Foreign collectivist pays Barack's shock troops

Related George Soros stories: here
Related ACORN stories: here

Left-wing Dems bring fraud, embezzlement to prime time

While he is a skilled candidate, Barack Obama's ability to surprise, stun and sweep over the vaunted Clinton Machine to capture the Democratic nomination was rooted in his background as a community organizer. He's now turning those skills to the general election. But liberals aren't just on the march on the presidential level. This year, liberal activists are spending parts of the fortunes of their wealthy donors to transform politics at the state and local level.

In 2005, billionaire investor George Soros convened a group of 70 super-rich liberal donors in Phoenix to evaluate why their efforts to defeat President Bush had failed. One conclusion was that they needed to step up their long-term efforts to dominate key battleground states. The donors formed a group called Democracy Alliance to make grants in four areas: media, ideas, leadership and civic engagement. Since then, Democracy Alliance partners have donated over $100 million to key progressive organizations.

Take Colorado, which has voted Republican for president in nine of the last 10 presidential elections. But in 2006, Colorado elected a Democratic governor and legislature for the first time in over 30 years. Denver will be the site for the party's 2008 presidential convention. Polls show Barack Obama would carry the state today. This hasn't happened by chance. The Democracy Alliance poured money into Colorado to make it a proving ground for how progressives can take over a state.

Offshoots of leading liberal national groups were set up including Colorado Media Matters in 2006, to correct "conservative misinformation" in the media. Ethics Watch, a group modeled after Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, was started and proceeded to file a flurry of complaints over alleged campaign finance violations -- while refusing to name its own donors.

Western Progress, a think tank to advance "progressive solutions," opened its doors as did the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, one of 29 such groups around the country. Then there's Colorado Confidential, a project of The Center for Independent Media, which subsidized liberal bloggers. CIM has set up similar ventures in Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan, with funding from groups such as the Service Employees International Union, and George Soros's Open Society Institute.

On the electoral front, Progressive Majority Colorado has set up seven offices with the goal of "recruiting progressive leaders" as candidates. America Votes-Colorado promises to coordinate the largest voter mobilization effort in the state's history. "All of this activity has flown under the radar," says Ed Morrissey of the conservative blog Captain's Quarters. "But efforts to change the political ground game may have real long-term consequences."

More audaciously, in Michigan, signatures have been filed to put a sweeping reorganization of state government on this November's ballot. The measure, pushed by a group called "Reform Michigan Government Now," contains at least 36 distinct provisions that take up a dozen pages of fine type. "It's a Trojan Horse dressed up as My Friend Flicka," says Lawrence Reed, president of the conservative Mackinac Center.

In a recession-wracked state seething with public anger at elected officials, the measure hits populist notes by cutting the size of the legislature and reducing the salaries of top officeholders. But on voting, it would mandate no-excuse-needed absentee voting -- despite a long history of vote-fraud scandals involving absentee votes in Detroit and other cities. A redistricting commission would be set up to reshape political boundaries, but state courts would be barred from reviewing any plans it draws up. (Only federal courts could review the boundaries.) Voters would also be barred from rejecting or amending the commission's work by initiative.

There is also a direct attack on the judiciary. The initiative reduces the state's Supreme Court to five members, down from seven, and the state's Court of Appeals to 20 judges, down from 28. Saving money appears not to be the motive: Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm could appoint 10 newly created circuit court judges. The net result would be that conservatives would lose control of the state Supreme Court, because the two justices who would be removed would be the last two appointed by GOP Gov. John Engler. Of the eight appeals court judgeships that would be eliminated, six are now held by people with GOP backgrounds.

"It's a strange reform that benefits one political party exclusively at all three levels of the judiciary," observes Mr. Reed. "Is the intent that the judiciary become just another arm of one of the political parties?"

The financing for the initiative is mysterious and will not be publicly revealed until campaign finance reports are due in late September or early October. But the measure appears to be a Democratic effort. The campaign is being quarterbacked by a former Democratic state legislative leader, and Mark Brewer, the state's Democratic Party chair, says his party supports the measure.

Should Mr. Obama be elected, he would become not just the head of the Democratic Party but also the inspiration for a large number of liberal groups. Some of them would no doubt lobby him to hand out taxpayer grants and contracts for their nonpolitical "community" efforts.

ACORN is a bad seed

Indeed, Mr. Obama has extensive connections with the granddaddy of activist groups, ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), which has gotten millions in government grants for its low-income housing programs. In 1992, Acorn hired Mr. Obama to run a voter registration effort. He later became a trainer for the group, as well as its lawyer in election law cases.

ACORN's political arm has endorsed Mr. Obama while its "voter education" arm has pledged to spend $35 million to register people this fall -- despite a history of vote fraud scandals that have led to guilty pleas by many ACORN employees.

The housing bill now before Congress would set up a slush fund for community organizations such as ACORN. But ACORN has gone quiet in its lobbying for the bill this week with the news that one of its employees -- the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke -- had stolen nearly $1 million from the group. Mr. Rathke decided not to alert law enforcement or the organization's board, and kept his brother employed at Acorn until last month. "Is this the kind of group we want getting taxpayer money?" asks Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.)

But ACORN may play, along with other liberal groups, a leading role in electing Mr. Obama. Such groups deserve a closer look now, before their influence and possibly their clout grow dramatically after the November election.

- John Fund


Dem, labor politics beset by fraud, corruption

Related ACORN stories: here

Disinterested workers would be forced to join unions, pay full dues

The nation's labor unions, in decline for decades and on the defensive for eight years during the Bush administration, are counting on a major revival if Barack Obama is elected president in November and Democrats gain stronger majorities in Congress.

With plans to spend at least $300 million on voter registration, issue ads, direct mail, get-out-the-vote operations and other campaign activities, organized labor sees the 2008 election as a watershed moment, and it has lined up solidly behind the Democratic presidential candidate.

"This election for the labor movement and for workers generally is as important as any election since 1932," said David Bonior, a former Michigan congressman and now chairman of the labor advocacy group American Rights at Work.

On labor's agenda are a series of economic, trade, health care and worker-safety issues. But Bonior said the top priority is enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it much easier for unions to organize workplaces, increase their dwindling memberships and ultimately boost their political and economic clout.

He likened the measure to the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, which protected the right to organize, engage in collective bargaining and strike private-sector employers.

"Such an opportunity doesn't come around very often," said Bill Samuel, director of government affairs for the AFL-CIO. "This is an opportunity to get a Democratic president and bigger Democratic majorities in the House and Senate who support fixing the collective bargaining laws."

The 10 million-member AFL-CIO, a federation of 56 unions, plans to spend $53 million on outreach to its members, while its affiliated unions have promised another $150 million for the fall campaigns. Change to Win Unions, a separate organization with 6 million members, including the Service Employees International Union, are expected to spend at least another $100 million.

The business community is not taking the challenge lightly, with many business leaders supporting Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

"This is potentially the most consequential election for labor unions since (the) 1930s," said Steven Law, general counsel to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"The unions have the potential not merely to achieve slight adjustments but to change the rules of the game, and that is a major concern for the business community," he said.

Law said the chamber will spend millions of dollars this fall "on substantial grassroots activities and issue advocacy" to alert business interests about what is at stake, particularly when it comes to the Employee Free Choice Act. He said other business organizations and coalitions are planning to invest large sums in similar efforts.

The Employee Free Choice Act would allow formation of unions if a majority of employees at a workplace sign a card or petition, rather than cast their vote through a secret ballot. The bill also calls for mediation if a first contract is not negotiated within 90 days and, if necessary, binding arbitration.

The unions say under current law, some employers routinely control the election process through stalling and intimidation tactics, including firing union supporters, and have greatly hindered their ability to organize.

The business community argues the so-called card check proposal would take away the protection of secret ballot for workers and make them vulnerable to intimidation and coercion by union organizers. They also say it would limit the flexibility of employers, impose an arbitrary time frame for negotiation of a first contract, and ultimately hurt business growth and job creation.

The House passed the measure in 2007 by a 241-185 vote, but it stalled in the Senate because of a Republican filibuster. Obama, an Illinois senator, voted for the bill, while McCain, a senator from Arizona, supported the filibuster.

McCain spokesman Peter Feldman said the senator "supports the rights of employees to vote for union representation using a secret ballot and opposes efforts to deny them this right."

Samuel, of the AFL-CIO, said the Bush administration has shown "outright hostility toward workers and their unions with efforts to roll back wage and hour laws, worker safety and basic collective bargaining rights through legislation, regulation and lack of enforcement."

"John McCain really has been part of the attack on workers," Samuel said. "He would represent a continuation of the Bush agenda."

Feldman, the McCain spokesman, said such "charges are more about partisan politics than any supposed interest in American working families."

Union members represented about 35 percent of the U.S. workforce in the mid-1950s, but have dropped to about 12 percent today, and only 8 percent in the private sector.

Peter Francia, an East Carolina University professor and author of "The Future of Organized Labor in American Politics," said despite reduced membership, union households made up 23 percent of the electorate in 2006, and 24 percent in 2004.

"Even though their numbers have dropped as a percentage in the workforce, labor unions are good at getting members out to the polls," Francia said.


Teamster racism is business-as-usual

More Teamsters stories: here

Labor-state incident exposes unions' racist tradition

Three EMS workers have been fired by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey over an alleged racist hazing incident. The university's president said Friday that the three were terminated after cell phone camera images surfaced of paramedic trainees at University Hospital in Newark garbed in white sheets resembling Ku Klux Klan robes.

"UMDNJ has never and will never tolerate attitudes and behaviors that discriminate against any individual or group," university President William F. Owen Jr. said in a written statement. "The actions taken by the individuals in this instance are appalling."

UMDNJ spokeswoman Terri Guess said all three of the fired paramedics were employees of UMDNJ, which operates University Hospital. Guess said students from Northeastern University in Boston were the trainees involved in the incident, which took place on July 6.

The university identified the fired paramedics as Timothy Prahm, Henry Solares and Thomas Hart. None could immediately be reached for comment Friday. A telephone message left at a listing believed to be Prahm's was not immediately returned. Messages left at three numbers listed under the name Solares were not returned. It was unclear which of dozens of New Jersey listings for Hart was the correct number.

John J. Gerow, president of Teamsters Local 97, which represents paramedics at University Hospital, told the Star-Ledger of Newark, which first reported the firings, that he was still learning details of the incident and could not immediately respond. Gerow did not immediately return an after-hours message left by The Associated Press on Friday.

A spokeswoman for Northeastern University said two of their students who had been placed at UMDNJ to become certified paramedics had been victims of what she characterized as a hazing incident. Their names were not released.

Northeastern University issued a statement saying it had suspended all student placements with UMDNJ pending further review.

"Northeastern University was distressed to learn that two of our EMT certificate students were coerced into such an appalling and offensive incident," Philomena Mantella, senior vice president for student affairs said in a statement. "We condemn the offenders' atrocious conduct and support President Owen's swift and decisive response and his institution's zero-tolerance philosophy."

A photo image on the Star-Ledger Web site shows a paramedic in a University Hospital uniform apparently adjusting the garment of one of two people wearing white sheets over their heads; one is holding a wooden cross.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker called the workers' conduct "completely unacceptable." The city contracts with UMDNJ for emergency medical services.

"The City of Newark will not tolerate such behavior by medical professionals, and we are glad that UMDNJ has moved to terminate these individuals," Booker said in a statement.

UMDNJ's Owen said in his statement that the investigation into what happened was ongoing.

"As the details over this incident are clarified, I know you will agree that these actions have no place in our society and do not reflect the values of our University community," Owen said. "The institution has an aggressive zero-tolerance philosophy for wrongdoing and is committed to fostering an environment that protects and supports all of its workforce."


Union members want out

More union decertification stories: here

Dispute highlights complex, arcane legal process to oust unions

An Escambia County (FL) worker is petitioning fellow employees to try to dissolve the local transit union that represents them. A lengthy wage dispute between the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1395 and the county has caused some employees to sour on the union.

"I really don't believe the union can do us much good," said Tom Moore, who is heading up the effort to decertify the union. "(The union) has been arguing with the commissioners for two years and still hasn't gotten us our raise."

But as a union member, equipment operator Bill Robertson, 48, disagrees.

"Before they vote to have the union taken out, they need to do two things," said Robertson, who works in the Roads and Bridges Department. "They need to understand the union is the only protection we as county workers have. Secondly, those people need to come to union meetings and hear what goes on and be able to voice their opinions."

If the union's contract with county employees is ended, the 307 county employees represented by the union will go back to being "at will" employees. That means they can be fired at will, without cause, and no longer will have a representative to look out for their interests as employees.

The effort so far

Moore, a building technician for county Facilities Management, had 126 signatures Friday afternoon, significantly more than the minimum of 30 percent needed (about 90 members) to put it to a vote of the membership.

Moore plans to send the signatures for verification by Tuesday to Florida's Public Employees Relations Commission.

Once verified, the matter likely will quickly go to a vote of the 307 represented by the union, said Steve Meck, general legal counsel for the PERC.

The union's contract covers workers in nine county departments, including Parks and Recreation, Roads & Bridges and Solid Waste.

Moore, 53, once was a dues-paying member of the union. But he eventually dropped out because he felt he wasn't seeing a benefit from it. However, Moore still is represented by the union.

Debate challenge

Moore thinks the union is holding up his pay raise. He refers to negotiations between the union and a county negotiating team, which agreed to a 3 percent cost-of-living wage increase for union employees. However, county commissioners instead approved a 2 percent cost-of-living increase and a 1 percent merit raise because of its tight budget.

Union President Mike Lowery has said what commissioners approved is in violation of state law and the union since has filed an unfair labor practice complaint.

"I believe the county administrator is purposely misleading them to believe that because they haven't got a wage increase that it's the union's fault," Lowery said.

Lowery recently challenged County Administrator Bob McLaughlin to an open forum/debate in front of those represented by the union "to see who is telling the truth here," he said.

McLaughlin says the de-unionizing attempt is coming "strictly from employees" and not county administration, and refused Lowery's challenge to a debate.

Ron Sorrells, the county's Human Resources manager, said county administration isn't allowed to inquire about employee efforts to start or dissolve a union.


Organized labor's ugly history recalled

More EFCA stories: here

Dems resurrect union scare-tactics rise from the grave

I live in Colorado, where the very pleasant, personally appealing Mark Udall is running as a Democrat for the Senate while supporting a very unpleasant, unappealing plan to help subvert precious American principles and exploit workers.

His race against Republican Bob Schaffer is an important one that that could help give the Democratic party congressional control of a kind enabling it to do pretty much as it pleases, and there is no doubt about one objective. It's to breathe new life into the near-corpse of unionism, to resuscitate a deservedly moribund movement that cannot do enough favors for a certain political party that then does favors in return.

Unions have done favors for Udall on the order of $1 million in campaign contributions during his years as a House representative, it has been reported. Maybe, however, it's his own ideological fantasies that are more nearly causing him to speak out on behalf of something oxymoronically called the Employee Free Choice Act.

There is nothing free about it. It's nothing less than a way of coercing unwilling workers into forming unions that will then take money out of their pockets whether they like it or not and do heaven knows what with it.

Chiefly what the legislation aspires to accomplish is the end of secret ballots in elections to certify unions by relying solely on a system of publicly signing cards that subject voters to pressure from peers and brow-beating union organizers. It simultaneously restricts the speech of employers, thereby keeping any debate from being much of a debate.

When someone like Udall says that, well, all of this is needed to balance things, to make up for advantages businesses have, you want to scream to him that this is the talk of the tyrant, always willing to circumvent liberty and make things worse for people in the name of rescuing them.

The truth is that unionizing advantages have long resided under law not with businesses, but with the unions themselves. I began to realize as much in my 20s, when I went to work for a newspaper in Albany, N.Y., and found I had no choice but to join a union and have my dues automatically taken from my paycheck. What I got in return were union representatives that repeatedly bumbled negotiations with the company and additional assessments when a newspaper across the continent went on strike.

There's a mythology about unions that really ought to be tossed out the window. Yes, it's true that they helped effect needed workplace reforms in the early days of industrialism and that members were sometimes subjected to terrible, even murderous treatment, but those days are long gone, and there's another side.

Unions happen to have a history of corruption and cheating workers, of ties to organized crime, of extreme leftism, of ugly racism, of destabilizing the economy with strikes based on financial misapprehensions, of stifling innovation with ridiculous rules, of crippling companies and even putting them out of business for no good reason.

Meanwhile, federal and state laws have stepped in with a wide array of worker protections, and most companies on their own recognize the need of fair, decent treatment of those who produce their profits. It's no accident that union membership in the private sector has fallen to something like 7.4 percent.

The public has looked at the Democratic-controlled Congress and found it wanting, giving it an approval rating of just 9 percent, way, way below the approval rating of our historically unpopular president. Let the Democrats extend their control as expected, and put a Democrat in the White House at the same time, and that approval rating could drop still further.

My advice is not to be too quick in figuring your representatives in Congress are exceptions to the rule of irresponsibility. Wherever you happen to live, look closely at what candidates of both parties are actually proposing, not just the rhetoric about golden days being right around the corner if you vote for them. Pay attention, for one thing, to their stand on forcing unions back into the forefront of American life. I have, and I can promise that the information will influence my vote.


Why pay less for public works projects?

More prevailing wage stories: here

City to test union-subsidized, inflated construction costs

A two-year test run for the prevailing wage goes to a public hearing and a Mankato (MN) City Council vote Monday. If passed, the prevailing wage would be used on street and building projects exceeding $592,540 — the average cost of such projects between 2006 and 2008. City Manager Pat Hentges estimated that there are about four or five such projects a year. But the city would monitor costs on more projects in order to establish a comparison.

Various interests have lined up for and against the proposal, which has twice been open for public debate on the council floor.

Unions first brought the idea to the council in February, and have argued that the prevailing wage would put local builders at an advantage, result in better quality work and ensure a living wage is paid.

Contractors, many of them non-union, have said the proposal would drive up construction costs and taxes, without improving the work.

The prevailing wage is the wage that is paid to most workers of a certain type in a specified area.

For example, if three welders in Blue Earth County earned $25 per hour and five earned $30, all eight would have to be paid the higher amount under the prevailing wage.

There’s lots of contradictory research on whether or not the prevailing wage actually increases costs.

A state auditor’s report on the issue said it couldn’t find any increased costs associated with the prevailing wage, though the city of Mankato estimates that the wage will cost an extra 7 percent on construction projects and 3 percent on road projects.

But the city acknowledges it can’t know for sure, so staff are recommending the two-year monitoring period.

It’s not clear how much the monitoring itself will cost.

It costs a private contractor $5,000 per project to monitor wages, but Hentges said city staff would be able to do most of the monitoring themselves.

With the help, of course, of the contractors who would have to fill out the paperwork.

The City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday.


Teamsters cringe as InBev raises Bud bid

Related A-B/Teamsters stories: here
Teamsters/InBev web page: here

Union-dues from 7,000 members at-risk

InBev NV moved closer to a takeover of Anheuser-Busch Cos. after boosting its offer for the maker of Budweiser by 7.7 percent to $70 a share, a person with knowledge of the talks said.

An acquisition would end 156 years of independence for the St. Louis-based brewer and come after Anheuser-Busch criticized the initial proposal for undervaluing the company. Discussions over the $49.9 billion bid may still fall through, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the negotiations aren't public.

Both companies rose in trading yesterday on optimism that Leuven, Belgium-based InBev would gain control of Bud Light, the top selling brand in the U.S., and become the world's largest brewer by sales volume. Anheuser-Busch, which has gained 26 percent since reports of InBev's planned bid, had proposed cuts of $1 billion and a stock buyback to boost the share price.

"There is going to be a lot of pressure on the board to accept $70," Ann Gilpin, an analyst with Morningstar Inc., said in a Bloomberg Radio interview. "At this point there's really not a lot of obstacles."

Anheuser-Busch Chief Financial Officer W. Randolph Baker and Nina Devlin, an InBev spokeswoman who works at Brunswick Group LLC, declined to comment.

Anheuser-Busch gained $5.29, or 8.6 percent, to $66.50 yesterday in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. A bid of $70 is 27 percent more than its previous high of $54.97 reached in October 2002. InBev rose 3.05 euros, or 7.4 percent, to 44.50 euros in Brussels.

Warren Buffett

The talks were reported yesterday by the New York Times, which indicated billionaire investor Warren Buffett may support a deal. Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is Anheuser-Busch's second-largest shareholder, refused to speak with reporters while attending the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, this week.

At $70 a share, InBev is offering about 11 times Anheuser's 2009 projected earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortization. SABMiller Plc, the world's third-largest brewer, paid about 14 times Ebitda for Royal Grolsch NV, Petercam SA's Kris Kippers said.

"Five dollars more goes a long way in making two enemies reach a middle ground," Jack Russo, an analyst with Edward Jones & Co., said yesterday in an interview. "I thought it would drag on for a while." He recommends holding the shares.

InBev, the biggest beer company by sales, would surpass SABMiller Plc as the largest by volume if it bought Anheuser, which made the offer public June 11.

InBev Chief Executive Officer Carlos Brito has said the combined company's more than $36 billion in annual sales and 12 billion gallons of shipments would also allow the negotiation of better terms from suppliers as expenses soar for barley, hops and metal for beer cans.

Financial Advisers

The Belgian company, which makes Stella Artois lager and Bass ale, hired Lazard Ltd., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Deutsche Bank AG as financial advisers. Anheuser-Busch's advisers include Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co., Citigroup Inc., and Moelis & Co.

InBev wrote to Anheuser-Busch June 25 and said it paid lenders $50 million to get at least $40 billion in financing commitments for its offer. The Belgian brewer has introduced a $45 billion syndicated loan, Reuters reported yesterday, citing unnamed banking sources.

InBev's lenders for the proposed bid are Banco Santander SA, Deutsche Bank, Barclays Plc, JPMorgan, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, BNP Paribas SA, Fortis, ING Groep NV, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and Mizuho Corporate Bank Ltd.

The two brewers brought their fight into court last month, and the new talks might help avert a prolonged legal fight.

Legal Dispute

InBev asked a federal judge earlier this week to decide whether all 13 of Anheuser's directors can be fired at once without cause. The Belgian company said then it will seek such a vote by shareholders of the U.S. beermaker.

InBev, which traces its roots to 1366, took its current form in 2004 when Leuven-based Interbrew SA bought Sao Paulo- based Cia. de Bebidas das Americas, or AmBev, in an $11 billion transaction. A takeover of Anheuser-Busch would be the second-biggest purchase of a U.S. consumer company.

The Belgian company is seeking control of half of the U.S. beer market and aims to grow in China, where Anheuser- Busch owns 27 percent of Tsingtao Brewery Co., the country's second-largest brewer.

"If Anheuser-Busch stood alone, it could only dream about reaching $65 in the short term," said Kippers, who recommends investors buy InBev shares.

'Financially Inadequate'

The U.S. brewer spurned the original $46.3 billion proposal from InBev on June 26 as "financially inadequate," and kept the door open for a higher offer from InBev or another suitor. That rejection came three hours after InBev made its bid hostile and announced plans to fire the St. Louis-based brewer's directors.

The Busch family, who don't own enough stock to block a bid, were split over the initial offer. Andrew D. Busch, an uncle of Anheuser CEO August Busch IV, said on June 21 that he wants the brewer to stay based in St. Louis and continue as a "strong company." Another uncle, Adolphus Busch IV, urged Anheuser's board to accept the InBev proposal.

"Clearer minds kind of prevail, and a lot of people believe that this merger is a fantastic merger for both parties,'"Adolphus Busch IV, great-grandson of Anheuser- Busch's founder, said yesterday in an interview. "Of course everybody has to do what's best for the shareholders."

Political Reaction

Anheuser may risk criticism from Missouri politicians and customers who want the company to remain independent, the Times said. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said this week it would be a "shame" if a foreign company purchased Anheuser.

InBev may sell Anheuser-Busch's theme parks, which include Sea World, and its packaging unit to help fund a deal, analysts including Credit Suisse's Carlos Laboy have said.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents 7,000 Anheuser-Busch employees, has asked the InBev CEO for a meeting to discuss the offer.

In a July 8 letter to Brito made public yesterday, Jack Cipriani, director of the Teamsters' brewery and soft drink conference, raised questions about InBev's financing and statements that it had no plan to close breweries.


AFSCME marks judge absent

More AFSCME stories: here

Jumbo gov't-union set to defy TRO and go out on strike

Although a University of California press statement issued Friday says a San Francisco Superior Court judge has enjoined University of California service workers around the state from participating in a five-day strike scheduled for July 14-18, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union says the university misinterpreted the judge’s order, so the service workers will be out in force on strike beginning Monday.

“We don’t think UC is telling the truth about what the judge said,” Lakesha Harrison, AFSCME president, told the Planet Friday afternoon.

Harrison said the court wanted more specifics about strike dates and that was given to the court.

“It’s our constitutional right to strike,” Harrison said.

The UC statement says the university has offered wage increases of 26 percent over the next five years for patient care employees, and increases in minimum hourly rates for service workers from $10.28 to $11.50 or $12 per hour. The statement says the university has agreed to transition the employees to a step-based salary structure proposed by the union and “to continue to provide them the same high quality health and pension benefits offered to all UC employees, at the same cost as other employees.”

Harrison said the increase to $11.50 per hour is inadequate and that the promised step increase is not funded. She said 96 percent of the service workers are eligible for federal subsidies such as food stamps or low-income housing because their pay is so low.

UC Berkeley workers—bus drivers, gardeners, cafeteria workers, custodians—will be demonstrating Monday at the office of the President, 1111 Franklin St., Oakland.


Pro-union, anti-worker Barack

Obama flunks manufacturers' test

John Engler, Michigan’s former governor and head of the National Association of Manufacturers, says presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain has voted with NAM 60% of the time over the last 10 years, compared to Democrat Barack Obama’s score of 16%. In a memo dated July 1, NAM’s president and chief executive officer said he had the voting records compiled after receiving several requests for them. NAM represents manufacturers across the country and supports a pro-business agenda in the nation’s capital.

Obama is still serving his first term in the Senate. Engler said Obama voted against NAM’s position on eight votes for which he was present in the current Congress, including on the Employee Free Choice Act, which would eliminate secret ballot elections for union representation. McCain was absent for all but one of NAM’s 12 key votes in the current Congress but, in that, opposed the Employee Free Choice Act, voting with NAM’s position.

NAM typically does not endorse for president.


Unions fight open-shop program

State gov't screw-up must be remedied

Just as a Northwest College of Construction apprenticeship program passed muster, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries is launching an investigation of a competing union program. The college’s open-shop tile setting and tile finishing programs have come under intense scrutiny from labor unions, which operate competing apprenticeship programs. Last November, Local 1 filed a lawsuit against BOLI alleging the agency didn’t meet its own standards when it approved the college’s tile programs in September.

In response to the lawsuit, BOLI completed a compliance review four months ahead of the deadline required under state apprenticeship rules. The review, released two weeks ago, gave the college’s tile finisher and tile setter apprenticeship programs high marks in each of the review categories, including program administration, record keeping, on-the-job training, curriculum, facilities, staff and policies and procedures.

“Based on that review, the (apprenticeship programs) are in full compliance with all of our regulations,” said Steve Simms, director of the apprenticeship and training division of BOLI.

Local 1 has not dropped its lawsuit, despite the favorable compliance review.

BOLI’s scrutiny will now shift to the Oregon and Southwest Washington Mason Trades Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, which oversees the Local 1 apprenticeship program.

In May, Paragon Tile & Stone – a training agent in the open-shop program – filed a complaint with BOLI, asking for decertification of the union’s apprenticeship program. BOLI has begun investigating the basis of Paragon Tile’s complaint.

Among other things, Paragon Tile alleges the union program used its apprentices as “salts,” or workers planted in open-shop companies to recruit union members. After combing through BOLI records, Paragon discovered two of its own former employees were registered apprentices with Local 1.

“Instead of actually getting training they were in my company working for me,” said Marc Dollahite, a co-owner of Paragon Tile. “I never thought anybody would stoop that low, but obviously they did.”

Neither Local 1 nor its attorney returned phone calls seeking comment.

“I don’t know what they’ll find; it’s a pretty well-run program,” said Bob Shiprack, executive secretary of the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council. “They’re getting into a little spat.”

If Local 1 has not dropped its lawsuit within one week of receiving the results of the compliance review, BOLI plans to file its own motion to dismiss the case.

It’s unclear whether the compliance review will satisfy Local 1’s complaint. The review shows only how the Northwest College’s programs are currently performing; it doesn’t address BOLI’s procedure for approving the program – the heart of the lawsuit’s claim.

“This program has performed very well, as expected,” said Tiffany Kriesel, director of student administration and apprenticeship at the Northwest College of Construction. “Our compliance review was stellar and we continue to do a great job and operate our program.”


News Unions spike members' pay cut news

Left-wing unions sat on news for a week

There’s probably no good way to learn that your employer wants you to do the same amount of work for less money. But the manner in which the editorial staff of the Boston Globe made this discovery was especially awkward.

On Monday, June 23, Arthur Sulzberger and Janet Robinson — the chairman and president/CEO, respectively, of the New York Times Company, which has owned the Globe since 1993 — dropped by the paper’s Morrissey Boulevard headquarters. The impetus for their visit was a retirement party for Al Larkin, the Globe’s outgoing executive vice-president and spokesman; prior to Larkin’s shindig, they spoke with newsroom department heads and held a paper-wide “town meeting” in the Globe’s William O. Taylor Room. The latter session was strikingly well-attended — people were reportedly sitting in the aisles and standing in the doorways — and a number of subjects came up: the advertising department’s ongoing struggles selling boston.com; the possible closure of the Globe’s printing plant in Billerica; the question of whether the Times Company will keep the Globe or try to sell it.

Most notably, however, there was the awkward topic of a possible wage cut. How, asked Globe mailroom employee Dan Caplette, can you justify management’s proposal to slash union salaries by 10 percent? In response — and as the Globe’s editorial employees wondered what the hell the mailroom guy was talking about — Globe publisher Steve Ainsley, who was also present, stressed that the wage-cut request was part of a broader collective-bargaining process. Despite “significant financial pressure” on the paper, he added, nothing had been decided yet. Sulzberger’s reply, when it came, featured the dreaded catch phrase of 21st-century journalism. “We’re trying to do more with less,” he explained. “We have to redefine what the Boston Globe is in a new universe.”

All of which raises a couple questions: first, why did the mailroom guy know more about the state of the paper’s labor relations than its reporters did? And second, is the Globe really about to pluck a few thousand dollars out of each of its union employees’ pockets?

Holding on, moving forward

The answer to the first question is pretty simple: union representation. The Globe’s mailroom employees are represented by the Boston Mailers Union, Teamsters Local 1, Boston, which Caplette heads. The editorial staff, by contrast, is represented by the Boston Newspaper Guild (BNG), the largest union at the paper. And despite being informed of the wage-cut proposal in a June 18 letter from Globe senior V-P Gregory Thornton, BNG president Dan Totten still hadn’t informed his members one week later. Which meant that they finally learned about the prospective salary reduction either when Caplette brought it up, or when they saw a quote from Totten in the June 25 Boston Herald, or when Totten finally e-mailed his members the same day the Herald story ran.

Not surprisingly, some editorial employees were irked that they weren’t informed sooner. And for some, the delay has raised a bigger question: how well served, exactly, are the paper’s reporters and columnists by their union representatives? (Totten worked in travel advertising at the Globe; the union represents not just editorial staff, but also workers in finance, production, marketing, and design.) “It’s weird having white-collar and blue-collar workers in the same union, because they think differently,” this staffer complains. “They’re trying to preserve something that’s dying. We understand it’s dying, and we don’t want to hang on to it. We want to go forward.”

But not everyone in the newsroom was piqued. Another editorial employee actually took solace in the union’s delayed response, arguing that the lag time suggests that the wage-cut proposal is nothing to get too excited about. “If the union thought it was serious, they would have mentioned it beforehand,” he argues. “This might be a way of saying, ‘Gosh, times are tough. Here’s one option. Let’s look to see if there are other options.’ ”

Right now, in the Globe newsroom, this is the prevailing interpretation of the wage-cut proposal: it’s a tactical gambit that’s really aimed at pushing the paper’s unions to re-open their collective-bargaining agreements and accept other concessions. “The idea” — i.e., the wage cut — “is so ridiculous that there’s no way people will agree to it,” a third newsroom staffer says. “There has to be a different endgame.”

It’s possible, though, that this confidence is misplaced. According to one source, the Globe’s losses in 2008 have been even worse than Ainsley anticipated in a grim forecast earlier this year. (Ainsley declined comment for this story.) There are a number of other steps that could help shore up the paper’s finances. The potential closure of the Billerica plant would save money. So will the planned incorporation, this coming September, of the Globe’s currently stand-alone business pages into the City&Region section. And so, too, could the elimination of the paper’s famed job-security list, which guarantees work in perpetuity to a fortunate few employees, should they so desire. (Some names on said list: recent Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Feeney; political columnists Scot Lehigh and Joan Vennochi; metro editor Brian McGrory; feature writer Irene Sege; metro columnist Adrian Walker; and cartoonist Daniel Wasserman.)

The problem, this source says, is that none of these fixes is a panacea. “There’s no financial model that’ll stop the bleeding,” he claims. “We deliver a product whose business model doesn’t work. Printing a newspaper on paper and delivering it to people is not sustainable.” The fact that Globe management has taken the unprecedented step of offering the unions access to its financials, he adds, suggests that the wage-cut proposal was made in complete seriousness.

Changing times

Whether the wage-cut optimists or their pessimistic counterparts are proven right, one thing seems certain: the Globe is about to experience some unprecedented flux. Thus far, the paper hasn’t exactly been immune to the broader industry’s woes; the past few years have brought multiple rounds of buyouts and the shuttering of the foreign bureaus. Still, despite the fact that the New England Media Group (which includes the Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette) consistently drags down the Times Company’s performance, the Globe has so far avoided the layoffs and debilitating cutbacks that have plagued most other papers. And this, in turn, has allowed the Globe and its staff to consistently produce an unusually strong product. (When I told one reporter that he seemed awfully optimistic in light of this summer’s developments, he responded with a laundry list of recent editorial achievements, including Feeney’s Pulitzer and Donovan Slack and Keith O’Brien’s heartbreaking opus on South Boston teen Acia Johnson’s troubled life and tragic death.)

Now, however, this era of relative insulation looks to be coming to an end. In the aforementioned June 18 letter, Thornton, the Globe senior V-P, spoke of creating a “far different and more efficient business model.” And a related theme — the fact that the time has come for the “Globe to solve the Globe’s own problems” — was emphasized at the June 23 town meeting. What this is going to mean in practice remains to be seen. But chances are high that implementing this new, austere vision will prove more than a little painful.


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