ACORN's Wade Rathke exposed

Former insider reveals vote-fraud organizer with an anti-progressive management style

As a person of color. A former ACORN staff member, and as a revolutionary, and in light recent revelations of Wade Rathke’s coverup of the theft of $1,000,000 I just gotta say amen. Wade doesn’t allow dissent within ACORN.

Here is what I can tell you, you gotta read Gery DelGado’s ACORN: Growing the movement. DelGado, a founding organizer pushed out by Rathke detailed almost 30 years ago that ACORN had an all white management staff. Until Wade was pushed out of Chief Organizer USA by the board this month? Now Bertha Lewis is heading up the management team to clean up the mess?

Wade pushes her under the bus and into the drivers seat as it is teetering on the edge of a cliff? I have not published my real name and I hope you can appreciate why. I am just a lowly organizer who can be easily smashed by Wade’s long arms in the Democratic party.

The kicker for me is that in light of Wade’s racism towards CLU, the embezzlement of 1,000,000 and in my opinion more importantly the horrible treatment of ACORN staff who were from the working class? He is getting promoted to Chief Organizer of ACORN International? Chief Organizer of the World? Are people in LA going to stomach that?

A couple of points. The management staff that helped Wade cover up the theft are still in place and he is Chief Organizer International. Anyone who knows non-profit work knows you can shred the books (most of the them) every 5 years. That would mean Wade and his brother Dale (who was in charge of the cash box) could have done this up top 6 times. We in ACORN know that the 1,000,000 is a drop in the bucket. Meanwhile mangement staff all over the country are switching jobs right now. All except the star chamber.

I remember once at a staff of color caucus there were maybe 150 of us in a room. Bertha Lewis asked all staff who had been there over 5 years to stand. Only two people were standing. Then she asked everyone there over two years to stand and literally like 10 stood up. They then asked everyone over a year to stand and maybe 20 stood. The other 115 stood. I remember the resistance the management staff had to us even having a staff of color caucus and remember hovering outside the door nonchalantly. We all resolved to call Wade and others out on several issues. Wade never even acknowledged our resolve.

There are good people at ACORN. Unfortunately they are overshadowed by things like office riots when people who haven’t been paid in over a month from poor communities explode. They are overshadowed by staff directives that do not allow for true community organizing. The way it is set up working class staff can’t hang with the 60 to 100 hour weeks, the low mileage stipend, the ridiculous fund raising goals set etc..

If you have a kid? And you weren’t born from money you can forget about working for ACORN. The Democratic party and Unions are helping to feed this beast. The outsourcing to ACORN for low wage campaign workers at 7-8 bucks an hour to do VR and GOTV with no minimum standards that workers get paid the Living Wage ACORN has out fighting for? This just feeds the beast. PIRG is doing it, Move on does it and so do others. The only poeple who survive between campaigns are North East liberals from often times Ivy League or private liberal colleges that are using ACORN as a resume stuffer in their climb up the ladder to be an Exec Dir or Dem party operative. What about all those people from black, Latino and other communities of color that really could have excelled at ACORN had they been paid a living wage.

When I read the letter circulated about Community Labor Union by Wade Ratke shortly after the unrest that was a result of CLU organized actions in New Orleans by people of color. When I saw that Wade said “these people couldn’t organize a two car funeral”? HE compared them to the CIA mole Chalabi who falsely claimed to represent the Iraqi people (are we a little over the top Wade?). I couldn’t believe the white chauvinism that dripped from this hypocrite. DelGado has it right. A change has to come about in community organizing. Where people form directly affected communities control the work. It has to happen. This was the Ratke I knew, brow beating, condescending, demeaning, and yes racist. As if he deserved to talk to organizers of color (who had comparable experience) in the way that he did simply because he helped some black folks. Or becuase he had read some Alinsky. There was no excuse for the way he treated his staf.

Working for ACORN and watching some of the white folks in the field made me feel like we were putting poor communities in a skinner box to see how they would react if we gave this toy or that stimulus etc.. Or worse like some zoologist trying to get close to a lion or monkey in the jungle and acting proud if they were able to sit and eat with the animals. I am serious that is how it felt.

I hope the people of New Orleans LA take this opportunity to force ACORN to reverse the methods, tactics, and employment policies of ACORN. Save that other 115 organizers out there from souring on organizing for ever.

Also, SEIU you need to tell ACORN they have to pay a living wage or they can’t do SEIU work. Yes SEIU outsourced work to us often, if the Dems, SEIU, or any other progressive group is going to outsource any of their work to anyone. This business of not getting a contract that ensures the workers will be treated fairly has to stop. I have video I have never released of employees rioting in offices who were not paid for over a month. How embarrassing for them, for me, for the movement.

I don’t know if you will print this but judging from your site I thought it might be the right place. I am living in the aftermath of ACORN wrecking my life and many of my friends. Burned out, turned out, and broke. That isn’t the way progressives are supposed to be.

When I found out about the million? I wasn’t even one bit surprised. I have personally seen that much money thrown out the money on nothing in a week at ACORN. By the way, if you leave ACORN the standard line is “F—k them, they left”, you have to secretly leave. It is like a cult. If you do good you can’t get a reference, your supervisor will hint that you are a problem worker. I know it. It is hard to re-enter the field of organizing because you are burned out and you are white listed by ACORN.

Please post this response. Maybe edit it if you feel any of it is over the top. Our story must be told by progressives or the right wing will turn it to stone and nothing will ever change.

In light of the life ACORN organizers lead to think of Rathke and his brother living rich and happy while ACORN Live lives like this.

ACORN Organizers MUST:

• Go door to door ALONE in the dark in high crime neighborhoods.

• Work 10 hours a day and 11-4 on Saturday with no overtime.

• Work 60 hours (sometimes more) a week for 25,000 a year. (That’s 8.68 an hour which is not a living wage anywhere in the Unitied States)

• Go door to door no matter the weather conditions (that includes lightning).

• Get two members a day in low income neighborhoods who have bank accounts and commit to give $10.00 a month regardless of income.

• Collect cash and carry it with them until the end of their workday.

• Get arrested when called upon to do so.

• BAIL themselves OUT!

• Shake down local businesses for money.

• Not carry personal protection.

• Even when sick go door to door alone no matter the neighborhood.

• Work while Sick.

• Work without overtime.

• Not organize a union.

• Manipulate members when necessary.

• Not complain about sexual harrassment.

• Allow themselves to be the subjects of homophobia, sexual oppression, and even racism by superiors.

• Lie to funders.

• Lie to members.

• Work with other organizers who are abusive and sexist.

• Abandon chapters when the members are too poor to raise large amounts of money.

• Do outsourced work for Unions at wages that are below union wages and living wages.

• Wait for their paychecks for months after they resign, quit, or are fired.

• Tolerate never getting reimbursed for personal expenses (mileage,cell phone,copies)

• Tolerate money for community organizing being placed into accounts set aside for political action.

• Allow their staff to be hired guns for whatever effort their supervisor determines important.

Thanks for the memories Wade.

- John Brownz


Intern exposed huge labor-state power-grab

Related 'Reform Michigan' stories: here
Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

An Intern’s Service to Michigan

The proposed state constitutional amendment known as "Reform Michigan Government Now" is finally receiving much-needed public scrutiny following the Mackinac Center’s publication yesterday of a PowerPoint presentation posted online by the United Auto Workers Region 1‑C. The presentation was shockingly blunt in describing how the RMGN proposal borrows populist reforms as a Trojan Horse for "changing the rules of politics in Michigan to help Democrats."

One of the most gratifying aspects of this incident is seeing the efforts of one of our interns pay off. Jim Vote, a graduate student at Wayne State University serving as our labor policy intern this summer, came across the presentation on the UAW Region 1-C Web site while he was doing background research for a paper on union financial disclosure.

That research was the sort of tedious, though important work that our interns are sometimes assigned. Jim had the presence of mind to save a copy of the presentation and remind me of it later during a lull in the process of researching and writing our union finance paper. His care on an "off-topic" issue was very fortunate for us: The presentation was removed from the UAW Web site shortly afterward.

Jim’s take on the presentation and the RMGN is that it was a partisan effort to distract voters from real reform — an important point he made in a blog post. When I finally had time to review the PowerPoint more closely myself, I nearly fell out of my chair at the document’s forthright description of RMGN as a partisan maneuver. We looked through the file to check its authenticity and found a cached Web page that verified the UAW Region 1-C had indeed posted a PowerPoint presentation meant to encourage their members to support the initiative. A spokesperson for the UAW has since acknowledged that the document was on their Web site, and the file’s veracity has not been questioned.

Pat Wright, the Center’s senior legal policy analyst, and I introduced the document to the people of Michigan in a radio interview on Thursday, and the rest will soon be a part of Michigan political lore. But none of this would have happened if it hadn't been for the efforts of a sharp and diligent intern.

- Paul Kersey is director of labor policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich.


State chided for dip in voter registration fraud

Leftists prep voter-fraud states for November

Florida is failing to help low-income residents register to vote when they sign up for public assistance, say voting rights advocates who may sue over the issue. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act requires states to offer voter registration forms - and help with filling out those forms - through various agencies, including those that provide Medicaid, food stamps and related forms of income-based assistance.

In January, lawyers for three national advocacy groups - Project Vote, ACORN and Demos - complained to Secretary of State Kurt Browning that the number of voter registrations received through Florida's public assistance agencies has plummeted since 1995.

"The fact is that the state is not following the law," said Brian Kettenring, Florida organizer for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, which advocates on behalf of low-income people.

"Hispanic and African-American communities are being deprived of the opportunity to register to vote at a higher rate than anybody else," Kettenring said. "So this is a fairness issue, but it's also a civil rights issue."

Both of Florida's main public assistance agencies argue that they are following the federal law. But the advocacy groups remain unconvinced, and are mulling whether to file a lawsuit.

Representative Democracy?

The 1993 federal law requires a variety of state offices to provide voting registration assistance - most notably, departments of motor vehicles. Congress included public assistance agencies in the mix to ensure that low-income people who don't drive are also included, said Daniel Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University and expert on voting rights.

"This is the group where we need the most work, because it is the group least likely to participate in elections," Tokaji said. "The biggest problem with our democracy is that we don't have a representative electorate; people who are elected are not representative of the citizenry as a whole."

According to Florida Division of Elections data, public assistance agencies turned in 9 percent of voter registrations received in 1995. By 2007, they were contributing 1.8 percent. By 2007, agency registrations had dropped from 120,886 to 10,470.

Meanwhile, enrollment in Florida's assistance programs has remained relatively steady.

According to the Department of Children & Families, the average number of poor Floridians receiving cash assistance fell from 569,158 in 1995-96 to just 76,986 in 2007-08, reflecting the tightened welfare requirements that Congress passed in 1996. Average monthly participation in the food stamps program declined by about 45,000 over the same period to just under 1.4 million.

But those declines are nearly offset by Florida's Medicaid enrollment increase alone. The average monthly number of Medicaid beneficiaries grew from 1.2 million in 1995-96 to more than 1.7 million in 2007-08, DCF data indicate. Participation in WIC, a subsidized nutrition program for low-income women, infants and children, rose from 332,135 in 1995-96 to 420,514 in 2006-07.

Registrations Dropping Nationwide

Declining agency registrations are not exclusively a Florida phenomenon. Critics complain that agency registrations have dropped nationwide, as has the registration rate among the low-income.

ACORN, Project Vote and Demos targeted Florida with a complaint letter because the state's agency registrations are emblematic of national trends, because it is populous and because it has a high proportion of residents on some form of public assistance, said Doug Hess, a consultant with Project Vote, which focuses on voting rights for low-income and minority groups. The advocacy groups sent a similar complaint to Arizona officials, and already are suing Missouri and Ohio.

As in Florida, the number of welfare check recipients plunged nationwide after the 1996 welfare changes, though other assistance programs grew.

Food stamp participation rose from 25.5 million in 1996 to 26.5 million in 2007, and enrollment in the WIC subsidized nutrition program grew from less than 7.2 million in 1996 to nearly 8.3 million in 2007. Medicaid enrollment increased from 41.3 million in 1996 to 42.1 million in 2006, according to The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

Nationwide, public assistance agencies turned in 2.9 million, or 8.2 percent of all voter registrations in 1997-1998, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. But by 2006, those numbers had dropped to 527,752, or 2.7 percent.

That probably hurts Democrats more than Republicans, Hess said, but it's less of a partisan issue than one might expect. Public assistance recipients tend to be of low incomes and limited educations. They also tend to be among the young, minorities, women, the elderly and the disabled.

"People hear 'minority,' and they assume Democrat," Hess said. "But partisan allegiance among younger and less-educated residents is weak. People would probably be surprised at how often they check Independent."

Tokaji, who is not affiliated with any of the advocacy groups, agreed.

"There's not a lot of evidence that enforcement of the National Voter Registration Act has a partisan effect," he said. "Keep in mind that, after it was enacted, we saw a Republican Party come into power - the Gingrich revolution."

Applications Versus Registrations

The decision to register to vote lies with the applicant, said John Copelan, legal counsel for the Florida Department of Children & Families.

The voting law requires agencies only to offer registration assistance and record whether the applicant accepts it, he said. "We can't force people to fill these forms out."

DCF counts 3 million total voter registration "actions" in 2007, ranging from "registered or updated voter registration" to "declined registration" to "mailed." That's up from 2.6 million "actions" in 2006 and 2.4 million in 2005.

Copelan argued that counting "agency registrations" does not reflect the hundreds of thousands of voter registration forms that DCF mails every year to online applicants for Medicaid and food stamps. There is no way, he said, of tracking how many of those applicants complete and mail in the forms.

In 2004, DCF began shifting from paper-based applications for Medicaid and food stamps to online forms, accessible from home and other remote locations. The online forms, Copelan said, ask applicants whether they want a voter registration form.

Applicants who apply at agency offices may receive paper registration forms on-site, he said, but otherwise the department will mail the voter registration forms to applicants who request them. DCF mailed out more than 600,000 voter applications in 2007, up from 562,000 in 2006.

"One of the benefits of using the computer access system, there's a lot more applications that are being provided - which we believe is the essence of what's required," Copelan said.

Hess said that's not good enough. "The law really says has to be presented to you."

Ion Sancho, Leon County's outspoken supervisor of elections who has long advocated for election reforms, agreed.

"We don't do that with any other registration agency," said Sancho, who receives far fewer registrations from DCF than through the WIC program. "A voter registration agency is supposed to provide the service on-site, right there."

The federal law mandates that the agencies "provide to each applicant who does not decline to register to vote the same degree of assistance with regard to the completion of the registration application form as is provided by the office with regard to the completion of its own forms, unless the applicant refuses such assistance."

It's hard to say whether DCF meets that requirement, Tokaji said. It's possible that counting only "agency registrations" belies untold numbers of mailed-in applications, he said, but Florida's falling agency registration numbers remain suspicious.

The state's count of mailed-in voter applications has not offset the drop in agency registrations. The number of applications received by mail fell from 280,459 in 1995 to 79,327 in 2007.

In February, the Department of Health began auditing the WIC program for compliance with the voting law. In April, the department identified "voter preference" forms for 80 percent of adult WIC applicants, confirming that they had accepted or declined voter registration assistance. The department is stepping up efforts to make sure staff collect - and keep - those forms for all adult WIC applicants, said Renee Alsobrook, counsel for the health department.

Secretary of State spokeswoman Jennifer Davis said the department has held conference calls with the agencies this year about their compliance with the voting law and retooled its training materials for them. The department holds training sessions for agencies in several locations across the state.

Asked whether Florida's agencies are meeting the federal requirement, Davis said that remains up to them. "There's only so much we can do," she said. "They're going to have to answer whether they're in compliance."


Unions' gimmick offers false 'free choice'

'Let me see your secret ballot.'

If a widget company had a 50-year sales slump and its market share had plummeted by two-thirds, it would have two choices: either start making better widgets or spend lots of money to buy influence in Washington — and get new laws passed making it tougher to buy widgets from anyone else.

That’s the choice facing America’s labor movement, which has seen its share of the U.S. workforce dwindle from a high of 35% in the 1950s to just more than 12% last year. Today, unions represent a scant 7.5% of private-sector workers, with the rest of their members employed in government, their only significant growth market. Demographically, the news is even worse: The largest single group of union members is between the ages of 45 and 54, nearing retirement — while just 6% of unionized workers are between 16 and 24.

Sadly, many unions seem to be choosing government power and restrictive legislation as their way out of the wilderness, instead of enhancing their value proposition. The AFL-CIO and its affiliates plan to spend $200 million of their members’ money to elect pro-labor candidates in 2008. The Change to Win Coalition, another union group which split off after complaining that the AFL-CIO spent too much on politics, will spend an additional $100 million itself. Other unions will spend tens of millions more.

What makes this massive political spending so concerning is the element of coercion that lies behind labor’s political agenda. The centerpiece of that agenda is the Employee Free Choice Act, a masterpiece of Orwellian doublespeak.

The act would effectively strip workers of the protection of secret ballots in union certification elections. Replacing the privacy of the voting booth, workers would be asked to publicly sign cards indicating support for a union, exposing them to harassment and intimidation. Unions could badger workers repeatedly, at work and at home, to sign a card acquiescing to representation and, in most cases, employers would have limited ability to give workers their side of the story.

Could workers still choose to have a secret ballot election? Technically yes, but in practice no. Unions have made it clear that they will make the decision for workers, and they will never choose a secret ballot. Otherwise, why pour so much money into pressuring politicians to pass Card Check.

And one point unions can’t gloss over is that once they can “convince” enough workers to sign cards, it would be against the law to have a secret ballot election regardless of how many workers wanted one.

Why would unions, who claim to be advocates for workers, want to take the free choice out of forming a union? Well, secret ballot elections require investing time and resources into convincing workers that membership is worth the dues they have to pay. And there’s the risk that, in the privacy of the voting booth, workers may not choose the union.

The net result of this coercive legislation will be a lot more unionization — in retail stores, in restaurants, in banks and in high-tech firms — whether the workers really want it or not. And the impact on the economy, and the well-being of workers could be substantial.

Unions portray Card Check as a “ticket to the middle class.” In reality, states with the heaviest union presence tend to have slower economic growth, slower job growth, higher unemployment, higher costs of living, significantly heavier tax burdens, and less entrepreneurial activity than states with the least union presence.

Taking away workers’ ability to make an informed decision about a union in private isn’t “free choice” — it’s tyranny. Rather than trying to rebuild market share through political influence and coercive laws, the labor movement should follow the example of the progressive and prosperous unions in the construction and maritime industries. These unions are winning over workers — and employers — by investing millions of dollars in high-value training. Their members get a lifelong career, and employers get more skilled and productive workers. This is a growth model that benefits everyone.

Survey after survey show that Americans think the secret ballot is a cornerstone of democracy and should be kept for union elections. Elected officials should heed voters’ opinions and take Card Check off the table.

- Glenn Spencer is director of research, Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


The truth about card-check

False 'choice' is yet another Washington, D.C. hoax

The proposed Employee Free Choice Act would deprive millions of American workers of their freedom of choice – proving, in case anyone ever doubted it, that there is no truth-in-labeling rule in politics.

The federal legislation, pushed heavily by labor unions in Washington and the states, has been making waves in North Carolina politics, with state and federal lawmakers choosing up sides, mostly along predicable lines (Democrats in favor, Republicans opposed). Out-of-state unions are starting to play a major role in funding some state campaigns, again mostly of Democrats, and cite the Employee Free Choice Act as one of their top priorities.

The bill would among other things institute a system for union organizing that is innocuously referred to as “card check.” Rather than holding workplace elections by secret ballot, as is the current law, card check would require union organizers simply to collect enough signed cards to establish union representation in a given workplace.

In the political debate about card check, you often hear a lot of chatter about the plight of the working class and the impact of globalization. But the underlying motivation isn’t hard to grasp. The unions want to change the rules of American labor law because they know they can’t organize very many workplaces under the current law. Union membership in the private sector has been declining for decades. To union leaders, the trend proves that the rules must be rewritten.

If you have young children or have spent much time around them at the playground, you’ve seen this behavior before. While they’re playing a given game, everything’s fine. But then a child loses, gets disappointed, and turns sullen. “That’s not fair!” he’ll scream out petulantly. You can explain that fair rules are meant to ensure that everyone gets a chance, not to ensure a particular result, but you’ll likely be wasting your time. Most kids just outgrow the phase.

Unless they go to work for a labor union.

Most Americans have no interest in joining a union, much less in being compelled to pay dues into a union whether they join or not. There’s no corporate conspiracy at work here – public-opinion surveys about unionization pretty much comport with the results of workplace elections, so the latter aren’t systemically flawed.

What would be systemically flawed is the proposed card-check scheme. While workplace elections are discrete events, with clear results, card-check campaigns are ongoing. They also essentially force employees to declare their sympathies openly, which allows union activists to focus their efforts on the noncompliant and “persuade” them to go along.

Again, think back to your playground days and remember how bullies act.

Many of the politicians who advocate the card-check bill would be the first to complain if a state or foreign country got rid of secret ballots. They’d proper recognize the move as a precursor to ostracism, intimidation, or corruption. But when it comes to labor elections, they appear to believe that the end justifies the means. What they’ll really get is a voting system reminiscent of Zimbabwe or Turkmenistan.

As it happens, I think the best policy for the federal government would be utter neutrality about the hows and wheres of labor organizing. Unions would be free to organize themselves in any way they wish, workers would be free to join or not to join them according to the unions’ rules, and employers would be free to recognize a union or disregard it altogether, without any governmental involvement. Workers would be free to withhold their labor if they wish, and employers would be free to terminate them and hire other workers if they wish. One might call this model the Separation of Workplace and State.

Unfortunately, that’s not the system we have, nor are we likely to get it anytime soon. Under decades-old labor law, unions can use the power of government to enforce their dictates and supervise their negotiations with employers. So it becomes necessary for policymakers to have a say in setting the rules for workplace elections.

In North Carolina, Sen. Elizabeth Dole and other Republican lawmakers will speak out against the card-check legislation next month at an event in Hickory. The stakes are significant in our state, which has one of the lowest rates of unionization in the country. According to an analysis earlier this year by the Heritage Foundation, some 3.1 million North Carolina workers could lose their freedom of choice if the so-called Employee Free Choice Act were enacted into law.

And all to satisfy the personal and political interest of a few juvenile malcontents and adolescent bullies. Obviously, adult intervention is warranted.

- John Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation and publisher of CarolinaJournal.com.


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Union criminals kept OLMS very busy in June

Federal labor-union watchdog would be phased out under Barack Obama

Dept. of Labor recent criminal enforcement actions. An indictment is the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. As in all criminal cases, each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

On June 30, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Norman K. Brown, former Bargaining Committee Chairman of UAW Local 2911 (located in Fort Wayne, Ind.), was sentenced to two years probation, including six months of home detention, ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $41,478 and a $100 special assessment. On March 19, 2008, Brown pled guilty to one count of embezzling union funds. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Chicago District Office.

On June 27, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Betty Wing, former Secretary-Treasurer of Steelworkers (formerly PACE) Local 1077 (located in Lambertville, Mich.), pled guilty to embezzling union funds in the amount of $6,584. On June 18, 2008, an information was filed charging Wing with one count of embezzlement of union funds in the same amount. The plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Detroit District Office.

On June 26, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Salvatore Battaglia, former President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 (located in New York, NY), the primary union that represents drivers and escorts for school bus companies in New York City, was sentenced to fifty-seven months imprisonment and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine, $180,000 in restitution and forfeit $25,000. On January 18, 2008, Battaglia pled guilty to participating in the conduct of the affairs of a racketeering enterprise in violation of 18 USC 1962 (c). Battaglia’s act included the extortion of bus company owners. The sentencing follows a joint investigation by the OLMS New York District Office, the FBI, and the Department of Labor's Office of the Inspector General.

On June 26, 2008, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Zona Albritton, former Manager of General Services for AFSCME (located in Washington, DC), was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison to be followed by 36 months probation, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $75,446. On April 4, 2008, Albritton pled guilty to one count of embezzling union funds in the same amount. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Washington District Office.

On June 26, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Michelle Meek, former Treasurer of AFGE Local 3435 (located in Columbus, Ohio), was sentenced to five years probation, 50 hours of community service, and ordered to make restitution in the amount of $7,278. On April 1, 2008, Meek pled guilty to embezzlement within a special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States. The sentencing follows a joint investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office, the Department of Labor's Office of the Inspector General, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the Inspector General.

On June 25, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, Lea Ann Newton, former office secretary of Painters Local 807 (located in Oklahoma City, Okla.), pled guilty to one count of falsification of union records, and agreed to make restitution in the amount of $6,133.19. Newton previously made restitution in the amount of $2,795.81. The guilty plea follows an investigation by the OLMS Dallas District Office.

On June 23, 2008, in the County Court of St. Lawrence County, New York, June Wilkins, former President of AFSCME Local 625 (located in Potsdam, NY), was sentenced to four months imprisonment followed by five years probation, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $689.03 plus probation costs in the amount of $3,102. Wilkin had previously made restitution in the amount of $15,730.92. On May 5, 2008, Wilkins pled guilty to two counts of third degree grand larceny. Wilkins admitted to taking over $15,000 from the local. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Buffalo District Office.

On June 16, 2008, in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, John Dabronzo, former Business Agent/Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC) Administrator of Asbestos Workers Local 89 (located in Atlantic City, NJ), pled guilty to two counts of embezzlement of union funds. Between January 2000 and May 2007, Dabronzo embezzled funds in the amount of $433,308.47 from Local 89, and $396,454.73 from the JATC. The plea follows an investigation by the OLMS New York District Office.

On June 16, 2008 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Kurt Swanstrom, former Financial Secretary of Steelworkers Local 5-1560 (located in Ashland, Ohio), was sentenced to three years probation, ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $12,327.52 and a $150 special assessment. On March 31, 2008, Swanstrom pled guilty to embezzling union funds, falsification of records, and filing false financial reports. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office.

On June 16, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Central District of Utah, Trace L. Reynolds, former office manager of IBEW Local 354 (located in West Valley City, Utah), was convicted and sentenced on one count of falsification of an annual financial report filed by a labor union. Reynolds was sentenced to one year of probation. Reynolds had previously made restitution in the amount of $10,698. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Denver District Office.

On June 12, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Graham P. Vane, former President of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 1280 (located in San Mateo, CA), was sentenced to fifteen months in prison followed by 3 years supervised release, ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $150,000 and a special assessment fee of $500. On January 9, 2008, Vane pled guilty to one count of embezzling union funds and four counts of making false statements to a government agency. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS San Francisco District Office.

On June 10, 2008 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Kristen Swint, former Vice President and Secretary Treasurer of Machinists Inflight Aircraft Lodge 2339 (located in Cleveland Ohio), was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $30,526. On January 29, 2008, Swint pled guilty to falsification of union records. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office.

On June 10, 2008 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Roxanne Eye, former Treasurer of Office and Professional Employees Local 339 (located in Brookpark, Ohio), was indicted on one count of embezzling union funds totaling $9,296. The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Cleveland District Office.

On June 9, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, Donna Hammock, former President of National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) Local 2096 (located in El Cajon, CA), was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay a $2,500 fine. On February 8, 2008, Hammock pled guilty to providing false statements on the local’s annual Form LM-3. The sentencing follows an investigation by the OLMS Los Angeles District Office. (Senior Investigator Beverly Perkins)

On June 3, 2008, in the Seventh District Court of Carbon County, Utah, an information was filed against Kathleene L. Bigham, the spouse of former Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Local 779 (located in Grand Junction, Col.) Secretary-Treasurer Alfred Bigham, charging her with theft of over $14,680 in union funds, and three counts of forgery. The charge follows an investigation by OLMS Denver District Office.


Union-dues used improperly against dissenter

Teamsters guilty of 'prohibited labor practices'

Ron Taylor, a Clark County middle school teacher, upset his bosses. He raised questions about how they were spending their money. He complained about the health care benefits they set up. Worst of all, he tried to recruit some of his fellow teachers to join a union -- the Teamsters -- and have it certified as their bargaining agent.

That was it. They threw him out.

Mr. Taylor went to the Local Government Employees-Management Relations Board, complaining he'd been subjected to unfair labor practices.

And last week, he prevailed. The respondents had subjected the teacher to "prohibited labor practices," the board ruled. It's illegal to "restrain or coerce anyone of their right" to organize for or join a union -- any union -- the board ruled. Mr. Taylor's expulsion could have "a chilling effect" on others who wish to criticize their bosses.

Those bosses also showed "personal animosity" toward him and never tried to work with him to resolve his concerns, the board ruled.

Not only must Mr. Taylor be reinstated, with all the typical fringe benefits (malpractice insurance, even discounted movie tickets) but respondents must reimburse him for his expenses in fighting his expulsion -- as much as $10,000, since they stretched out what would normally be a 90-day hearing process over two years by hiring a law firm to file counterclaims.

Wow. Sounds like the administrators of the Clark County School District got caught red-handed interfering with a teacher's right to ask questions and organize a union, didn't they?

Um ... no.

The outfit that's now ordered to reimburse Mr. Taylor his $10,000 and reinstate him with full privileges of membership is the Clark County Education Association -- the teacher union.

And because the board found the union guilty of "prohibited labor practices," the ruling must be publicly posted -- Mr. Taylor says he'll put it "on every union bulletin board in every school in Clark County."

CCEA Executive Director John Jasonek says the case is about the right of a union to expel a hostile member, and that the union plans to appeal. Mr. Taylor responds the union may have trouble finding grounds for an appeal, since it stipulated to the facts before the state board.

In terms of the principles involved, Mr. Jasonek of the union is right. Unions are (or ought to be) private outfits. The right to free association means an organization should be free to boot any member they find hostile to their goals and operations.

The problem is that current labor law constitutes a massive maze of interferences with and exceptions to the rights of free association and voluntary contract -- and that the unions, having helped cobble together this convoluted legal rabbit trap in ways designed to benefit them, usually like it that way.

Which perhaps justifies a brief smile when one of those self-righteous outfits, always mewling about the "right to organize," finds itself hoist by its own petard.

What's to be afraid of, guys? If some of your members think the Teamsters could get them a better deal, call for a secret vote. Let the best union win.

It's surely not about the money, is it?


Unionist: Let me see your 'secret' ballot

If unions can choose card-check, there will be no elections

In recent weeks, you may have seen ads on TV or news releases or letters to the editor in your local newspaper bashing "big labor" and the Employee Free Choice Act. The EFCA is federal legislation — passed by the U.S. House but stalled in the U.S. Senate — that will make it easier for workers to organize unions. Both the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Federation have united to make passing EFCA a priority for the new Congress in 2009.

In attacking the EFCA, opponents distort the facts and charge that the legislation would end secret ballot elections in union organizing drives. Not true.

The foundation of modern labor law, the Wagner Act of 1935, provided a path to union recognition when a majority of workers in a workplace signed union authorization cards — simple and fair.

When labor adversaries passed the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 over President Truman's veto, however, employers gained the right to reject the workers' union authorization cards and to petition the National Labor Relations Board to conduct an election to determine if a workplace should become union.

But the NLRB election process bears little resemblance to elections to choose our leaders for local, state and federal government. In the run-up to NLRB elections, employers pull out all the stops to intimidate workers into rejecting the union. These abuses are well-documented, including mandatory attendance at anti-union meetings, one-on-one meetings, threats to close the business if the union wins the vote, and even firing workers for pro-union activity.

The EFCA would give workers, not employers, the right to decide how to express the choice about going union: through the card-check process OR through the NLRB election process.

If passed, the EFCA will help expand the number of workers who enjoy union wages and union benefits like health insurance and retirement plans. If passed, the EFCA will help expand the number of workers who have a voice on the job through their union.

The EFCA is about empowering workers. And that's why you're now hearing more about it from the opposition.

So beware of messages from groups with the nice-sounding names like "The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace" or "Minnesotans for Employee Freedom." These are anti-union, business-funded groups not at all concerned with the rights of workers.

These anti-union groups aim to distort the issues involving the Employee Free Choice Act. They're using broadcast media. They're using print media. They're using "push polling" — spreading disinformation in the guise of a poll to sway, not measure, public opinion.

And now this right-wing smear is extending beyond the EFCA to attack our labor-endorsed candidates for U.S. House and U.S. Senate.

Our foes would like nothing better than to distract voters from the real issues in this campaign — jobs, health care, the economy. To do so, they're spreading false charges and smearing unions, the EFCA, and labor's endorsed candidates.

Don't let them get away with it.

- Bill McCarthy is president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation.


Iran clerics crush trade-union movement

Related Mansour Osanloo stories: here

U.S. labor officials ignore outrage, too busy with election politics

A year ago last Saturday, Ali Khamenei ordered the abduction of trade-union leader Mansour Osanloo. In so doing, Iran's top ruling mullah hoped to kill in infancy the independent trade-union movement that Osanloo had launched in '05 with the help of colleagues among bus drivers and conductors in Tehran.

A year later, Osanloo is still in prison, sentenced to five years on a charge of "undermining the security of the Islamic Republic." Yet the free-union movement that he inspired has spread like wildfire.

Transport workers in Tehran and its suburbs have refused to disband their union and rejected the mullahs that Khamenei appointed as their leaders.

Workers in the auto, construction and petrochemical industries have set up their own independent unions, as have teachers, miners, dock workers and bakers. The Workers Organizations and Activists' Coordination Council, an umbrella group for the free unions, now boasts more than 700 groups across Iran with almost 2 million members.

Earlier this month, the 6,000 workers of the Haft-Tapeh sugar plantation and refinery, the Middle East's largest, announced their own independent union after a year of strikes and demonstrations that led to violent clashes with security forces and the arrest of 20 trade unionists.

Osanloo is kept in the dreaded Evin Prison, where the Islamist regime locks up those it fears most. In a statement relayed by his family, he accused the authorities of "systematic mistreatment, insult and abuse." Suffering from an eye infection and a heart condition, the union hero isn't permitted proper medical care.

Despite "intense psychological pressure and physical hardship," he has refused to call for a dissolution of independent unions and a return to mullah-controlled "Islamic labor associations."

Labor is fast emerging as the biggest threat to the mullahs' rule.

Over the last year, the country has witnessed hundreds of strikes, including some involving tens of thousands of workers. The regime has responded with brutal repression, organizing armed thugs known as Ansar Hezbollah (Supporters of Hezbollah) to break strikes, beat up strikers and abduct trade unionists.

In the latest incident, Hezbollah gangs in April attacked striking workers at the Kiyan Tire Factory at Char-Dangeh with electrical batons, injuring dozens and abducting more than 100.

WOACC has also reported at least 20 "suspicious deaths" over the last year, workers believed to be victims of Hezbollah killers. The Ministry of Islamic Labor has classified the deaths as "work-site incidents."

No one knows quite how many workers are under arrest; WOACC estimates 4,000-plus. Thousands more are picked up for a few hours or a few days, beaten, bullied, warned and released. "Every day, millions of people go to work in Islamic Iran in a state of fear," says a WOACC activist. "Basically, terror is the principal instrument of social control in this country."

The regime isn't relying on violence alone to crush the workers' movement. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has presented legislation to abolish most rights won by Iranian workers over the last 100 years. The reasoning is a claim that Islam doesn't recognize a division of the community of the faithful into employer and employee and rejects international labor codes "invented by Zionists and Crusaders."

Ahmadinejad's administration has also lifted most legal limits on "contract work."

Rajab-Ali Shahsavari, an independent unionist and leader of the Association of Contractual Workers, reports that more than 85 percent of private-sector workers now labor on short-term contracts lasting just a day to a month. "This is slavery in the name of Islam," Shahsavari says. "In Iran today, workers are worse off than slaves in ancient times."

The regime also is trying to isolate the labor movement by accusing some of its leaders of hidden ethnic or ideological agendas. For example, it has accused Mahmoud Salehi, the popular imprisoned union leader in Kurdistan province, of being "a closet Communist" and a "Kurdish secessionist." These charges are so ridiculous that it hasn't dared actually bring them - even in the mock trial it organized against him.

Sadly, the struggle of Iran's workers against one of the world's most evil regimes has yet to receive the attention it deserves from the major democracies, including the United States. With one or two exceptions (including The Post), the US media seem to have ignored what could be the biggest story in Iran.

- Amir Taheri's next book, "The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution," is due out this fall.


Teamsters Bud boss raps InBev's credibility

Related A-B/Teamsters stories: here

Conflict: Union shareholders v. Union dues-flow

The buyout of Anheuser-Busch Cos. has employees of the beermaker understandably nervous. But shareholders - the ones who don't work for the company - should be overjoyed. Anheuser-Busch's stock has basically gone nowhere since it first reached the $50 level in early 2002, trading mainly in a range between $45 and $55 since then. So InBev NV's $70-a-share deal looks pretty good.

And in the current market, there really aren't many other opportunities to make a profit in stocks, other than a buyout. Anheuser-Busch was trading at $49.20 at the beginning of May, when buyout rumors first surfaced to push the stock upward. The stock reached about $67 last Monday when the InBev deal was officially announced, a 36 percent gain from the early May price. Over that same period, the S&P 500 fell 11 percent and the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 14 percent.

Meanwhile, employees are wondering what the buyout will mean for them. The Teamsters union issued a press release expressing doubts about InBev CEO Carlos Brito's promise to keep all 12 Anheuser-Busch breweries open, including the one in Jacksonville.

"Given the record amount of debt tied to this acquisition, his commitments that he will not close any Anheuser-Busch plants in the U.S. or cause significant production job losses raise major credibility issues for us," Jack Cipriani, director of the Teamsters Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Conference, said in the news release.

Analysts are speculating that InBev will seek to reduce debt by selling off Anheuser-Busch's nonbrewery operations, including its packaging division that has a can-making plant in Jacksonville. Even more likely is the sale of its theme park division, which includes the Busch Garden and SeaWorld theme parks.


D.C bus drivers union goes out on strike

AFSCME work stoppage brings low-income commuters to their knees

Forty-eight Arlington County bus drivers will be on strike Monday morning. The drivers are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. AFSCME Lawyer Charles Smith says the drivers are upset with working conditions, wages and the firing of a negotiator a day after a negotiation session. It is unclear how long the strike will last.

The strike will have an impact on 5,000 people who use Arlington buses. Arlington Transit Bureau Chief Stephen Del Guidice tells WTOP that ART has contingency plans in place for Monday, including bringing in drivers from other areas, to try and keep buses on schedule.

Riders who have concerns about their bus route are asked to check the ART Web site.


Out-of-state unionists pollute Wyoming

East-coast leftists insensitive to local preferences

There are a few things you will not see on Gary Trauner's Web site, so look at the Daily Kos Web site: Trauner, according to the Daily Kos editors, is "a Daily Kos favorite"; the editors brag that "a majority of Gary Trauner's funding came from us"; they further remark that "it's nice to know the DCCC sees what we see in Trauner." The Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee, as well as the Daily Kos, has committed major funds to six Democrat congressional candidates, Gary among them. The Daily Kos editors call our Barbara Cubin a "super-wingnut."

The Daily Kos is edited and populated by hateful, foul-mouthed, far left-wing liberal "anti-establishment activists" who advocate for the impeachment of President Bush, surrender in the war on terror and the election of "proud liberals" to "take back America."

The editors consider DNC Chairman Howard Dean a "centrist"! They want all workers unionized. Their "Bush Lied, They Died" t-shirts have been banned in six states. They have a fanatic "reverence for the open spaces as absolutely sacred ground." They are "horrified by the virulence and dishonesty of right-wing commentary ... with racism, ignorance and ugly bigotry evident in every phone call and bogus story."

Look at Trauner's FEC records: Donations from Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Debbie Schulz (D-FL), Jim Clyburn (D-SC) -- all East Coast liberals who don't give a damn what it costs us to fuel our tractors.

And then there's ActBlue.com: "A PAC (and 527) allowing individuals and groups to channel their progressive dollars to candidates." Basically, ActBlue is a Clintonesque money bundling apparatus. Most ActBlue money comes from Daily Kos and Open Left (openleft.com, originally a John Edwards vehicle, is "Devoted to building a progressive governing majority in America").

A glance at Gary's FEC filings shows no fewer than 28 labor union donations to his campaign. Could it be because Wyoming is a right-to-work state and the hugely profitable union industry hopes to change that?

It amazes me that Daily Kos "favorite" Gary Trauner asks us, with a straight face, to believe that he can represent Wyoming in Congress with all that "liberal," "progressive" and union money under his belt. Fact is -- he can't.

- Marti Halverson, Etna, WY


Angry teachers may strike out

Union organizers nix bargaining, cling to bruised feelings

Hardball. The Manatee County (FL) school district threw another fastball past the Manatee Education Association with Thursday's announcement that administrators will push a teacher pay cut plan directly to the school board for approval.

The school district doesn't play nice; it plays to win. And win it likely will. The teachers union has stood at the plate and watched pitch after pitch blow by, refusing to take a swing and join the budget-cutting process. Instead, the MEA has been crying foul.

The first pitch came when the district deemed the impending $21.4 million budget shortfall a "financial urgency," which triggers immediate negotiations. The MEA rejected that call to the table, calling the action a premature declaration of a state statute because regular bargaining had not taken place. Union leaders said the "urgency" declaration skirts the collective bargaining process. They feared the 1 percent teacher pay cut that the district proposed would be imposed on them. They asked that the financial urgency declaration be lifted so normal bargaining could take place.

The union's refusal to join the district in "urgency" negotiations over a limited time frame - 14 days - allowed administrators to invoke another portion of that statute, called "impasse," which provides for a special magistrate to enter the picture, hear both sides and issue a nonbinding decision.

Again, the MEA rejected the district's "impasse" position, claiming there could be no impasse because there were no negotiations. The union refused to attend the special magistrate's hearing and present any arguments.

That stand did not halt the proceedings.

Predictably, the school district walked away with a victory in Monday's findings by the magistrate, who recommended that teachers accept the 1 percent pay cut and other district proposals.

Either the MEA or the school district can reject those findings within 20 days, and Superintendent Roger Dearing did exactly that on Thursday. Under that scenario, the school board can legally approve the pay reduction after the 20-day appeal period.

The MEA, hinting at legal action, has been painted into a corner.

Oddly enough, the regular collective bargaining process begins Monday.

One would think that the district's budget shortfall, now having grown by another $5.4 million because of additional drops in state revenue, qualifies as "financial urgency." The special magistrate found that to be true. We think so, too.

In a July 8 commentary in the Herald, MEA President Pat Barber wrote that the district should have exhausted all other possible cost-cutting measures before proposing across-the-board pay cuts.

Dearing countered in a July 14 commentary that the district accomplished that, cutting almost $17.5 million from the budget by eliminating open positions, reducing energy use and implementing other spending reductions. Plus, the union representing bus drivers, custodians, food service workers and maintenance personnel agreed to a 1 percent pay cut.

The teacher pay cut and raise freeze would save some $3.6 million.

The alternative, Dearing says, is layoffs - 80 to 90 teaching positions in the arts, physical education and other non-core classes.

The MEA claims cuts could be achieved by shortening athletic seasons, eliminating administrative positions, closing facilities during winter and spring breaks, and other line items.

The district has already implemented a few of those. Some administrators have taken a 2 percent pay cut and numerous administrative positions have been eliminated.

We do not support teacher layoffs. The arts, physical education and other non-core classes are vital to a well-rounded education. Many students discover their future in those endeavors.

We do not support reductions in athletics, with the exception of long trips for games. For many students, athletics keeps them in school and holds the promise of a collegiate career or more.

Nobody wants to see teachers lose both salary and raises. Yet governments across the state are freezing pay and laying off workers, including Manatee County and the city of Bradenton.

The MEA's stand is puzzling, hanging on an unproven legal interpretation of state law. The union may very well win, if this continues forward in the courts in what would be a precedent-setting case.

As Dearing stated this week, to date, the district's 3,000 teachers and para-professionals have not had a voice in the budget reductions. That will change Monday when the two sides finally sit down at the same table. Might the union accept the pay cut and bargain for future concessions - at this point possibly the best teachers can achieve?

The district, obviously, has the advantage. Dearing has scheduled a school board meeting for Aug. 6. That's when the board has the power to impose a decision on the MEA. Dearing has invited the union to present its proposals then.

The new school year begins Aug. 18. The time for a decision is fast approaching.

It is truly unfortunate that the issue has come to this - a stalemate between two intractable sides.

We do not expect the MEA to back down. They take their last swing Aug. 6, but unless they come up with a home-run plan, we think they're going to strike out.


SEIU promotes low-morale in workplace

Organizers common complaint: 'Ain't it a shame.'

It's been nearly six months since Lathrop (CA) Mayor Kristy Sayles and the rest of the City Council were officially informed about the abysmal morale among city employees.

The notice came in the form of a long and detailed letter signed by more than a dozen former city employees that included one-time senior planner Deanna Walsh. Reinforcing the contents of that letter was another letter from the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) on behalf of the city union employees. Both correspondences demanded the firing of City Manager Yvonne Quiring for being the cause of the staff's poor morale.

Both letters were presented during a council meeting in mid-February.

To date, that problem has not been resolved. The council has not taken any action. Quiring is still in charge and the council still has to take her to task for the employees detailed and damning charges. And the employee morale problem continues to fester. One wonders how the employees get their jobs done in light of this lack of action on their camplaints, of being ignored as though their feelings don't matter at all.

What should the Lathrop City Council do to solve the deteriorating morale among employees at City Hall?

It's easy, says two-time Lathrop mayor Bennie Gatto who has served the city in one elected and appointed capacity or another since he served on the first city council when the town was incorporated in 1989.

"Bring the city manager in and have a closed session and say, 'What's going on? Let's take of this situation.' Don't tell me that they can't discuss these things. I've told them - everyone of those council people - you need to correct the situation, find out what the problem is and get it corrected."

No reason for mess to have gone on as long as it has

They've all answered, "oh, yeah, we'll look into it," says a frustrated Gatto.

"There's no reason that this needed to have gone on as long as it has. Stand up, take action and move on. That's why people elect you, to get in there and do the job."

But the employee morale problem is hardly the only problem that is crying for a resolution once and for all by the council at city hall, one whose genesis is directly related to morale, or lack thereof, issue. That's the case of fired former Chief Building Official Matt Browne. His story goes even farther back than the employees' cry for help. As anyone who has been following the continuing saga of his wrongful termination fight against the city probably knows only too well by now, Browne was hurt on the job while working on the renovation of the Senior Center in June of 2007, a decision made by the council at that time to save the city some money. He managed to finish the job for the scheduled grand re-opening of the facility. But soon after, he went on disability. Later, his primary doctor released him to go back to work on July 27, 2007. But the day before he was scheduled to return to his job, he was stunned when, without any hint or advance written or verbal warning he was informed by the city manager that he was being placed on administrative leave effective July 26. Only later on would he also learn that his leave was with pay, which may have softened the blow a little bit but did nothing to further enlighten him about what's happening to his 15 years of employment with the city. Also later on, he learned that he was stalked for four days by a private investigator toting video cameras, from his home to the gasoline station where he filled up his vehicle, to the Manteca Municipal Golf Course where he was videotaped eating breakfast at the second-floor restaurant of the club house and playing on the greens below. The videotape also showed the private investigator following Browne to the men's room. Finally, in February of this year, Browne was informed by the city manager that he was being fired, again without any detailed explanation or any type of warning.

All these details came out during the appeal hearing of Browne's unemployment benefit application which was denied by the city. At the hearing before an administrative judge in Stockton, it was also revealed that part of the reasons he was fired was because of alleged worker's compensation fraud and falsification of time card. The worker's comp fraud was based on the videotape that showed him playing golf supposedly while being on medical leave; however, the city did not know that he has been released by his primary doctor to return to work by that time and was no longer on worker's comp, according to Browne's testimony during the EDD hearing.

Gatto believes the people will stand behind Browne

"And that's another fiasco, something that should have been taken care of six months ago" by the mayor and other city officials, says Gatto. "If there's are any criminal charges against him, then bring it out. But they know there's nothing there except a little animosity between two or three people."

Browne would not be asking for an open hearing "if he felt that he did something wrong;" he's that type of guy, Gatto says.

"If he does have his open public hearing, the people will come out of the woodwork and stick up for him because he's helped a lot of people out here," he adds.

Gatto says it's time for the city to get a thorough cleaning.

"It has to get straightened out. Whatever it's going to take, it has to get done - from the city manager to the mayor to the police chief - all the way down. And who's taking the brunt of it all? The employees."

But there's another group of people that may end up bearing the financial fallout of Browne's case. We've heard several people mention that Browne may be contemplating on simply suing the city. In that case, can the city afford to give away its taxpayers' money again? To refresh the memory of those who may have forgotten what happened two years ago, or for the information of those who weren't here at the time, the city used its general fund reserves to pay off $500,000 to its former city clerk who filed a sexual harassment suit against the city. As part of the settlement negotiated between the city and Nancy Rustigian's attorneys from San Francisco, all details were kept confidential including the who's and what's of her allegations.

Is this what the city want to see happen again? And can the city afford to tax its already overtaxed taxpayers again?

Maybe the city got away with giving away the people's money at that time because none of the taxpayers made any noise about what went on at City Hall and how the sexual harassment was allowed to happen in the first place. And who were the culprits? Since the case was settled, and the city clerk lost her employment and any possible employment in any government job anywhere in the future, did that mean those who were involved went on their merry way at City Hall?

What if the settlement in the Browne case eclipse the payoff made in the sexual harassment suit? Can the city afford to dig dip into its taxpayers' pocketbooks especially in this trying fiscal time?


AFSCME proud of its illegal strike

Walkout against judge's order was a crude bargaining tactic

It was hard to miss the commotion right off of Sproul Plaza last week as American Federation State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 protesters holding "Service Workers ON STRIKE" signs marched in protest against the university, later moving to the UC Office of the President in downtown Oakland. But what they left behind were deserved criticisms about the invocation of an illegal strike.

Even though the purpose of their five-day walk out at University of California campuses was clear, it was sullied with violation of a court-issued injunction. San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Mahoney doled out the order, citing that AFSCME did not give the university adequate prior notice of the strike. So while we support the union's right to protest unfair wages, their decision to do so illegally is reprehensible.

Ignoring the injunction may have bolstered the urgency of their cause. The picket lines quickly attracted the attention of students and faculty, making the union's struggles more visible. But striking unlawfully places AFSCME on shakier ground and possibly compromises their bargaining position. And jumping the gun is especially absurd considering the fact that a hearing to determine whether or not to lift the injunction was scheduled for tomorrow.

After the union's latest move, the university unquestionably has the right to retaliate. But rather than make the situation worse by retaliating against the strikers, both sides should resume negotiations. Unfair contracts still need to be revamped to ensure that our dining hall employees, custodial staff and health workers are paid wages comparable to their outside counterparts.

Both members of AFSCME and the university need to stop playing the blame game. The appropriate way to resolve the problem is through cooperation and a revisit to the bargaining table.

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