SEIU political cash probe demanded

More Andy Stern stories: here
More SEIU stories: here

Employee Rights Group Seeks Federal Criminal Investigation into SEIU Union’s Political Fundraising

The National Right to Work Foundation has formally requested that the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Justice open investigations into a campaign fundraising scheme adopted by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) at its recent convention.

After reviewing a new amendment to the SEIU constitution, Foundation staff attorneys have concluded that the union and its officers may be violating federal labor law and the Federal Election Campaign Act by imposing financial penalties on local affiliates who fail to meet Political Action Committee (PAC) fundraising targets.

“SEIU bosses are making a mockery of federal law. It’s vital the Department of Justice and Department of Labor take action now before the damage is done,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Elections are a cornerstone of our democratic republic, and we need to do everything possible to ensure the results aren’t tainted by unlawful union activism that violates the rights of rank-and-file workers.”

Article XV, Section 18 of the union’s constitution now authorizes the SEIU’s national brass to fine local unions for failure to meet its annual SEIU COPE fundraising obligations. SEIU COPE is the union’s federal PAC, and the FEC lists it as the top labor union PAC with over $23 million in receipts for 2005-2006.

However, federal labor law forbids unions from political fundraising through the imposition of mandatory financial penalties and it prohibits the conversion of union dues to “hard money.” In addition to asking for a Department of Labor investigation, the coercive nature of the amendment’s punitive mechanism violates core provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act, and warrants a Department of Justice criminal prosecution.

The new amendment also appears to allow local affiliates to use nonmember employees’ mandatory dues payments to cover PAC contributions and the SEIU’s fines. While imposition of financial penalties for failure to make political contributions is illegal regardless of how those fines are spent, the use of funds derived from nonmembers’ fees for political purposes also violates those employees’ constitutional rights.

Union officials have devoted enormous sums of money to influence the upcoming fall elections. Because the SEIU’s political contributions are so significant, Foundation attorneys believe that this amendment has the potential to irreparably compromise the integrity of the electoral process. By coercing local affiliates and nonmember employees into contributing to the SEIU’s massive general election fund, union officials threaten to disenfranchise voters with a firestorm of illegally funded political activism.

In the letter to Attorney General Mukasey, Mix writes for the Foundation: “Not only are large numbers of employees (forced to fill SEIU coffers) harmed by this crime, but, given the close vote in recent national elections, the illegal SEIU activity effectively disenfranchises voters who follow the law… To protect the rights of workers forced to pay compulsory dues and fees, and the integrity of the November elections, I trust you will act upon this information…”


'Changing the rules of politics to help Dems'

Organized Labor's secretive scheme exposed by cyber sleuth

A PowerPoint presentation purportedly found on a union Web site may be the smoking gun that indicates Democrats and organized labor are behind the Reform Michigan Now ballot proposal that would result in a massive overhaul of state government in a single shot.

The presentation lays out the $4.9 million budget, rationale and advantages of the ballot drive to cherry-pick parts of the Michigan Constitution that Democrats believe have prevented them from taking control of state government.

To date, backers of the effort and Democratic Party leaders have refused to say who wrote the controversial proposal and who is bankrolling it. Without question, the proposal is chock-full of populist appeal to voters who polls have consistently shown are angered by the performance of state government. Parts of the plan definitely favor Democrats over Republicans.

The initiative, if it meets state standards and clears an expected court challenge, would allow voters to decide in November whether to rewrite the constitution to, among other things, shrink the size of the Legislature and the state's top courts, roll back legislative salaries and benefits and change the rules on legislative redistricting to give Democrats a better shot at controlling the House and Senate.

"To the extent that this document is what it appears to be, it leaves little doubt that the (ballot proposal) is a partisan power play," according to Paul Kersey, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Midland-based free-market oriented think tank that found the PowerPoint presentation on UAW Region 1-C Web site. The presentation, whose title page says "Changing the rules of politics in Michigan to help Democrats," is no longer on the Web site.

Kersey said the center finds appeal in many of the ballot proposal objectives that would make government smaller and less expensive.

But he said the Mackinac Center is concerned "that what motivated so much of it was partisan calculation."

He stopped short of saying the Michigan Democratic Party is orchestrating the ballot campaign, something state party chairman Mark Brewer emphatically denied as recently as last week.

"But there are references (in the presentation) to 'MDP' which I have to figure is the Michigan Democratic Party," Kersey said. "I don't want to speculate, but it does show the calculation was to benefit the Michigan Democratic Party."

Brewer, who has steadfastly denied playing a role in the drafting of the proposal, said in a statement Thursday: "I have been and continue to be supportive of this grassroots proposal that reforms the Michigan government. Provisions such as ethics reform and asset disclosure for elected officials would help create a more open and accountable government that works for the citizens of Michigan rather than the special interests that currently have too much control over the way business is done in Lansing."

A call to UAW Regional 1-C was not returned.

The Michigan Education Association, which represents teachers and other school employees, issued a statement Thursday saying it had not taken a position on the ballot proposal, which is under review by state election workers to see if it meets the form and the signature requirement to appear on the ballot. That review won't be completed for weeks.

"We have serious concerns about the legal issues surrounding the initiative," Ed Sarpolus, the MEA director of government affairs, said in a prepared statement.

The Detroit Regional Chamber announced Thursday that its board unanimously voted to oppose the nearly 20,000-word proposal.

"Transparency of who is leading the effort is important for voters, which is not publicly known right now," Richard Blouse Jr., president and CEO of the Detroit chamber, said in a press release. "The business community certainly recognizes the need for reforms in state government, especially when it comes to solving the problems of chronic budget deficits. However, it's important to be up front about these reforms so they can be fully vetted through open debate."

Dianne Byrum, the spokeswoman for the reform ballot initiative, said her group would disclose its financial backers when it has to legally report in August.


Supremes: States must be 'organizer-neutral'

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Union ownership of state legislatures devalued by court ruling

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued in June may complicate efforts to enact legislation in West Virginia aimed at regulating what employers can and cannot say to employees in the workplace, although no one yet has a good idea what the ruling really means for the state.

In a 7-2 decision issued June 19, the court ruled in U.S. Chamber of Commerce vs. Brown that California erred when it passed a law prohibiting employers who received state funds from using the money "to assist, promote, or deter union organizing."

At the heart of the issue was the question of regulating speech in the workplace. Similar questions arose about a proposed bill brought before the West Virginia Legislature earlier this year that would have prohibited employers from communicating their political views with employees who didn't want to hear them. It also would have prevented workers from being required to attend compulsory meetings to listen to their employers' political opinions.

Labor organizations such as the AFL-CIO backed the measure, saying it was needed to combat anti-union activities by employers and to protect worker rights. However, many business organizations argued the law would have interfered with employers' ability to communicate their positions with their employees.

Legislative action of the bill was put on hold until the Supreme Court ruled on the California case, given its ruling could have nullified West Virginia's efforts. That's what Jan Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Business & Industry Council, believes happened.

"The short of it is, had we passed it, it surely would have been ruled pre-empted and unenforceable by the federal court," she said.

WVBIC opposed the bill, seeing it as a free-speech issue given that it would have impeded the ability of employers to express management positions to employees, Vineyard said.

Larry Matheney, secretary-treasurer of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, can't say for certain that the ruling was a victory for opponents of the bill. The union's legal counsel is still reviewing the decision, he said.

However, he said the union's concerns about workers' rights have not gone away.

"We still have great concern about workers being forced to listen in violation of their First Amendment right of free speech," he said.

West Virginia's captive audience law got its start in the state House of Delegates, coming at the request of labor unions. It was modeled after similar legislation that has been proposed in other states, such as Colorado, where a captive audience bill was vetoed by the former governor.

When the bill reached the other chamber, Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, agreed to not to move forward with the legislation because of what was then the looming decision concerning the California law.

The California law expressly prohibited the use of state funds in the promotion or deterrence or union organizing, unlike West Virginia's proposed law that regulated speech regardless of state funding. But the legal issues raised by the California law were similar. Specifically, the chamber alleged that federal law pre-empted the state law and therefore it could not be enforced.

A lower court ruled in favor of the chamber, but the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned the ruling. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' ruling, specifically referring to its 1976 Machinists v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission ruling. In that decision, the court ruled that neither states nor the National Labor Relations Board could regulate areas of conduct that Congress meant to be left open to the free play of economic forces.

How the ruling on the California case will play out if West Virginia lawmakers explore the issue again remains to be seen. Kessler said he had not had the chance to read the court's decision, although no action will be taken on captive audience legislation until lawmakers meet in regular session next year.

"We'll take a look at it in the context of the Supreme Court ruling and see whether it warrants any consideration by the Legislature," he said.


Barack's vote-fraud group scrutinized

Related ACORN stories: here

Embezzlement, cover-up triggers new interest

Barack Obama has proposed increasing every major Federal tax. He supports increasing individual income tax rates, allowing the Bush tax cuts, which cut rates for all income levels, to expire. He has proposed almost doubling the capital gains tax rate, from 15% today to 28%. He supports more than doubling the tax on dividends, from 15% to as high as 39%. He has proposed numerous corporate tax increases. He supports increasing the death tax back to the stratospheric levels that applied before President Bush. He supports increasing the payroll tax on higher income earners.

In other words, if you run a profitable small business, you can expect to be plundered by the Obamanistas from every angle. If you work for a small business, you can expect to be looking for another job.

Indeed, as economics writer Amity Shlaes has written, Obama promises exactly the same economic policy Herbert Hoover used to turn a downturn in 1929 into the Great Depression. In addition to proposing steep tax increases, particularly sharply increasing the marginal rates that most affect the economy, Obama won the nomination attacking free trade all primary season, even promising voters to renegotiate NAFTA. Is this what our wobbly economy needs right now? Will this really open new opportunities for working people, or shut the door in their faces?

But Obama needs those tax increases to finance his promised massive increases in government spending approaching a trillion dollars over four years. All projections show that America cannot afford all the entitlement promises it has already made, with Federal spending projected to almost double relative to the economy over the next 35 years. Obama just ignores this looming crisis, and, instead, promises to add the largest entitlement of all, national health insurance.

All of these nationalized health programs around the world start by promising free health care for everyone, but end up with rigid, stifling bureaucracies designed to deny care to control runaway costs. Our nation's health care problems can be solved without massive new government spending and control, and the deteriorating quality and freedom of choice in health care that inevitably involves. But instead of new and innovative ideas that would increase patient power and choice, Obama serves the Left that wants to use our health care problems as an excuse for more government power and control. Instead of the promise of a new unity and hope, Obama promises to take us back to the already failed ideas of the past.

BUT THIS IS ONLY the beginning. In legislation he has already introduced in Congress, Obama proposes a new global war on poverty financed by American taxpayers. The bill would commit the U.S. to the goal of the 2000 United Nations Millennium Summit to reduce world poverty by 2015. The head of this UN project has already called for a new global tax to finance this goal. For now, Obama's bill would increase U.S. foreign aid by $65 billion a year toward this end.

Obama also supports $60 billion over 10 years for a new National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank that would finance more construction and repair of highways, bridges and other infrastructure. No new thinking here either. The last Federal highway bill devoted close to $300 billion to the same thing. The Army Corps of Engineers spends over $10 billion a year for more of the same.

Obama also proposes $72 billion for increased Federal spending on education, even though Bush increased such spending more rapidly than any other area (and even though education is actually a state and local responsibility). He proposes to spend $150 billion to put people to work building new "green technologies" as if no one can find a job unless the government provides one. Then there is $60 billion for an "energy plan" that is another bureaucratic boondoggle that will not create any new energy. There is $14 billion in new spending for a national service plan. Obama proposes as well to increase "assistance to state and local governments so that they don't slash critical services like health care or education." He also says, "I'll double spending on quality after school programs."

Just last week he came up with a proposal for a second stimulus package to send everyone a check to help cover their energy costs, another giveaway of tens of billions at least. The first "stimulus" package proved only that these old-fashioned Keynesian handouts don't work. But Obama is not above pursuing the crassest vote buying payoffs pandering to those whose votes are for sale.

This is exemplified by his supposed tax cuts for workers, a series of tax credits that would mostly go to those who do not pay income taxes. He has proposed "a tax credit to low and middle income Americans that would cover ten percent of their mortgage interest payment every year." He also proposes an income tax credit for such voters of $4,000 per year for college expenses. Then there is another tax credit of $1,000 per year for working families that is apparently just a giveaway, like George McGovern's proposal in 1972 to send a $1,000 Federal check to everyone. On the Earned Income Tax Credit, which currently goes to lower income workers, Obama says, "I'll double the number of workers who receive it and triple the benefit for minimum wage workers."

But Republican tax policy over the past 30 years has already eliminated all income taxes on low income and working class voters, or the bottom 40% of income earners. The middle class, the middle 20% of income earners, now pays less than 5% of all income taxes. Under Obama's proposals, if there is no income tax liability for the tax credit to offset, the government sends the worker a check covering the full amount of the credit anyway. So these proposed tax credits are really a new form of tax welfare, in reality just new government spending programs disguised as tax cuts.

Real tax cuts reduce tax rates for those who are forced to pay them. Those rate reductions create real incentives that stimulate the economy. But a supposed tax credit that does not involve any reduction in any tax rate, and gives money to voters that they did not pay in income taxes, is just another welfare handout that does nothing to stimulate the economy. Obama proposes to spend over $300 billion on this new tax welfare.

OBAMA'S LEFT-WING EXTREMISM is not limited to economic policy, but extends to all areas across the board. He has said that as President he would appoint Supreme Court Justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the former General Counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, and David Souter, two of the ultraliberals on the current court. The Supreme Court is now in a delicate balance between four conservatives and four liberals, with one, Justice Kennedy, swinging back and forth. John McCain has said he would appoint Justices like solid conservatives John Roberts and Sam Alito. A majority of the current Justices are also over 70 years old. So the balance of the Supreme Court turns on this Presidential election.

Since the Great Depression, Americans have been free to choose unions through secret ballot elections under Federal law. But for 20 years now workers have been mostly rejecting predatory unions in those elections. So Obama supports a plan that would allow unions to bypass those elections, and claim worker representation on the basis of signed check cards. Given the long history of union violence, and the real danger of forged documents American workers will tragically lose their freedom of choice regarding unions if Obama becomes President.

Obama is the most pro-abortion major party Presidential nominee in history. When he served in the Illinois state legislature, he voted against legislation that would prevent abortionists from taking the life of a baby that remained alive out of the mother's womb after an attempted abortion. He has also opposed legislation prohibiting partial birth abortion, and favors government funding of abortion for lower income women. He said that if his own daughters became pregnant as teenagers, he would favor an abortion rather than "punishing them with a baby."

He has promised homosexual organizations that as President he would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that pro-family organizations worked so hard to pass successfully when the Republicans controlled Congress. This law would shield states from being forced to recognize gay marriages mandated by courts in ultraliberal states. He opposes the initiative in California on the ballot this fall that would define marriage in that state as a union between a man and a woman. After he is elected, he will openly be the first pro-gay marriage President.

When asked what he thought about a proposal to make English the official language of America, he said he opposes it. He said instead that American children need to learn to speak Spanish. If he is elected President, that will be true.

OBAMA'S ULTRALIBERALISM GROWS out of deep roots in his life. He has said he worked as a community organizer in Chicago. In fact, he worked for the ultra-Left ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). ACORN grew out of the National Welfare Rights Organization of the 1960s, which argued that low income residents in the U.S. had a right to welfare, and demanding anything of them to qualify for public assistance violated that right.

Author Sol Stern wrote in the City Journal in 2003 regarding ACORN,
If you thought the New Left was dead in America, think again. Walk through just about any of the nation's inner cities, and you're likely to find an office of ACORN, bustling with young people working 12 hour days to "organize the poor" and bring about social change. The largest radical group in the country....It promotes a 1960s-bred agenda of anti-capitalism, central planning, victimology, and government handouts to the poor. As a result, not only does it harm the poor it claims to serve; it is also a serious threat to the urban future.
ACORN has fought for legislation restricting landlords from evicting non-paying tenants, watering down welfare reform, and seeking authority for cities to tax surrounding suburbs. It has sought to "unionize" workfare workers, welfare recipients required to work for their assistance under welfare reform, as if welfare recipients should be bargaining over the laws that apply to their assistance.

ACORN itself brags on its own website about its practice of "squatting." This involves breaking into unoccupied homes and apartments and settling low income families in them. ACORN states,

Noting that economic upheaval had forced many people to default on mortgages, ACORN sought to place needy people in the resulting vacant homes. This required the forceful and illegal (though logical and moral) seizing of the properties -- squatting.

Such is the respect for property rights of this quasi-communist organization that Obama chose to work for to advance his values. ACORN continues,

The personal needs of people without homes attracted many to advertisements ACORN placed in papers asking "Do you need a home?" The squatting campaign required a personal commitment to move into a vacant, usually poorly kept house and refit it for comfortable living. It also involved the risk of arrest if local authorities refused them the legal occupation of the home.

As for the local authorities, ACORN explains, "local officials were asked to subsidize the costs of squatting in an effort to improve the quality of life of the squatters and their neighbors."

But this is not the only illegal activity of the ACORN brown shirts. ACORN voter fraud has been documented in at least 14 states. Michelle Malkin recently reported in one of her columns,

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

Similarly, the Wall Street Journal recently reported on ACORN voter fraud in Ohio where crack cocaine was traded "for fraudulent registrations that included underage voters, dead voters and pillars of the community named Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy, and Jive Turkey."

Obama also sports now well-known ties with confessed Weather Underground terrorists William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, who admit to bombing the Pentagon, New York City police headquarters, and similar targets in the 1960s and 1970s. By coincidence, on the morning of September 11, 2001, the New York Times published an interview with Ayers in which he laments not succeeding with even more bombings for the far left Weather Underground, whose once notorious exploits are now obscured by the passage of time. Obama started his political career seeking out the support of Ayres and Dohrn as mentors, trying to establish his bona fides as a true left-winger. They have held fundraisers for Obama's campaigns over the years, and spoken for him in local campaigns in the past.

Of course, Obama's close association with Trinity United Church of Christ Reverend Jeremiah Wright is also well known. But what has been obscured is that the church, where Obama has been a member for 20 years providing thousands in contributions, advocates far left black liberation theology.

So the true picture of who Obama is should now be clear. His consistently extreme left policy positions are well grounded deep into his past, dating back even to the prep school Marxism of his youth. How could America allow this man to become President of the United States? Do we not take that position seriously anymore?

- Peter Ferrara is Director of Entitlement and Budget Policy for the Institute for Policy Innovation. He served in the Reagan White House Office of Policy Development, after graduating from Harvard Law School and Harvard College.


Union protest blocks private tree-planting

AFSCME vetoes Non-union tree planters in Detroit

A plan to turn over an abandoned City of Detroit nursery to a nonprofit group that would use it to grow trees for neighborhoods and parks has been blocked by union objections. The Greening of Detroit, under an agreement approved by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and the City Council, would manage the W.I. Meyers Nursery, a 125-acre plot in Rouge Park that has been closed for more than three years.

Using privately raised funds and volunteers, the group would restore the nursery and use it to provide mature trees to neighborhoods. Greening already plants 2,000 trees a year throughout the city.

But the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees obtained an injunction from Wayne County Circuit Court against the deal, saying it violates the collective bargaining agreement. The union says the bargaining agreement applies to any deals to turn over control of city operations to a third party -- meaning city workers must staff the nursery.

The two sides are to meet in court today before Judge Robert Ziolkowski.

"It just seems funny to try to take a stand for an asset that's just being wasted," said Rebecca Salminen Witt, president of the Greening of Detroit.

Terrence King, director of the city's General Services Department, called the union's position baffling. Not only would no city workers be displaced, but there should be more work for city forestry workers once the trees are grown, he said.

If AFSCME prevails, nonprofit groups could be discouraged from trying to help the city, King said.

But Melvin Brabson, president of AFSCME Local 542, which represents a variety of city employees, said the collective bargaining agreement is clear and the situation is no different from when the city handed over control of assets like the Detroit Zoo and Eastern Market to third parties.

In those cases, AFSCME agreed to modify the collective bargaining agreement to suit both sides' needs, Brabson said.

Although the nursery has been abandoned for years, Brabson said the Greening contract could set a precedent to eliminate city workers.

"If the city gets away with this, then no doubt they could close down any facility and give it to a third party," he said.


AFSCME strikers decide judge was wrong

Government unable to deal with government unions

Despite what appeared to be a judge’s injunction not to strike, thousands of University of California hospital and service workers—including hundreds of UC Berkeley custodians, gardeners, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and more—walked the picket line, according to union officials.

They’re staying off the job and picketing the university through Friday. Last week, a San Francisco Superior Court judge told workers not to carry out the planned five-day walkout, according to the university.

But American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 President Lakesha Harrison told the Planet that the judge’s order did not explicitly bar them from striking as long as the union gave advance notice.

“The University of California is disappointed that AFSCME has chosen to strike, despite the court’s ruling prohibiting such activity,” says a written statement from Howard Pripas, executive director for the university’s systemwide labor relations.

Union organizer Mariecruz Manzanares told the Planet that, at first “people were worried. Management gave them letters saying the court said the strike was illegal and there would be disciplinary action.”

When reluctant workers saw others on the picket line, they joined in, Manzanares said.

University spokesperson Nicole Savickas said specific disciplinary action will differ location by location. “Every location has policies related to unexplained absences,” she told the Planet Monday.

Teamsters working on various construction sites around campus are joining the strike, Manzanares said, adding that the university had brought in temporary workers, something she called “disrespectful.”

University gardener Hank Chapot was picket captain at Kroeber Plaza. On Monday he told the Planet he maintained a presence of 12 workers there. There were 200 at Sproul Plaza and others at sites around the campus perimeter, he said.

“There was 100 percent turnout from my department,” Chapot told the Planet. Chapot said the union had done its homework, having studies conducted that showed the workers were 20-to-25 percent behind other workers doing similar work. Some service workers earn as little as $10 per hour.

“We’ve given back and given back to the university,” he said.

Pickets plan to be at the Office of the President in downtown Oakland today (Thursday) and Friday.


Police union vets tagged with embezzlement

Corruption rooted out in poorly-managed unionized law enforcement sector

A grand jury in Harris County (TX) has indicted two former board members of the Houston Police Officers' Union for embezzlement. Investigators believe the men stole more than $100,000 from the union over several years. "When you place people in positions of trust with your members' money and they violate that trust, not only is it embarrassing to us, it makes me personally mad," says union President Gary Blankinship.

The grand jury indicted former Board Secretary Ronny Martin and former Treasurer Jeff Larson for misapplication of fiduciary property, a 2nd degree felony. Martin was also indicted for theft by a public servant, a 1st degree felony. Martin had spent 30 years with the Houston Police Department, while Larson worked for HPD for 15 years.

The union says it has taken additional steps to prevent a similar case in the future.

"We've put about a five-tier level of review on every expense," Blankinship adds. "I personally counter-sign every check that leaves this union, now."

Acting Chief of Police M.W. Thaler released the following statement:

"In response to the reports of the indictments of Officer Jeffrey Larson for Misapplication of Fiduciary Property and former Officer Ronald L. Martin for Misapplication of Fiduciary Property and Theft by Public Servant, I want to assure the citizens of Houston that the Houston Police Department is working closely with the Harris County District Attorney’s office to complete this investigation. At the same time, the Internal Affairs Division is working diligently to complete the administrative investigation. At the conclusion of this process, the department will take whatever action is appropriate based on the facts determined by that investigation.

I want to assure the citizens of Houston that we take these issues very seriously. I share the concern and disappointment of all the members of the Houston Police Department when allegations such as these are raised against anyone placed in a position of trust. Integrity is the value held in the highest regard within our ranks. Any violation of the public trust will be dealt with in the manner befitting the expectations of our community."


Teamsters strike v. Coca-Cola, day 6

Related Coca-Cola strike stories: here

No talks scheduled

It's day six of a strike involving Coca-Cola Bottlers. We found union employees picketing this morning in Tillman's Corner. They are protesting Coca Cola's plan to take away their pensions.

Employees say the move from pension plans to 401-k would cost some of them thousands of dollars. Teamsters are also on the picket lines in Robertsdale, Leroy and Vancleave, Mississippi. 270 union workers are being affected by the pension plan change.


UAW goes out on strike v. Johnson Controls

Replacement workers may cross picket line

Workers for a company that builds seats and consoles for the new crossover utility vehicle that will be built at General Motors Corp.’s Spring Hill, Tennessee plant have gone on strike. The United Auto Workers union called the strike, which may threaten to delay the Sept. 2 startup production of the Chevrolet Traverse.

Michael O’Rourke, president of UAW Local 1853 in Spring Hill, said the union initiated the strike on Wednesday after GM supplier Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls Inc. refused to recognize it as the exclusive bargaining agent for the 172 workers at the plant.

After the union told Johnson Controls on Tuesday of plans to call the strike, the company called workers to a meeting and handed out a letter warning them that they would be subject to replacement if they did strike.

JCI Plant Manager Robert E. Steckler told The Tennessean he had no comment about the strike, and GM officials were not available to comment on how the strike might affect the start of Traverse production.


Non-union gov't workers forced to pay dues

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Labor-state shows 'Politics at its lowest'

Bucks County (PA) Commissioners approved a five-year contract with the county's largest employee union Wednesday night, ending several weeks of sparring with opponents of the deal. The contract awards the 892 mostly clerical employees raises of 3 percent from 2008 to 2011, and a 4 percent increase in 2012 -- costing the county about an additional $5 million over its life.

It also requires union members, for the first time, to pay up to 1.5 percent of their income for health insurance. Commissioners Chairman Jim Cawley surprised nearly everyone at the meeting, casting the sole dissenting vote after commissioners Diane Marseglia and Charley Martin had already voted yes.

He said he struggled with provisions of the contract that require nonmembers to pay partial union dues, and union members to wait until specified opt-out period if they wanted to leave the union.

"Candidly, with those things in mind, I can't in good conscience vote for [the contract]," Cawley said.

Opponents of the deal with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, who argued with Cawley repeatedly over its provisions, were not impressed.

They accused him of posing, by taking advantage of the political cover offered by his Republican colleague Martin's "yes" vote, to cast a meaningless "no" against a contract that had already passed.

"It's a set-up," said Andy Raffle, of Lower Makefield Township. "Charley's not running for office in the future, and Jim's running for office."

Raffle called it "politics at its lowest."

Cawley dismissed the criticism, saying after the meeting that he really had struggled with the decision.

"I voted what I believed to be the correct way with the information I had," Cawley said.

Earlier in the meeting, Simon Campbell, another Lower Makefield opponent of the deal, had pressed Cawley on the including of a so-called "fair-share" rule that requires nonmembers to pay partial union dues.

"People's liberty is at your discretion, right here, this night," said a British-accented Campbell.

Cawley said it was one of the provisions negotiated in good faith by the county, but after a while, he hit back.

"I find it absurd that an Englishman is lecturing an American about liberty," Cawley said.

Campbell, a temporary U.S. resident who has applied for citizenship, said later that he was offended by Cawley's reference to his background.

The commissioners also approved four-year contracts awarded in arbitration to unions representing probation officers and youth center workers. Those contracts include 3 percent annual raises and similar health care provisions.


Forced-labor unionists fail the truth test

Out-of-state union cash funds opponents of worker-choice

Throughout the 2008 election season, 9NEWS is committed to holding those who take out political commercials on our station and My20 accountable for what they say. The following is a Truth Test on an ad called "Deceptive," that's currently running on 9NEWS and My20.

It's paid for by a group called Protect Colorado's Future, which is registered as an issue committee with the Colorado Secretary of State's office. Its stated purpose when it filed in February 2008 was to support numerous initiatives (#57, #62, #73, #74, #75, #76, #123 and #124) and to oppose numerous others (Amendment 47 and Initiatives #53 and #59). Editor's note: Initiatives #57, #62, #73, #75, #123 and #124 have since been pulled from consideration.

The group defines itself as follows on its Web site (www.protectcoloradosfuture.org): "Protect Colorado's Future is made up of progressive groups and individuals from around Colorado who've come together to work on the important issues facing our state - issues like creating good jobs and providing affordable health care. We support measures that will protect our future and oppose special interest policies that will set us back."

According to campaign finance records filed with Colorado's Secretary of State's office, their largest donors are both in-state unions and out-of-state unions. For example, their four largest recent donors are: Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1001 in Westminster gave $20,000 and the AFL-CIO in Washington gave $47,000 on July 2. National Education Association gave $47,000 on June 22nd and the Oregon State Council of Service Employees gave $45,000 on June 17. SEIU Local 105 in Denver donated $19,373.78 on June 30. (Source: Secretary of State Campaign Finance Record)


QUOTE: How far will the backers of Amendments 47, 53 and 59 go? Too far. (Photos of Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, Sen. Nancy Spence (R-Centennial) and Independence Institute President Jon Caldara fly through the screen.)

TRUTH: The sentiment conveyed here is opinion, but the fashion in which it's conveyed is false.

As it stands now, Amendment 47, otherwise known as the "Right to Work" amendment, has been approved for the ballot. It seeks to prevent any worker from being required to join a union or pay union dues in order to keep their job. (Source: Colorado Legislative Services' Ballot Initiative)

The other two ballot initiatives referred to, #53 and #59, have not yet qualified for the ballot. Therefore to refer to them as "amendments" is inaccurate. At the state level, that title is only given to measures which will be placed before voters in the fall and they only qualify as amendments after receiving the appropriate numbers of valid signatures of Colorado citizens on petitions submitted to the Colorado Secretary of State's office. There are routinely far more initiatives each election season seeking to qualify for the state ballot than there are actual amendments which are successful.

These two measures do seek to limit union power among workers in government.

Frazier was listed as an initial contact on Amendment 47. Spence was listed as an initial contact on Initiative 53 and Caldara was listed as an initial contact on Initiative 59. (Source: Colorado Legislative Services' Ballot Initiative)

QUOTE: First, we found out their efforts have been described as fraudulent and deceptive. (Citations on bottom of the screen include: Denver Daily News, May 30, 2008, Denver Post, April 6, 2008, Rocky Mountain New, July 8, 2008)

TRUTH: This certainly needs some context and there are those who would see the citations listed on the bottom of the screen and label them somewhat deceptive.

That's because if you look at the Denver Daily News from May 30, 2008 (http://www.thedenverdailynews.com/article.php?aID=624) or the Denver Post from April 6, 2008 (http://www.denverpost.com/ci_8818688?IADID=Search-www.denverpost.com-www.denverpost.com) or www.rockymountainnews.com (http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/jul/08/business-briefing-july-9/) from July 8, 2008, you will find that the people describing the measures as "fraudulent" and "deceptive" are the very people behind this commercial. They're quotes from officers with Protect Colorado's Future.

Protect Colorado's Future has filed a lawsuit against the supporters of those ballot measures alleging fraud and deception, but its claims have not been decided by a judge. Certainly, the newspapers cited at the bottom of the screen have not come to that conclusion either.

QUOTE: But now, we find out their campaigns hired criminals to get their measures on the ballot.

TRUTH: This is true, but requires some context as well.

Under Colorado law, companies that are hired to circulate petitions are not required to do criminal background checks. A measure to prevent anyone with a criminal background from collecting signatures was vetoed earlier this year by Gov. Bill Ritter (D-Colorado), who believed it improperly distinguished between paid and volunteer signature gatherers. 9Wants to Know Reporter Jace Larson recently did a story detailing the issue. (Source: http://www.9news.com/news/investigative/article.aspx?storyid=95452&catid=207)

There are numerous initiatives circulating petitions throughout Colorado right now covering a wide assortment of topics. It is entirely possible that any of them could have individuals who have been convicted of a crime gathering signatures.

A spokeswoman for Colorado's prison system told Larson for his story last week that it's important to keep in mind that convicted felons have a tough time finding a job once they are out of the criminal system. The State of Colorado has only about 350 felony-friendly employers, said Katherine Sanguinetti, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections.

QUOTE: Criminals who have committed fraud, assault, forgery - even a criminal who's a registered sex offender.

TRUTH: Part of this statement is true and part is false.

The three mug shots that are shown on the screen are John Respondek, Farrell Griffin and John Bizzell, respectively. They are the individuals Larson highlighted in his 9NEWS story last week. Griffin was convicted of assault, stemming from an incident in April 1986 and Bizzell is a registered sex offender, dating from incidents in 1998, 1999 and 2000. (Source: Colorado Court Database, www.CoCourts.com, accessed on July 16, 2008 by 9NEWS)

However, none of the men cited was convicted for either forgery or fraud. Griffin and Respondek were arrested on those charges in the past, but either the charges were never filed, were dismissed or were part of a plea bargain where the accused pleaded guilty to a different charge. (Source: Colorado Court Database, www.CoCourts.com, accessed on July 16, 2008 by 9NEWS)

An arrest is not the same thing as a conviction. It is an important distinction that is not inconsequential in the eyes of the justice system.

QUOTE: Maybe they think it's OK for criminals to get our personal information if it helps move their agenda. But now, we know. It's time for them to stop the campaign of fraud and deception.

TRUTH: This is opinion.

We gave the three individuals singled out in the commercial an opportunity to respond. This is Ryan Frazier's unedited response: "The Right to Work Committee hired reputable firms to collect signatures in support of Amendment 47, and more than 136,000 signatures were collected to qualify Amendment 47 for the November ballot. The Right to Work Committee worked above-board during the entire process, including the process of hiring the signature-gathering firms. Amendment 47 has qualified and WILL be on the ballot in November. The people, not courts, will decide the fate of Amendment 47, and this ad is nothing more than a desperate attempt to talk about something other than Right to Work. I ask everyone interested in this issue, from all sides and viewpoints, to focus on having a spirited exchange based on the merit and substance of the amendment."

Jon Caldara's unedited comments are also posted below:

"They say we hired criminals. We hired no petition gatherers. We contracted with a professional firm who, in turn, legally contacted with individuals. A good analogy would be if we went to a printer to get campaign postcards made and the printer contracted with a "criminal" to run the press. What would that have to do with our initiative? How could that make any proponent guilty of a campaign of "fraud and deceit?"

Interestingly, the same big labor groups hired the exact same firm two years ago to get petitions for their minimum wage amendment, and didn't ask for background checks then. The pot calls the kettle black.

Further, on our initiative we required ALL petitioners to sign a form saying they understood the initiative, would not misrepresent it and would follow the law in getting signatures. (happy to show you the forms) Not too sure what else we could do.

The petitions for 53 have just been turned in, so how would they know who our petitioners were? It hasn't even been certified yet and I doubt it was even open to public viewing before they ran the ad. Number 59 hasn't even been filed yet! Yet they know the petitions that will be turned in? Impossible.

The ad implies that Nancy is involved somehow with 59. She is not attached to it at all. Their complaint to the Secretary of State has her name as the sponsor of 59. What an embarrassing and sloppy error. For questions on 59 you should talk to them, Tom Lucero is the point man.

And finally, shouldn't they be complaining about Governor Ritter??? He vetoed HB 1406 which would have outlawed "criminals" from petitioning. Nancy (Spence) voted for the bill!" - Jon Caldara

When presented with the story above, Protect Colorado's Future issued the following statement. We have posted it in its entirety without edit:

"We doubt that the family members of people who signed these petitions will feel more secure, knowing that criminals circulated petitions and got personal information about our citizens, but were the beneficiaries of plea bargains. We trust that the police officers who arrested and charged these men had sufficient evidence of fraud and illegal use of credit cards at the time of the arrests. Nothing has come to our attention to suggest that the evidence gathered and the legal conclusions arrived at by the arresting officers were inaccurate.

This is a serious public safety issue. When personal information falls into the wrong hands of persons who could follow any of the petition signers home, everyone should be concerned. The fact that the firms running these programs, Kennedy & Associates and Lamm Consulting, continue to refuse to run background checks to help keep us all safe is something that every citizen walking into a grocery store ought to know." - Protect Colorado's Future


Franken smacked over 'no-vote' unionism

Related Al Franken stories: here
Related EFCA stories: here

DINOs want union organizers to see your ballot

As campaign season heats up, voters will get used to hearing words like "misrepresent" and "mislead" when politicians talk about their opponents. But it's not often they hear the word DFL Chairman Brian Melendez threw out Wednesday.

"I am calling him a liar," Melendez said. He was talking about Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, and Coleman's people called the l-word an opening salvo.

"I think it's a signal of what we can expect going forward," said Mark Drake, Coleman's campaign spokesman.

Specifically, Melendez was accusing Coleman of lying by repeating what's been said by anti-labor groups about a bill that would make it easier for workers to join unions.

At a news conference, Melendez played a video of Coleman campaigning and saying, "What (the labor bill) is about is taking away the right to a secret ballot in a union election."

The comments, recorded by a paid DFL staffer, closely mirrored the script of TV ads now running in the Twin Cities. The ads, paid for by a pro-business interest group, suggest supporters of the bill - including Coleman's Democratic rival Al Franken - are using mafia-like tactics to force employees to vote in front of their peers when considering whether to join a union.

Democrats call the commercials, and Coleman's comments, part of "a campaign of spectacular disinformation," and Melendez said Coleman knows better.

"It's been pointed out directly to him, for example, in private meetings with labor leaders about the Employee Free Choice Act, that he's misrepresenting the facts," Melendez said. "I think after that, it's fair to call it lying."

Republicans say Franken, as an author, used fighting words first.

"Uh, right-wing mother-effers," Drake said, quoting a line from Franken's past. "I mean, these are direct quotes from the man, and Brian's got to defend him."

University of Minnesota political science professor Kathryn Pearson said it's early to hear a word like "liar" in July, but this won't be the last shot fired in what already is the nation's most expensive Senate race.

"I think we'll see it from both sides," Pearson said, "from the candidates, the political parties, and then from these outside groups that tend to be the most negative of all of the groups."

But Pearson said it would be unwise for candidates to throw verbal bombs themselves.

That's a lesson former Virginia Sen. George Allen learned the hard way two years ago when he was caught on tape calling his opponent's dark-skinned staffer "macaca."

That particular word certainly was more inflammatory than "liar," but it serves as an example of the power of a word to drive a news cycle.

"Let's give a welcome to Macaca here," Allen said in a clip widely distributed on YouTube. Allen went on to lose a close election to Democrat Jim Webb.

In this year's campaign, trackers, as they're called, are paid to tape everyone's every word. So there will be plenty of opportunities between now and November for words to make headlines.

Of course, both sides said Tuesday they hope this will be a campaign about the issues. But they quickly added: They don't expect the other side to stick to the issues.


UFCW strikers use robo-calls in labor-state

Annoying political tactic from RICO-challenged union may backfire with public

Thousands of households are getting phone calls from striking workers at a nursing home in northern Ohio seeking support in their labor fight over wages and benefits. Long used by politicians, automated or "robo" calling is gaining momentum in the labor movement, experts said.

The 90-second calls on behalf of workers at Hillside Acres nursing home in Willard - voiced by the union steward - urge people to call the home's owner "and tell her to do the right thing" and negotiate with strikers.

Jeff Stephens of UFCW Local 911 in Toledo said pickets have told him that a few people have gone to the picket line to show their support because of the calls. The local represents 31 employees at the nursing home, including the 21 who have been on strike since May.

A sister union in Cincinnati used the robo technique in a contract dispute last year with grocer Kroger Co.

Robo calling on nonpolitical issues is a new idea for labor that could prove very effective, said Harley Shaiken, a labor specialist at the University of California-Berkeley who had heard of the tactic being used in a West Coast grocery chain dispute.

"It's an attempt to reach out to the community," Shaiken said. "Forty years ago, a strike was won or lost on the picket lines. Today, it can be won or lost in the community as well."

Robo calls are widely used by telemarketers, bill collectors and nonprofit fundraisers and are disdained by many recipients. They are banned or restricted in some states.

But robo dialing is popular with users because it is cheaper than hiring people to place calls. Some companies that advertise robo service charges 1 cent per call to deliver a 15 second message.

Gene Carroll, a union expert at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, called the tactic a smart use of technology.

"That's what labor has to do in this era, create electronic pickets," Carroll said. "I would say it's a maturing, a cutting edge tactic."

Neither Carroll nor Elaine Bernard, director of the Harvard Trade Union Program, said they knew of robo calling being used outside of political campaigns.

The calls to Ohio households on behalf the Willard nursing home workers include the name and e-mail address of Linda Black-Kurek, president of Liberty Health Care, which owns 15 nursing homes in the state.

"I hope enough people hear it and put pressure on (her) to sit down with us," said Sandy Grossman, who organized the United Food and Commercial Workers unit at Hillside Acres five years ago.

Black-Kurek did not return a call seeking comment. A woman who answered the phone at Black-Kurek's office said some people had called because of the robo calls.

UFCW Local 1099 in Cincinnati arranged for about 200,000 calls to be placed in counties where Liberty Health Care has nursing homes, said spokeswoman Brigid Kelly.

"They've been doing it for political campaigns and some of their organizing," Stephens said. "When they heard there were some (Liberty) homes in their area, they offered it to us."

Liberty's headquarters are in Dayton, about 50 miles north of Cincinnati.

"Unions increasingly take their issues to a broader public," said Dan Swinney, executive director of the Chicago-based Center for Labor and Community Research


Did labor-state Dems misuse tax dollars?

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

'Much ado about nothing', every union-backed candidate does it

Sean Ramaley's path to becoming the youngest member of the state Senate once seemed like it had already been paved. Bright and well-spoken, the lawyer and two-term state representative from Beaver County (PA) won the Democratic nomination to run for the 47th Senate district after securing key endorsements from party officials and labor unions.

But the 33-year-old Ramaley's political career sustained a potentially fatal blow last week when he became ensnared with former Rep. Michael R. Veon and 10 current and former House Democratic aides in the state's biggest political corruption scandal in years.

The state Attorney General's Office accused the 12 of using taxpayer dollars to fuel political activities and underwrite personal perks; Ramaley allegedly used a taxpayer-funded job and resources to aid his 2004 House campaign.

Stunned party officials now must sort out whether Ramaley should remain in the Senate race with six theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest charges hanging over his head.

Reached by telephone Wednesday, Ramaley would not discuss his candidacy. His attorney, he said, covered it when he spoke to reporters on the day of his arraignment in Harrisburg.

Ramaley's attorney, Philip Ignelzi, told reporters last Friday that the charges are unlikely to be resolved before Nov. 4 general election, and that voters should give Ramaley the presumption of innocence until then.

Pressed Wednesday on whether he will stay in the race, Ramaley said, "You have a good day," and hung up.

Ramaley has a baby boy and a wife in public service as an assistant district attorney in neighboring Allegheny County. If he does not win, he will be out of the Legislature completely, having given up his House seat to run for Senate.

From early on, Ramaley built his resume to succeed in politics. He won Allegheny College's Ethical Leader of the Year award in 1997, earned a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh and worked on campaigns in western Pennsylvania. He took jobs as an aide in the Ohio Legislature and a lawyer in the U.S. Department of Labor.

Until now, he had enjoyed an unblemished reputation among fellow Democrats.

Allegheny County's Democratic party chairman, Jim Burn said Ramaley is an appealing candidate because he is young, energetic and a good listener.

"Sean's always worked hard for his district, to go after the issues and to try and deliver good government and good results," he said.

But in the grand jury reports, one-time aides to Veon recounted how he hired Ramaley into a part-time job in his Beaver County legislative office during Ramaley's first House campaign. That, plus a taxpayer-paid campaign manager from Veon's staff, allegedly enabled Ramaley to use the office's taxpayer-paid resources and work full-time on his campaign.

Ignelzi said Ramaley is innocent, and that he did the job he was hired to do, although Ignelzi would not say what he did.

Earlier this week, Ramaley indicated in a brief conversation that he still wants to run, said Joe Spanik, the Beaver County commissioner who dropped out of the 47th district race after losing key labor and party endorsements to Ramaley.

Privately, numerous party officials are likely to voice an opinion on Ramaley's candidacy, since the heavily Democratic district covers big portions of Beaver and Lawrence counties, and a township in Allegheny County

Democratic party officials, at least publicly, are choosing their words carefully.

Montgomery County Sen. Connie Williams, who chairs the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, would not say whether Ramaley should stay in the race.

"We will be having some serious conversations pretty soon," said Williams, who noted that Ramaley has a lot "on his plate."

Even though there may be pressure on him to step aside, Burn said the decision ultimately is up to Ramaley.

If he continues, he can expect his Republican opponent, farmer Elder A. Vogel Jr., to wage a campaign based around character and integrity.

Voters, Vogel said, are tired of hearing about corruption—another Beaver County legislator, Frank LaGrotta, pleaded guilty in February in a separate corruption case.

"People are sick and tired of it," Vogel said. "They want change, someone who's honest and will do a good job and not steal their money."


Teachers union smacked down over dissenter

Union found guilty of prohibited labor practices

The Clark County Education Association was wrong to expel a dissenter from its ranks and was ordered to reimburse Ron Taylor for his expenses in challenging his expulsion, the Local Government Employees-Management Relations Board ruled this week.

The board, a state entity that resolves unfair labor practices, ordered the teachers union to restore Taylor's full rights as a member, which include union representation at school grievance hearings, malpractice insurance and discounted movie tickets.

Taylor's expenses in the case could cost the education association about $10,000.

Because the union was guilty of "prohibited labor practices," a public statement or posting will be made of the case. Taylor said he was going to make sure the posting is "on every union bulletin board in every school in Clark County."

The board ruled that Taylor's expulsion could have "a chilling effect" on other members who wanted to criticize the education association, which represents teachers in the Clark County School District. The union also showed "personal animosity" toward Taylor and never tried to work with him on his concerns, the ruling states.

Taylor, a middle school teacher who represented himself before the state board, said the union tried to get rid of him for raising questions about how the union was spending its money and for criticizing the union's health care benefits for members.

Taylor said the union had accused him of breaking its code of conduct for members, but the case fell apart because of insufficient evidence.

A hearing to contest a member's expulsion would normally take 90 days, Taylor said, but the union dragged it out over two years and hired a law firm to file counterclaims, which increased Taylor's expenses.

John Jasonek, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, said the employee-relations board made a "bad ruling" and he planned to appeal. He said many organizations would file briefs in support of the teachers union.

Jasonek argued that the case was not about dissent but about the union's right of self-preservation and the right to kick out hostile members. The union director said Taylor "was in it to kill it," by recruiting members for the Teamsters and trying to decertify the Clark County Education Association.

Taylor, who is a School Board candidate for District B, said, "If they want to waste more money, go ahead."

Taylor doubted that the union could appeal since it had stipulated to the facts before the state board.

When the association's lawyer, Francis Flaherty, admitted that the union expelled Taylor because of his move to decertify and organize for another union, the employee relations board decided that the union did not have a case. It's illegal to "restrain or coerce anyone of their right" to join a union or organize, the board stated.

Because former union president Mary Ella Holloway brought the case against him, Taylor said he informed the Clark County School District that she was guilty of a prohibited labor practice since she has applied for a new job with a district committee that would resolve labor issues.


Labor-state union thuggery on full display

More Project Labor Agreement stories: here

Union-only stipulated down to the last detail

The Bayonne City Council approved a project labor agreement Wednesday night, prompting about 50 union workers who attended the meeting to burst into applause. Mike McCabe, who represents the pipefitters Local 224, thanked the council for its support.

"Your commitment to these people is our commitment to you," McCabe said. The agreement requires the city to utilize union labor in construction contracts when a tax abatement is granted.

Several union members representing electricians, plumbers, iron workers, pipefitters, and carpenters addressed the council.

"We take pride in our work," said Eric Zebrowski, from the electricians union. "We give back to the community."

The council voted unanimously in support of the agreement.

"This is going to provide quality jobs," Councilman Ted Connolly said.

Councilman John Halecky agreed.

"In this city we need your strength, we need your expertise," Halecky said. "It's a pleasure and an honor for me to support this."

Police Director Mark Smith, who is running for mayor, also addressed the council to express his support for project labor agreements.

"The job is done once, the job is done right," Smith said, adding that PLAs allow for diversity of the workforce and "adds to the fabric of the community."


Union County decertifies its firefighters

Embezzlement triggered change of direction

There has been a change in command for firefighters in one volunteer department in Union County, PA. Now a fire company miles away is taking charge and some think it could end up improving fire coverage. The Hartley Township supervisors have decertified the West End Firefighters.

The township has made a deal with the Mifflinburg Hose Company to take over. "It was a very hard decision to make," said Hartley Township Supervisor Ricky Kerstetter. When Hartley Township officials found out there were not enough firefighters with the West End Fire Company to cover the area, Kerstetter said enough is enough.

"They say it's time for change, this is the fourth time this has happened, we had to fall back on neighboring fire community and say we need help," explained Kerstetter.

The breaking point came when nearly $38,000 went missing from the fire company, said Kerstetter. A former company treasurer was charged with the theft.

"To see the anger they had up to point when they met with Mifflinburg. They have renewed energy, things look good."

Seventeen former West End firefighters have become temporary members of the Mifflinburg Hose Company. Those firefighters will be dispatched to emergencies just like before, according to Mifflinburg Hose Company Chief John Heiges.

"Our goal here, is hopefully, they come back out as own fire department," said Chief Heiges.

The move to decertify the fire company does not mean the fire engines inside the West End Fire Company will not come in handy if there is a fire in Hartley Township. The equipment will be able to be used in that case, noted township officials and residents say they are relieved.

"With all the turmoil, the supervisors had no choice. The way it was, we were unprotected," said Ronald Keister, a lifelong resident of Hartley Township.

Keister figures the move could benefit he and his neighbors in the future.

"I think it's sad, but it may be a good thing, especially if people come together, hopefully things will work out. I think Mifflinburg's more credible to me," added Keister.

The Mifflinburg Hose Company plans to sign a 6-month agreement for coverage in Hartley Township, said Chief Heiges.

After those 6 months, a more permanent plan could be formulated.

Mifflinburg Hose Company is now responsible for covering seven communities in Union County.

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