ACORN proves that crime pays

SEIU, Tides' voter-fraud group is funded by taxpayers

The folks at the far-left radical activist group ACORN are embroiled in a financial corruption and cover-up scandal that they managed to keep hidden from their donors and political partners for eight years.

Now their deception has been uncovered for all to see. But is ACORN's leadership apologetic? Not in the slightest. "We did what we thought was right," said the group's president, Maude Hurd. ACORN's founder - whose brother perpetrated the fraud - also defended the cover-up, saying publicity would have given the group's critics a "weapon." As if there wasn't enough ammunition already to discredit ACORN.

The New York Times reports that Dale Rathke - whose brother started the group back in 1970 as a vehicle to help low-income people "take back what's rightfully theirs" - embezzled nearly $1 million from ACORN back in 1999 and 2000.

How did ACORN handle the crime? By disguising it on the books as a loan from one of its contractors and letting Rathke's family make restitution at the rate of $30,000 a year. (An anonymous donor reportedly has agreed to pick up the remaining $800,000 tab.)

Incredibly, ACORN kept Rathke on the payroll as a $38,000-a-year employee until as recently as last month - and only let him go when word of his fraud leaked to donors.

And, the Times reports, most of the people who covered up the embezzlement are still working for ACORN.

Actually, none of this really should surprise. After all, "fraud" has practically been ACORN's middle name.

As Michelle Malkin wrote on these pages last month, the group recently settled the largest case of voter fraud in Washington state history - having submitted thousands of bogus voter-registration forms.

ACORN has been implicated in similar schemes in 14 other states - including Ohio, where a worker traded crack cocaine for fraudulent registrations.

Back in the '80s and '90s, ACORN's tactics included trespassing, illegal seizure of private property, physical harassment, intimidation and outright extortion.

For example, in 1985, ACORN illegally seized 25 abandoned buildings owned by New York City and installed squatters as residents. A weak-kneed City Hall eventually gave the group title to the buildings - proving that crime can pay.

Amazingly, a large chunk of ACORN's budget is provided by taxpayers.

Much of the rest comes from gullible foundations and groups like the United Federation of Teachers - which has partnered up with ACORN in efforts to kill Mayor Bloomberg's school reform.

The Times reports that many of ACORN's philanthropic benefactors have begun taking a close look at the group's finances.


Teamsters to expand strike v. Coca-Cola

Related Coca-Cola strike stories: here

Is militant union staging a pattern strike?

Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated is facing a strike at its Mobile plant, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Charlotte-based company, which bottles drinks from concentrates manufactured by Atlanta's Coca-Cola Co., said 270 union workers in Mobile represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters voted to strike immediately after their contract expired July 12.

The company said in a filing with the SEC that it doesn't expect the strike to affect operations. Coca-Cola Consolidated is the second-largest bottler of Coke products, behind Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Enterprises. It has five production centers, including the lone Alabama plant in Mobile.

The strike centers on worker objections to freezing company contributions to the union-administered pension plan, the Teamsters said. Workers in Mobile have also opposed a proposal to increase employee contributions for health insurance.


Feds probe ousted CWA official

Related Jon Corzine stories: here

Katz Out of the Bag

An unwelcome new issue will be facing New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine when he runs for re-election next year: his former romantic ties to a union boss. This week, federal prosecutors subpoenaed the records of Carla Katz, ousted boss of New Jersey's largest state-worker union, with whom Mr. Corzine had an affair before running for governor in 2005. Not only did Mr. Corzine eventually pay off her mortgage and confer some $6 million on her as part of a "settlement," but Ms. Katz had apparently considered at one point holding a news conference to embarrass Mr. Corzine.

Ms. Katz was later investigated by a state ethics panel for potentially inappropriate attempts to lobby her former companion about an important labor contract. Last week, she was ousted from her position as head of the Communications Workers of America local that represents thousands of state employees. The national union had concluded that Ms. Katz used union funds to promote her unsuccessful bid for a national union office. The federal probe is said to be linked to those charges. Ms. Katz says the allegations are "baseless."

Ms. Katz's union-related troubles will eventually be sorted out, but in the meantime there's renewed interest in numerous emails she exchanged with Governor Corzine or his staffers. The governor has gone to court to keep the emails private, raising suspicions that they might contain evidence that he was asked to influence contract negotiations with Ms. Katz's union. Even if the emails are released and contain nothing incriminating, it's clear Governor Corzine has been damaged politically by L'Affaire Katz. Politics is said to make strange bedfellows. Here, the phrase is used literally.

- John Fund


ACORN: Not enough vote-fraud in Florida

Group backed by Tides Foundation, SEIU ducks embezzlement scandal

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 requires states to allow eligible persons to register to vote at various government locations, including motor vehicle and public assistance offices. According to one group, however, the state should sign up anyone who enters a public building, not just make the opportunity available.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) says Florida is not doing enough to help low-income residents register to vote when they apply for public aid. ACORN's Florida organizer, Brian Kettenring, told Tribune reporter Catherine Dolinski the state is even violating the civil rights of some residents.

This is nonsense, of course. The state, especially through its motor vehicles department, has done about all that government can do. Voting is a right that carries responsibility on the prospective voter's part. The state cannot force someone to register if they are not interested.

A study co-sponsored by ACORN found the number of voter registrations from public-assistance offices declined nationally by 79 percent between 1995-96 and 2005-06. However, the study failed to consider other factors, such as registration drives by community organizations and the implementation of welfare reform in 1996. According to the Department of Children & Families, the average number of Floridians receiving cash assistance fell from 569,000 in 1995-96 to 77,000 in 2007-08.

If ACORN wants to fight voter disenfranchisement, it should target the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which prohibits nonpartisan groups from holding voter-registration drives at its hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and offices. Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning has joined the chorus of criticism about this slap in the face to veterans.

But for able-bodied citizens, registering to vote has never been easier. Government shouldn't have to grab people by the hand.

ACORN may believe in a nanny state, but a strong democracy needs an active, educated citizenry that not only registers to vote, but studies the issues and votes on Election Day.

By the way, the deadline to register for the August primary is July 28.


Teamster strikers can't shut down Coca-Cola

Related Coca-Cola strike stories: here

Is militant union staging a pattern strike?

A week into the strike against local Coca-Cola operations by the Teamsters union, neither side is showing any signs of budging. The company is importing workers, while the union rallied Friday morning near the Tillman's Corner plant. Some stores and restaurants are seeing shortages of Coke products, though the company says it is making 95 percent of normal deliveries.

On July 12, union members rejected a contract offered by Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated of Charlotte, N.C., the nation's second largest Coke bottler, and walked out. The Teamsters' contract covers about 275 of 300 local workers.

The company locally serves Mobile, Baldwin, Washington and Clarke counties, and all or part of six counties in southeast Mississippi.

The main dispute is over worker pensions. The company wants to stop paying into the traditional pension fund run by the Teamsters and instead put more money into workers' 401K retirement accounts. Workers would still collect benefits they've already earned, but the company, after one last payment, would no longer contribute.

Typically, a company makes its biggest pension deposits as a worker nears retirement, and the union says the proposal is a money-loser for such employees.

"Shouldn't you want to be taking care of your veterans?" asked James Tricksey, an Eight Mile resident who has worked for the company for 35 years and who is a member of the union bargaining committee.

Tricksey and about 60 union members and supporters gathered for the rally at the corner of Coca-Cola Road and U.S. 90. As they picketed, Tricksey and other Teamsters jeered truck drivers and imported workers crossing their lines.

Lauren Steele, vice president of corporate affairs for Coca-Cola Consolidated, said that while the change will save money, union leaders are overblowing the effect, which Steele labeled "misinformation."

Though a federal mediator is involved, there have been no talks since the strike began. Steele said the company wants the union to vote again on an offer that was rejected by a 176 to 15 margin. Jim Gookins, secretary-treasurer of Mobile's Teamsters Local 991, said the union wants new talks.

Steele said the company is importing workers from other operations. He also noted that union members will soon have to pay for their own health insurance — $1,155 a month for family coverage.

"When our volume is 3 percent ahead of last year for July and we're not skipping a beat, they miscalculated on whether they are going to hurt our business in Mobile," he said.

Steele said Coca-Cola Consolidated announced Thursday that it would cut 350 employees, or 5 percent of its workforce, as it gets hammered by rising costs for things like fuel and corn syrup.

"Trying to hurt your employer in an economic environment such as this could be seen as being short-sighted," he said.

Some businesses, especially smaller users of Coke products, have reported shortages.

At 3 p.m. on Friday, Ed's Seafood Shed had not received its weekly delivery, which usually arrives by 10 a.m., said manager Jeremy Penton. Penton said he can order Coke products through his food supplier if drink deliveries stop.

A worker at Planet Fitness in Daphne said the gym hadn't gotten a delivery and was almost out of Coke products.

"Unfortunately, in a situation like this, we're not going to be able to get to some of the smaller customers," Steele said.

Of Clark Oil's 43 convenience stores, 27 are supplied by Coca-Cola Consolidated. Thursday, a store on North Water Street in downtown Mobile had no fountain drinks, and very few bottled drinks. However, marketing director Barry Rose of the Waynesboro, Miss., company, said he has heard few concerns from the store managers about supply.

An employee at the SuperTarget on Schillinger Road said the store is still getting deliveries, but said Coca-Cola Consolidated is focusing on sending its five biggest-selling products.

Jenny Brooks, spokeswoman for Bruno's and Food World supermarkets, said the company hasn't seen disruptions. Neither has Moore Brothers market in Magnolia Springs, owner Nicole Houser said.

"They just called us the other day to see if we needed anything," Houser said.


Teamsters may shut down Denali

Militant union threatens tourists

The bus drivers who carry thousands of tourists through Denali National Park in the peak of the summer season are voting this weekend on a possible strike, according to Teamsters union officials. If the Teamsters go ahead with the strike, tourist traffic through the popular national park could be in jeopardy, union officials said Friday.

The union represents 121 drivers who run all of the shuttle and tour buses that operate in Denali.

The bus drivers' collective bargaining agreement with Aramark/Doyon Ltd., the joint venture that runs lodges, bus tours and other services in the park, expired on Feb. 1.

So far, efforts to renegotiate the drivers' wage contract have been unsuccessful, but those negotiations are ongoing, union and company officials said on Friday.

A major sticking point is back wages still owed to the 121 drivers as the result of a May 2 arbitration agreement, according to the Teamsters.

"It's an issue that's been burning with the drivers for 10 years," said Rick Boyles, the chief negotiator for the bus drivers, who are part of Teamsters Local 959.

The vote will be tallied at noon Monday, he said. The proposal is to authorize the union to call a strike if contract negotiations are unsuccessful.

If the drivers decide to authorize a strike, "We would try to ensure continued service," said Kristin Growe, a spokeswoman for Aramark, based in Philadelphia. She declined to give any specifics.


AFSCME wraps up illegal strike

Jumbo gov't-union picketers joined by Dem pols

State lawmakers joined University of California service workers on the picket lines Friday, the final day of a weeklong strike over a contract stalemate. Employees from several UC campuses and hospitals picketed outside the university's Oakland headquarters, along with state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and a handful of other legislators.

The protesters were among the 8,000 or so custodians, cafeteria workers and other service employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The striking workers say UC pays them poverty wages. The university counters that it has offered the best contract it can with its limited resources and that the union has refused to meet with UC negotiators.

"Our picture of the budget is different than the union's picture," UC spokeswoman Nicole Savickas said. "We believe we're doing our best, given the budget we have."

The two sides have been at an impasse since they last met on June 3. The union called off an earlier strike, but authorized this week's action to call attention to the deadlock.

"We think we've met our goals," union spokesman William Schlitz said. "We don't have a contract yet, but we did raise public awareness."

University leaders have claimed the strike is illegal, citing a San Francisco judge's ruling last week that barred the pickets. The judge specifically prohibited the union from beginning a strike on Monday, which is when
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workers first walked off the job.

A UC spokesman said Friday that campus administrators would decided case-by-case whether to discipline striking employees for unauthorized absences.


Precautions taken against union violence

Picketing by organized labor is not always peaceful

UAW On Friday, Day 73 of the UAW lockout at Douglas Autotech in Bronson, a group of union supporters gathered for a rally at 1 p.m. Three charter buses carrying about 45 people each came from various points around the state. The rest of the crowd was made up of locked-out employees, their friends and other local residents.

Bronson police, Michigan State Police and Branch County Sheriff’s deputies were present for precautionary measures. “A good presence is a good deterrent,” Richard Stout, Bronson police chief said. But there were no problems on Friday, nor have there been any during the picketing.

“They’ve been great,” Stout said.

One bus loaded with union supporters came from the Lansing area. It was mostly filled with retired UAW workers or their widows.

“We are associate members,” said Joyce Kloeckner of Grand Ledge. “Our husbands were auto workers.”

Another supporter said they were “welcomed graciously.

What the UAW Local 822 appreciated was the support they felt.

Kandi Collins, a locked-out employee, called it an “excellent” day.

Co-worker Teresa Yesh said it lifted their spirits and made them feel “that we’re not just the little dogs.”

The rally fell during Polish Festival Days when more people are in town.
Organizers said the rally was not planned to coincide with the event, but Collins said it “worked in our benefit.”

It reminds the community of the struggle the Douglas employees are facing, they said.
Duane Zuckschwerdt, regional director with the UAW International, wants the community to understand the workers are not on strike.

It started as a strike when representatives from Douglas wouldn’t negotiate before the worker’s contract expired on April 30 at midnight.

The strike lasted only 2 1/2 days before the workers were willing to go back to work on any terms.

At that point, “the company could do anything they want,” Zuckschwerdt said.

They could have dropped wages as high as $20 and hour down to minium wage, he said.

“What they chose to do was lock the workers out,” Zuckschwerdt said.

“I don’t think the community understands that the company won’t bargain,” he said. “It’s a travesty what’s going on in the community, pitting family against family.”

Some of the workers choosing to cross the pick lines are friends and family members of UAW locked-out workers.

Zuckschwerdt predicts that relationships will get even more strained as time passes.
Stout is also concerned that in the present economy with weekly picket wages being $200, things could get even more difficult requiring some police involvement.
It’s been hard on many employees.

“Our whole income comes out of this company,” Kathy Eichler of Bronson said.
Her husband is disabled, drawing a pension from Douglas, and she’s still an employee.

“My grandchildren marched in this parade,” Eichler said.

If Douglas chooses to leave Bronson, the workers have concerns beyond their own needs.

“Do they know what this will do to our community, our schools?” Eichler said.


Unions sling mud against worker-choice

Will say and do anything to protect dues flow from forced-labor unionism

The pro-union group Protect Colorado's Future has launched a heavy-duty mudslinger aimed at the backers of anti-union Amendments 47, 53 and 59. Instead of arguing the merits, this ad criticizes the signature-gathering effort used to get the measures onto the ballot. While there is a lot of spin in this commercial, there is also an interesting underlying point that may be more important than the ad itself.

Ad: How far will the backers of Amendment 47, Amendment 53 and 59 go? Too far. First we found out their efforts have been described as fraudulent, and deceptive.

Visually, the ad shows still pictures of three key backers of these amendments. The photos include Republican state senator Nancy Spence and the Independence Institute's Jon Caldara. Both support Amendment 53, which would bar unions from collecting dues via automatic payroll deductions from public employees. Caldara also supports Amendment 59, which would limit political contributions by government contractors. Also pictured is Aurora city councilman Ryan Frazier, who backs right-to-work Amendment 47.

Here's the spin. The ad implies PCF found out about these claims from newspaper reports. In fact, PCF initiated its own investigation, filed complaints with the Colorado Secretary of State, and held a press conference to promote its findings. Newspapers covered the press conference. It is a common tactic used in political ads to make viewers think the claims have been vetted by a neutral third party because they appeared in a newspaper. It's a misleading tactic aimed at masking the original source of the claim.

While PCF mobilized a massive signature analysis effort and uncovered what it believes are tens of thousands of invalid signatures, enough to mount a court challenge to the certification of Amendment 47, the potential for petition circulators to misconstrue or fail to correctly explain the ballot initiatives to fellow citizens remains high.

Conservative blog Face The State conducted its own sting on at least one petition circulator employed by PCF's signature gathering company Field Works. The circulator appeared to provide misleading information while gathering signatures in support of initiative 82 - the pro-affirmative action measure that would cancel out a competing anti-affirmative action measure. Jess Knox of PCF acknowledged that the Field Works circulator had violated company policy and was fired.

Ad: But now we found out their campaigns hired criminals to get their measures on the ballot, criminals who've committed fraud, assault, forgery, even a criminal who is a registered sex offender

The claim appears to be true. Often groups that want to get an initiative on the ballot will hire private companies to gather signatures. Those private companies are not required by Colorado law to do criminal background checks on their signature gatherers and many don't. Consequently, felons, even sex offenders, are able to find employment as subcontractors for companies that specialize in gathering signatures for ballot initiatives.

Ad: Maybe they think it's OK for criminals to get our personal information, if it helps move their agenda.

Again, this is spin. The groups trying to get initiatives on the ballot don't intentionally hire felons to gather signatures. There is a small group of companies that do this kind of work. Most do not perform criminal background checks. In previous election cycles, ballot initiative drives backed by conservatives, progressives, unions, and business interests have all hired some of these companies.

But it's not the whole story. The group behind this ad makes an excellent point in one respect. Groups that hire companies to gather signatures certainly have the power to do something about the lack of background checks. They can insist that companies screen their subcontractors for past criminal conduct and bar felons from collecting signatures. It is of course a more expensive option.

But maybe it's worth it. After all, signature gatherers are collecting names and addresses, as well as making personal contact with people they might identify as potentially vulnerable during face-to-face encounters. It's not hard to imagine a scenario in which a signature gatherer who is a convicted sex offender discovers that a petition signer is disabled, vulnerable, and lives alone.

The Colorado legislature passed a bill that would have barred those convicted of certain felonies, including sex offenses, from working as petition circulators. Gov. Bill Ritter vetoed the bill, saying he didn't think the measure would pass state or federal constitutional muster because it treated paid petition circulators differently than volunteer circulators.

Jess Knox of Protect Colorado's Future said his group requires its signature-gathering company to conduct criminal background checks on all of its petition circulators. Knox acknowledged his group decided to pursue this route after seeing some of the problems emerge with signature gatherers connected to the Amendment 47 petition drive.

Now that his group has made background checks a political issue, perhaps other groups will require them if for no other reason than to head off the next attack ad. Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute said his organization may consider background checks in future petition drives.


Unionists misrepresent 'free choice' scheme

Under 'card-check' organizers get to see your 'ballot'

It is unfortunate that we all expect to be subjected to lie and smear advertising during a campaign. It certainly doesn’t have to be that way, but it often is. So here we are, the campaign season is just starting and a corporate group has put out TV and newspaper ads from Norm Coleman attacking Al Franken that are just brimming with lies. We know because the lies are about something important to us — “The Employee Free Choice Act” or EFCA.

The ads claim that Al Franken and other supporters of the EFCA are trying to eliminate secret ballots for workers. This is a lie. The act does not eliminate the secret ballot. Since 1935 there have been two options for choosing a union — majority sign-up or a National Labor Relations Board election. Under the EFCA, these two options will still exist. The only change is that instead of management making the decision for the employees, the employees make the decision.

Norm Coleman opposes the EFCA even though he knows that the act will help working people make their own decisions about joining together to bargain for better wages and working conditions. Until working people can exercise a free choice, their living standards will continue to suffer and our middle class will continue to decline. The EFCA will give workers a real choice. They don’t have it now, and Norm Coleman knows it.

- Mike Potter and Darin Rehnelt, UFCW Local 1161


Socialist plan to secure unions-dues revenue

Teachers union rolls out new vision for America’s schools

“Can you imagine a federal law that promoted community schools — schools that serve the neediest children by bringing together under one roof all the services and activities they and their families need? “Imagine schools that are open all day and offer afterschool and evening recreational activities and homework assistance. High schools that allow students to sign up for morning, afternoon or evening classes.

“And suppose the schools included child care and dental, medical and counseling clinics, English language instruction open to all community residents, GED programs and even legal assistance.”

With these words Randi Weingarten brought thousands of teachers to their feet in sustained applause, cheering for her union’s bold new vision of the public school of the 21st century. She did it just moments after the votes of 3,000 delegates at the American Federation of Teachers convention here were counted July 14 and it was announced that she was the union’s newly elected president.

Weingarten is currently president of New York’s United Federation of Teachers, the AFT’s largest local.

Along with Weingarten the convention elected two other women to fill the top three jobs at the AFT which, with 1.4 million members, is one of the largest and fastest growing unions in the AFL-CIO. It is now the only U.S. union whose three top officials are women.

Antonia Cortese, currently the union’s executive vice president, was elected secretary-treasurer. Loretta Johnson, who is AFT vice president, head of the Maryland AFT and president of the Baltimore Teachers’ Union’s paraprofessional chapter, was named executive vice president.

Weingarten told reporters after the convention that she and her two top officers were on their way to Washington, where they would begin meeting with people on Capitol Hill to start laying out the union’s vision as the basis for a new education law.

She said the task of developing a new education law is number one on the nation’s education agenda and goes well beyond simply scrapping the No Child Left Behind law currently in place. She left no doubt, however, that the union intends to fight NCLB, which is strongly backed by the Bush administration.

“We need to prepare our students for 21st century jobs,” she said. “Employers are looking for workers who can devise new solutions. But how will kids who have spent 12 years learning to keep their pencil marks inside the bubbles ever be able to think outside the box?”

“NCLB slams the schoolhouse door on much of what makes up modern civilization and replaces it with multiple choice questions,” she added.

Weingerten said NCLB is particularly disastrous for non-college-bound students. “Its test-driven curricula has meant a neglect of the technical and higher-order thinking skills that could prepare these students for jobs in the knowledge economy too.”

Recognizing that funding is crucial to any massive overhaul of the nation’s education system, the union added its voice again to the growing chorus in the labor movement calling for an end to the war in Iraq.

The delegates approved what is perhaps one of the strongest resolutions against the war by any U.S. union. It described the “war on terror” as an “ideological construct that obscures the real reasons for the war — control over wealth and resources.”

“The Bush administration,” the AFT resolution declared, “has used the idea of a ‘war on terror’ to justify permanent and preemptive war and to provide political cover for attacking and occupying Iraq and possibly launching future attacks against Iran.”

The resolution also noted that the “war on terror provides the Bush administration with the political cover to massively increase U.S. investment in war and disinvest in education, health care, environmental safety and other human needs, while at the same time transferring billions of dollars from public treasuries to private corporations for unprecedented war profiteering.”

The delegates voted July 13 to endorse Barack Obama for president. The union had backed Hillary Clinton in the primaries.

Obama addressed the delegates by live satellite feed. His remarks were followed by a rousing ovation.

Weingarten said the choice in the 2008 elections is clear. “Barack Obama says we need to overhaul American education. John McCain has said he wants more of the same. Obama wants to invest in our public schools. McCain supports private school vouchers. Obama wants to invest in health insurance for all, including every child. McCain voted against extending health benefits to children and wants to tax workers who still have employer-paid health care benefits.

“Sen. Obama will make history,” she declared, “not only because of who he is but because of where he will lead America.”

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