Union bigs joyed by Barack's lead

Related story: "Unions win using Rules for Radicals"

Union-backed candidate has collectivist cred

Nobody is grinning wider about Barack Obama’s lead in the polls than big union bosses. This election is their best shot in a half-century to make over Washington, D.C. If they can capture the White House, the House of Representatives, and produce a filibuster-proof Senate, they are looking at the biggest rewrite of labor law in modern history.

If this happens, The Wall Street Journal says, it “could lead to higher payroll and health costs for companies already being hurt by rising fuel and commodities costs and the tough economic climate.” In turn, all prices go up for you, too.

To understand the excitement Obama creates for Big Labor, you need to look back at his early days in Chicago, because it was in organizing that Obama began his foray into politics.

Obama’s arrival in Chicago in June 1985, to work with the Developing Communities Project on Chicago’s South Side, became a pivotal and eye-opening experience. He was tossed right away into neighborhoods where crushing poverty, raging violence, a cornucopia of drugs and homicidal crime were endemic.

At this time, Obama’s mentors schooled him in the Alinsky method, named for the radical socialist Saul Alinsky. He believed in agitating people so intensely, making them so angry about their rotten lives that they “rub raw the sores of discontent” and take action to change their lives. Alinsky’s book, titled “Rules for Radicals,” became the lodestar for Obama’s approach to politics.

As Obama wrote in his memoirs: “Change won’t come from the top ... Change will come from mobilized grass roots. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll organize black folks… For change.”

For the unions, Obama has been a long time in coming.

George W. Bush gave the unions eight years of corruption probes, and forced more openness in their financial dealings. Bill Clinton gave them NAFTA. George H.W. Bush allowed workers to withhold the political dues they pay unions. Ronald Reagan famously broke the air traffic controllers’ union. During this time the U.S. workforce came to see little value in unions, and today only 7.4 percent of private-sector workers are members of a union.

Union bosses are well aware that their days were numbered until Obama came along. And they are sparing no expense in getting him elected.

The AFL-CIO and its affiliates have raised an unprecedented $250 million to put 200,000 union workers on the street campaigning for Obama in the crucial final weeks. The National Education Association has budgeted up to $50 million. The Service Employees International Union has added $100 million to pay 2,000 union members to leave their jobs and go work on Democratic campaigns. All totaled, unions are expected to spend more than $1 billion of their members’ money on the 2008 elections. Moreover, it’s not only money; many unions, including the mighty Teamsters, have given Obama their endorsements.

Obama hypocritically says he doesn’t take money from special interest groups, yet unions are special interest groups. And what is organized labor expecting to receive in return? Plenty.

As Pete DuPont has written, if Obama is elected in November, “Significant labor law changes will likely start with the elimination of secret ballots for union organizing elections, so that unions can verbally "ask" workers if they would like to join (read: intimidate them into saying yes). Then may come repeal of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act provision that allows states to enact "right to work" laws -- 22 of them have done so -- that allow workers to take jobs even if they decide not to join a union.”

Sen. Obama co-sponsored the legislation to which DuPont referrers, known as the Employee Free Choice Act or “card check.” This would make it much easier for unions to add new members by replacing secret ballots with cards that union organizers demand co-workers to sign. Obama has said several times he will sign it into law if elected.

Then there is the Teamsters Union. They claim they are not as corrupt as they used to be, and therefore should not have the Feds watch their every move. In March 2008, they were able to extract a promise from Obama to turn down the heat. He released this statement: “It’s time for the Justice Department to begin negotiations with the Teamsters regarding the elimination of the IRB (Independent Review Board, which investigates and punishes corruption)…”

This is only one of many promises he made to this special interest group -- promises he will be hard-pressed to renege on. That’s why union bosses are doing everything they can to get Obama elected. Not only will workers be coerced into paying union dues, but also a President Obama will make it much more difficult for businesses to survive, and the economy will suffer.

- Floyd and Mary Beth Brown are authors and speakers.


Regulators pore over SEIU books

Anti-Stern dissidents get a thorough going-over

The wife and mother-in-law of the man running California's largest union local and a related charity reportedly have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by those organizations.

The local, Los Angeles-based United Long-Term Care Workers, represents 160,000 caregivers, most of whom earn about $9 an hour tending to the sick and disabled in private homes. It is headed by Tyrone Freeman and is a chapter of the Service International Employees Union.

The Los Angeles Times in Saturday's editions reported that it conducted an extensive review of documents at federal, state and local agencies regarding Freeman and his local.

Freeman said they've done nothing wrong. "Every expenditure has been in the context of fighting poverty," he told the newspaper.

The union's members have received high quality video production and day care from the businesses his wife and mother-in-law operate out of their homes, Freeman said.

Freeman's wife, Pilar Planells, was a union staff member until 2006. The newspaper reported that Freeman's local paid Planells' Lotus Seven Productions roughly $36,000 in 2006. In 2007, the union paid her company about $178,000—among the union's largest single expenses last year—according to the Times.

Freeman said Lotus Seven produced 10 videos that promote the union's work.

But Labor Department officials said they have no record that Freeman filed a disclosure in 2006 that requires union officials to report payments to entities in which a spouse has in interest, according to the Times.

Freeman's mother-in-law, Carmen Planells, provides day care at her home in Los Angeles. The nonprofit training center headed by Freeman has been paying her business more than $90,000 annually for several years.

"She wasn't my mother-in-law when she got the contract," Freeman told the Times.

State records show that Freeman and Pilar Plannell have a daughter together, born in 2001.

Freeman is one of the nation's better paid local labor chiefs, the Times reported, earning $213,000 in salary and other compensation last year.

The Times reported other spending by the union that included a nearly $10,000 tab at a Beverly Hills cigar lounge, more than $12,500 at a steakhouse and nearly $300,000 on a fundraising golf tournament that lost money.

The United Long-Term Care Workers, meanwhile, has reported more liabilities than assets in each of the past three years, according to the Times.

"It's very important for unions not to do this kind of thing," Nelson Lichtenstein, labor expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said of the local's spending. "Union leadership is a public trust—all the more so when the people being represented are among the lowest-paid in America."

Steve Trossman, spokesman for the head of the international union, told the Times in an e-mail that it did not appear that they had received allegations of problems at Freeman's local. If they do, he wrote, "we have internal union procedures for handling them."


ACORN scandals blow-up

Union-backed, voter fraud group and Rathke brothers attract increasing scrutiny

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, is a network of nonprofit community groups formed nearly 40 years ago on the premise that banks, corporations and insurance companies, immersed in greed, have kept poor and predominantly minority neighborhoods desperate. Within the past couple months, however, its leaders have been engaged in the more mundane task of spinning a scandal that already has claimed its most visible leader. To longtime ACORN critics, it’s a case of belated just deserts.

At the center of this storm are ACORN co-founder and chief organizer Wade Rathke and his brother, Dale. Wade Rathke is an almost legendary figure in progressive Left circles. Beginning in the Sixties as an SDS activist, he would go on to apply his talents to the National Welfare Rights Organization, whose principle legacy during its years of existence was a large expansion of welfare eligibility and dependency. Out of this experience came ACORN in 1970. Initially based in Little Rock and eventually in New Orleans, ACORN has become a giant oak tree. The group’s early agitprop rhetoric, as expressed in its People’s Platform, made clear its intent for the years ahead:
We are the majority, forged from all minorities. We are the masses of many, not the forces of few. Enough is enough. We will wait no longer for the crumbs at America’s door. We will not be meek, but mighty. We will not starve on past promises, but feast on future dreams.
From the start, ACORN has been unapologetically radical in both worldview and tactics. Taking its inspiration from Saul Alinsky-style neighborhood confrontation politics, the organization, now claiming about 1,200 chapters with some 400,000 households in the U.S. and abroad, prides itself in its ability to mobilize local residents into demanding and getting their fair share – regardless of whether the donations are voluntary. Right now, ACORN hopes to mobilize someone into replacing Wade Rathke.

For several weeks ACORN has been reeling over accusations that Rathke’s brother, Dale, had embezzled nearly $1 million during the turn of the decade – and that both had conspired to cover up the offense. That triggered Wade Rathke’s resignation on June 2 as chief organizer. Sometime this spring an internal whistle-blower forced ACORN leaders to admit if not complicity in all this, then at least a moral blind spot. In its July 9, 2008 edition, the New York Times reported that during 1999-2000 Dale Rathke, at the time the group’s chief financial officer, diverted $948,607.50 in funds from ACORN and affiliated charitable organizations toward Citizens Consulting Inc., a firm that provides bookkeeping, accounting and other financial services. The sum appeared on the company’s books as a loan.

So why didn’t ACORN executives take action at the time? Maude Hurd, president of ACORN since 1990, explained it this way: “We thought it best at the time to protect the organizations, as well as to get the funds back into the organization, to deal with it in-house. It was a judgment call at the time, and looking back, people can agree or disagree with it, but we did what we thought was right.” Apparently, doing the right thing meant keeping Dale Rathke on the ACORN payroll until his firing this June. The group in 2001 had obtained an enforceable restitution agreement by which the Rathke family would replenish the missing funds in $30,000 annual installments. When news of the scandal broke, seven payments totaling $210,000 had been made. An unnamed donor then stepped in, offering to pay the remaining balance of around $740,000. New York ACORN chief Bertha Lewis confirmed to Times reporter Stephanie Strom this was all but a done deal.

Wade Rathke denies he’d been covering for his brother. He insists he learned of the problem only when an employee of Citizens Consulting alerted him about unusual credit card transactions. “Clearly, this was an uncomfortable, conflicting and humiliating situation as far as my family and I were concerned,” he said, “and so the real decisions on how to handle it had to be made by others.” Still, Dale Rathke continued to collect a $38,000-a-year salary, despite having been removed from day-to-day responsibilities as CFO. This was a no-show job all but in name.

The group’s defenders are pulling out the stops to rationalize this. While not defending the behavior of the Rathkes, they maintain that in the larger picture, the theft (or unauthorized transfer of funds) doesn’t hold a candle to what businessmen and “right-wingers” routinely steal. Besides, look at the all the good ACORN has done! A recent and lengthy article by Peter Dreier and John Atlas, respectively, professor of urban politics at Occidental College (Los Angeles) and founder of the National Housing Institute (Maplewood, N.J.), provides a case in point. Writing in the popular Left-leaning blog site, The Huffington Post, they note:
In the world of scandals, ACORN’s missteps don’t even register on the radar compared with the swindles perpetrated by top executives at Halliburton, Enron, WorldCom, Countrywide and other major corporations who ripped off the government, stockholders, and consumers of billions of dollars. But progressive groups have to be squeaky clean. They must live by a higher standard, in part because they are constantly under scrutiny by powerful business and government officials and in part, because they depend on the good will of funders (who typically get federal tax breaks for their donations) and low-income members (who sacrifice to pay ACORN dues)…

There are thousands of nonprofit groups around the country that help the poor. Some people provide charity and social services. Others advocate on their behalf. And some organize the poor to fight for themselves. But in the community organizing world, ACORN stands almost alone as a national force, with its local chapters, dues-paying members and an ability to wage and win major reforms at the neighborhood, city, state and national level. ACORN organizers have taught tens of thousands of low-income Americans how David can sometimes defeat Goliath.
Lost in this populist narrative are a few salient realities.

First, the group’s tactics, legally speaking, more than once have amounted to extortion and incitement to riot. In July 1997, for example, roughly 200 ACORN protestors stormed a session of the Chicago City Council, pushing over the metal detector and table used to screen visitors, backing police against doors, and blocking entrance to the room by late-arriving alderman and staff; six persons were arrested in the fracas. They’ve got that Alinsky magic, all right.

Second, ACORN’s “victories” often have harmed rather than helped their intended beneficiaries. ACORN-sponsored community groups, for instance, regularly have invoked the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 in their attempts to block bank acquisitions and mergers with flimsy charges of mortgage lending “discrimination.” The current mortgage meltdown, especially in the subprime market, in large measure owes to lenders responding to pressure to increase loan volumes to barely qualified or outright unqualified borrowers, many of whom now have lost their homes.

Third, while corporate and bank fraud is undeniable and indefensible, that hardly constitutes a blank check for ACORN and other “grass-roots” nonprofit organizations to engage in theft of their own. If corporate officials steal more, it’s because in their world there is more to steal, not because their moral compasses are innately awry.

That leads to the matter of ACORN’s moral compass – or rather, the lack of one. Even if Wade Rathke and his cronies aren’t indicted, the organization can’t escape the long shadow of its suspect and often outright criminal legacy come election season. In 2006, for example, ACORN members engaged in vote fraud in several states, especially Missouri. In that state’s Senate race, Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill defeated Republican incumbent James Talent by about a 50,000-vote margin. A sizable portion of that margin was attributable to ACORN organizers submitting phony or at least suspicious voter-registration cards to election officials in the St. Louis and Kansas City metro areas. Several ACORN members in Kansas City were indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office just prior to Election Day, and eventually pleaded guilty. Rathke, not one for subtlety, called City of St. Louis election officials “slop buckets” when they questioned the veracity of ACORN-submitted forms. And who was Missouri state auditor during 2006? That would be Claire McCaskill.

ACORN vote fraud by no means was a novelty at that point. In 2004, the Detroit Free Press reported that “overzealous or unscrupulous campaign workers in several Michigan counties are under investigation for voter-registration fraud, suspected of attempting to register nonexistent people or forging applications for already-registered voters.” An ACORN affiliate, Project Vote, was one of two organizations cited as having turned in the documents. That same year in Colorado, an ACORN employee admitted to forging signatures and registering three of her friends to vote 40 times.

In addition to vote fraud, ACORN has displayed a penchant for treating its workers poorly, despite the group’s close ties to Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Locals 100 and 880 (Rathke is chief organizer for Local 100, representing several thousand workers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas). It’s more than a little ironic that ACORN for nearly 15 years has been leading heavily union-backed campaigns to force private- as well as public-sector employers in cities and counties across the nation to pay workers a “living” wage, while severely underpaying and otherwise exploiting its own community foot soldiers. Indeed, ACORN for years had blocked attempts by employees to unionize until the National Labor Relations Board told them otherwise. In March 2003, the nonprofit group lost its final appeal of an NLRB ruling holding that ACORN had violated its employees’ rights.

ACORN doesn’t even like paying the minimum wage, let alone a “living” one set several dollars an hour higher. In 1995, ACORN’s California chapter went to court seeking an exemption from having to pay its workers the state minimum, at the time $4.25 an hour. The group lost. In its unsuccessful appeal, ACORN argued that being forced to pay its workers the minimum wage would violate its First Amendment rights. The presiding judge termed the argument “absurd.” Welcome to the real world of employment.

Whatever Wade Rathke’s future holds – he remains chief organizer for an affiliate, ACORN International – ACORN can be expected to set the tone for much activism for years to come, especially if Senator Barack Obama becomes our nation’s next president (he’s tight with their Chicago people). In addition to two SEIU locals, the ACORN network includes nonprofit radio stations KNON-FM (Dallas) and KABF-FM (Little Rock), various publications, ACORN Housing Corp., a nonprofit law office, magnet schools, and New York City’s deceptively powerful Working Families Party. Tireless organizing, networking and pressuring have built a lot of clout. And it’s got the money to keep things that way. ACORN’s annual budget is currently around $40 million, while its allied organizations spend at least another $60 million. But its leaders, understandably, are reluctant to admit that this institution-building has had a dark side, one fittingly that has claimed the reputation of its prime mover.

- Carl F. Horowitz is director of the Organized Labor Accountability Project of the National Legal and Policy Center.


EFCA is for DINOs

More EFCA stories: here

Anti-democratic Dems alienate workers with 'no-vote' unionism proposal

When Barack Obama was seeking AFL-CIO support in the primaries, he promised to sign a bill that would effectively deprive workers of a private-ballot vote in unionization drives.

The bill, which is No. 1 on organized labor's wish list, is seen by union bosses as the only way to increase depleted membership rolls because it would be easier to unionize workplaces without the bother of the private ballot to protect workers in a free and democratic election.

Obama doesn't talk about this issue much before general audiences, but it his No. 1 promise when he speaks to unions -- pledging that the so-called Employee Free Choice Act will become law in 2009 if he wins the presidency in November. "We're ready to play offense for organized labor. It's time we had a president who didn't choke saying the word 'union.' A president who strengthens our unions by letting them do what they do best: organize our workers," the freshman senator told the AFL-CIO in Philadelphia on April 2.

"I will make it the law of the land when I'm president of the United States," he told the labor federation.

The labor-law reform is known as the "card-check bill" because it would allow employees to form a union simply by publicly collecting a majority of cards signed by workers supporting unionization of their employer's business. Union leaders would, of course, know how each worker voted, opening them up to pressure and intimidation.

Under current law, once a majority of workers submit cards requesting union certification, an election is held where workers vote by secret ballot on whether to ratify unionization. The bill, pushed by labor and supported by Obama, would effectively abandon that procedure in most cases.

John McCain opposes the bill, saying it would deny a democratic right of workers to decide by secret ballot whether they and their co-workers will come under union representation.

The Arizona Republican thinks the card-check bill is nothing more than "a poorly disguised attempt by the labor unions to swell their ranks at the expense of workers' rights and employers."

While both candidates battle for support over critical issues such as the economy and Iraq, the AFL-CIO has made card check its chief obsession. They announced late last month that they were launching "a ramped-up campaign" to make Obama's pledge a reality, beginning with a massive mailing to more than 600,000 union households in the battleground states of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

That will be followed by a "massive campaign" among 13 million union voters in August to promote Obama and highlight his support for the bill. Unions will spend $300 million in the elections -- much of it to promote the card-check bill.

To be sure, business is not sitting idly by while union lobbyists attempt to muscle this bill through Congress. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching the Workforce Freedom Initiative against Big Labor's efforts "to take away the protection of a private ballot, giving union organizers free rein to publicly pressure workers into signing cards stating support for a union. This is un-American," said Chamber president Tom Donohue.

"The obvious intention and design of the bill is to eliminate private ballots as the primary means of certifying unions in this country," said Steven Law, the U.S. Chamber's chief legal officer.

"As a result, it would expose workers to harassment and intimidation by unions and also, arguably, by employers. We have a secret-ballot process because we believe this is the best way to make a choice free from coercion. This is basically an attempt by the unions to be able to do organizing on the cheap," Law told me.

Obama's campaign, however, says this isn't so.

"This is simply a debate over process. But it is up to the workers, and they should be free to choose their process," campaign spokesman Nick Shapiro said. "If they wish to vote by secret ballot instead of a card-check process, they can. The law does not strip them of that right."

But Obama, a lawyer, flatly says the bill "will allow workers to form a union through majority sign-up and card checks" -- bypassing the ballot process. Union leaders have said they prefer this to an election in which employers and unions compete for worker votes.

A national survey of 1,000 registered voters conducted by the Chamber in June found 83 percent were either strongly or somewhat opposed to a system where union organizers "would know which workers voted to join a union and which did not."

The House passed the card-check bill last year, but when it went to the Senate, it fell nine votes short of the 60 votes needed to end a Republican filibuster. With predictions of a six-seat Democratic gain in the Senate this year, Obama Democrats hope they can get just close enough to a 60-vote majority to pass this dangerous and very anti-democratic legislation.

- Donald Lambro


False choice mislabled as 'Free'

More EFCA stories: here

'No-vote' unionism confuses the public

Isn't it just like liberals to mislabel legislation to make it seem harmless? What else can you think about the phony "The Employee Free Choice Act?" This sounds like an effort to impart fairness to unionizing elections but of course it is the opposite.

Although free secret elections are the foundation of our democratic society, Democrats see it as an obstacle to expanding their power and that of the labor unions supporting their agenda. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is Democrat-sponsored legislation which would change federal law with regards to the rights of workers to unionize. Specifically, it would make it easier for unions to unionize businesses by eliminating secret elections for workers when they vote to decide whether or not they want union representation. It was introduced in the House and Senate during the 108th, 109th, and 110th Congress. It passed in the House on March 1, 2007 for the first time, but was filibustered by Senate Republicans in June 2007. But Obama and Democrats want to resurrect it and their chances in the next congress are unfortunately better than anytime in the past.

The bill would amend the National Labor Relations Act to require certification of a union as a bargaining representative on the basis of the number of worker-signed cards designating the union as its bargaining representative. Under existing law employees have the right to decide by secret ballot and not on the basis of signed cards which obviously may be the result of coercion and intimidation. In many cases in the past despite obtaining many signed cards, union representation was defeated in secret balloting.

It is obvious to all but unions and Democrats that authorization cards which potential members would sign to supposedly express their desire to unionize are not in the interest of workers. Employee decisions and votes would not be confidential whereas the existing law allows employees votes to be done in secret and without recriminations. The openness of the cards subject workers to peer pressure, harassment, coercion, and misrepresentation.

Representative John Kline (R-Minn.), said "It is beyond me how one can possibly claim that a system whereby everyone – your employer, your union organizer, and your co-workers – knows exactly how you vote on the issue of unionization gives an employee 'free choice . . . . It seems pretty clear to me that the only way to ensure that a worker is 'free to choose' is to ensure that there's a private ballot, so that no one knows how you voted. I cannot fathom how we were about to sit there today and debate a proposal to take away a worker's democratic right to vote in a secret-ballot election and call it 'Employee Free Choice.'"

Another problem with the proposed bill is that it requires workers to make their decision to unionize before employers have the opportunity to tell them why it is not in their best interest.

The Heritage Foundation points out "The Employee Free Choice Act would strip American workers of their right to a private-ballot vote, require companies to submit to binding arbitration, and increase penalties for unfair labor practices committed by employers but not by unions. Each of these provisions would be bad for American workers."

"Congress should instead protect the privacy of American workers and guarantee their right to vote in an election before joining a union. Congress should also guarantee every worker the opportunity to hear arguments from both sides and time to reflect before voting."

Rather than holding a secret-ballot election, the EFCA would institute a card check system, creating a union if a majority of workers submitted cards requesting that one be created. These cards would not protect the identity of submitters, making it clear who was in favor and who was against the creation of a union. Union supporters of the bill say secret-ballot elections would still be held but this is totally untrue. Clearly supporters of the EFCA give misleading information when saying that secret-ballot elections would still occur; union organizers would choose the way such elections would be organized and conducted and secret balloting is not in the cards (no pun intended).

Unions would have an unfair advantage in negotiations with employers because the card signing drives are put together by union organizers, employees would be given a one-sided pitch, and put into a high-pressure signing situation. Again, from The Heritage Foundation a quote by one former union organizer:

"We rarely showed workers what an actual union contract looked like because we knew that it wouldn't necessarily reflect what a worker would want to see. We were trained to avoid topics such as dues increases, strike histories, etc. and to constantly move the worker back to what the organizer identified as his or her "issues" during the first part of the house call."

The EFCA would also impose severe penalties on employers for violations of the law while employees are attempting to form a union or attain a first contract. For example there would be civil penalties with fines of up to $20,000 per violation against employers found to have willfully or repeatedly violated employees' rights during an organizing campaign or first contract drive. In addition, there would be an increase in the amount an employer is required to pay when an employee is discharged or discriminated against during an organizing campaign or first contract drive to three times back pay.

The NLRB would be required to seek a federal court injunction against an employer whenever there is "reasonable cause" (undefined) to believe the employer has discharged or discriminated against employees, threatened to discharge or discriminate against employees or engaged in conduct that significantly interferes with employee rights during an organizing or first contract drive; courts would be authorized to grant temporary restraining orders or other appropriate injunctive relief.

As bad as the Employee Free Choice Act is for large employers, it may be fatal for small businesses. Under current law, organizing small employers is not very cost effective - small employers are rarely worth the effort and expense given the number of new members the union will get. However under the EFCA only a few organizers will be needed so many employers who were previously ignored by unions will now be directly targeted.

The prospect of becoming an involuntarily union company should be particularly frightening to small employers as they tend to have more personal relationships with their employees. Furthermore, employees in small businesses generally better understand how the business operates and the pressures the business is under.

The EFCA threatens to undermine employer-worker relations in a small company by raising the very real possibility of a union imposing itself between employers and their employees. If a union comes in, the small business owners will lose control of how the business is run. In a union company environment employers would be unable to communicate directly with their employees, on a personal basis. They would have to go through the shop steward and union leadership. In some industries like construction, they would even lose control over employee hiring because "the union would provide the employees according to their priorities such as seniority or how much they favored that particular contractor." (The Heritage foundation)

In the environment of the EFCA the employer will always lose. The union will make promises to get workers' signatures, e.g. higher wages, greater benefits, more job security, etc. Typically the employer responds with what they can give and then an arbitrator will choose the middle ground that will be more than the employer can provide and the union has loses nothing. Employees get less than promised and the employer pays more than can be afforded so the business is jeopardized. Binding arbitration always rewards the union and worker and disadvantages the employer because whatever is decided is more cost to the business. The worker may get a little more but it is likely it would be not as much in the long run as the employer would have willingly given while preserving worker-management relations. Union management is the biggest winner because they can move on to the next victim with a "victory" to boast about.

Another effect of EFCA is that whatever contract is created is imposed on the company for a minimum of three years without employee approval or further review. Under normal contract negotiations employees have the opportunity to ratify the contract but under the EFCA there would be no ratification by employees. This is another deprivation of workers rights since they have nothing to say about the final settlement under EFCA.

The Employee Free Choice Act will have devastating affects on our economy as small employers are driven out of business leaving employees with the only free choice they have; finding a new job if they can.


Union organizers ask for federal bailout

More EFCA stories: here

Worker disinterest in unions prompts Congressional action

America's union leaders are attempting to expand their enrollment and increase dues at all costs. They are pushing a bill before Congress, misleadingly called the Employee Free Choice Act, that would do away with democratic unionization procedures and instead force workers to vote publicly by petition. The obvious result of this change, should the act be passed, is that union organizers will be able to hound workers on the floor, at lunch, even at home, until they sign the petition.

Unions are a safeguard for the American worker; a way to ensure that the masses are organized and are treated fairly by big business. Like anything, they are great for our economy and for American workers in moderation. But unions are currently present only when they are in sufficient demand. If 30 percent of workers sign a petition then there will be an election by secret ballot, monitored by the federal government. If more than 50 percent of workers vote for unionization, then a union is formed. If less than 50 percent of workers don’t want a union, then a union is not formed.

The current process is free and fair. The majority of union elections today are won by organized labor. But fairness is not the real issue for union bosses.

The Employee Free Choice Act, more commonly called the Card Check Act, is a way for unions to deal with a work force that is less dependent on them and paying them less dues. Only about 7.5 percent of the private sector today is unionized, and bosses are panicking. The Card Check Act is a way for unions to essentially "rig" elections — to shame and hound workers into signing a petition, even if they don’t want to form a union and don’t want to pay dues.

It is difficult to understand what benefit this legislation can possibly have, aside from increasing union enrollment in places where the majority of the work force doesn’t want a union. It does away with the secret ballot, does away with a campaign period that is separate from the election, does away with federal supervision.

Recently, Jen Jason, a former union organizer, testified before Congress about card check and union tactics. She worked for several years as an organizer; her job was to convince workers to sign authorization cards so an election could take place. She described in her congressional testimony the deceitful tactics the unions would have her use. "I began to realize," she said, "that the number of cards that were signed had less to do with support for the union and more to do with the effectiveness of the organizer speaking to the workers." She described her by-the-book tactics as effectively creating problems where there were none so as to convince workers to sign her cards.

In the end, Jason says, "the number of cards signed seems to have little relationship to the vote count" in the secret ballot elections. In other words, union organizers are working not to sign up workers already interested in unionizing but to manipulate workers into signing authorization cards. Many of these workers have a chance to think over their decision later, and so at the time of secret balloting vote against unionizing.

If workers lose the safeguard of a federally supervised ballot by secret election, businesses and workers alike will be much more susceptible to that union pressure described by Jason.

- Betty Lou Mitchell of Etna is a former Republican state senator.


ACORN supervision lax

More ACORN stories: here

Poor management practices ingrained in union-backed voter fraud group

A get-out-the-vote organization is now conducting background checks on people it hires to register voters in New Mexico. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, began the background checks this week after a report by Albuquerque television station KRQE revealed that nine people hired to collect personal information from would-be voters had criminal records ranging from forgery to identity theft.

ACORN political organizer Paulette Herrera says the nine workers in question no longer work for the group and that no other employees have felonies.

It is unclear how many registrations the nine workers handled.

Herrera says the group has registered 60,000 voters in New Mexico.

Aside from the potential for misuse of a would-be voter's personal information, Scott Darnell of the Republican Party of New Mexico says the election system's integrity is at stake.

He says ACORN should have been doing background checks all along.


Elections supervisor blasts ACORN

More ACORN stories: here

Fraudulent voter registrations spike when union-backed ACORN is involved

In less than three weeks, voters will head to the polls to elect a new State Attorney, two Circuit Court judges and several other local races. Nov. 4, the nation will vote in arguably the most important election in the history of the country. Right in the middle of all it will be Duval County (FL) Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland and his staff.

Thursday morning, Holland sat down with the editorial staff at the Daily Record to talk about everything from voting to his vacation plans.

There are 20 days until the Aug. 26 primary, is your office prepared?

Every election so far, the State has either changed the election laws or there has been a change in equipment. This is no different. We have removed the touch screens and installed the Automark system. Now, when everyone casts their vote, it is all on paper. I think it helps in voter confidence by going to paper ballots.

During early voting we will not “pick and pull.” All of the ballots will be at the voting site. There are close to 1,000 different ballot styles and human error is not infallible. We will have ballot-on-demand. This means you present your driver’s license, the poll worker gives the computer the information and it prints your ballot.

You said Tallahassee wants to know who votes early and who votes absentee by precinct. Why?

At the (State) elections office they are always looking at data. If you are running for office again, you may want to know which voters vote early so you know when to drop your mail(outs). Campaign funds are limited, so you want to drop your mail at the right time.

You have said there will be lines out the door during the Nov. 4 general election. The polls close at 7 p.m. What will you do about the people still in line?

If they are in line, they can still vote. At 7, the polls close and we will have someone at the end of the line. If they don’t get to vote, we hope they at least remember the message.

What’s your biggest worry over the elections?

On the first one, it’s always the voters who registered through the Division of Motor Vehicles. They may have changed parties or they registered under the wrong party. One of those makes them most upset, but we can’t do anything about it. We are working with DVM to correct those problems. In November, the biggest concern will be turnout and we are dealing with that. We will have 100 percent of the ballots at each precinct regardless of turnout. We will have increased staff, roving clerks and roving technicians to work on the equipment. We have tried to look back at everything that has presented problems and deal with it. With over 450,000 voters and a turnout of 80 percent, it will be like dealing with three Super Bowls in one day.

Will you bring in more poll workers?

There is still a maximum you can have and we’ll have about 3,000, which is 600 more than in the spring election. It’s a very long day that starts around 5 or 5:30 a.m. and runs until 9 or 9:30 p.m. And, they can’t leave the precinct. They bring their own food and some are outstanding chefs. They are paid a minimum of $170 a day and $250 a day for precinct managers. We are the second-highest paying county in the state.

On election day, what’s your day like?

I’ll get to the election center around 5–5:30 a.m. and will generally be there for the day to answer questions and make sure nothing goes wrong. When I first started the job, I thought I’d be able to get out to some of the voting sites and check up on them but the first time I tried I made it two miles before my phone rang and I had to come back. People will still be voting after the polls officially close at 7 p.m., especially in November, and then we have to transmit the results. On a good night I’ll be out around midnight but I have been at the center as late as 2:30 a.m. It’s a full day.

How will you deal with the media election night?

Everyone wants results at 7:01. By 7:15 I can release the absentee and early voting results. I tell the candidates and the media the best gauge is the poll sample. I tell them it will not change much. If there’s a big spread, I tell the candidates to go ahead and celebrate. If the spread is 2-3 points, I tell the candidate, “Stay with me through the night.”

The elections office has had credibility problems for decades to the point where a citizen (attorney Bill Scheu) was put in charge of it in hopes of regaining public confidence. Since your election as Supervisor of Elections, what progress have you made in putting credibility into the office?

When I took over, I met with those who have been critical and I heard the same thing from them: you’ve got to earn our confidence. You have to be open and you have to treat everyone the same. People realize there will be problems — when you have 3,000 workers, there certainly will be incidents of human error. They will understand that if you have an immediate response to the problems and are open with them. In 2006, we ran out of ballots in some precincts but we solved it quickly and didn’t hide the fact that there was a problem.

I’m not sure the public has full confidence but I know the elected officials are behind us. I’m proud that people like Rep. (Corrine) Brown and Sen. (Tony) Hill have promoted our efforts. I’m proud that the Democratic Party chairman here endorsed me for reelection. We’re going in the right direction.

But I will always remember this: you’re only as good as your last election.

How has early voting affected elections in Duval County? Does it encourage more people to vote?

The main purpose obviously was to increase voter turnout. In some way, it’s going toward having election centers, which is where you don’t have an election day, you have an election month and you could vote at as many as 80 centers across the county. Has it increased voters? Somewhat, but not as much as we hoped.

Statistically, about one-sixth of voters vote early, one-sixth vote with an absentee ballot and two-thirds vote on election day. Early voting makes it convenient to vote, but does it get a person off the couch? Some people think what might make it more convenient is to do what they do in Oregon and vote by mail. The Legislature came very close this year to allowing municipal races to vote by mail as an option. Our office is pushing voting by mail with an absentee ballot as an alternative to voters having to stand in long lines in November. I’m not predicting, I’m guaranteeing there will be lines from an hour to two hours in November. Duval County will have the largest turnout in history, probably exceeding 85 percent.

Do voters in Duval County turn out in greater numbers per capita than voters in others areas of the country?

They don’t turn out in greater numbers compared to the national averages and sometimes not as compared to surrounding counties. In low economic areas, you’ll have less people voting than in higher economic areas. We have large low economic areas so typically our turnouts have been lower than surrounding counties.

There have been annual registration drives focused on high school students for the past four years. How that that effort changed the electorate?

We are required by State law to go into the high schools and colleges in the county to register voters. When we started the program, we registered at the schools for one day. Now we’re up to three days to take advantage of positive peer pressure. When students see other students registering and can get their questions answered, they can get the confidence to make the decision to go ahead and register to vote. We get lots of questions from students like, ‘If I register to vote will I be drafted?’

We also made it a competition between the schools. The school with the highest percentage of students registered of the available population. The schools really got pumped for that and the winning school gets to keep the trophy for a year.

How has the program grown?

The year before I took office, 2,100 students were registered. The first year I did it 3,600 were registered in the schools. The following year it was a two-day drive and we registered 5,200 new voters. This year we did it for three days and the total went to 7,500. I think the November election being a Presidential Election also helped us register a large number of students this year.

Do younger voters go to the polls as much as older voters?

In every demographic bracket from 18-25 to 65 and older the voter turnout by percentage goes up. I think as people get older, they see the importance of how their vote really counts. As they get older, they see the importance of voting and how voting can change their life. From local fees and taxes to State laws, voting has an impact on your life. When someone who has been living in an apartment buys a home, they realize the importance of property tax legislation. When they get married and have children, then education issues become important to them.

Can a negative campaign have an effect on voter turnout?

Yes, it can. One, it can build attention and, two, it can turn people away. Look at the election in Sarasota where Katherine Harris was running for U.S. Congress. That got so ugly and so nasty that no one voted in that race. (Harris was the Florida Secretary of State during the controversial 2000 Presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Harris certified the election results in Florida, which led to Bush becoming the 43rd President of the U.S.)

You can get such negativity from campaigns that will keep people from voting. We can measure the people who go to the polls and don’t vote for a particular race, but we can’t measure the people who don’t show up in that situation.

You have mentioned in the past that you believe minority voters will have a large impact on the 85 percent plus turnout you expect in November’s general election. Have you seen the increase yet?

So far I’ve seen about 200–400 voter applications a week, many coming from people recruited by the Obama camp. I think you’ll see many more people registering to vote in the near future. It always tends to happen around crunch time when people say ‘Now we’ve got to make the numbers work.’ So far the quality of the applications have been good but the quality begins to lower when third party organizations such as ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) start arriving. Many third party organizations get paid for each registration, so applications tend to have more errors or are incomplete.

After the final votes are collected on Nov. 4, the results are in and the dust settles, what will you be doing in the short– and long-term?

Well it doesn’t end for us on Nov. 4. A required independent audit on several random precincts will happen to ensure that votes were correctly calculated, one of the measures that should help with voter confidence. After that, though, unless there’s a special election, we don’t have another election until Fall 2010. Since I’ve been here, we haven’t had a gap like that when we weren’t preparing for an election or upgrading equipment. We’ll be going forward with the student registration and voter drives to increase the numbers.

How much harder is your job because Florida will be so crucial in the upcoming presidential election.?

We are definitely a swing state. Florida offers a diverse population with different minority groups. We would have had a better turnout if both primaries had been open. We get groups from all over the world, like Nepal and Chile, that come in to learn about our election process. We are always asked to explain what happened in 2000. That puts a lot of pressure on Florida. The whole stigma of the 2000 election will continue to haunt us for a long time to come.

Any political aspirations after your time as Supervisor of Elections?

(laughing) I guess it’ll all depend on how I handle these upcoming elections. But like any politician, I’ll do whatever the people want me to do.

What has been your favorite political party name?

The Good Food Party

When is you next day off and what will you do?

It’s not this year other than weekends. Next year, my wife and I are going on a cruise.


Workers use secret-ballot to decertify union

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

IBEW takes an unexpected dues hit in labor-state

The customer service and warehouse workers at Comcast Corp.'s Merrillville's office voted Wednesday to decertify from the IBEW union.

"We respect the choice made by these employees and hope the IBEW Local 21 also respects that choice," said Comcast spokesman Rich Ruggiero. "We look forward to our team of employees in Merrillville continuing to provide great service to our customers in Northwest Indiana."

Jerry Rankins, business representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 21, said 24 of the 25 eligible workers voted, with 15 voting to decertify and nine voting to remain with the union.

Rankins said the decertification is the result of disparity of wages that Comcast pays its union and non-union workers. He also said the IBEW may file a challenge to the election with the National Labor Relations Board because of perceived irregularities to the behavior of Comcast in respect to election.

The company pays area non-union workers between $2 and $10 per hour more than those in the union doing the same jobs, Rankins said.

"It's part of Comcast's national strategy to get rid of unions," he said. "They (Comcast workers) hope to get a raise in pay now that they're non-union. With the price of gas, they are all facing economic struggles. They wanted to stay union, but their financial circumstances dictated they had to make a tough decision."

Ruggiero said the company has never said that the employees would get more money if they were non-union.

"These employees made their choice in a free and fair, secret-ballot election," he said.

Four of eight workers laid off from the Merrillville location in October also voted Wednesday. Their votes were challenged and not counted. Many of them had worked for Comcast and its predecessors for more than 20 years, Rankins said.

The layoffs prompted the union to file a grievance against the company that is scheduled for arbitration in November.


IAM strikers fail to enforce picket line

IAM strike v. Hawker Beechcraft, day 9

As a strike by hourly workers at Hawker Beechcraft enters its ninth day, there's still no word on when the company and the Machinists union will return to the bargaining table. "We haven't heard from them," said Machinists union spokesman Bob Wood. "The ball's in their court."

Hawker Beechcraft spokesman Andrew Broom said he did not know when talks would resume. "We still stand by this contract," Broom said of the offer the company gave the union. "It's the best offer in 20 years.... It's a good contract."

On Aug. 2, 90 percent of Machinists union members voted to reject the company's proposal of a three-year contract; 89 percent voted to strike.

Health insurance coverage and costs, irregular workweeks, wage cuts on two job codes, reduction of earned time off for new hires, cost-of-living increases, pensions and outsourcing are some of the key issues.

The Machinists represent about 4,700 hourly workers at Hawker Beechcraft in Wichita and another 500 in Salina.

Company officials say more than 1,000 hourly workers have crossed the picket line and are working on the production lines.

"The numbers are growing every day," a company update to employees said.

The union disagrees.

"That's absolutely false," Wood said. "It's just a bunch of mind games (the company is playing).... They're trying to scare more people to cross the line."

No more than 300 hourly workers have crossed the lines since the strike began Aug. 4, Wood said.

"This is absolutely why we're on strike," Wood said in a statement. "Company negotiators, led by lead company negotiator Dan Dymarkowski, lied repeatedly to union negotiators at the table, and they are now lying to the public."

About 150 to 200 names or photos of people whom strikers have recognized crossing the picket line are on a list called a "Wall of Shame," said Kurt Holtz, a union steward and strike coordinator. The list is posted at strike headquarters on Greenwich Road.

The picket line remains strong, Wood said.

"What we're doing is showing (the company) that they're not going to make airplanes," he said.

Employees inside the plant call the union on a daily basis and report that "nothing's happening," Wood said.

Several hundred salaried employees have been reassigned to help with manufacturing, the company said.

In the past week, the company performed 33 production test flights, moved three planes from the production line in Plant IV to production flight test, and flew one aircraft to its Little Rock facilities for completions, it said.

It also delivered two aircraft to customers in the past week.

That's down from an average of 10 deliveries a week it made during the second quarter of this year.


ACORN: New whistleblower affidavits

More ACORN stories: here

Mixing government grants and politics

The Consumers Rights League continues to expose the shady dealings of Barack Obama’s old friends at ACORN. And we’ll continue to keep the spotlight on them. As I continue to remind you: It’s your money!

Details from CRL:
The Consumers Rights League has published a collection of whistleblower documents that suggest “consumer advocacy” group ACORN has reaped substantial financial gains by misusing taxpayer dollars for political ends. These internal emails and policies suggest that ACORN has failed to maintain a proper distinction between its tax-exempt housing work and its aggressive political activities.

Now, The Consumers Rights League (CRL) has released newly obtained affidavits from former ACORN and Acorn Housing Corporation (AHC) employees that attest to ACORN and AHC’s illegal practices of using taxpayer dollars to fund political activity. The evidence continues to mount and now with these whistleblowers’ offer to help, Congress must act.
The new affidavits are here and here from former ACORN employees who detail the shared funding between ACORN and AHC.


Meanwhile, ACORN’s busy bullying mortgage firms in Arizona.

Just a reminder: You can thank President Bush for putting more public tax dollars in ACORN’s coffers. As I reported before, there’s $230 million in “mortgage counseling” money in the housing bill Bush signed this week that will go to ACORN and other left-wing groups.

Thanks for nothing, President Bush.


AFSCME to take dues hit in Duluth

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Jumbo labor-state union stunned

Rumors have been swirling for the past few weeks that the city of Duluth’s budget problems were worse than feared. Mayor Don Ness confirmed those rumors Monday night, dropping a bombshell: The city’s budget deficit has swelled from $4.4 million to $6.5 million.

As part of a strategy to balance that budget by the end of the year, he also announced plans to lay off up to 217 employees by Sept. 1. “There is simply no way that we can balance the budget … before the end of the year without laying off city employees,” Ness said.

The majority of those who will be cut are in positions whose time with the city was ending soon. Up to 12 seasonal employees will be laid off by Sept. 1, while up to 158 temporary employees will be terminated by Aug. 15. Those employees worked 100 days or fewer in positions that would have ended about Sept. 1. Ness said he did not know if those positions will be brought back next year.

Under contract rules, temporary employees must be cut before the city can let go full-time, permanent employees.

As for the full-time employees, Deb Strohm, an employment councilor with the city and representative of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said she was told Monday morning that 44 layoffs will come from her unit, while three will come from the supervisors’ union. Strohm estimated that there are about 450 AFSCME members who are part of the city’s basic unit.

She said Monday was the first she had heard of layoffs from the mayor.

The layoffs will come out of “services to our community and those that need it most,” she said. “They have to balance their budgets and they’re doing it on the backs of the citizens.”

Duluth Chief Administrative Officer Lisa Potswald said staff targeted for layoffs will be identified by the end of the week. The city employs 808 full-time workers, not including the seasonal and temporary employees.

Layoffs would save $828,000. Other steps must save millions more.

“It is a very sad day in the city of Duluth,” Ness said. “City employees are the lifeblood of our organization, and this action will be a terrible blow to the organization.”

Ness said his administration already has saved about $2.3 million from what he called “initial strategies” implemented by the administration, such as eliminating vacant positions, increased parking fees and closing down services like the Washington Pool and adult leagues.

But more must be saved or cut in the city. Another$1.8 million will come from new strategies, including better energy management, lower fuel consumption and reductions in maintenance operations, Ness said.

The city council also will be presented with about $1.2 million in budget strategies, including another proposal to shut down a downtown fire rig, transferring $100,000 from the tourism fund to the city’s general fund, selling Park Point land and historic Depot windows, and charging an assessment for street lighting.

Under the street lighting charge proposal, Ness said residents will be charged $2 per month and businesses will be charged $5 per month for the cost of lighting city streets. If passed, the measure would bring in $276,000 per year.

Ness essentially told the council that if those strategies aren’t passed, it likely would mean more layoffs.

“Every $100,000 of failed strategies requires laying off an additional seven employees by September 1,” he said.

While the budget deficit number given to the public had been $4.4 million, Ness told the council that several factors caused it to increase. Among those factors were a $1.2 million increase for equipment repair, supplies, and increased gas and electric use.

The economy also seems to have hurt the city in other ways. Ness said the city is projecting nearly $700,000 in sales tax and building permit shortfalls.

Ness said most of his proposed savings come in cuts or other efficiencies. Only $430,000, or 4.5 percent, comes in the form of new fees or taxes, he said.

Ness said the city also needs to find another $3 million to achieve the city’s goal of having a minimum of 5 percent in its reserve fund balance. In all, the city hopes to recover $9.5 million for 2008.

More cuts could be coming, as there apparently will be no reprieve in 2009. Ness told the council that the budget deficit for next year is currently projected at $8.5 million. He said a balanced 2009 budget will be presented to the city council by early September.

But given the cuts necessary, Ness said there will be no rejoicing in city hall when the budget is balanced.

“We have been working almost nonstop for seven months trying to find a way to avoid this very situation,” Ness said. “All of the controversial proposals that we have brought forward were our attempt to do everything we could to limit the number of employees that would lose their job. Unfortunately, the vast majority of city costs are personnel costs and it is apparent that we can not balance the budget without layoffs. That’s a reality that breaks my heart.”


Respected Democrat rips EFCA

More EFCA stories: here

George McGovern issues a warning to voters

As a congressman, senator and one-time Democratic nominee for the presidency, I've participated in my share of vigorous public debates over issues of great consequence. And the public has been free to accept or reject the decisions I made when they walked into a ballot booth, drew the curtain and cast their vote. I didn't always win, but I always respected the process. Voting is an immense privilege.

That is why I am concerned about a new development that could deny this freedom to many Americans. As a longtime friend of labor unions, I must raise my voice against pending legislation I see as a disturbing and undemocratic overreach not in the interest of either management or labor.

The legislation is called the Employee Free Choice Act, and I am sad to say it runs counter to ideals that were once at the core of the labor movement. Instead of providing a voice for the unheard, EFCA risks silencing those who would speak.

The key provision of EFCA is a change in the mechanism by which unions are formed and recognized. Instead of a private election with a secret ballot overseen by an impartial federal board, union organizers would simply need to gather signatures from more than 50% of the employees in a workplace or bargaining unit, a system known as "card-check." There are many documented cases where workers have been pressured, harassed, tricked and intimidated into signing cards that have led to mandatory payment of dues.

Under EFCA, workers could lose the freedom to express their will in private, the right to make a decision without anyone peering over their shoulder, free from fear of reprisal.

There's no question that unions have done much good for this country. Their tenacious efforts have benefited millions of workers and helped build a strong middle class. They gave workers a new voice and pushed for laws that protect individuals from unfair treatment. They have been a friend to the Democratic Party, and so I oppose this legislation respectfully and with care.

To my friends supporting EFCA I say this: We cannot be a party that strips working Americans of the right to a secret-ballot election. We are the party that has always defended the rights of the working class. To fail to ensure the right to vote free of intimidation and coercion from all sides would be a betrayal of what we have always championed.

Some of the most respected Democratic members of Congress -- including Reps. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, George Miller and Pete Stark of California, and Barney Frank of Massachusetts -- have advised that workers in developing countries such as Mexico insist on the secret ballot when voting as to whether or not their workplaces should have a union. We should have no less for employees in our country.

I worry that there has been too little discussion about EFCA's true ramifications, and I think much of the congressional support is based on a desire to give our friends among union leaders what they want. But part of being a good steward of democracy means telling our friends "no" when they press for a course that in the long run may weaken labor and disrupt a tried and trusted method for conducting honest elections.

While it is never pleasant to stand against one's party or one's friends, there are times when such actions are necessary -- as with my early and lonely opposition to the Vietnam War. I hope some of my friends in Congress will re-evaluate their support for this legislation. Because as Americans, we should strive to ensure that all of us enjoy the freedom of expression and freedom from fear that is our ideal and our right.

- George McGovern is a former senator from South Dakota and the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate.


EFCA claims a victim

More EFCA stories: here

Pro-EFCA spokesperson angered by union

It was a long fall from the fine dinner and shots of Belvedere vodka at one of Washington’s premier steakhouses to the Motel 6 on Fremont Street. Anishya Sanders is still brushing herself off, and wondering what’s next.

The 35-year-old single mom is unemployed and homeless, selling food stamps for cash. Her children live hundreds of miles away. This isn’t the outcome she expected when she agreed to be a union’s mouthpiece in a high-profile campaign to reform labor law. Her union, she said, had promised her protection, a job, a better life.

She’s still waiting.

Make no mistake: the Laborers’ International Union of America is still singing her praises for helping its cause. But as for the reward of a better job for her efforts? Well, the economy isn’t cooperating.

Sitting on the worn-out couch of a friend’s apartment in a rough patch of North Las Vegas, Sanders holds back tears and buries her head in her hands, searching for ways to explain — to friends, to family, but most of all to her five children — how her life has boomeranged.


Sanders moved to Las Vegas in October 2003 from Pasadena, Calif., to be close to the grandparents who had helped raise her between stints in foster homes. Sanders’ mother was a drug-addicted prostitute, she said.

Crime had become a way of life for Sanders as well. By her 30th birthday, she was a five-time felon, mostly because of counterfeiting and forgery scams. But when her fifth child was born in the infirmary of Valley State Prison in California, Sanders “woke up,” she said.

In Las Vegas, five children in tow, Sanders sought to begin anew. “I didn’t want to be a statistic,” she said. She held various part-time jobs before contacting the Urban Chamber of Commerce for direction. She enrolled in a two-month training course for highway workers offered by the Nevada Transportation Department. Her children became latchkey kids.

In August 2004, she landed a job as a traffic flagger with All Pro Traffic Control, making $11 an hour. The pay wasn’t much, but with some creative financing it was enough to rent a modest town house. Work went well and Sanders said she quickly became a favorite in the workplace. Some contractors, she said, requested her by name.

Still, with five children to feed, the money wasn’t enough and in 2006 Sanders couldn’t make rent. She sent her four young sons to relatives in California while she and her daughter moved into a small one-bedroom apartment in a gritty downtown neighborhood.

It was about then that the Laborers’ International Union of America entered her life. Union organizers told Sanders the laborers could deliver better wages — $18 an hour — and health care benefits. “They promised me in an aggressive fashion that I would be OK,” Sanders said. “I soaked up everything like a sponge.”

Organizers, she said, started using her name in conversations with other All Pro workers. Soon the union had authorization cards from 17 of 23 employees and filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board. But All Pro refused to recognize the union and fired two workers. Management, Sanders said, awarded raises to some employees and intimidated others. Workers filed unfair labor practice charges against All Pro with the federal labor board.

Enter the Change to Win labor federation. The All Pro organizing effort dovetailed with the federation’s national campaign for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to organize and stiffen penalties for employers who retaliate during unionization drives.

On its Web site, Change to Win featured Sanders as one of several “working men and women who have courageously stood up for the American dream.” Sanders spoke out against the company. “We work hard for All Pro and we want the company to succeed,” she said, according to the federation’s Web site. “But this should be our choice. We are not being recognized and we are being disrespected by not getting any benefits, including something as simple as bathroom breaks and lunch breaks.”

The response within the labor movement was tremendous, Sanders said. Within All Pro, however, management wasn’t so enthusiastic. Sanders said her supervisor told her — off the clock and over drinks — how disappointed she was and that further involvement with the union would likely mean termination.

Change to Win had bigger plans though. In February 2007, it flew Sanders to Washington for a week. On the schedule: attending a news conference with congressional Democrats to support the new union legislation, which was set for a vote in the House. The federation gave Sanders $300 for new clothes and another $300 to compensate for lost wages.

The federation put her up in The Madison, a swanky, four-star hotel a few blocks from the White House. “It was beautiful. I didn’t touch a door the entire time,” Sanders said. “I was Ms. Sanders. I thought, ‘Do they really know where I come from?’ ”

She and others told their stories at a news conference that included Rep. George Miller, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. Sanders then lunched with leaders from the international Laborers union at the National Democratic Club.

Afterward, she returned to the Capitol building where she met with Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley. The two spoke in the congresswoman’s office for 20 minutes before Berkley left for the House floor to vote on the bill. She used her time there to tell Sanders’ story.

The bill passed the House overwhelmingly (it later died in the Senate) and union officials took Sanders to Bobby Van’s Steakhouse to celebrate. Sanders had never tasted anything like it: surf-and-turf, glasses of merlot. And then there was the union, with news of another job, a union job paying $18 an hour and offering health care benefits.

“It was like a storybook,” Sanders said. And a far cry from the foster homes, ghettos and prisons that had come to define her 34 years. After three years and a number of false starts, Sanders’ life finally seemed on track. The table toasted with shots of Belvedere.

When she returned to Las Vegas, she said, the union put her through steward training in anticipation of the promised new job.

In the meantime, she continued working at All Pro, where the organizing campaign had all but flamed out and her hours were reduced. Co-workers were told not to talk to her, she said. “My name was a cuss word there.”

Two months later, Sanders said, she was assigned to a road job in a remote part of the valley. She said she turned it down because she had no way of getting there — and the company fired her for “no show, no call.” According to Sanders, George Vaughn, the head of Laborers Local 702, told her to file charges with the federal labor board, seek unemployment and, failing that, welfare.

Sanders said she was frustrated she still didn’t have the promised new job and called the international officials she had met on her Washington trip. Those officials, including the Laborers international president, contacted Vaughn, who soon had $800 in member donations for Sanders, she said.

By now the National Labor Relations Board was responding to All Pro workers’ earlier charges. It found All Pro officials had threatened, intimidated, interrogated and ultimately fired workers who supported the union. About two weeks later, All Pro signed a settlement agreement with the labor board, pledging to honor federal labor law in the workplace.

The local found a job for Sanders, at a demolition company.

But the work, which paid $16 an hour, lasted only a month. When the job was complete the workers were laid off.

The local told Sanders there were few jobs to be had, and those that existed required “muscle.” She called Washington, and again Vaughn provided money — $400, which came from his own pocket.

But Sanders said what she really wanted was a job, any job.

Weeks of no work turned to months, and Sanders said she called Vaughn again. After she vented for a few minutes, Sanders said Vaughn told her, “Your 15 minutes are over,” and hung up. When Sanders called back, she said, a receptionist told her there was no work — and even if there were, she owed dues money.

The local to which Sanders belonged has since been absorbed into a larger Las Vegas affiliate.

“She did want a permanent job in the construction industry. I’m sure that is something a lot of people would want,” said Jacob Hay, spokesman for the international Laborers union. “But the nature of the construction industry means jobs come and go ... (Local leaders) helped her out to the extent that they could, but when it came down to it there weren’t any jobs available that matched her set of skills.”

Sanders has been unemployed since June 2007. “I’ve been everywhere,” she said. “You practically have to give a DNA test to get hired at KFC.”

Sanders said her criminal background has made her a pariah and “as an employer, I would think the same thing.”

After being evicted from her second apartment last year, she moved into a friend’s house that had gone into foreclosure. When the constables arrived to evict them, Sanders sent her 15-year-old daughter to live with her grandparents and rented a room for herself at Motel 6 on Fremont Street.

She ran out of money and now she and her daughter share the spare bedroom of a friend’s North Las Vegas apartment. The other children remain in California.

Sanders is angry at the union for breaking what she saw as its promises after she put her job on the line for its sake.

“I allowed the union to dictate every move. I made a change to win and I lost,” Sanders said. “I was a celebrity. They made me believe I was in it for the long haul. It was too good to be true.”

Hay, the union spokesman, said: “Everyone really appreciated her help at the committee hearing. She was the star of the show. There just weren’t jobs at the time that matched her skill set.”

More than a year after Washington, Sanders has little more to show for the experience than souvenir photographs. There’s one with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, signed, “With My Best Wishes.” There’s another with Nevada’s House delegation, including Reps. Dean Heller and Jon Porter, both of whom opposed the union legislation. And there’s one with Terence O’Sullivan, international president of the Laborers union.

“We look so happy,” Sanders said, flipping through the photos. “I call it the 15 minutes of fame. Now I don’t have an explanation for friends and family.”

By telling her story, she said, she hopes “to open up some ears. I just want to work.”

“If my daughter looks at me like I looked at my mother,” she said, leaving the thought incomplete. “I just want better for my children.”

And then: “They should have just left me alone. I would still be working at All Pro.”


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