ACORN: Unions' vote-fraud specialists

Related NYT story: "Rotten ACORN exposed"
Related ACORN stories: here

Organized labor front-group's crimes exposed

The vote fraud specialists at the radical group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) have already gotten their fall vote fraud campaign underway.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News reports that ACORN’s recent activities in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, are under investigation by county detectives. ACORN National President Maude Hurd said she did not believe the former employee, who collected up to 150 questionable voter registrations, sought to register ineligible people. “While we don’t think the intent or the result of his action was to allow any ineligible person to vote, this employee defrauded ACORN and the American public,” Hurd said.

So we’re supposed to believe that ACORN, which has a long history of voter fraud, is the victim of a rogue employee?

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Dale Rathke, who is the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke, embezzled nearly $1 million from ACORN and affiliated groups in 1999 and 2000. Amazingly, Dale Rathke remained a paid employee of ACORN up until a month ago when word of the scandal broke in ACORN circles.


Collectivists cover up left-wing voter-fraud

Charitable foundation tied to ACORN raises ethical questions about non-profits' role in rigged elections

Foundations and charities involved in get-out-the-vote activities are expecting a heavy turnout for November's presidential election. But they are also worried about what will happen once the voters get to the polls.

Some grant makers are spending money to try to head off the administrative glitches that have marred recent national elections, such as machine malfunctions, excessively long lines, and voters improperly purged from registration rolls.

"We've been concerned about vulnerabilities in the past and the stakes are going to be even higher in terms of the enthusiasm this election is already generating," says Allison Barlow, who advises a number of foundations that are involved in voting projects.

Election Fraud Fund

One group of grant makers banded together last December to create the Election Administration Fund, which has raised $5.1-million to coordinate projects aimed at ensuring that the election system works properly this November.

"The fund's goal is to make sure everyone who wants to vote can vote and that every vote is counted," says Lisa Versaci, coordinator of the fund, which is housed at the Tides Foundation, in San Francisco.

In a separate effort, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the JEHT Foundation, in New York, have approved $2.9-million in grants this year to respond to "critical flaws in our elections system" — and plan to approve $1.5-million more later this summer.

Such flaws drew national attention in 2000, when selection of the president was delayed and eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court because of problems counting votes in Florida.

But problems have also surfaced in subsequent elections, including this year's presidential primaries.

In a report on the primaries, the National Campaign for Fair Elections — operated by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law — documented problems that included poorly trained poll workers, breakdown of election machines, ballot shortages due to high turnout, inaccurate voter-registration rolls, and improper requests to show identification.

Some experts are worried that the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing Indiana to require voters to present government-issued identification will confuse matters further, deterring voters even in states that don't have such strict requirements.

Foundations that are trying to fix the election system express concern that the people they are trying to get to the polls will give up on voting if they find it too complicated or lose confidence in the results.

"If we could repair the systems, over time we wouldn't have to spend so much time on voter mobilization," says Nancy Youman, deputy director of U.S. programs for the Open Society Institute, which has contributed $1-million to the Election Administration Fund.

Other donors to the fund include the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Carnegie Corporation, and the HKH Foundation, all in New York, and the Cedar Tree Foundation, in Boston. Additional money, half of the total, has been provided by the Democracy Alliance, in Washington, a group of wealthy individuals who give to liberal causes and organizations, Ms. Versaci says.

Most of the money goes to the Advancement Project, a racial-justice group in Washington; the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University; the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in Washington; and Project Vote, in Washington and Little Rock, Ark., which promotes voting in poor and minority neighborhoods.

Those groups, other grant recipients, and donors meet regularly to coordinate how best to raise public awareness or respond to decisions by election officials or courts, Ms. Versaci says.

The fund's immediate goal is to ensure that the 2008 election goes smoothly, but it also hopes to raise money to "set the stage for longer-term election reform," she says.

The Pew Charitable Trusts has committed more than $20-million since 2000 to projects to fix the nation's election system, says Michael Caudell-Feagan, director of the foundation's Make Voting Work project in Washington.

"Foundations over recent election cycles have become aware that we need to fix the base elements of the way the election system performed so that those already energized and mobilized to vote will come away with some level of confidence in the integrity of the election system," says Mr. Caudell-Feagan.

Among the grants that Pew has awarded since January with the JEHT Foundation:

* Almost $670,000 to a variety of groups — including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the secretary of state's offices in Washington, Ohio, and Minnesota; the U.S. Postal Service; and the Overseas Vote Foundation — to assess ways to improve voter-registration systems. The foundations say many registration rolls are created from "piecemeal data" that "fail to keep pace with a mobile society."

* Almost $570,000 to Ball State University, Rice University, and the University of Tennessee to work with local election officials to design alternatives to "overcrowded, inconveniently located, or poorly designed" polling places.

* More than $240,000 to the California Institute of Technology to evaluate a Pew-supported project to test the effectiveness of including voter-registration forms in change-of-address packets that are sent by the U.S. Postal Service to people who are moving.

Some of the work will carry over into 2009 and 2010 because fixing the election system will be a long-term project, Mr. Caudell-Feagan says.

And he remains worried about this November. "We use the rhetoric that every vote counts," he says. "But that's not backed by a system that's prepared to handle a significant turnout."


Union-happy candidate for Gov. goes too far

Related Jill Long Thompson stories: here

Dem ex-congresswoman invokes God to justify forced-labor unionsm

Jill Long Thompson, the Democratic nominee for governor of Indiana, is campaigning on the promise that her first action as chief executive of the state would be to impose union monopoly bargaing on Indiana state employees (and ultimately compel them to fund unions against their will, I presume). Her reasoning could even be viewed as sacrilegious by some:
"I think (collective bargaining) is a God-given right," she said.
For the record, union monopoly bargaining is not even a constitutional right, but rather just a controversial statutory privilege granted by certain legislatures. Meanwhile, many sincere employees of faith have successfully raised their religious objections to union affiliation, based on their reading of Scripture (or teachings of other religious faiths).

Thompson's comments are likely to be deeply offensive to individuals who believe God disapproves of laws that strip employees of their individual freedom to contract and that force workers to affiliate with radical ideological groups.

National Right to Work Foundation attorneys have secured the right of employees of faith to trigger federal civil rights laws to secure a reprieve from all requirements to pay dues to unions thought immoral. Religious objectors to compulsory unionism can learn more about their rights here.


See how worker-choice states pencil out

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Forced-labor unionism shown to harm business climate

We scored all 50 states - using publicly available data - on 40 different measures of competitiveness. States received points based on their rankings in each metric. Then, we separated those metrics into the ten broad categories, with input from business groups including the National Association of Manufacturers. We weighted the categories based on how frequently each is cited in state economic development marketing materials.

Click on any of the categories, below, for the state rankings in our study:

- Cost of Doing Business
- Workforce
- Economy
- Education
- Quality of Life
- Technology & Innovation
- Transportation
- Cost of Living
- Business Friendliness
- Access to Capital


Barack to AFT: I oppose school choice

His support for 'incentive pay' intended to enrich union organizers

Senator Barack Obama is saying decisively that he does not support private school vouchers, while sticking with his support for incentive pay for teachers based on their students' performance. Mr. Obama made the remarks yesterday in a telecast speech to the American Federation of Teachers' national convention in Chicago after the union voted overwhelmingly to endorse his presidential bid.

The convention will also be the site today of the long-anticipated accession of the New York City union president, Randi Weingarten, to the presidency of the AFT, the national branch of the local United Federation of Teachers. Ms. Weingarten, who was the only candidate nominated for the national job after the former president announced he would retire, is planning to hold on to her position as UFT president while she steers the national union.

Today will mark her first day as president of both unions. It will be closely watched, both for any sign that Ms. Weingarten might be taking her eye off the ball in New York, where she is a formidable figure both on education policy and in state and city politics, and for signals of what role Ms. Weingarten will play on the national stage.

Ms. Weingarten's parents have traveled to Chicago to watch the speech she will deliver this morning.

Both Mr. Obama and Ms. Weingarten have aroused a mix of excitement from those who push for extensive change in public schools and skepticism from traditional union members who oppose the so-called reform policies, such as charter schools and plans to tie teacher pay to student test scores.

In February, Mr. Obama set off concern among some union members when he told a Milwaukee newspaper's editorial board that he was open to supporting private school vouchers if research showed they work.

His campaign quickly issued a statement that said, "Senator Obama has always been a critic of vouchers," and Mr. Obama echoed that sentiment yesterday, saying that while he supports charter schools, he opposes private school vouchers.

"We need to focus on fixing and improving our public schools; not throwing our hands up and walking away from them," he said.

Mr. Obama also raised concerns when he endorsed the idea of "merit pay" at a convention last year for the other national teachers union, the National Education Association.

In his address to the NEA this year, he acknowledged that the idea "wasn't necessarily the most popular part of my speech last year," but vowed to stand by it, eliciting some boos.

He also stood by the idea in his speech to the AFT convention yesterday, which he made via satellite from San Diego.

"When our educators succeed, I won't just talk about how great they are; I will reward them for it," Mr. Obama said. He listed several cases in which districts could give teachers a salary increase, including if they serve as mentors; if they learn new skills, and if they "consistently excel in the classroom."

Those at the AFT convention said that no boos followed the remarks, though some union members later said they were concerned by them.

"That was the one statement that raised our eyebrows," the president of the AFT's Los Angeles chapter, A.J. Duffy, said yesterday. "Our question is what does that mean, 'who consistently do well in classrooms,' and based upon whose guidelines? Is it a principal, a test score? We're going to continue to have dialogue with him."

Other AFT members said they were offended that Mr. Obama did not make his speech live in Chicago, his hometown. In a change from the practice of some previous Democratic presidential candidates, Mr. Obama also delivered his remarks to the NEA via satellite.

The executive director of the lobbying group Democrats for Education Reform, Joseph Williams, characterized that decision as a "Velvet Snub" indicative of Mr. Obama's willingness not to become owned by special interest groups, addressing them as if across a protective velvet rope.

In her tenure as New York City union president, Ms. Weingarten's work starting two charter schools and her collaboration with the Bloomberg administration on a performance-based pay plan have won her a similar mix of skeptics and boosters.

Mr. Duffy said some Los Angeles teachers are concerned about Ms. Weingarten, though he supports her.

A New York City teacher who is attending the Chicago convention and is a member of a group that has opposed some of Ms. Weingarten's ideas, Lisa North, said that in Chicago she is hearing from many union members across the country who are skeptical about policies such as charter schools.

"There are AFT members that would like to see the AFT helping organize teachers to fight the privatization, the high-stakes testing, and No Child Left Behind," Ms. North said.

Reg Weaver, the president of the NEA, which is seen as more stringent than the AFT in its opposition to such policies, would not say whether there are any differences between his positions and Ms. Weingarten's.

He added: "I think she's good, has been good, and will be great."


Another Teamsters strike v. Coca-Cola

Related Coca-Cola strike stories: here

Is militant union staging a pattern strike?

Truckers, plant operators and bottling workers at Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated's operation went on strike Sunday after Teamsters rejected a last-minute contract from the soft-drink distributor.

"The company gave us their last, best and final offer last (Saturday) night and it was unacceptable," said Jim Gookins, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 991, which represents more than 275 Coke employees in Vancleave and southwest Alabama.

Teamsters are feuding with the nation's second-largest Coke distributor over weekly contributions into a union-run pension plan.

Local company officials referred the Sun Herald's calls seeking comment to their corporate headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., which was closed Sunday.

Gookins said "for years" the North Carolina-based company has put $69 per week, per union member into the pension fund. The union wants an increase, something that hasn't happened since 1990, Gookins said.

However, Gookins said, the company has said it plans to withdraw from the pension fund and instead of the $69 weekly payments it will put $10 a week into 401k plans for each union member.

In addition, Gookins said, the company is required by federal law to contribute one last payment into the pension plan, a buyout estimated to be between $16 million and $19 million over 20 years.


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Do teachers' union routinely violate election law?

Jumbo gov't-union draws scrutiny

Conservative talk show host superstar and attorney Mark Levin’s Landmark Legal Foundation, the organization that uncovered massive abuse of federal tax, election and labor laws by the nation’s largest teachers union, has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service, alleging flagrant and widespread violations of the Internal Revenue Code by the Colorado Education Association (CEA) and the Poudre, Colorado Education Association (PEA).

Landmark’s complaint details how the CEA and the PEA employed union staff members, including PEA’s president and office manager, for several weeks to work full time as de facto campaign managers for the 2004 candidacy of Democrat Bob Bacon for the Colorado State Senate. 

The costs associated with the unions’ expenditures on behalf of the campaign (staff
salaries and benefits, travel expenses, etc.) are all required by the IRC to be reported on the unions’ federal tax returns as in-kind political contributions. Neither the CEA nor the PEA reported any political spending for the 2004 tax year.

"The leaders of the CEA and the PEA appear to have turned their unions over lock, stock and barrel to the Bob Bacon for Senate campaign,"explained Landmark President Mark R. Levin. 

“Hundreds of man-hours and tens of thousands in tax-exempt, teachers’ dues were used for no other purpose than to elect a candidate who would do the unions’ bidding in the state
Senate,” said the former Justice Department chief of staff and top-rated radio talk host.

Landmark’s complaint is the latest in the organization’s National Education Association (NEA) Accountability Project, an effort that has documented millions of dollars in unreported political expenditures by the national teachers’ union and its state and local affiliates. 

Earlier complaints by Landmark to the IRS resulted in a full field audit of the NEA, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor, a complete overhaul of reporting requirements for large unions by the Department of Labor, as well as the uncovering of several significant violations of federal and state law by NEA affiliates around the country.

“Colorado’s teachers have a right to know what their leaders are doing when they involve their unions in politics,” Levin said. 

"And they have a right to know that their dues are not being used to do an end-around the
law to advance a political agenda. Moreover, the IRS needs to determine whether the CEA is doing the same thing with other local affiliates elsewhere in the state."

Founded in 1976, Landmark Legal Foundation is one of the nation’s oldest conservative public interest law firms. The Foundation has offices in Kansas City, MO and Leesburg, VA.


Organized labor calls the shots in Michigan

Would 'worker-choice zones' make a difference?

Where will Volkswagen build its new U.S. plant? That's the $788 million question. By late last week, sister publication Automotive News was reporting the automaker was leading toward Huntsville, Ala., and Chattanooga, Tenn.

Michigan tried hard, with its $18.7 million “Choose Michigan” program of loans and tax credits, but it wasn't enough. To many manufacturers, Michigan suffers from the perception that organized labor calls the shots. Labor strikes, including this year's shutdown at American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc., don't help that image.

So some business boosters have suggested that Michigan should adopt right-to-work zones, just as it has created tax-advantaged enterprise zones. In those zones, employees could decide individually whether they wanted to join or financially support a union. If such a law were ever passed, it must bar such zones from raiding other parts of the state. The zones should be open to new development only, from companies that otherwise would be expanding outside of Michigan.

Clearly, other states, including Ohio and Kentucky, have successfully attracted manufacturing jobs without right-to-work laws. But Michigan is so closely identified with organized labor that it's knocked out of the running, even when attractive packages, such as Choose Michigan, are available.

It sounds radical, given the state's history as a cradle for the organized labor movement in the 1930s. But a right-to-work zone might be a bold enough idea that could transform Michigan's image to bring jobs to a state that desperately needs them.

Urban farming a good, green idea

Home-grown is taking on new meaning as consumer and commercial restaurant demand grows for food — vegetables, fish and meat — grown close to home.

As Nancy Kaffer reports on Page 1, farmers and nonprofits like Eastern Market Corp. are working to create more access to fresh foods in core city neighborhoods in Detroit.

And that's where opportunity lies. One of the most popular stories on the BBC News Americas Web site last week had a Detroit dateline and the headline: “Urban farming takes root in Detroit.” The story profiles Urban Farming, a nonprofit that has helped start major gardens in Detroit and taps city residents as volunteer farmers, producing food.

A city whose sprawling footprint can easily take in two or three of the nation's densest cities, Detroit has plenty of land to spare. As market demand grows for locally produced food, this may be an idea Detroit can embrace to “go green.”


VW narrows search to worker-choice states

Related VW stories: here

If Volkswagen AG decides to build its U.S. assembly plant in the South, the German company will join other foreign automakers that are increasingly turning the region into a hotbed of car manufacturing.

The South offers automakers ample highway and rail systems and proximity to the large market of consumers. But the region's main attraction, however, is that auto plant workers have rejected overtures by labor union UAW.

"Foreign-owned automakers have been a tough nut for the UAW to crack, and the South is particularly difficult," said Harley Shaiken, a University of California, Berkeley, professor who specializes in labor issues. "That is without question an important part of their location decision."

Volkswagen's plant will be part of the company's strategy to increase its presence in the U.S., where the maker of the Jetta and Beetle holds just 2 percent of the market.

VW executives have narrowed their site options to Alabama and Tennessee, as well as Michigan. All three states are offering incentive packages. The automaker's representatives and economic development officials won't discuss the site search.

Volkswagen's supervisory board, the equivalent of a U.S. board of directors, is scheduled to meet Tuesday, with an announcement expected soon afterward.

Industry executives and analysts say there is plenty of room in the South, where foreign auto plants have been locating since Nissan Motor Co. set up shop in Smyrna, Tenn., in 1983.

Analysts say the region could provide another 2,000 skilled workers, as could Michigan, where cost-cutting U.S. companies have idled thousands of autoworkers.

American Honda Motor Co. spokesman Ted Pratt said Volkswagen or anybody coming into the South "will find what we found: a great quality of life and a great work force."

Honda set up operations in Alabama in 2001, and the assembly plant Kia Motors Corp. plans for West Point, Ga., will be about 100 miles away. Two likely Volkswagen plant sites, in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Huntsville, Ala., also are about 100 miles from the Honda plant.

Pratt said the plants seem "spread apart far enough so we are not pulling from the same labor pool."

Spokesmen from Nissan Motor Co.'s North American plant in Nashville, BMW's plant in Greer, S.C., and Honda's Lincoln, Ala., factory also said their companies don't worry about the region becoming crowded with automaking.

David Cole, who runs the Center for Automotive Research, said a U.S. location is more competitive than ever in the current global economy and that compared with Mexico, U.S. workers are better educated.

Volkswagen's only North American plant is in Puebla, southeast of Mexico City, where union workers staged a five-day strike in 2006 for better wages and benefits.

The issue with unions isn't wages. Auto production line work in the U.S. pays about $27 an hour in union and nonunion facilities, Cole said.

Erich Merkle, vice president of auto industry forecasting for the consulting company IRN Inc., said the issue with unions is they go on strike.

Employees at Nissan's Smyrn plant voted down a UAW organizing effort in 2001. The union has made failed attempts to get a foot in the door at the Toyota plant at Georgetown, Ky.

Last year, Honda executives sent letters to employees at its plant in Lincoln, Ala., warning that any move toward organizing would "radically change" operations.

Attica Scott, coordinator of the Kentucky Jobs With Justice organization that supports unions, said the UAW has to educate workers about the benefits of "having a voice on the job."


No right to remain non-union

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Worst idea of the week

California Democrat Rep. Brad Sherman wants to repeal Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. Seems 22 states have approved Right to Work laws guaranteeing every employee the right to keep a job without having to join a union.

Details: Says Sherman: "It is time that we let unions organize and time that we allow workers who want to have a union, to enjoy that right." But don't ask not to have a union.


Dealers use secret-ballot to reject union

Casino workers prefer to remain non-union

Dealers at the Rio casino in Las Vegas have rejected a proposal for union representation, officials say. The 247-162 vote against joining Las Vegas Dealers Local 721 was the first setback for the union after successful organizing efforts at the Wynn and Caesars Palace casinos, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Sunday.

Union officials said they were not discouraged by the vote Saturday and will continue to try to organize at local casinos.

The union vote was overseen by representatives from the National Labor Relations Board.

The Las Vegas Dealers Local 721 is an affiliate of the Transport Workers Union of America, based in New York.


Las Vegas exports union-only scheme to PA

Casino industry boasts union-only construction

Two years ago, Las Vegas Sands agreed to Bethlehem (PA) City Council's wishes that union workers build the $800 million casino complex under construction on former Bethlehem Steel lands. Now Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., which says 90 percent of Lehigh Valley construction workers are nonunion, argues the deal excludes most local workers from the project.

Associated Builders and Contractors President Michael Gibson said his organization is launching a campaign to get Sands to reconsider its decision to use only union workers. The group has begun lobbying City Council to allow nonunion workers to bid for contracts and hopes to negotiate with Sands officials. If that doesn't work, Gibson says his group will launch an ad campaign urging gamblers to bypass Bethlehem and go to casinos in the Poconos or Harrisburg.

"We understand the history of Bethlehem Steel and why [City Council] wanted union labor to be on that site, but this is excluding 90 percent of the Valley's construction work force," Gibson said. "We don't have a problem with them hiring union. We have a problem with them hiring union only."

It was council President Robert Donchez's request that Sands was granting, but he says he doesn't plan to get involved.

"I'm pleased with the project and pleased that union labor is being used, but we had no binding agreement with Sands," Donchez said. "They're free to hire anyone they want, so there's no sense coming to us. [Associated Builders and Contractors will] have to take their concerns to the company."

Gibson doesn't accept that.

"That's a nice political answer, but City Council bullied Sands into this deal and he knows it," Gibson said. "'They couldrelease that pressure if they wanted."

The deal Gibson is referring to is what council called a "memorandum of good faith" in which Sands agreed to several City Council requests, including hiring "only union" labor.

Donchez said the agreement is not legally binding. However, based in part on that request, Sands signed a project labor agreement with the Lehigh Valley Building and Construction Trades Council to hire from its membership of 6,000 union workers.

"[Associated Builders and Contractors] members can bid on Sands jobs. All they have to do is hire union workers making standard wages for this market," said Bill Newhart, president of the trades council. "Why would Sands need to hire nonunion workers, when there are enough union workers to handle the job?"

Sands officials Friday were surprised by the controversy, and said they were not prepared to comment. Sands is spending $800 million to build a casino, 13-story hotel, 40-store shopping mall and a 3,500-person events center. The casino is scheduled to open July 1, 2009.

Gibson said the eastern Pennsylvania chapter of his group has union and nonunion members, though he acknowledged that his membership of more than 200 companies includes only eight union shops. He says 90.5 percent of all construction workers in the Lehigh Valley region are nonunion. Newhart disputed that, but offered no other numbers.

Gibson said his members will not picket the Sands site, and said the ad campaign would only begin if Sands won't compromise.

"We're not looking to embarrass the city or Sands," Gibson said. "We just want our nonunion members to be able to bid on these jobs. We hope to resolve this diplomatically."


How to deal with union organizers

Opportunity to learn about legal restrictions on employers

The Siouxland (IA) Chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management will sponsor the program, ''What You Need to Know About Union Organizing in 2008, on July 17 at Western Iowa Tech Room 138B, Entrance 10, Lot 3. Breakfast is from 7:30 to 8 a.m., followed by a presentation by Chad Richter of Berens & Tate PC, beginning at 8:10 a.m.

Richter is a partner with the management-side labor and employment law firm of Berens & Tate. He has extensive experience representing and training management in traditional labor issues.

The session will focus on how to recognize and respond to union organizing campaigns. It also will address common reasons employees seek an outside third party to represent them in their terms and conditions of employment, union campaigns in the 21st century, tactics used by most labor unions, the procedural requirements of the National Labor Relations Board during a union election campaign, legal restrictions on employers and labor unions during an organizing drive, enforcement strategies by the NLRB and practical tips to remain union free.

Two hours of HRCI credit have been applied for the session. The event is free to all Siouxland SHRM members. There will be a $20 fee for non-members and a $10 fee for student non-members.

RSVP for food count to erickssp@mercyhealth.com or call her at 712-279-2087.


SEIU members protest v. Andy Stern

Workers rally today against jumbo union

Thousands of health workers are expected to demonstrate today in Manhattan Beach in an unusual show of union rancor - a local affiliate picketing against the actions of its own international organization.

Members of United Health Care Workers West, California's largest union of health-care workers, will hold signs, deliver speeches and link arms in front of the Marriott Hotel, where talks are under way that could cut its membership nearly in half.

"Together we have a chance to win gains that lift everyone up," said Ruby Guzman, a certified nursing assistant and chief union steward at Creekside Healthcare Center. "Why would our own union try to tear us apart?"

A hearing today at the hotel will determine whether unionized home health-care workers - now spread among three California affiliates of the Service Employees International Union, including United Health Care Workers West - should be consolidated into one, separate affiliate.

The decision would affect some 200,000 health workers who serve as aides in homes or long-term care facilities not associated with a hospital. About 65,000 of these workers now belong to United Health Care Workers West, one of the most vocal and fastest-growing affiliates of the 2 million-member SEIU based in Washington, D.C.

Members of the state affiliate say they are being punished for speaking out against backdoor deals brokered with companies and hospitals on behalf of union workers by the SEIU.
They charge that the national body sped along a process to split the outspoken California affiliate in order to undermine its power and muffle its voice in the internal debate over how to best win employment contracts for workers.

Officials with the national group, however, say today's hearing is the culmination of a process that involved much debate over several years.

"This has been a thoroughly democratic process from beginning to end," said Steve Trossman, spokesman with the SEIU.

At the SEIU convention last month, 2,000 elected members of the national union voted to go forward with the formation of one affiliate for home health workers - a burgeoning sector of the union due in part to the rise of elderly patients who want care at home.

If a hearing officer agrees with the plan today, the issue will be put to a vote of the national SEIU board, then put to a vote among the 200,000 affected workers.

Trossman said the plan would group home health workers more effectively, allowing them to bargain over pay and working conditions that are unique to non-hospital-based workers.

"Our experience is that larger (affiliates) with more members means more strength and ability to win improvements in the workplace," he said.

Leaders in United Health Care Workers West, however, say they have one of the best track records for winning contracts with hospitals and other employers. In a vote taken last April, the home health workers decided by a margin of 97 percent that they wanted to stay put, officials said.

During today's demonstration, home health workers will be joined by their counterparts who work in hospitals around the state of California. The state affiliate is planning a lunch-time press conference followed by demonstrations throughout the day.


Teamsters offer olive branch to InBev

Related A-B/Teamsters stories: here

Barack likely to flip-flop on Bud deal

U.S. brewer Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc moved closer to a friendly, $50 billion takeover by Belgium-based InBev NV, sources familiar with the situation said on Sunday. An announcement could be made as early as Sunday night for a deal that would create the world's largest beer maker, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Negotiations could continue beyond Sunday, however, as many details were being tackled quickly, the sources cautioned. But the major issues regarding the price, board structure, and executive roles had largely been resolved, the sources said.

InBev, the maker of Stella Artois, and Budweiser-brewer Anheuser declined to comment.
A deal would bring an amicable resolution to a month-long saga that was becoming increasingly hostile as the two companies sued each other and InBev set the stage to try to replace Anheuser's board of directors.

InBev had proposed its own slate of nominees for the board that included Adolphus Busch IV, an uncle of the current chief executive of Anheuser-Busch.

InBev lured Anheuser to the bargaining table last week by raising its offer to $70 per share from $65 per share, a 27 percent premium over Anheuser's record-high stock price in October 2002.

Shares of InBev and Anheuser surged on Friday as news of the higher offer and the negotiations emerged. Anheuser closed up 8.6 percent at $66.50, and InBev closed up more than 7 percent.

The two companies and their advisers talked in New York over the weekend, working through details such as the name for the combined company, roles for Anheuser's executives and the structure of the board, the sources said. The breakup fees if the deal collapses also were discussed over the weekend, the sources said.

"This deal is a cake, baked and ready to be taken from the oven. We wait only for the icing," said Tom Pirko, president of Bevmark, a beverage industry consulting firm based in California. "Let's get on with it."

InBev had tried to soothe some of Anheuser's concerns last month, saying it would keep Anheuser's St. Louis, Missouri, home as the headquarters for the North American region. Anheuser's main Budweiser beer would also become the new company's "flagship brand."

InBev also had said the new brewer's name would "evoke Anheuser-Busch's heritage," and some Anheuser directors would join the new board. InBev had promised to maintain all of Anheuser's U.S. breweries, but Anheuser wants InBev to make firm commitments to its largest U.S. distributors, one source said.

Last week, the director of the Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters asked to meet with InBev Chairman Peter Harf and InBev Chief Executive Carlos Brito, according to a letter posted on the union's Web site http://www.budwatch.com.

Led by Chief Executive Carlos Brito, InBev is known for ruthless cost-cutting.
The union, which represents workers at all 12 of Anheuser's U.S. breweries, asked for the meeting to discuss the initial offer so it could "fulfill our responsibilities to advise and protect our members."

It was unclear if InBev and the union met.

A takeover of iconic U.S. company Anheuser had sparked an outcry from some politicians, including Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Any deal with Anheuser is complicated by its relationship with Mexico's No. 1 brewer, Grupo Modelo, which makes Corona, and 27 percent of China's Tsingtao Brewery Co Ltd.

Modelo, already 50 percent owned by Anheuser, has the right to choose its partner and therefore has a role in the discussions of any acquisition of Anheuser-Busch. Modelo could not be reached for comment.

Analysts have said that Modelo is likely to embrace InBev's bid for Anheuser and hopes the Belgian brewer proves to be a more dynamic and innovative partner than the biggest U.S. brewer.

While Anheuser controls nearly half the U.S. market with brands like Budweiser, Bud Light and Michelob, InBev has strong positions in Western Europe and Latin America and is growing in Eastern Europe and Asia.

InBev, which was formed by the 2004 merger of Belgium's Interbrew with Brazil's AmBev, is based in Belgium and run by a mostly-Brazilian management team.


UFCW organizer at work

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