Teamster Bud boss threatens InBev

Related A-B/Teamsters stories: here

Signals massive strike to oppose cost savings

InBev's $52 billion pact to swallow up Anheuser-Busch Cos. may be a done deal on paper, but there are likely to be plenty of bruised feelings before the acquisition closes -- and some major integration hurdles to overcome after that.

Late Sunday, the two companies announced agreement on the deal. Initial opposition from St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch's board evaporated after InBev, based in Belgium, raised its all-cash offer to $70 a share from the previous $65.

InBev has promised to keep all of Anheuser-Busch's U.S. breweries open while basing its North American headquarters in St. Louis and making Budweiser its "global flagship" brand. But the sweetened offer also is likely to mean that InBev, which is known for aggressive cost cutting, will have to squeeze even harder than first expected.

In their joint press release announcing the deal, the two companies vowed to find $1.5 billion in "synergies" over the first three years -- roughly 50% more than was envisioned in the restructuring plan Anheuser-Busch unveiled during the bidding process.

"At this higher price, InBev is going to have to work a lot harder and have a larger focus on cost-cutting," said Ann Gilpin, an analyst with Morningstar. And considering that the two companies have virtually no overlap in the U.S. market and precious little elsewhere, "there are not a whole lot of opportunities for synergies," she added.

InBev "thinks it can get some efficiencies in cost of goods sold and other overhead," Gilpin said. However, "that could lead to some integration problems as the corporate cultures are different. And, even though the deal is finally done, the employees and most of St. Louis are not cheering for InBev."

That's something of an understatement.

The deal has set off howls of protest in the Gateway City, where Anheuser-Busch is one of the largest employers, taxpayers and charitable donors. Missouri politicians, including the state's governor and two U.S. senators, have all deplored this American icon's falling into foreign hands.

While they are unlikely to be able to do much more than protest the deal, slated to close by the end of the year, they might be able to twist enough arms to slow it down.
Aggrieved constituencies

Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., has asked the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department to carefully scrutinize any deal, writing that it is "clear that the local sentiment is adamantly opposed to yielding control and threatening operations that have been beneficial to consumers, workers, American communities, and shareholders alike."

Or, in other words, as Bond recently told reporters: "InBev buying Anheuser-Busch is as popular in St. Louis as $4 gas."

Meanwhile, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., one of the more outspoken opponents of the deal, appeared resigned to its outcome.

"I'm disappointed," she said in a written statement. "Anheuser-Busch's Missouri work force will continue to make the company one of the best in the world and I am going to do everything I can to make this new arrangement work for Missouri and the millions of Americans who love Budweiser."

And in a shot at the Bush administration and a Congress that was controlled by Republicans prior to 2006, she added, "We need to remember that InBev could afford this All-American company because of the weak dollar created by the economic policies of the last seven years."

Unions could also make any integration into a greater headache by holding InBev's feet to the fire on its pledges.

Jack Cipriani, director of the Teamsters Soft Drink and Brewery Division, applauded "InBev's pledge not to close breweries or lay off employees," but he said "the structure of this sale raises pressing financial questions about InBev's ability to keep those promises."

The Teamsters represent more than 7,000 Anheuser-Busch employees. Cipriani wants to talk with InBev about how its will generate the cost savings to help cover the massive amount of debt it's assuming in executing the deal, he said.

"InBev claims that economies of scale and other savings from merging the two companies' operations will generate the money it needs to service this huge debt, but they haven't said where those savings would come from." When the company moved into Canada, its "first moves were brewery closures and attempted layoffs," Cipriani said. InBev acquired Labatt, a Canadian brand, in 1995.

"InBev has yet to show it can respect and value workers once it takes over a company," he said. "The Teamsters will hold InBev to its promises not to lay off A-B employees and not to close breweries."

Bill Bates, a mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer at King & Spalding in New York, said the kind of promises InBev is making are not unusual, and, while "there are not a lot of instances where companies reneged," they are far from ironclad.

"There might be some assurances written into the merger agreement, although it is hard to enforce those after the deal is done," Bates said.

Another possible spanner in the works could be thrown by Mexico's Modelo, which is half-owned by Anheuser-Busch. On Monday, that company said its agreement with Anheuser-Busch "was carefully constructed to ensure we have a definitive say in who our partner is" and that it is confident that it "gives us the right to decide whether or not to consent to the potential acquisition."

Still, "we have a great deal of respect for InBev and look forward to continuing our discussions with them and hope to find a resolution that meets the needs of both companies and their stakeholders," Modelo said.

Perhaps the greatest risk to a successful close -- and it does seem a large one at this juncture -- is the financing.

Should the market crunch continue or the U.S. dollar strengthen appreciably, some of InBev's bankers could shy away or at least impose tougher terms before completing the transaction.

"I think it will go through," said Morningstar's Gilpin, "but anything could happen. The biggest potential risk is if the financing falls apart. There is a lot of time for the markets to deteriorate further," which could lead InBev to have to put equity on the line -- a move that could be bad news for its own stock.

At the very least, she said, "Anheuser-Busch shareholders should be happy this is an all-cash deal."


Card-check ads airing in Maine

Related EFCA stories: here

Pro-worker protest against 'no-vote' unionism

The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW) today announced that it was extending its public awareness campaign to reachMaine citizens. The effort begins with airing a television spot designed to inform the public that the Big Labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act, or "card check" legislation, threatens worker privacy.

The ad, developed by nationally known media strategist Mike Murphy, uses widely-recognized actor Vincent Curatola, who will be easily identifiable to the public and will use humor to reinforce the need to protect private ballots for workers.

In an effort to fight declining union membership, the labor lobby has aggressively sought Congressional passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Under the EFCA, workers would lose their right to a private ballot when deciding whether to join a union. The private ballot would be replaced with a "card-check" scheme where a union is organized if a majority of workers simply sign a card; the workers' signatures are made public to their employer, the union organizers and their co-workers. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives but was blocked in the Senate in June 2007. The labor lobby has promised to reintroduce the legislation next year.

"The citizens and workers ofMaine need to know that the mis-named Employee Free Choice Act is not about free choice at all. In fact, the card check legislation actually takes away the fundamental right to cast a vote in private when deciding whether or not to join a union," said Brian Worth with the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace. "The moreMaine citizens know about this anti-worker legislation, the less likely they are to support it."

Recent polling inMaine conducted by CDW indicates widespread voter opposition to card check. Over two-thirds of voters inMaine (72%) oppose the EFCA. Moreover, 80% ofMaine voters believe that secret ballot elections are the cornerstone of democracy and should be kept for union elections. This number actually increased to 86% among union households.

The ad will begin airing on July 14, 2008 in thePortland andBangor markets.

As the leading, broad-based coalition fighting the anti-worker "card check" scheme, CDW has been actively working this issue since early 2007. The coalition began its voter education campaign in the Spring with a series of national cable TV buys and ran TV and radio ads in states and Congressional districts last year urging members of Congress to support private ballots for workers and oppose the Employee Free Choice Act.

About the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace

The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace is made up of more than 500 associations and organizations from every state across the nation that have joined together to protect a worker's right to a private ballot when deciding whether to join a union. For more information and a listing of our membership, please visit http://www.MyPrivateBallot.com


Out-of-state union cash pollutes Minnesota

Dem rakes in special-interest cash by opposing secret-ballot union elections

Al Franken for U.S. Senate announced today that the campaign raised $2.26 million in the second fundraising quarter of 2008. The campaign ends the quarter with $4.2 million cash on hand. In total, over 104,000 individuals - including almost 18,000 Minnesotans - have helped the campaign raise more than $11 million with an average contribution of just $64.

In the second quarter alone, 11,015 new people joined the campaign’s grassroots donor base. Overall, the campaign received contributions from 4,600 Minnesota donors this quarter.

“Minnesotans are tired of Norm Coleman’s special-interest politics and the Bush-Coleman economic plan — and they’re ready for a change,” said Communications Director Andy Barr. “With the help of over 100,000 individuals (and absolutely no help from drug, insurance, and oil industry PACs), Al Franken is ready to spark that change in Washington.”

For a hi-res headshot of Al, please visit: http://www.alfranken.com/content/media


SEIU members: We don't want Andy Stern

More Andy Stern stories: here

Top-down authoritarian, anti-democratic union leader revealed, reviled by dues-paying members

Thousands of California healthcare workers gathered at the Marriott Manhattan Beach hotel Monday. The workers were protesting hearings held at the hotel by their Washington, D.C.-based international union.

Protesters, many of them from Oakland-based United Healthcare Workers West, argued that their parent union, Service Employees International, headed by Andrew Stern, is aiming to split their local union in half. The workers said SEIU is dividing nursing-home workers and home-care workers from their fellow members who work in hospitals.

"We don't want Andy Stern and his SEIU stepping in and taking over our rights," said union member Laura Crum.

UHW West members said the SEIU is trying to punish them for demanding their own voice. The members also said they don't want the union to negotiate exclusively for members working in hospitals, but for home care workers as well.

"SEIU wants to take away our members' voices at the bargaining table. UHW doesn't agree with that. We are a member-built and member-driven union. Our local is built from the members up, the bottom up. And we're not willing to sacrifice that," said another union member.

"It seems as though they are trying to split our union. So, we're looking for one voice, and one voice only," said Abdullah Muhammad, a UHLA West member.

While protestors said the SEIU wants to divide and weaken them, SEIU officials said that is not true.

"The goal here is to strengthen the voice of nursing home and long-term care workers, who are in home care as well. And, that's the only agenda here," said union spokesperson Steve Trossman.

Trossman said nursing home and home care workers in California are split between three local unions, including UHW West. So, SEIU is concerned those workers may be underserved.

"Workers have the strongest voice when they are united in one organization. And the question is, how do we go about that? And that's the question that is going to be answered by this hearing," said Trossman.

SEIU officials said that no matter how the hearings go, members will have a say in the final outcome.


Nation's leading collectivists gather in S.F.

Related TIDES stories: here

ACORN embezzlement, voter-fraud woes cast a pall on confab

On July 20, 2008, Tides Foundation - convener, catalyst and connector for the progressive community - will kick off its third Momentum conference at the W Hotel in San Francisco (Sunday, July 20 through Tuesday, July 22, 2008). Momentum 2008 provides progressive leaders with the rare chance to explore ways of thinking from a range of issue areas. An invitational forum where some of the world's most innovative thinkers and dedicated activists come together to challenge, inspire and energize each other, the conference supports the exchange of ideas and innovation and offers a space to deepen the understanding of key social issues.

Momentum 2008 brings activists, philanthropists and thought leaders together to move beyond the existing progressive rhetoric in a format that offers time for onsite collaboration. Momentum 2008 spotlights innovative perspectives through sessions focused on seven topics: Neighborhood, Democracy, Health, Money, Wars, Media, and Earth. Over 35 speakers will share their passion for new approaches to familiar problems, giving their most intriguing presentations in 20 minutes each.

"In the complex world where progressive leaders and activists are pushing for more enlightened policies, exposure to a broad set of approaches and perspectives strengthens everyone," said Drummond Pike, founder and CEO of Tides.

John Edwards will speak on Sunday night. John Edwards, whose bold ideas shaped some of the most important debates in this election cycle, offers some of the most comprehensive plans for addressing today's key challenges: creating universal health care, halting global warming, halving U.S. poverty by 2018, ending the war in Iraq and restoring America's moral leadership around the world. Momentum 2008 will begin with an evening program for conference participants that features John Edwards and journalist David Brancaccio, host of PBS-TV's "NOW" and formerly of PRI's "Marketplace."

DATES AND TIME: Sunday, July 20, 4:00 pm PDT through Tuesday, July 22, 9:30 pm

LOCATION: The W Hotel, San Francisco, CA

For more information about Momentum 2008, visit http://www.tides.org/momentum/2008.

Press opportunities: Momentum 2008 is open to a limited number of journalists who register in advance. Interested parties should contact Emily Howe, ehowe@pro-mediacommunications.com, 212-245-0510 as soon as possible.

About Tides

Tides actively promotes change toward broadly shared economic opportunity, robust democratic processes and the opportunity to live in a healthy and sustainable environment where human rights are preserved and protected. Tides is a nonprofit organization founded in 1976 and provides an array of services that amplifies the efforts of forward-thinking philanthropists, foundations, activists and organizations to make the world a better place. Tides Foundation, Tides Center and Tides Shared Spaces have collaborated with over 15,000 individuals and organizations that have touched millions of lives across the country and around the globe. With offices in San Francisco and New York City, Tides provides fiscal sponsorship for over 200 groups across the country, operates and supports green nonprofit centers and has granted more than $550 million since 2000 alone. For more information, visit http://www.tides.org.


Criminal ACORN disgraces organized labor

Related ACORN stories: here

Activist Group's Fraud and Dishonest Practices Further Cemented by Cover-Up Scheme

Tim Miller, Communications Director of the Employment Policies Institute, issued the following statement after The New York Times published an explosive expose this morning detailing how the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) covered up nearly $1 million in embezzled funds by its founder's brother:
"It comes as no surprise that ACORN founder and chief organizer Wade Rathke hid his brother's embezzlement of nearly $1 million dollars from the 'charitable' organization's employees, board of directors, and donors. This is just one more page in ACORN's corrupt history, which already includes election fraud investigations in at least a dozen states, hypocritical and oppressive employment practices, and a political agenda driven by a handful of anti-corporate activists.

"This shameful embezzlement scheme and the eight year cover-up ought to make supporters and donors wary of associating themselves with ACORN. It's bad enough that the boss' brother stole almost a million dollars, but for Wade Rathke to sweep the crime under the rug and keep his brother on ACORN's payroll is a disgrace."
More information about ACORN's long history of corruption can be found in the Employment Policies Institute's recent report "Rotten ACORN: America's Bad Seed" -- available online at: www.RottenACORN.com.

The Employment Policies Institute is a nonprofit research organization dedicated to studying public policy issues surrounding entry-level employment. For additional information or to schedule an interview, call Sarah Kapenstein at 202.463.7650.


AFSCME's contempt for the law exposed

More AFSCME stories: here

Massive gov't-union defies TRO, goes out on illegal strike

Union service workers at University of California campuses and hospitals walked off the job Monday morning, despite a court order that they not strike until after a hearing. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 says its members, everyone from janitors to food service workers, will remain on the picket lines through Friday.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Patrick Mahoney set a hearing for July 22 at the request of the Public Employment Relations Board, which filed suit after UC officials accused the union of bad faith bargaining and endangering public safety.

The union said it was calling a strike on behalf of the 8,000 service workers it represents. The job action could affect the University of California's five medical campuses, including UCSF, UC-Davis, UCLA, UC-Irvine and UC-San Diego, as well as all 10 UC campuses.

UC is offering the workers hourly wage increases from $10.28 to $11.50 to $12. But the union says that's just not enough to make ends meet as gas and food prices rise.


8,000 AFSCME strikers ignore Governator

Left-leaning Gov. tilts to gov't-union strikers

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday urged striking University of California service workers from Sacramento and elsewhere around the state to return to the bargaining table in the name of maintaining public safety.

The strike began at 5 a.m. Monday, with many employees hitting a picket line in front of UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento's Oak Park. The protest is affecting all 10 UC campuses and five medical centers statewide and is expected to last five days, four days longer than a similar strike more than three years ago. About 8,500 employees statewide are expected to take part, with 460 workers walking off the job in Sacramento.

The striking workers include custodians, hospital workers, food preparers, groundskeepers, security guards, medical technicians and some nurses.

"Public safety is my No. 1 priority and this strike could affect the health and well-being of many people who rely on the critical services provided by medical support staff,” Schwarzenegger said in a prepared statement. "While there may be legitimate issues to be resolved, it is unacceptable to use the welfare of innocent people as a bargaining chip."

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents the workers, said wages are a primary concern, adding that 96 percent of workers currently qualify for welfare benefits.

The university, however, argues that it cannot pay more given the current state budget crunch and tough economic times.

Workers said it was not an easy decision to walk out.

"Most of us make poverty wages," said Diamond Robertson, one of the workers on strike. "A lot of us qualify for welfare and we work full-time jobs. It's unfair."

Judie Boehmer, spokeswoman for the medical center, said the strike is illegal and participating workers will likely face discipline.

The university said it has a contingency plan in place that calls for managers to step in to do the jobs of striking employees.

In April of 2005, about 7,000 services workers hit the picket lines. At that time, workers said their pay was less than employers at similar facilities.


News Union sticks it to advertisers

Boycott bites the hand that feeds

The Teamsters, unhappy with the glacial pace of Santa Barbara (CA) News-Press contract negotiations, are urging advertisers to pull their ads and not only that, they are now handing out leaflets outside businesses, asking shoppers to boycott stores so long as they advertise with the News-Press.

Negotiations have gone on for nine months “with very little to show for it,” Teamster attorney Ira Gottlieb told me today. “We want the News-Press to bargain in good faith.”

On the Beat

In addition to the leafleting, which began Tuesday, July 8, Teamster officials have been talking to the advertisers, asking them to pull their ads or notify the paper that they will do so when their agreement expires.

The effort is aimed at goosing negotiations, which have moved so slowly that the running joke is that the entire polar ice cap will melt before the News-Press signs a contract. The two sides reportedly have remained polarized for months over key issues.

One of the union’s big concerns involves the paper’s current employment-at-will policy, which, as indicated in the paper’s employment handbook, means management can terminate or discipline “with or without cause.” The union, seeking to protect employees from arbitrary firings and discipline by fiercely anti-union McCaw, wants management to have to show just cause.

Newsroom employees voted overwhelmingly in September, 2006 to affiliate with the Teamsters, but owner Wendy McCaw has fought unionization bitterly and at great expense.

A common industry negotiations tactic is to string out talks by endlessly contesting every point until the employees give up or settle at terms favorable to management. On the other hand, boycotts of advertisers and urging subscribers to cancel are traditional union countermeasures.

The unionization effort began two years ago after the July 6, 2006 meltdown that saw the resignation of executive editor Jerry Roberts and other top editors and me. It has been costly to the Teamsters as well as to the many reporters and newsroom employees who quit during the chaos or were fired, allegedly for union activities.

Last December, following hearings here, Judge William Kocol ruled that the News-Press violated multiple federal labor laws, and ruled that the paper’s management would have to re-hire illegally fired employees and pay back wages, among other required remedies. But this is still in limbo because the newspaper appealed the decision.

It’s not known if the leafleting includes Sansum Clinic and Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, but it does raise the question of why they need to spend money advertising at all, since they are virtual monopolies. Their “customers” seek them out by necessity.

The boycott effort also points to further ratcheting up of the fight between the company and the union. Neither side shows any sign of yielding, despite fast-mounting financial costs. The News-Press has lost thousands of readers and, apparently, ad revenue over the past two years. It has also fired or laid off a dozen or so workers in the past several weeks, blaming the union for its financial problems.

The meltdown that shocked the community resulted in mass subscription cancellations, but the paper has also been hurt by continuing industry-wide readership losses due to the Internet and other competition, and by the newspaper’s declining quality. The paper suffers from weak news coverage by a newsroom depleted by the loss of experienced staff, its reliance on temp workers, and by its inability or unwillingness to cover the news in a professional manner.


Nobody's talking about monopoly bargaining

Card-check debate obscures forced-labor unionism shibboleth

Karen Ackerman, the national political director for the AFL-CIO, recently had this nonsense to say about the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act:
"Of course, employers are not happy about it," Ackerman said of the legislation. "Of course, employers are going to call it undemocratic ... But, in fact, if people want to be members of the Republican Party, they don't have to have a secret-ballot election. If folks want to join a church or be a member of a Boys Club, they don't have to have a secret election," she said. The Employee Free Choice Act, she said, is "a way to even out the system."
What she doesn't want to acknowledge is that my political party or church does not have special coervice powers granted by the government to compel other people to accept its "representation" and even to join or pay dues.

Even secret ballot elections for union certification are far from fair. That's because if a union is voted in, it is awarded the power to be the "exclusive representative" of all members of the bargaining unit -- even those workers who do not want to join (or be "represented by") the union brass.

Opponents of Card Check Instant Organizing shouldn't only rely on appeals to "democracy" in the debate against union officials and union-backed politicians. A democratic election may seem a better alternative to union goons misleading or coercing workers into signing authorization cards -- but one should not overlook the link between card check and the greater evil of monopoly bargaining.

If Ackerman were to be honest, she would look at the flip side of her own example -- I may be free to donate money to the Republican party, but she is also free NOT to do so. A worker should be free to join or pay dues to a union, but a worker should also be free NOT to support a union -- or to be "represented" by a union.

As long as there is monopoly bargaining -- whether it is imposed through an NLRB-supervised election or the even more abusive card check process -- there can be no real employee free choice.


Rallying in opposition to EFCA

Employers defend workers against unions' abuse

Alex Lee Chairman Boyd George has fears of the impact of proposed legislation easing the process for workers to become unionized. “I think it’s bad legislation,” he said. “I think it’s potentially harmful to employees and businesses throughout the Unifour.”

Boyd plans to be among business leaders at an event next month hosted by the Catawba County (NC) Chamber of Commerce to oppose the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act. The Business Labor Rally and Seminar will begin with comments from several elected officials in front of the chamber office at 9 a.m. Aug. 19. A seminar on labor, immigration and employment law will follow at 10 a.m.

The bill, backed mostly by Democrats, would allow workers to organize without putting the issue to a secret-ballot vote.

The U.S. House approved the bill in March by a 241-185 vote. The Senate passed the measure by a 51-48 vote in late June, but supporters needed 60 votes to force a quick end to debate.

The bill is unlikely to proceed in the current legislative session, but the upcoming election could strengthen the Democrats’ Senate majority. Business leaders also worry if Barack Obama wins the presidency, the bill’s chances will increase in the near future. Obama has pledged to sign the bill if it passes.

The law would also stiffen penalties for employers who commit unfair labor practices during an organizing drive and impose arbitration in bargaining cases when sides cannot agree.

A card check provision would allow unions to circumvent secret-ballot elections now supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. Unions would need only to collect signed cards from a majority of employees over a period of time.

Observers say the law could fundamentally alter modern labor law and spur the largest unionization movement since the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.

Proponents, which include the AFL-CIO, say the change is necessary to protect workers’ rights to join unions. U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Ca., chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, says the current process of forming unions is badly broken.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole is one of five politicians expected to attend the chamber rally, along with U.S. Reps. Patrick McHenry, Sue Myrick, Virginia Fox and Robin Hayes.

“By denying workers their basic right to a secret ballot, a right that has been enshrined in federal labor laws for over 60 years, this bill trades fair, democratic elections for intimidation and coercion,” Dole said in a news release


Longshoremen hauled before NLRB

Related story: "Workers idled by ILWU anti-war protest"

Will union be forced pay for costly May Day port strike?

Negotiations between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents 71 waterfront employers, became increasingly sticky late last week with the PMA charging union members with slowing down production in Tacoma and Los Angeles-Long Beach while talks continue. ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees discounted the union actions in Tacoma and Southern California, saying that the PMA was making a mountain out of a molehill.

Still pending is the PMA request to the National Labor Relations Board for the labor agency to file a charge against the ILWU over the May Day shutdown of West Coast ports for one shift by union workers as a protest against the war in Iraq.


Supremes smack down state favoritism

Union ownership of state legislatures devalued?

In recent years, the union movement has been increasingly turning to sympathetic state legislatures for help in battling against non-union employers.

But that strategy has been dealt a major setback by the U.S. Supreme Court. In overturning a California law last month, the high court severely limited the ability of states to regulate anti-union activity, experts say. The June 19 ruling will likely have far-reaching effects nationwide, they say.

The law in California, adopted in 2000 but not yet put into effect, declared that companies receiving state money could not use that money to fight unionization efforts. Unions organizing health care workers in the state had complained that many hospitals -- which receive state Medicare and Medicaid -- were using state money to pressure employees to remain union-free.

The law would have primarily affected not only hospitals and nursing homes, but all companies that do business with the state, such as those contracted to provide janitorial, road-paving or engineering services.

While companies could use their own money to oppose unions, business groups in California argued that provisions in the law made that virtually impossible -- so that essentially, any organization receiving state money could not speak out against unions.

The Supreme Court ruled that the California law was invalid because it would have pre-empted federal law -- that the state went too far in regulating labor relations, says Michael J. Lotito, a workplace-law expert and partner in the law firm Jackson Lewis. Lotito, who is based in San Francisco, represented employer groups before the Supreme Court.

As many as 20 other states have passed or are considering similar legislation, as part of an effort by unions to create a favorable environment for labor organizing, says Lotito. With the Supreme Court dealing a serious blow to that effort, he says, the union movement "will now push even harder" for the federal Employee Free Choice Act, intended to make it easier to organize employees. That bill has been passed by the House, but so far does not have enough support in the Senate, says Lotito.

The Supreme Court's ruling, he says, means that "you're not going to be able to change rules on a state-by-state basis. If you're going to change the rules, it has to be on a nationwide basis."

Tim Ryan, a senior partner with Morrison and Foerster who is based in Los Angeles, says unions will likely continue to press state legislatures for favorable laws. However, he says, in order to pass muster before the Supreme Court, such laws are likely to be much less potent than in the past.

However, he says, the high court ruling "was a shot across the bow of unions' legislative strategy."

According to Ryan, the California law said that if companies wanted to speak out against unions, they would have to segregate the money received from the state -- and demonstrate that none of it was used for anti-union activity. But because of the complexity of the law, that kind of proof would have been virtually impossible to provide, he says.

"What you really should do if you're an employer is shut your mouth," he says.

John Borsos, the administrative vice president of United Health Care Workers West -- the union whose organizing efforts sparked the law -- agrees that the Supreme Court ruling will likely move the battleground to the federal level. And, because there will now be so much effort focused on the Employee Free Choice Act, the bill may have a much better chance of passing than before.

The law might be onerous, he says, but "if you don't want to do business with the state because the rules are too onerous, don't do business with the state."

In the Supreme Court's majority opinion, Justice Paul Stevens wrote that the California law would have impeded "free debate" in labor relations, something guaranteed by federal law. Stevens cited previous high court rulings that federal law favors "uninhibited, robust, and wide-open debate in labor disputes," particularly the "freewheeling use of the written and spoken word."


Organized labor perverts democracy

Vote to certify a new union should continue to be by secret ballot

Organized labor has a proud history of protecting and advancing the rights of working men and women. From establishment of the federal minimum wage to creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, labor unions have helped ensure that employers treat their employees with dignity, respect and compensate them fairly for a fair day's work. So it seems inconsistent at best, hypocritical at worst, that the No. 1 goal of organized labor today is to overturn another proud and important tradition in this country: the right to cast a confidential, private ballot.

Since the advent of federal supervision over forming unions in the workplace, union certification votes are commonly done via a confidential, private ballot cast by each employee. This process is overseen by the National Labor Relations Board to ensure a free and fair election. However, through legislation under consideration in Congress, labor unions would have the NLRB do away with private ballots in favor of a card check process. In this system, an employee's vote on whether to form a union in the workplace would be known to all - fellow employees, union representatives and others.

It's easy to see how this system would invite corruption. Many employees would find themselves under intense pressure and probable intimidation to vote for union representation.

The reason organized labor is pushing this concept is simple. Labor unions have seen their ranks shrink over the decades from a high of 32.5 percent of the workforce in 1953 to today's 12.1 percent (just 8 percent of the private sector workforce).

To combat this decline, unions are pushing open union certification voting wrongly-named the "Employee Free Choice Act" or "card check." This legislation, which would strip away one of the basic tenants of our democracy, is anything but "free choice." Casting union certification ballots in public is, quite simply, a perversion of democracy.

Unfortunately, card check legislation breezed through the U.S. House of Representatives last year. It would have passed the Senate too but was blocked by a filibuster.

The Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire hopes our elected representatives in Washington, and those gearing up to challenge them, see this legislation for what it is: a last gasp effort by organized labor to stabilize and reverse its declining ranks. Card check is without question an assault on one of our founding democratic principles: our right to cast ballots in private. Congress should not allow this pending injustice to prevail.

- Jim Roche is president and CEO of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.


Denver can't handle DNC's union-only demands

Dems tell non-union firms to get lost

The owners of some Colorado companies say they've been passed over for work for the Democratic National Convention. The convention committee won't disclose where its business is going but does say vendors should see an increase in business as the convention gets closer.

Chris Lopez, a spokesman for Denver's host committee, says union restrictions and the needs of people planning events might be limiting who gets convention work. For example, printers used by the DNCC must be union shops and there's only a handful of such businesses in Colorado.

Meanwhile, Epicurean, one of the largest caterers in Denver, already has exclusive contracts at the Denver Performing Arts Complex and Invesco Field at Mile High.


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