has been the most vocal about allegations that have come to him through sources in his old workplace.

He's also been the most cautious, being careful not to come across as a zealot. Still, Simon noted today that he's hearing — and Nobles acknowledged this — that the state attorney general's office gets federal money to investigate Medicaid fraud. Sources in the office, according to Simon, say that money for that fund was used elsewhere.

This caught the attention of at least one lawmaker who previously was willing to accept the preliminary assessment.

Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, wondered if Nobles had a way to contact the U.S. attorney general's office. Nobles assured her that he did, but he stressed that allegations were merely just that at this point.

Even so, Nobles said that both matters are noteworthy, and that the Capital One settlement "looks somewhat suspicious."

In the original Hatch/Swanson assessment, Nobles decided that the accusations were out of his purview, which covers financial matters of constitutional offices.

Those allegations, which had been bubbling under around the Capitol for nearly 18 months, included "that some attorneys in the Attorney General's Office felt pressured to ...

• Sign and issue a civil investigative demand without sufficient merit
• Insert unsubstantiated information in an affidavit
• Give advice that was not in the best interest of the client
• Find defendants to help the Attorney General's Office bring certain types of lawsuits
• Post comments favorable to the office and Attorney General Swanson on an internet blog and record the time used for blogging as annual leave even though state time was used."

Today, Nobles noted, "People with first-hand knowledge corroborated the pressure to do things," but made a crucial distinction between the culture of coercion and direct threats to employment. "We were impressed by the credibility and sincerity of these people. Frankly, some of them had quite strong condemnations."

But because OLA deals only with financial improprieties, and the Legislative Audit Commission was reluctant to push for further investigation at a meeting on March 28, this chapter is closed.

It appears Nobles now has more to look at, though he gave no indication of when he might proceed, or how he might investigate.

"It's a matter of record within our office," he said. It would come to the fore, he added, "once we are aware of possible misuses of federal money for Medicaid."

The commission's chair, Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, said, "You can do that by memo or email -- we don't need a meeting?"

"Mr. Chair," Nobles said, "that depends on what we find."


Labor unions are organizing illegal aliens

Related video: "Barack wants drivers licenses for illegals"

Waterfront rife with abuse

In 1983, when the seafood processing plants on the New Bedford (MA) waterfront broke the back of the Seafarer's Union, the starting salary for a line worker was around $7.50 an hour. Twenty-five years later, the starting salary for processing and packing workers at the New Bedford fish houses was about the same, $7.50 an hour.

On Jan. 1 of this year, the starting wage on the waterfront — as the result of the latest increase to the state's minimum wage rate — finally went to $8 an hour.

One of the big reasons there's been so little wage growth in New Bedford fish houses is that after the unions went out of existence, many fish houses, over time, replaced their mostly legal, and union-protected, Portuguese immigrants with low-paid Central American immigrants, many of whom are in the United States illegally.

These new immigrants, desperate for employment, were willing to work far cheaper (after the union was first broken for as little as $4.50 and $5 an hour), and with far fewer benefits than the generations before them. The current $8-an-hour entry wage is 12 to 16 times what the immigrants would make in Guatemala, where wages range from $4 to $6 per day, depending on the section of the country.

"Unions that once represented processing workers are non-existent today, and the processing labor force is hired and laid-off at will, on a temporary and seasonal basis," wrote local labor advocate Corinn Williams in a 2006 report commissioned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras now comprise the bulk of seafood production workers in New Bedford, according to Ms. Williams' study, "Flexibility of Fresh Fish Processing Labor Supply."

A UMass-Amherst Labor Center study of ways to organize illegal immigrants in New Bedford fish houses said that by the late 1990s, New Bedford, and its seafood processing plants, had become a prime destination for Mayans fleeing economically and socially troubled Guatemala.

The New Bedford immigrants had one thing in common with other new immigrants working in other grueling American food processing businesses — meatpacking and chicken plants in the South and Midwest — they all labored in "the worst jobs in America," according to Tom Juravich, a UMass professor and director of its labor center.

"The jobs have never been great — foul-smelling, repetitive and dangerous — but a generation ago, many were decent union jobs," he wrote in the study "Avenues to Organizing Undocumented Workers: Guatemalan Mayans in Fish Processing in New Bedford, Mass."

"However, as global giants consolidated, slashing wages and letting working conditions deteriorate, few in the communities where the jobs were located would work in them — at least for long. Since the owners couldn't move the plants to the Third World, they brought the Third World here."

Since the demise of the seafood plant unions, many of the Portuguese immigrants who worked there in the 1960s and 1970s have moved up to better jobs as they have become more Americanized, Ms. Williams told The Standard-Times.

Also, over the past two decades, overfishing and the enactment of strict federal fishing limits on New Bedford's seafood catch (particularly for groundfish) has made seafood processing work more unpredictable.

As a result, temporary employment agencies now hire undocumented workers as employees-at-will, say dozens of Central American immigrants interviewed by the newspaper.

The temporary agencies, they say, supply few benefits beyond a small amount of vacation. Health insurance is so expensive that few workers can afford it on their minimum-wage jobs, which themselves are sporadic.

"They treat us like donkeys," said Adrian Ventura, a Guatemalan immigrant and activist, through a translator. Mr. Ventura is working with Central Americans who say they have been abused by everything from fish houses to apparel factories to tire recyclers.

"They depend on us being illegal to pay us less," he said.

William F. Solimine, president of EDA Select Temporaries of Lynnfield, said his agency (which has about a half-dozen New Bedford waterfront clients) offers the benefits it can afford for low-end workers (20 hours of vacation/sick time for every 1,000 hours worked and a health plan that costs $1,150 per quarter for a family and $450 for a single person).

"Most choose not to take it because it's an expensive plan," he acknowledged.

Mr. Solimine said he believes working conditions in seafood processing plants have improved since 2007 when the federal government beefed up the system for phoning in to validate Social Security numbers.

"The companies down there (on the waterfront) that are reputable are striving to do everything the right way when they do business with contract labor," he said.

Some of the waterfront employers of undocumented immigrants, however, have not just taken advantage of the workers, they've also taken advantage of the taxpayers and the upstanding employers and insurance companies that follow the law.


National litmus test for local candidates

With EFCA, union can always harass the workers

The South Florida AFL-CIO has announcement its endorsements, and the overwhelming majority of the names, as expected, are Democrats. But there are a few exceptions among the Republicans running for the state Legislature in South Florida: Hialeah Council President Esteban Bovo, Rafael Perez (co-endorsed with Democrat Frank Morra) and incumbents Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Julio Robaina and Juan Zapata (co-endorsed with Democrat Michael Calderin).

Deborah Dion, the union's political director, said the endorsements are made on the basis of issues, not party affiliations. The No. 1 litmus test: The Employee Free Choice Act, a bill in Congress that would make it easier for workers to unionize.

The union is slated to meet Wednesday to discuss their strategy for the 2008 campaign, which will focus on making sure all of its half million members statewide vote by absentee ballot.

"If Joe tells the shop steward he's going to send in an absentee ballot, the shop steward can follow up by going back to Joe if he doesn't turn it in,'' Dion said. "We learned a valuable lesson with strong major campaign. On Election Day we were dead even, but the mayor had almost 20,000 absentee ballots banked.''


Millionaire trial lawyer regales labor grads

AFL-CIO chief cites right-to-work

Ninety union members reached a major milestone in their lives over the weekend, receiving their college degrees in ceremonies at the National Labor College (NLC). Former presidential candidate John Edwards told the graduates they are now the next leaders for justice:

"Brothers and Sisters, this is where you take your degrees to wage the next battle of workers’ rights in this country. This is where you become our next leaders to fight for what working men and women need to get ahead."

The graduation also represented two milestones. It marked the National Labor College’s 10th annual commencement and was the first for new NLC President William Scheuerman. He urged the graduates to understand the responsibility that comes with their degrees.

"Ours is a college dedicated to service: to our members, to our communities, to our brother and sister workers both here in the U.S. and around the globe. Having built our movement through the sacrifices of others you must help to make it possible for others to gain the benefit of union membership."

More than 800 students, families, friends, public officials and union leaders watched as 76 students received Bachelor of Arts degrees and 14 were awarded master’s degrees through the NLC’s partnership programs with American University. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, who chairs the NLC Board of Trustees, told graduates and their families the union movement needs educated members:

We need you all and your commitment now more than ever because the values we share are under relentless attack by the forces of greed, self interest and a cynical indifference to the rights of working men and women—the rights to a safe workplace, good, secure jobs and a decent living.

Sweeney, who introduced Edwards, praised the former North Carolina senator for helping to break the mold of public officials who only give lip service to workers’ rights:

"On the night of his election to the U.S. Senate, from the right-to-work state of North Carolina in 1998, John Edwards publicly gave credit to the unions of that state for helping him win. He is a leader who has never discarded or deserted the values that shaped his life."

Edwards, who grew up in a working-class family, was the Democratic candidate for vice president in 2004. A strong supporter of workers’ rights and social justice, he now leads Half in Ten, an effort by several organizations to reduce poverty in the United States by 50 percent within 10 years.

Two students received special recognitions at the graduation ceremonies. Pam Fero, of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), received the 2008 Seidman Award, given to students whose senior paper best focuses on aging and retirement issues. Clyde Babylon, a member of the International Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, was honored with the President’s Award for completing his degree after losing his home and job to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Tony Yushinsky, of NATCA, spoke on behalf of the undergraduates, and Craig Duffy, of the Electrical Workers, delivered remarks on behalf of the students in the master’s program.

Established as a training center by the AFL-CIO in 1969 to strengthen union member education and organizing skills, the NLC, located in Silver Spring, Md., is now the nation’s only accredited higher education institution devoted exclusively to educating union leaders, members and activists. The NLC became a degree-granting college in 1997.


Supreme Court upholds Constitution

A vote against collectivism

It is, of course, a relief that the United States Supreme Court took its first look at the Second Amendment since 1939, and decided that the founders really did mean that when it came to individual rights and guns, “ ... the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

Gun opponents had long argued — and will continue to do so despite the ruling — that the phrase could not be disconnected from its first part, which says, “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State...,” and so, in their view, granted only government the right to keep and bear arms.

But it was precisely to limit the goverment’s authority to be the only armed kid on the block — and thus the kid with the power to tyrannize — that prompted the founders to empower individuals with the right to bear arms. It’s an individual right, and the Court upheld that right.

It is notable to point out that the leading dissenter in the ruling was Justice Stephen Breyer, who sided with the minority in the 5-4 ruling. It is notable because it is yet another instance where Justice Breyer has found individual rights to be subservient to the rights of government. Justice Breyer would doubtless have been a Royalist in the time of the Revolution. Royalists, of course, believed King George of England was the supreme authority, and that the colonists must bow to his authority.

Justice Breyer, in other words, believes government should be unfettered in its pursuit of the general good. That’s why, in Kelo v. New London, the notorious and noxious ruling on eminent domain whereby the Supreme Court considered nothing wrong with government taking property from one individual and giving it to another individual, all in the interests of generating government revenue, Breyer came down on the side of government. He doesn’t believe, in other words, in individual rights or private property.

Which is why the November presidential election grows in importance as the date approaches. The next president will probably make at least one, and probably two, Supreme Court nominations in his first term, and there’s little doubt Barack Obama would look favorably on a judge who believed as he and Justice Breyer believe: that the State trumps the individual, and that “rights” can only be exercised as collective rights. Individuals, and individual rights, in their view, are subordinate to the will of the collective.

That’s not only dangerous, it’s in direct opposition to the intent of the Founders. Breyer and Obama, o course, don’t give much of a hoot for either the Founders or their — and our — Constitution. Breyer and his liberal mates on the court see it as a “living document” that can be changed to fit changing times, changing attitudes and changing standards.

Perhaps that’s why Mr. Obama bills himself as the candidate of change; he doesn’t seem to like the United States of America or what it stands for, which is the primacy of the individual over government. In that, he and Breyer are soulmates.

That threatens liberty, and the United States as it is.


ACORN is a bad seed


ACORN says it is a community group, but it is really a multi-million-dollar, multinational conglomerate. Its political agenda is driven by a relative handful of anti-corporate activists. ACORN spends millions of dollars to promote economic policies (like raising the minimum wage), but has admitted that it doesn't always want to abide by them. ACORN advocates for workers' rights and runs two unions, but has in the past fought its own employees' efforts to form a union.

ACORN's history makes for pretty interesting reading. The Clinton Administration found that ACORN was misspending government grants designed to help counsel the poor. Although it seeks minimum wage increases in cities and states across the country -- ACORN sued the state of California to get out of paying its own employees the state minimum wage.

ACORN's practices have corrupted our political process as well. It has engaged in questionable election activities for years—stretching back even to the organization's founding years in Arkansas . In recent years, as its political power has increased, so have instances of fraud.

In the past few years, it has been investigated for election fraud in at least a dozen states. Want examples?

In Florida, ACORN employees filed a false voter registration form for 68-year-old former St. Petersburg Democratic mayor Charles Schuh – amazingly, they registered him as a 30-year-old Republican woman. In Ohio , ACORN and its affiliate Project Vote submitted registration cards that had the highest rate of errors for any voter registration group. In Colorado , two ex-ACORN employees were convicted of turning in false registrations. The list goes on.

Just last year, in an effort to put a wage initiative on the ballot in Albuquerque, New Mexico, ACORN employee's forged thousands of fraudulent signatures . The group is involved in initiative efforts in a half-dozen states this year. How many thousands of signatures will they forge to forward their agenda?

It's time to send a message to ACORN. It is time to end the corruption.


Republican is proud of union endorsements

Disorganized Florida AFL-CIO is furious

Locked in a competitive reelection battle, U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart last week touted endorsements from several local unions. ''I am deeply honored by the broad support my campaign for reelection is receiving from the working men and women of our community,'' he said in a press release, citing backing from unions such as the Fraternal Order of Police and United Teachers of Dade.

But two of the 12 unions on the list -- the Transport Workers Union Local 291 and International Longshoremen's Association Local 1922, both AFL-CIO affiliates -- say they didn't endorse the Republican incumbent.

''Absolutely not,'' transport workers local union president Wessell Clarke said.

Though the transport workers have considered Diaz-Balart ''our friend in Congress for the past 15 years,'' Clarke said, they and the longshoremen's local went along with the Florida AFL-CIO, which voted last week to endorse Diaz-Balart's Democratic rival, former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez. The union is also backing two other congressional challengers -- Joe Garcia, who is running against Diaz-Balart's brother, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, and Annette Taddeo, who is trying to oust Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

''Even though we do have a good relationship and we do support [the Republican incumbents] we can't endorse them,'' Luis Meurice, a longshoremen district vice president with the South Florida AFL-CIO, said Monday.

Meurice said his union had wanted to ''co-endorse'' the three incumbents and their challengers, since they have a good relationship with the Republicans.

But more than two-thirds of the state AFL-CIO voted to endorse the three Democrats at a recent convention. Individual unions are not barred from splitting from the umbrella group -- though such practices are generally frowned upon -- and the locals went along.

Diaz-Balart's campaign manager, Ana Carbonell, said that she talked with representatives of both unions and that they had told her they'd be siding with the incumbent. She said Clarke approved a quote for a press release that says the union appreciates ''Lincoln's longstanding and steadfast support for South Florida's workers.'' But Clarke said Monday that he had given the campaign the quote before the full AFL-CIO vote, which went for the Democrats.

''We were led to believe they were backing us and we haven't heard otherwise,'' Carbonell said.

But a spokesman for Martinez said Diaz-Balart owes the two unions an apology.

''You do not say you have an endorsement unless you have an endorsement,'' said Jeff Garcia. ``We got the endorsements, we worked our tails off. He's wrong, he lied, he needs to apologize.''

Clarke said Diaz-Balart has broken party ranks to protect the transit industry.

''As late as two weeks ago, he and his brother helped us tremendously when they created temporary funding for the FIU Center for Labor Studies,'' Clarke said. ''Without their help and input that would have been gone.''

Nevertheless, he added, though the transport workers ''look out for our friends.. we're governed by a larger body. We stand by that.''

Meurice said the other AFL-CIO affiliated unions were opposed to endorsing the incumbents, citing their opposition to bills to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or S-CHIP, and votes against the union's chief issue: the Employee Free Choice Act, which makes it easier to form unions.

The three Republicans ''had basically made a commitment with us in the prior election to support that legislation,'' Meurice said of the free-choice measure.

When Lincoln Diaz-Balart's campaign listed the longshoremen as an endorser, the union said it called his campaign to clarify its status.

While the AFL-CIO's endorsement means the longshoremen's resources will go to the challengers, it is unclear how involved its members will get in their campaigns.

''Not necessarily because they're endorsed candidates we'll go out on a limb for them,'' Meurice said.


Adding to worker-choice petitions

Unions suspected of submitting fraudulent signatures to kill vote

The group backing a right-to-work ballot initiative has asked for permission to begin collecting more signatures in case a court rules in favor of a labor coalition that alleged fraud in the petition process.

In a court document filed with Denver District Court late Friday night, attorneys representing the right-to-work proponents made their request to circulate more petitions. The filing denied any problems with the signatures that already have been certified by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

A spokeman for A Better Colorado, the group handling the right-to-work ballot campaign, had no immediate comment on the filing. The labor group filing the legal challenge last month said the request suggests right-to-work proponents are nervous the court could throw out the signatures that put the measure on the November ballot.

“It’s not an indication of confidence,” said Jess Knox, executive director of Protect Colorado’s Future, which filed a lawsuit in May alleging fraudulent signature gathering.

The group Knox represents has alleged the right-to-work measure received fewer signatures than it needed either because they were duplicates, came from unregistered voters or had false addresses. The lawsuit also raised other potential violations in the signature gathering process.

The right-to-work measure, known as Amendment 47, would ban arrangements requiring all workers covered by collective-bargaining contracts to contribute financially in return for being represented by a union.


NYT: Long conservative nightmare almost over

But forced-labor unionism may prove unconstitutional

If the long conservative era that began with Ronald Reagan's election is over, will the judges appointed during the right's ascendancy be able to block, frustrate and undermine the efforts of a new progressive majority? Consider this analysis from two influential journalists describing Supreme Court justices as "the last hope of the conservative interests in the United States."

Imagine, they write, that a new liberal approach to the country's problems "had been overwhelmingly approved both in Congress and at the polling booths," so "conservative interests resorted to the courts, starting literally thousands of actions to stay the government's hand." Of the ensuing fight, they say: "The liberal justices themselves called their conservative colleagues arbitrary and madly unwise. But while the liberals warned, the conservatives laughed ... ."

Yes, we may go back to the future. Those words are from a still-compelling 1938 book called "The 168 Days" by legendary Washington journalists Joseph Alsop and Turner Catledge. They were writing about the conservative Supreme Court that struck down so much of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal program and the effort by FDR to be given the power to name additional liberal justices to break the court's conservative majority.

Roosevelt's reach for expanded executive authority was unwise because he made it easy for his opponents to compare him to Hitler and Stalin. FDR lost the court-packing fight, but eventually got to name justices in the normal way, and conservative judicial dominance ebbed.

The spate of 5-4 conservative decisions during the Supreme Court term just ended should stand as a warning that we may soon revisit the fights of 70 years ago. Yet almost nobody is talking about this danger. To the extent that judges have been a campaign issue in recent elections, the focus has been on a few hot-button issues, notably abortion. After last week's sharply contested Second Amendment case, perhaps gun rights will join the list.

But the more important question is whether conservative judges will see fit to do exactly what conservative courts did for much of the New Deal era by using a narrow, 19th-century definition of property rights to void progressive economic, environmental and labor regulation.

Many judicial conservatives view the late-1930s period as a disaster because it marked the end of their power on the courts. After the court-packing battle, the Supreme Court began to defer to the democratically elected branches of government and their efforts to regulate the economy in the public interest. Property rights were well protected throughout this time, yet government was allowed to set rules on the uses of property that judicial conservatives of the pre-New Deal period viewed as suspect.

A new generation of conservatives wants to bring the old order back under the auspices of what's called the Constitution in Exile movement. Their driving idea is that the thrust of jurisprudence since the late 1930s voided the "real" Constitution.

As legal scholar Jeffrey Rosen noted in the New Republic, this movement favors "reimposing meaningful limits on federal power that could strike at the core of the regulatory state for the first time since the New Deal." He wrote that "justices could change the shape of laws governing the environment, workplace health and safety, antidiscrimination, and civil rights, making it difficult for the federal government to address problems for which the public demands a national response."

It's not hard to imagine the cases that conservatives would bring against laws passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by a President Barack Obama. Why wouldn't a movement that has tried to eviscerate wetlands laws and the Endangered Species Act challenge cap-and-trade legislation aimed at dealing with global warming?

If Congress ever passed a "card-check" law to make it easier for unions to organize, those who never much liked the minimum wage or collective bargaining would certainly try to overturn the new labor right in court.

And what would be the legal fate of new regulations on banking called forth by the economic devastation of the subprime mess, or bank bailouts that may be necessary to keep capitalism on track, or mandatory mortgage renegotiations to keep citizens from being thrown out of their homes?

The four conservatives on the Supreme Court, when empowered by the swing vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy, have already shown their willingness to overturn the will of Congress and local legislatures when doing so fits their political philosophy. The same majority could keep conservative ideas in the saddle long after the electorate has decided that they don't work anymore.


Forced-labor unionism in court

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