Card-check myth debunked

Related story: "Unions, Dems playing us for idiots"
More EFCA stories: hereMore card-check stories: here

Congress would, in fact, do away with secret-ballots

The National Association of Manufacturer's 'Shopfloor' blog has a post up on another oft-repeated card-check myth. The entry starts out with Big Labor's favorite rejoinder to critics of the erroneously-titled "Employee Free Choice Act" (EFCA):
The most-common misleading response from organized labor to the criticism that the Employee Free Choice Act will destroy the secret ballot in the workplace goes like…well, here’s a recent example. It comes from Bill McCarthy, president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation.

"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."

McCarthy is playing the readers for idiots. Theoretically, oh sure, union organizers might, possibly, theoretically, choose an election, maybe. But under what possible circumstance would that be a realistic choice?
Well said. Once union organizers are given license to unilaterally bypass NLRB-supervised elections, there's absolutely no incentive for them to go the less-abusive secret ballot route. Union militants know that card-check drives dramatically increase their chances of warehousing employees into monopoly bargaining collectives by opening the door to intimidation and harassment.

Shopfloor also highlights the excellent congressional testimony (.pdf) of John Raudabaugh, a labor law attorney and former member of the NLRB. Here's his assesment of the EFCA (emphasis mine):
[Big] Labor claims that elevating card-check to secret ballot status does not do away with the ballot box. Their double-speak is a pathetic attempt to "change the subject." To trigger the secret ballot process and NLRB administrative involvement, 30 percent or more of the employees in an "appropriate unit" must sign a petition requesting an election. Should a union garner signatures from more than 50 percent of the unit employees, an employer can voluntarily recognize the union or not to ensure a secret ballot election. Why? To protect the employee-voter from peer pressure and third party overreaching.

[Big] Labor wants card-check with 50+ percent yield to bypass but equate to the ballot box process. Why? To effectively silence the employer by conducting a quick, one-sided campaign without counter-information from the employer. Moreover, without the ballot-box, there is effectively no cure to overreaching and false Labor promises.

[Big] Labor and its funded academics ignore Taft-Hartley specifically protecting a worker’s right to refrain from third-party representation. Were the union to come up short of 50+ percent signed cards, would it really proceed to file a petition for an election? No, the secret ballot would not remain a real option under the EFCA proposal.
And that's the bottom line. The card check bill will almost certainly result in the de facto elimination of all secret ballot protections in the workplace. Suggesting otherwise is simply dishonest.

For a more comprehensive look at the EFCA, check out this (.pdf) National Institute for Labor Relations Research study.


Hoffa is wrong: It's easy to form unions

Related story: "Hoffa: Let's force labor unions on workers"
More EFCA stories: here

Contrary to Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa's implication, it isn't difficult for workers to form a union ("Make it easier to form union," July 11). The card-check law (naming it the "Employee Free Choice Act" is breathtakingly cynical) supported by Hoffa won't empower employees but will make it easier for a union to use intimidation or trickery to gain control over workers.

With a card-check system, a union is certified as representative of a group of workers when a majority of them sign authorization cards.

There are few safeguards to ensure that cards are not signed under duress or out of confusion. Workers have reported that union officials have employed pressure tactics, including threats, to garner signatures. The time-honored secret ballot is the best way to measure workers' support for a union.

If Hoffa wonders why workers might be less than enthusiastic about unions, he might consider the outcome of the Performance Transportation Services strike, where more than 1,000 Teamsters shuttered a company and lost their jobs in a futile strike. The Teamsters in particular do not need new privileges; they need to represent workers competently.

- Paul Kersey, Director of Labor Policy, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Midland, MI


ACORN's Rathke brothers exposed

Related ACORN stories: here

Brother of ACORN’s Chief Embezzles $1 Million of Organization’s $$

Barack Obama’s home political supporters, the leftist “community” organization called ACORN, is guilty of hiding the theft of one million dollars of its funds by the brother of the organization’s founder, Wade Rathke. But, it is even worse than just a case of common embezzlement. It turns out that the ACORN board and brother Wade, leader of the political activist group, tried to cover up the theft so that his bro wouldn’t get caught up with the Feds and punished for his theft.

This from the July 9th edition of The New York Times:
Acorn chose to treat the embezzlement of nearly $1 million eight years ago as an internal matter and did not even notify its board. After Points of Light noticed financial irregularities in early June, it took less than a month for management to alert federal prosecutors, although group officials say they have no clear idea yet what the financial impact may be.

The brother, Dale Rathke, embezzled nearly $1 million from Acorn and affiliated charitable organizations in 1999 and 2000, Acorn officials said, but a small group of executives decided to keep the information from almost all of the group’s board members and not to alert law enforcement.
These are the kind of ner-do-wells we are dealing with where it concerns ACORN. Cronyism, theft, embezzlement, cover ups…. and these are the people behind the many union efforts across the nation, as well as the Barack Obama campaign. It is also the group that Obama grew into political maturity with.

If these facts don’t show you what sort of nefarious characters we are dealing with… well, you aren’t interested in truth.


Andy Stern: Master of forced-labor unionism

More Andy Stern stories: hereMore George Soros stories: here

Docking Workers' Paychecks for Politics

The mighty Service Employees International Union (SEIU) plans to spend some $150 million in this year's election, most of it to get Barack Obama and other Democrats elected. Where'd they get that much money?

That's a question the Departments of Labor and Justice are being asked to investigate by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Specifically, the labor watchdog group wants Justice to query a new SEIU policy that appears to coerce local workers into funding the parent union's national political priorities.

The union adopted a new amendment to its constitution at last month's SEIU convention, requiring that every local contribute an amount equal to $6 per member per year to the union's national political action committee. This is in addition to regular union dues. Unions that fail to meet the requirement must contribute an amount in "local union funds" equal to the "deficiency," plus a 50% penalty. According to an SEIU union representative, this has always been policy, but has now simply been formalized.

No other major institution could get away with its bosses demanding that every single one of its workers step in line behind its political preferences. This is the sort of imposed political obeisance that infuriates so many workers and turns them away from unions.

The SEIU political mandate may also violate federal law. Union and corporate PACs are supposed to rely on "voluntary" contributions, and it is illegal for them to use money secured by the "threat" of "financial reprisal." It's hard to see that an SEIU mandate enforced by financial penalties of 50% isn't a "threat" or would qualify under any definition of "voluntary."

There's more. As many workers who would rather not join a union realize, employees can be required to join a union or to pay dues as a condition of employment. It is illegal, however, for a union to take these compelled union dues and use them to affect federal elections.

SEIU locals will no doubt try to fulfill their national commitment with voluntary contributions. But the SEIU's amendment suggests that unions that fail to meet that obligation will be required to pay for both the shortfall and penalty with member dues and agency fees. Any use of that dues money in a PAC would be a federal no-no. Meanwhile, use of dues from nonunion members (those who must pay dues even though they refuse to join a union) for any political activity, a PAC or otherwise, is prohibited.

The SEIU has in the past run close to the edge with the campaign-finance crowd. In the last Presidential cycle, SEIU President Andy Stern was among the founders of America Coming Together (ACT), one of the 527 groups that has sprung up to influence elections while avoiding individual campaign donor limits. Along with billionaire George Soros, the SEIU was among the largest contributors to that 527, raising some $26 million to elect John Kerry in 2004.

The Federal Election Commission later imposed a $775,000 penalty on ACT for violating campaign finance laws, the largest ever against a 527. Big as it was, the fine equaled less than one cent on the dollar for the $100 million that ACT improperly used to influence a national election. Mr. Stern was only a founder of ACT. But the political lesson is that the benefit of breaking the rules and potentially winning an election far outweighs a minuscule financial penalty well after the outcome is decided.

That's why the feds should take this complaint seriously. The SEIU contribution demand isn't just another technical violation of campaign-finance rules but may break serious rules about labor operations and union dues. The time to investigate this is before the election.

Union employees have every right to participate in elections. Union chiefs don't have the right to coerce them.


Court smacks down Carpenters, NLRB

More Carpenters Union stories: here

Federal appeals court leans on private property concept

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently overturned a 2006 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling against the operator of an enclosed shopping mall in Watertown, New York. Salmon Run Shopping Center v. N.L.R.B., No. 06-4961 (2d Cir. Jul. 18, 2008). The NLRB held that the mall violated the law by denying the Carpenters Union permission to distribute two flyers to the public inside the mall. One flyer listed the benefits of union membership and the second flyer alleged that a non-union contractor doing work for a retailer/tenant of the mall did not pay "area standard" wages.

The Second Circuit took a much narrower view than did the NLRB of the so-called "discrimination exception" to a private property owner's right to deny access to its property. The NLRB held that the mall was denying the union access merely because it was a "union seeking to engage in labor-related speech." The Second Circuit, however, disagreed that the mall's actions constituted discrimination. The court noted that the material the union was distributing could fall under federal labor law protections, but stated non-employee union organizers are permitted on an employer's property for the purpose of protecting the interests of the employees they are seeking to organize, not the union's own interests. Because the union's intended audience was not employees of the mall or of its tenants, but rather was the general public, the court held that the union's right to distribute the pamphlets was extremely weak under federal law.

Through this holding, the Second Circuit joins the Fourth and Sixth Circuits in taking a narrow view of the discrimination exception to the trespass rule. The Fourth Circuit, for example, has held that proving discrimination in this context requires a union to demonstrate that the employer favored one union over another or permitted employer material while banning union material. Meanwhile the Sixth Circuit has held that permitting limited charitable or civic appeals while banning union distribution is unlikely to constitute unlawful discrimination.

Property owners, especially shopping malls, are regularly inundated with requests from organizations to distribute materials on their property. Owners need to be diligent and consistent in their treatment of unions and other organizations seeking permission to distribute literature. A key consideration is the targeted audience: When a union is targeting the general public instead of a specific group of employees working on the property, the owner's right to deny access will likely be greater. Inconsistent treatment, however, will open the door to unfair labor practice charges by unions that are denied access.


Barack taps Carpenters big for N.J. post

More Carpenters Union stories: here

Labor-backed Dem surrounds himself with union operatives

Politics and union organizing weld into one for Tricia Mueller, the new state director for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Granddaughter of a Local 19 sheet metal worker or "tin knocker" as they're called in building and trades, Mueller first started working campaigns for her father, a telephone installer who served as the youngest mayor of Oakland, New Jersey.

"I could read a ward map from the time I was very small," said the 34-year old Camden native and chief political operative for the 17,000-strong New Jersey Regional Council of Carpenters, as she sat in a Hamilton coffee shop on Thursday, three days into her tenure as Obama's state director.

"I come from the field," she told PolitickerNJ.com. "I believe voter contact, voter mobilization, and voter education represent civic duty at its finest."

Gov. Jon Corzine and Democrats who know statewide political operations have a lot of confidence in the veteran Mueller.

"Tricia really knows the ropes, knows all the players, and more importantly knows how to get stuff done," said Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes. "What this shows me is that the Obama campaign is not taking New Jersey for granted, as they picked one of the best political operatives in the state."

"I think she’s the best," said Essex County political operative Phil Alagia and chief of staff to County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo.

"We’ve worked with her in the past, and she was very helpful with Joe in his campaigns. The state director of a presidential campaign organizes county by county and on that basis they picked the right person, because she’s great at field operations."

Mark Alexander, who served as state director during the primary campaign, said of Mueller, "She has a great attitude about the work and about Barack Obama. She knows what’s she’s doing, and I’m very happy."

A self-professed Obama supporter in the 2008 primary whose union backed John Edwards, Mueller said she first heard Obama speak when she served as a John Kerry delegate at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston. From a labor standpoint, AFL-CIO President Charlie Wowkanech calls Obama "the opportunity of a lifetime," and Mueller agrees.

"Barack Obama holds a lot of promise for New Jerseyans, and for working class and middle class people across the board," she said. "The state of the economy is in such disrepair, and everything is so expensive. The Bush administration has not put us in a very positive place, and so people are feeling politics in a very personal way."

While she respects Sen. Hillary Clinton and as a woman praises what she describes as Clinton’s trail-blazing primary campaign, Mueller said she was ultimately not convinced by the candidate’s message.

"Barack Obama’s message is about change, and a Barack Obama presidency speaks volumes about where we are in a global setting," Mueller said. "I’ve spent time abroad, and I’ve seen the effects of trade on Third Word countries. Bill Clinton was a huge supporter of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), and it was difficult to picture Hillary Clinton making change in that regard."

As she looks across the party divide at the John McCain campaign trying to position itself as the blue collar team, Mueller notes that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee has a poor labor rating, and voted against raising the minimum wage, protecting workers’ overtime rights, and prevailing wage laws.

"John McCain has supporters, but Barack Obama has believers," said the state director. "When you have people who believe in a real spirit of change, it’s a different motivator."

Obama’s record as a community organizer turned ward politician especially inspires Mueller, who discovered her own path to organizing shortly after her graduation from the College of New Jersey, when she worked on women’s and workers’ rights issues in Mexico and Central America.

"I decided the labor movement would be a really good place for me to give back," she said. "I wanted to learn how to organize, and to me unions always felt like the most valid social movement with their emphasis on equity in pay, living wage, retirement with dignity, and elevating quality of life for working people."

For eight years, Mueller has run political operations for the Carpenters’ Union as one of the country’s highest ranking women labor leaders in building and trades. Her work for the carpenters routinely spurs politicians - including Corzine, Sen. Robert Menendez, former Gov. Jim McGreevey and Sen. Frank Lautenberg - to recruit her as a political organizer for their campaigns.

Although the South Jersey native has admittedly coordinated campaigns for Camden County Democratic Organization co-chair Donald Norcross, Mueller underscores the fact that she’s a statewide operator.

"I have relationships all across the state on both sides of the aisle," she said. "I’ve organized every county in the state. I’ve established myself politically in New Jersey. This is my home."

With Corzine’s backing, she out-dueled U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman's chief of staff Bob Decheine to last week officially land the job as head of the Obama campaign. Following her victory, she went down to Washington, D.C. to meet personally with Decheine, whom Obama selected as the campaign’s senior advisor.

Now Mueller has less than 90 days to pull together Democratic Party forces, which include at least two potentially disparate strains: the original grassroots organizers for Obama, who fought the party machine and now must be absorbed into it; and the holdouts from the Clinton primary campaign, some of whom still see Obama as an upstart.

"We have to bring everyone into honest discourse," said Mueller. "People need to speak up. The thing about New Jersey is we’re a small but incredibly diverse state. We’re politically diverse state, which means how you do politics in Burlington is different from Middlesex. We do not have one statewide cookie cutter model.

"I have a ton of respect for grassroots people, and I also have a ton of respect for the institution," added the state director. "We have to harness all of the energy we have toward a common goal."


Union bigs love New York

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Empire State bids for #1 in the nation ranking for organized labor

Score another win for Big Labor at the expense of employee freedom. Yesterday in New York, Governor David Paterson signed a law making union dues mandatory for public employees who choose to refrain from union membership.

In the past, the law authorizing union bosses to force public employees to pay up as a requirement of keeping their job would expire every two years. The union boss spin is almost unbelievable:
[Union bosses] said on Wednesday that making the law permanent guaranteed that unions would have the money to adequately represent members and nonmembers alike, which they were required to do under a state law known as the Taylor Law. “In public employment, they have the right not to belong, but I still must represent them,” said Richard C. Iannuzzi, president of New York State United Teachers. “If under the law we’re obligated to represent every employee, then it’s only fair that every employee pays something toward the cost of being represented.”
Iannuzzi's language is fairly typical among union officials (they frequently use the term "fair share" to describe the dues they seize from nonmembers to pay for unwanted "representation"). But painting union bosses as hapless victims of the very special privileges they got enacted is absolutley absurd. Exclusive representation -- monopoly bargaining -- is a statutory power given to unions precisely because union bosses lobbied for it.

I'd love to call Iannuzzi's bluff -- will he and other union bosses actually consent to lifting federal and state laws which give unions the special privilege of monopoly bargaining? If they had a beef with the Taylor Law, why not just petition the state to repeal the offensive portions? No, instead, the union despots demanded even more privileges -- the power to line their pockets and entrench compuslory unionism.

Unfortunately, Republicans in the state Senate -- after years of refusing to make forced dues for nonmembers permanent -- gave in to Big Labor's demands:
The Legislature overwhelmingly approved the bill last month. Similar bills had passed the Democrat-controlled Assembly before, only to fail in the Senate. But with Republicans in a pitched battle to preserve their thin majority in the Senate, the party seemed unwilling to block a priority of organized labor. It passed the Senate last month by a 62-to-0 vote. The Assembly approved it 140 to 5.
Clearly, New York State Senate Republicans have abandoned principle for politics. But the leftist union bosses are always ungrateful -- if they get a chance to replace any of these Republican appeasers with a union-backed Democrat, they'll do it without hesitation.


Unflattering ACORN headlines abound

Related Wade Rathke stories: hereRelated ACORN stories: here

Insider blasts union-backed, corrupt vote-fraud group

ACORN HEADLINES July 27th 2008

• Rathke CHIEF ORGANIZER OF THE WORLD, Untouchable Unless indicted

Rathke Chief Organizer of the WORLD!!!!

SO as has been laid bare by recent insiders from ACORN and based on what we have known for sometime:

Rathke has been laying his plan to leave ACORN for 8 years. Now we all understand his obsession with building ACORN INTERNATIONAL.

AI is set up with a separate board outside US boundaries.

AI has offices in countries with no extradition treaties to the USA.


Wade up in front of the room with his little slide shows and everyone sitting there thinking “our offices are struggling here why is he expanding.

Wade can move to India or Argentina with impunity and run WORLD ACORN the WALMART OF ORGANIZING.

Meanwhile back at the ranch members are pissed and many staff are more pissed.

WADE IS EATING LAMB VINDALOO AT THE TAJ ! Dale is carrying his bags and setting up an accounting firm. Helene is browbeating some poor organizer in LIMA and telling her if she doesn’t get her numbers up they will have to close the TIKI hut office they built from scratch because the price on thatch has gone up.

Then Wade will be beamed by satellite to the Annual ACORN Year End Year Beginning Meeting With a Yak carrying his laptop and Sat phone into Hindu Kush where he is positioning himself to make an organizing deal with the Taliban on the Paskistan Afghan border. He is pretty sure he form an alliance with OBL to buy the Taliban.

Thus bringing about world peace and gaining a rise in pay for Sherpas working on Everest.

Wade Rathke is thought to be the father of the organizing technique of just buying up every union and organization in the world and changing it’s name to ACORN.

Rathke Hardliners Dug Into Caves in Arkansas like Taliban refusing to give up control!

Refusing to give up control of ACORN Rathke’s innner circle have holed up in a cave in Arkansas intent on waiting out any possible decision to move forward. ACORN USA in an effort to lure them into the open left a stack of bank drafts from uppermiddleclass communities with checks stapled to them hanging in trees outside the caves. The hardliners refused to come out though in a rare display of common sense they are hoping that a hurricane as big as Katrina will hit New Orleans and people will forget the current conflict in the chaos. Then they will come back in to scrub streets abandoned by residents in an effort to scarf up some juicy federal grants.

Former ACORN HO’s Banding Together:

Email lists, phone lists, mailing lists, funder contacts, International network of contacts, allied orgs pissed about the way they were treated. More coming. Lawsuits.


Sebelius, Stern: Use union pensions for politics

Related story: "Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Kansas DINO"
More Kathleen Sebelius stories: here

Left-wing Gov. burnishes union cred

Sensing the public would not tolerate an increase in the state gasoline tax at a time of record gasoline prices, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has pretty much closed the door on raising the levy.

Asked whether a gas tax increase could be part of the next comprehensive transportation program, Sebelius said, “I don’t think that’s likely to get much traction from anybody.”

The current $13 billion, 10-year transportation plan expires this year, and officials are laying the groundwork for a new plan. The 1989 plan totaled $2.6 billion. Both plans have relied on tax increases and borrowing.

But where would the money come from to finance what is expected to be billions of dollars of future highway and other transportation improvements?

Sebelius didn’t say, but in an opinion piece written by her and Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, which recently appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Sebelius said one way to confront the nation’s infrastructure needs would be using public pension systems.

With more than $3 trillion in assets, “pension funds could buy and build infrastructure, putting the profits to work for the retirement of workers, not for the benefit of Wall Street CEOs,” the two argued.

They said pension funds could pool assets to invest in building new roads and bridges. “The steadily increasing streams of revenue that come from tolls and other sources would deliver stable, long-term returns to working Americans, while creating well-paying construction and service jobs connected to each project.”

Sebelius and Stern argued this should be considered instead of the increasing trend by states of selling highways to private companies.

As far as Kansas goes, Sebelius said the state’s next transportation program is likely to look different than the previous two.

She said the next program would be a “more diversified transportation strategy” that increases focus on rail and air transportation issues.

Whether a definite proposal will come forward in the 2009 legislative session hasn’t been determined, Sebelius said.

But an increase in the state’s 24-cent per gallon gasoline tax, she said, “I just don’t think is very reasonable.”


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Right To Work law boosts Tennessee

More worker-choice stories: here

Investment, jobs follow worker-choice rule, shun forced-labor unionism

As significant as 2,000 new Volkswagen jobs will be to the economy of Chattanooga, the German automaker's new U.S. assembly plant will spread benefits far beyond the plant's borders, bringing more jobs — and attention — to Tennessee as it moves toward playing a bigger role in the U.S. auto industry.

The state has progressed from zero auto jobs 30 years ago to become one of the leading auto-industry hubs, a position strengthened recently not only by Volkswagen's mid-July announcement that it would build in Chattanooga, but also by Nissan's move of its North American headquarters to the Nashville area two years ago, and General Motors Corp.'s decision this year to reopen the former Saturn plant in Spring Hill to build a new Chevrolet crossover utility vehicle.

While there is some concern that the state could be investing too heavily in a single industry — incentives for the VW plant alone are approaching $300 million by conservative estimates — state officials and economists insist that there is room for more auto expansion in Tennessee and that the jobs will be good ones.

"Certainly we want a balanced economy, but no one is going to turn down more automotive if it happens," said Bill Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee. "It's not really unbalanced now, as we have more than 60,000 jobs statewide in the transportation-equipment industry, and not all of that is automobiles.

"Even as important as it is, it's still a small portion of Tennessee's economy, and we can expand it without being unduly weighted in a particular industry."

There's no 'blank check'

Some estimates are that state and local incentives to attract Volkswagen will reach
$300 million or more, the bulk of which would come from abatements of taxes over many years. That compares with $197 million pledged to Nissan for its headquarters relocation from California.

"The incentives look pretty big, but they're calculated over 30 years, so it's a long timeline," said Sujit Canagaretna, senior fiscal analyst for the Council of State Governments in Atlanta and an expert on the growth of the auto industry in the South.

"Looking at the example of Mercedes-Benz locating in Alabama in 1993, a relatively small investment resulted in tens of billions of dollars in payback," he said. "As for Volks wagen in Tennessee, what the state will gain shows this is a very positive thing. Tax abatements are a big part of it, and that money wouldn't have come anyway if the company hadn't located in the area.

"When it's vacant land, it's not generating any revenue," Canagaretna said.

The incentives are tied to job creation and capital investment, said Matt Kisber, state commissioner of economic and community development. One of the key elements in the Volkswagen deal, for instance, is a training allowance of $12,000 per worker, which would total $24 million for 2,000 employees. Additionally, the state would spend $6 million to build a training center near the plant, officials said.

The state has spent $1.25 million for grading at the plant site, and will pay for more site-preparation work and development of infrastructure to support the facility, although an exact dollar figure won't be available until Volkswagen finalizes the site plan, Kisber said.

"But there will be a limit," he said. "We have not given them a blank check."

At the local level, Chattanooga and Hamilton County will give Volkswagen the 1,350-acre plant site in the Enterprise South Industrial Park, valued at $60,000 an acre for a total of $81 million, said Tom Edd Wilson, president and chief executive of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

There will be provisions written into the deal that would protect the city and county if Volks wagen were to close the plant prematurely. The land would revert back to the city and county, which co-developed it on the site of the former Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant.

Jobs spread statewide

Gov. Phil Bredesen, a key player in attracting Nissan's new headquarters to Nashville and bringing Volkswagen to Chattanooga, said the state is ready to attract more auto investment, but also will continue to seek other industries.

The auto industry is king in Tennessee now, though, as far as manufacturing jobs go, said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who as governor in the 1980s was instrumental in persuading Nissan and General Motors to build assembly plants here.

Nissan was first, with a compact-pickup plant in Smyrna in 1983, followed by GM's Saturn subsidiary in Spring Hill in 1989. Nissan since has built an engine plant in Decherd, off Interstate 24 about an hour east of the Smyrna plant.

"Thirty years ago, we were one of the three poorest states in the nation," Alexander said. "Fast forward 30 years, and family incomes have increased substantially because of the auto jobs we have attracted."

The auto jobs explosion created by the assembly plants has spread throughout the state, Alexander said, because the suppliers don't necessarily have to be close to the main plant, and many have chosen smaller communities where there is little or no competition for the available manufacturing work force. "You can go to almost any county in Tennessee and find auto jobs," Alexander said.

"With auto, it's a big deal when you get an assembly plant because you get not only production jobs, but supplier jobs spread out over a broader region," UT's Fox said. "A number of other communities benefit. That's why an auto-assembly operation is one of the bigger hits you can get."

The supplier network is less stable than the assembly plants themselves, primarily because the suppliers are dependent on generally short-term contracts from the automakers. They rise or fall on the sales success of a particular vehicle for which the parts are made.

"The trick will be to attract suppliers for the auto companies that are diversified enough to make products for other industries as well," said economist David Penn of Middle Tennessee State University.

As one supplier closes, another seems to take its place, so even with the churn, the supplier business continues to provide jobs.

Union status is a plus

One big plus in Tennessee's recruiting efforts among auto makers and suppliers is that it is a right-to-work state, Alexander said. That means workers do not have to be union members to hold a particular job, as is the case in Michigan, where the United Auto Workers union historically held sway over the auto industry.

Tennessee isn't immune to auto labor problems, though. While the Nissan assembly plant in Smyrna and engine plant in Decherd are nonunion, the GM plant in Spring Hill works under a UAW contract.

UAW efforts to unionize one of the suppliers for the new Chevrolet Traverse, Johnson Controls Inc. in Columbia, has resulted in a strike against that company that threatens to delay startup of Traverse production this fall.

The Johnson Controls plant has a contract with GM to make seats and interior consoles for the Traverse. But most of the company's 170 workers, who were still in training, walked out July 16 over Johnson Controls' refusal to recognize their decision to join the UAW, the union said.

The fact that it probably won't have to deal with unions in Chattanooga probably was a key factor in Volkswagen's decision to choose Tennessee over a site it was considering in Michigan, analysts have said. Alabama also was in the running for the VW facility.

Whether or not the Volks wagen plant attracts more auto-industry expansion to Tennessee, the move should help the state recruit other industries, MTSU's Penn said.

"It is important to diversify," he said. "And when you look at the Nashville area, we do have a diversified employment base. Higher education and health care, transportation, wholesaling, entertainment and warehousing also are big parts of our economy.

"But success breeds success, so when a company like Volks wagen decides that Tennessee is a good place to do business, that is recognized by other companies around the world. There are 49 other states that would love to have the success this state has had in the past 25 years."


Part of the problem, not part of the solution

Jumbo unions rile taxpayers, city manager

Wage concessions aren’t in the future for the city’s unions. Naples Assistant City Manager Roger Reinke said the city’s unions have declined to reopen negotiations. That means members of three of the city’s unions will not see lower wages next year.

“Basically none of the labor unions were interested in reopening and conducting (negotiations) in regards to wage proposals,” Reinke said. “What it means is the employees covered by bargaining units will get the raises in those contracts. That’s what we’re contracted to do.”

Naples City Manager Bill Moss sent an e-mail to the mayor and City Council last month, explaining that the city was initiating discussions with the unions “seeking their voluntary concurrence to lower the wage increase contained in the collective bargaining agreements by 4 percent.”

City employees are scheduled to receive a 5 percent increase in October, and then an additional 4 percent increase in April. The request could mean that employees — both union and non-union — would receive their 5 percent increase in October, but not a 4 percent raise in April.

Moss said last month the city has already deleted the planned 4 percent increase for department directors and non-union employees from the budget.

That adjustment, paired with a similar one proposed for non-union employees, could have saved the city $800,000.

But Irwin Scharfeld, a labor relations consultant for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 79, which represents about 200 of the city’s employees, said renegotiating its contract isn’t “really on the table at this point.”

“They never asked us to really open up the contract,” Scharfeld said Friday. “I think that would just be another step backwards if they were to propose (a concession).”

Joe Whitehead, president of Lodge 38 of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the union held a membership meeting last week where the wage concessions were discussed. Whitehead said the members in attendance unanimously voted against reopening negotiations.

The fiscal 2009 budget is about $3.5 million out of balance, and, according to a June presentation by Finance Director Ann Marie Ricardi, the city is expecting to see an increase of about $2.5 million in contractual pension and wage packages.

The city will save $2.3 million through a work-force reduction this fall. The city will see a net loss of 32 positions, with 21 people potentially affected.

Naples City Council will hold a budget workshop when it returns from its two-month summer vacation on Aug. 18.


Court smacks down Stern, Burger over PR stunt

More Andy Stern stories: hereMore Anna Burger stories: here

Judge Tosses Out SEIU's Nuisance Lawsuit Against California Members

All charges in a lawsuit by the Washington D.C.-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU), SEIU President Andrew Stern and Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger against local union members in California were dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter on Tuesday.

• The ruling is here [PDF].
• The Press Release is here [PDF].

The court ruled that SEIU had brought no valid legal claim against members of United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW) and the case was dismissed without the need for a hearing. The ruling entitles UHW members to compensation fr­om SEIU for costs incurred as a result of the illegitimate lawsuit. UHW will seek full compensation on behalf of the ten members named in the suit.

“This was a PR stunt by the DC headquarters of SEIU to try to silence reformers within the union,” said Rosie Byers, a homecare worker for 30 years and member of the UHW Executive Board targeted by the lawsuit.

“The charges made against local union members had no legal basis. The only purpose of this suit was to harass and discredit members of UHW who had spoken out against Andy Stern’s and Anna Burger’s backroom deals with corporations that hurt healthcare workers and our patients.”

The lawsuit was filed one month before SEIU’s quadrennial convention, where delegates from SEIU’s local unions met in June to vote on policies and elected leaders. In the months leading up to the convention, UHW members had publicly advocated for democratic reforms that would have prevented secret “sweetheart deals” by ensuring members would have a say in all agreements with employers. SEIU President Andrew Stern, Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger and other union officials in Washington, D.C. opposed these changes.


Labor Secretary defends secret-ballots

More card-check stories: here

Bush Administration official opposes 'no vote' unionism

The administration of President George W. Bush is drawing to a close after nearly eight years in office. Therefore, it is time to assess who best fulfilled the promises made during the 2000 presidential campaign. In my opinion, that prize goes to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, the only Cabinet official to see the Bush administration through from the beginning.

The president's first choice for labor secretary was invalidated on a technicality before ever taking office. Elaine Chao quickly was named as a replacement. At the time she was a senior official at the Heritage Foundation. The wife of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, Mrs. Chao is the Cabinet official with one of the lowest profiles. Yet she has the best record of accomplishment of anyone in the Bush administration.

Mrs. Chao is a native of Taiwan, who came to the United States when she was only 8 years of age. She, more than anyone in the Bush administration, has an appreciation for the United States as a land of opportunity. Beginning with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, the Labor Department was a wholly owned subsidiary of organized labor. Even under Republican administrations this was true. President Ronald W. Reagan changed that by appointing Raymond J. Donovan, a businessman, as secretary. Mr. Donovan enraged the unions by doing away with their various slush funds. The unions went after him and literally drove him from office. President George H.W. Bush appointed Elizabeth H. Dole, now a senator from North Carolina, to the position. She held the line against the unions but fundamentally did not reform the bureaucracy.

That job was left for Mrs. Chao, who has promulgated regulations that have made the transparency of union expenditures a cornerstone of her efforts. Although she is known for fairness, labor unions despise her. Yet she has handled herself in such a way that she has avoided most direct confrontation. In 1959, one-third of all American workers belonged to a labor union. By 1980, under a quarter of the work force held a union card. Today that number stands at only 12.1 percent. If government workers are taken out of the equation the number stands at just 7.5 percent. Accordingly, Mrs. Chao considers herself secretary of all workers and not just of those who belong to unions.

The unions are spending a record amount of their employees' money this year to help elect Sen. Barack H. Obama to the presidency and to elect what they hope will be a veto-proof House of Representatives and Senate. If they achieve their objectives, they have pledged to undo all of the reforms Mrs. Chao has been successful in enacting through legislation and regulation. That would be unfortunate because, for the first time ever, a union member can go to a Web site and see exactly how his dues money is spent.

The unions are determined to enact the so-called card-check program, which they believe will begin to reverse the trend of declining union membership. The card-check program, which passed the House in this Congress but failed in the Senate, would do away with the secret ballot. Instead, union organizers would be able to put pressure upon workers to sign up. If a worker refused to vote for a union to organize his plant he could be put under all sorts of pressure to conform. Mrs. Chao clearly is concerned that this program will be enacted in the next Congress.

She told the Wall Street Journal, "The right to a private ballot election is a fundamental right in our American democracy and it should not be legislated away at the behest of special-interest groups." Mrs. Chao also is worried that a new union-friendly Congress will expand the Family Medical Leave Act, which guarantees that employees can take unpaid leave to care for an ill child or for other reasons, and they cannot be replaced while on leave. She also worries that Congress will extend from 60 to 90 days the time which employers must notify employees that they will be laid off. Nor does she like a comparable worth measure pushed by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat. It would force employers to pay the same wages for different occupations. She says the world envies the dynamism of the American economy and points to the flexibility we have in our economy. If all of these measures pass, she fears that flexibility would disappear, and with it would go the dynamic American economy.

If Mrs. Chao has her way, the 110th Congress, in its waning days, will combine and streamline some of the many training programs that overlap and duplicate one another. It is unlikely that effort will succeed in the short time remaining in this Congress. She says the Labor Department has $50 billion in different training programs, most of which never reaches workers. She would like to see that money converted into vouchers to permit workers to help them acquire job-training skills. Congress does not like vouchers for elementary and secondary education, so it is highly probable organized labor's senators would filibuster any such move.

Elaine Chao has achieved as much as she has as a workhorse rather than a show horse. Not that she is incapable of explaining in vibrant terms what she has accomplished. But mainly she has worked hard, making progress in inches rather than in long passes. The president certainly made the right choice in selecting Mrs. Chao. Future secretaries ought to emulate her example.

- Paul M. Weyrich is chairman and chief executive officer of the Free Congress Foundation.


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