Community-based voter fraud

Related story: "Criminal probe launched v. ACORN in Wisconsin"
More ACORN stories: here

ACORN's success spawns left-wing imitators

Workers from a second activist organization have been implicated in falsifying Milwaukee voter registration forms, bringing to 15 the number of voter registration workers who could face scrutiny for trying to sign up dead, imprisoned or fictitious voters, according to the Milwaukee Election Commission and the organizations that paid the workers.

For two of the workers, managers at the Community Voters Project caught much of the fraud, fired the workers and reported the problems before the registration cards were turned in, said Sue Edman, the election commission’s executive director, and Ayodele Carroo, the organization’s national director. That involved 15 or 16 cards, Carroo said.

In a third case, the Election Commission staff found problems with cards turned in by a Community Voters Project worker who already had been fired for unrelated reasons, Edman and Carroo said.

Last week, Edman and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now said ACORN had found potential fraud in 200 to 300 cards turned in by ACORN workers. ACORN caught the problems and fired 12 workers before handing the cards over to the commission, ACORN state political director Carolyn Castore said.

Carroo and Castore said the problems involve a tiny fraction of the hundreds of workers who have signed up tens of thousands of new voters in Milwaukee. ACORN and the Community Voters Project are among five activist groups, all from the liberal side of the political spectrum, that have launched massive voter registration drives in advance of the Nov. 4 presidential election.

Those developments have revived partisan debate over whether Wisconsin should require voters to show photo identification to prevent fraud or whether such measures would dampen turnout among poor and minority voters. During the 2004 election, problems arose with voters using invalid addresses and felons voting illegally, but an investigation by U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic found no evidence of widespread fraud.

In the current case, the Election Commission referred four workers — at least two from ACORN and at least one from the Community Voters Project — to the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office for possible criminal prosecution, Edman said. She was not sure which group employed the fourth individual.

Commission staffers plan to refer two other Community Voters Project workers for prosecution, Edman said. The staff is still reviewing cards submitted by ACORN to determine whether others also should be considered for prosecution, she said.

Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf confirmed he is working with Milwaukee police to decide whether criminal charges are warranted, but he declined to say how many individuals are under investigation. Castore said investigators contacted her about one former ACORN worker, and Carroo said investigators contacted her Milwaukee staff about two of their former workers.

It was a Community Voters Project worker who turned in a card for a voter who had been dead for 10 years, Edman said.

Carroo said one worker was fired for turning in cards with driver’s license numbers that did not match the voters’ birthdates, and another was fired for turning in cards that were all in the same handwriting. The third worker was fired for bringing in too few cards, she said.

By contrast, the most common problem with the ACORN cards was that workers were turning in cards for voters who were already registered, Edman and Castore said. In some of those cases, the workers falsely told voters they had to re-register every year, Castore said.

Overall, the Community Voters Project employed about 350 paid workers who have brought in 21,000 Milwaukee voter registration cards since May, Carroo said. ACORN employed more than 220 paid workers who have turned in 35,000 cards since December, Castore said.

Quality control

Both organizations say they have extensive quality-control procedures to check whether the voter forms are complete and accurate.

“We’re about bringing new voters into the political process, and it’s in our interest to run the tightest program we can,” Carroo said.

The Community Voters Project is a joint program of two national organizations, the Progressive Future Education Fund and the Fund for the Public Interest. Carroo said it has registered more than 100,000 new minority voters nationwide this year, topping its 2004 total of 93,000.


SEIU pays rent at L.A. City Hall

Union bigs expect a return on investment and get it

Last month, a Superior Court judge ruled that the city of Los Angeles violated its own competitive-bidding rules. As a result, a security contractor was denied a bid it might have rightfully earned. What's more, that contractor just so happens to be doing battle with a powerful public-employee union connected to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. All of which, to hear the Mayor's Office tell it, is nothing more than a grand coincidence.

We suppose that's theoretically possible. But the evidence suggests otherwise. Indeed, the evidence points to yet another example of "pay-to-play" politics in Los Angeles City Hall.

The firm, Wackenhut Corp., had applied to provide security guards for Griffith Park Observatory, police dispatch and various city buildings. And it probably would have gotten the deal, except for a series of supposedly unrelated events:

-- The Service Employees International Union gave $250,000 to Villaraigosa's campaign for Measure S - February's fraudulent (and successful) effort to pass a new, far-reaching communications tax as a "tax cut."

-- Last year, a coalition organized by the SEIU sent Villaraigosa and former General Services Manager Alvin Blain a list of complaints about Wackenhut's purportedly lax security, discrimination and overbilling. (The city's Department of Water and Power, also a Wackenhut client, has investigated similar union complaints, and rejected them.)

-- A week later, the city subtracted points from the grade it had assigned to Wackenhut's bid, making the company less competitive. But city officials deny that the union's complaints - or connections - had anything to do with the lowered grade.

Well, coincidence or not, the reduced score had just the effect the SEIU wanted. Wackenhut didn't get the contract.

The union, which is trying to organize Wackenhut security guards in L.A. and elsewhere, has been trying to undermine the company's business. And it has long ties to various L.A. city leaders, including Villaraigosa, who once worked for it.

Unfortunately, from the standpoint of the public's right to know, the judge's ruling didn't address Wackenhut's allegations of discrimination or bias against the city. It was sufficient, in the judge's opinion, that the city had violated its own contracting policies by launching a competitive-bidding process, and then changing the rules midgame.

And for that violation, the city has been ordered to open up the bidding process again - at an undetermined price that will, as usual, be borne by L.A.'s taxpayers. But it doesn't take a judge's ruling to reinforce the widespread and well-founded belief that money buys access in City Hall.

Not in the wake of the recent conviction of former Commissioner Leland Wong.

Not so soon after the revelations stemming from P.R. giant Fleishman-Hillard's unseemly relationship with the Hahn administration.

And not in a city where the mayor hikes trash fees while promising to use the money only to hire more cops - then gives most of that money away in the form of pay raises to unionized personnel.

City Hall has long since squandered its right to the benefit of the doubt. When it violates its own rules - rules designed to prevent pay-to-play corruption - and one of the mayor's closest political allies is the beneficiary, the public has every reason to be suspicious.

So should the district attorney.


AFL-CIO shock troops register dead voters again

More ACORN stories: here

Union-backed voter-fraud groups amp up

Many might remember the criminal cases against certain ACORN members that were committing voter fraud by trying to add dead, imprisoned or imaginary people to the voter rolls in previous election years. ACORN is in the news against for the same thing.

Milwaukee Election Commission says that criminal investigations could be initiated against individuals who belong to a group called Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now aka ACORN, for trying to add dead, imprisoned or imaginary people to the voter rolls.

According to Sue Edman, the commission’s executive director, investigators are investigating 200-300 fraudulent voter registration cards that were supplied by members of ACORN.

In this case it was ACORN themselves that brought the problem to the attention of the commission. Even so, it is sparking up the debate about requiring photo ID at the voter booths for upcoming elections.
The ACORN effort is part of a massive voter registration drive aimed at the fall presidential election, which is expected to pit Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois against Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

ACORN is one of five groups, all from the liberal side of the political spectrum, that sent either paid workers or volunteers to be trained as deputy voter registrars to sign up Milwaukee voters for the fall elections. Although exact figures are not available, Edman said the ACORN workers outnumbered those from Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Obama’s campaign, the Service Employees International Union and the Community Voters Project of the Fund for the Public Interest.
Edman says in one case, "One woman called us to complain because her husband has been dead for 10 years and a voter registration was submitted."

ACORN states:
In about 12 cases, deputy registrars paid by ACORN were “making people up or registering people that were still in prison,” said Carolyn Castore, ACORN’s state political director.

And in other cases, workers used the same address for numerous voters or used driver’s license numbers that did not fit the voters’ birth dates, Edman said. But most of the fraud involved submitting duplicate cards for voters who were already registered, and forging the voters’ signatures, Castore said.
After the trouble in 2004, certain state and federal reforms were enacted but not all have been implemented and in the 2004 presidential election Republicans expressed concern about "voters registered from non-existent Milwaukee addresses, and a Journal Sentinel review found about 1,200 votes were cast from invalid addresses."

Investigations were started and they spurned charges against people, some of which were felons that voted illegally.

2004 was not the only election which ACORN related voter fraud was investigated because in 2006 four members were indicted by a federal grand jury for submitting false voter registration forms to the Kansas City, Missouri, election board.

ACORN works in at least 38 states and Canada and Mexico and are referred to as "shock troops for the AFL-CIO and even the Democratic Party".

One the most egregious examples show that in 2006, when the federal probe started, seven different voter applications from the same person dated between Aug. 29 and Aug. 31 were found.

In that case an ACORN member, Todd Elkins, said the applicant might have just been "overly friendly" and signed up seven times.

Another example was found when a 19-year-old woman had filed 11 applications to vote.

At that time, similar allegations were made in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Denver.

There has been litigation arguing the need for Photo ID in elections in the states of Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio.

States That Request Photo ID are Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan and South Dakota.

The most recent case was the Supreme Court decision in April of 2008, upholding Indiana's voter ID laws.


Nurses blast CNA and Tenet over collusion

More Tenet Healthcare stories: here

Sweetheart deals silence workers

Two registered nurses in Houston allege a neutrality agreement dictating the terms of union organizing at two local hospitals violates federal rules prohibiting company-picked unions and improperly restricts nurses from speaking out against the union.

On Tuesday, the nurses who work for two Tenet Healthcare hospitals in Houston filed unfair labor practice charges against the California Nurses Association and Tenet with the National Labor Relations Board.

They say the agreement negotiated between the union and Tenet — which gave the union names and addresses of the nurses along with meeting space — discriminated against nurses who opposed the union by not giving them equal meeting room space.

The agreement also subverts the board's role by stipulating that an arbitrator will resolve conflicts rather than federal board representatives, according to the charges that were prepared with the help of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

The dispute revolves around union activities at Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center and Park Plaza Hospital.

The California Nurses Association won an election in March when the nurses at Cy Fair voted to join the union.

"The nurses wanted substantive pay raises, retiree health benefits, nurse-to-patient staffing based on acuity and other benefits guaranteed in a contract," according to David Monkawa, regional organizing director of the California Nurses Association's National Nurses Organizing Committee Texas.

Monkawa referred the charges as a "publicity stunt."

Employees are entitled to a fair procedure, including determinations by the board who is entitled to vote and who is a supervisor, said Patrick Semmens, legal information director for Virginia-based National Right to Work.

"There was a counting of ballots, but it's not clear there was a fair election process," he said.

Tenet declined to comment.

Currently, the California Nurses Association is trying to organize the 260 nurses at Park Plaza. Union officials have until the end of August to decide whether they have enough support to schedule a secret ballot election, Monkawa said.

Richard Hurd, a labor studies professor at Cornell University, doesn't see the charges sticking because from what he knows about the situation, nothing violates federal labor law.

"In my view, it's pure annoyance," Hurd said.

However, Michael Muskat, an employment lawyer in Houston who represents management, sees the charges as an attack on neutrality agreements.

The law on neutrality agreements is still developing, and right-to-work and some employer groups would like to see regulators clamp down on them, according to Muskat, who is not involved in this case.

The nurses involved are Esther Marissa Cuellar, a Cy Fair nurse, and Park Plaza nurse Linda Bertrand.


Right To Work law would boost Centennial State

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

But Denver Post anchors campaign to defend forced-labor unionism

The construction industry plays an integral role in the development of Colorado and has laid a strong foundation for our state's economy. As a major component of Colorado's economy, our members take that responsibility seriously. It's with the intention of keeping our economy prosperous that we support Amendment 47- the Right to Work Amendment.

Anyone who is concerned for the economic well-being of Colorado should vote YES on Amendment 47, a vote that will help the future of Colorado and protect the rights of workers.

Independent Colorado contractors support Amendment 47 for many different reasons. When I spoke with our member companies and their employees, who number in the thousands, here's a sampling of what I heard:

We take good care of our employees, and they're very happy working here. We need to protect our workers from big labor relentlessly coming after them with paid union organizers from outside our ranks.

It's crucial in these tough economic times that workers are protected from being forced to pay union dues through compulsory union membership.

Why would anybody oppose protecting workers" rights? It is imperative that workers" rights are protected by a constitutional amendment given the politically fueled favoritism towards unions currently being exhibited.

The highlights of Amendment 47 are simple, yet vastly important to the future of our state and its continued economic growth.

Amendment 47 will give every worker in Colorado the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment.

It will constitutionally guarantee this fundamental freedom while preserving a worker's right to join a union, strike and engage in collective bargaining.

Right to work is not anti-union. It's anti-forced union.

Colorado is nearly surrounded by right-to-work states. Passage of Amendment 47 will help to make this state more economically competitive at a time when more jobs and better economic health are in high demand.

Right-to-work states enjoy better job growth and an increase in economic development.

A recent memo written by the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, originally obtained by The Denver Post, gives a clear reason why Colorado needs Amendment 47. By the union's own admission, more than half of its members would leave the union if given the freedom to do so.

Currently, thousands of Colorado workers unwillingly give up part of their paychecks just so they can keep their job - a fact that comes from the UFCW president personally.

That money goes into a pool of millions of dollars that is used for purposes not related to helping their employees, such as political donations to candidates and causes that an employee may or may not support. This is fundamentally unfair.

The Associated Builders and Contractors, along with the statewide chamber of commerce and many other groups and thousands of individuals, supports Amendment 47 for all the reasons stated above. But we do have a fight ahead.

Naturally, as they've already admitted, the unions fear losing the power to force workers to pay dues. Instead, the unions will have to improve their services in order to earn their membership, and they don't want that.

Powerful out-of-state union interests will spend millions of dollars to try and mislead voters on Amendment 47. I am confident, however, that voters will see through this. If you research the language of the amendment and what it will actually do, you will find that Amendment 47 is worthy of support - no spin necessary.

We are fighting for a right that all Colorado workers deserve. And Colorado's economy and workforce will benefit from its passage.

Please join us and thousands of other Coloradans who have already committed to supporting and passing this important measure. Together, we can move Colorado forward by passing Amendment 47 in November.

- Mark Latimer is president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors Rocky Mountain Chapter.


Lawyers union big busted for embezzlement

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Union crime epidemic shames Nutmeg State

L. Mark Hurley, a Connecticut state prosecutor for more than 20 years, was convicted today of stealing more than $50,000 intended for crime victims and charity and another $28,900 from the state prosecutors' union. He faces up to three years in prison when he is sentenced Sept. 17, although his attorney will have the right to argue for a lesser sentence.

Hurley, 48, who worked in the Milford courthouse and was treasurer of the prosecutors' union, pleaded no contest to second-degree forgery and two counts of first-degree larceny today before Judge Patrick J. Clifford in Superior Court in Middletown.

His defense attorney, Edward Gavin, said Hurley has repaid the union and he showed Clifford money orders he said he intends to send to four victims who never received restitution payments to them made by criminal defendants. Hurley had cashed the four money orders intended for those victims, the state charged.

Gavin also said Hurley, of Trumbull, intends to pay $55,367 to the state crime victim compensation fund to compensate it for charitable contributions he was accused of stealing.

The prosecutors' union asked for an additional $5,000 to cover the cost of an audit it had performed after learning of Hurley's thefts. Hurley agreed to reimburse the union for that cost as well, Gavin said.

Tolland State's Attorney Matthew C. Gedansky, who prosecuted Hurley, said Hurley stole that much in contributions made by defendants to settle motor vehicle and other minor infractions. People who receive traffic tickets are often given the opportunity to make a charitable contribution to settle the case against them.

In Hurley's case, Gedansky told the judge, Hurley would frequently volunteer to work on days when motor vehicle cases were heard. He'd also work through his lunch hour dealing with defendants and their cases, investigators found.

Hurley would then direct defendants to obtain a postal money order at a post office next door to the courthouse and direct them to leave it blank.

After obtaining Hurley's bank records with a search warrant, state police investigators were able to determine Hurley frequently made multiple payments on the same day to a credit card account with those money orders. Those payments corresponded to days Hurley received blank money orders from people who settled their cases thinking they were making charitable contributions.

Hurley said little during the brief hearing and declined to comment after court. Gavin declined to comment as well.

Hurley, a prosecutor since 1986, was suspended shortly after the investigation began in February 2007, and he resigned a short time later. His salary was $112,452 a year.

The investigation began a few months after Milford State's Attorney Kevin Lawlor stopped to speak with Hurley and noticed that Hurley was holding an envelope with postal money orders sticking out of it. "Mr. Hurley was extremely startled as I spoke; he had not seen me standing there," Lawlor said in a sworn statement. "He jumped and immediately put the money orders fully in the envelope and placed it in his upper desk drawer and shut the drawer. I did not ask him about the money orders, but found his actions strange."

The next day, Lawlor said, he looked into Hurley's desk for the envelope and found that it contained four money orders that had not been cashed. He made copies of the money orders and asked an inspector to investigate. Hurley subsequently deposited the money orders into his bank account, officials said.

Hurley admitted to a detective that he forged his name on two of the money orders and deposited them into his account. Hurley told police that he had used poor judgment and that those two money orders were the only ones he deposited into his bank account. When detectives found that the other two money orders had been deposited into Hurley's account, Hurley's lawyer said Hurley had nothing to say.


Union members taken for expensive ride

Labor bigs gave huge dues donations to disgraced class warrior

John Edwards lost a prime-time speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention. He likely blew a chance at a possible Cabinet post in a Barack Obama administration. And he may very well have lost any hope of being the voice for America's poor and forgotten.

Edwards' infidelity to his cancer-stricken wife and the lies leading up to his confession have sent him into the political wilderness, delaying, if not destroying, any chance of regaining a place on the political stage.

"No one in the Democratic Party would want to be publicly associated with him," said Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta. "Edwards is really damaged goods at this point."

How long he will stay in political exile is anyone's guess. Other politicians have rehabilitated themselves, but the way the story broke and continuing questions about whether he's told the complete truth could drag the scandal out.

It already appears to be silencing his own voice in the Democratic Party and has drained good will and trust among some activists, many of whom gave their heart and soul to him and his cause.

Edwards soared on to the national stage within two years of getting elected to the Senate in 1998, and seemed to have everything in place to remain a major player on the U.S. political and economic stage, win or lose the White House.

First, he was on Al Gore's short list as a running mate in 2000. His presidential campaign in 2004, which led to his vice presidential nomination on the ticket with John Kerry, focused on "Two Americas," a reflection, he said, of the growing divide between rich and poor. Poised for a second presidential bid, Edwards' message became even more populist heading toward 2008.

He won acclaim from union leaders and social justice advocates who worked with him on picket lines, the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans and Appalachia — and who hoped his good work for the cause would open doors to future runs for office.

Edwards has always had a compelling personal story: growing up in a middle-class textile family in rural South Carolina before becoming a successful trial lawyer and millionaire. But he was hardly a traditional populist, bedeviled during his latest campaign by tales of $400 haircuts and reminders of his 102-acre estate — complete with basketball gym and 28,000-square-foot mansion — outside of Chapel Hill.

"He was raised as one of us — the son of a mill worker, he always said," remembered Ken Roos of the Service Employees International Union in New Hampshire, which endorsed Edwards for president. "Fighting poverty and providing health care for everybody ... I hope those are still always his beliefs."

His work didn't pay off with the Democratic nomination, but he exited the race with a promise that the party's eventual nominee would carry on his fight.

Edwards said last week when he acknowledged the affair that he still wanted to continue a life of service for those whose "voices never get heard."

"This is the cause of my life," Edwards said Jan. 30 as he suspended his campaign in New Orleans, among homes being rebuilt in the hurricane-ravaged city.

Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, promised Edwards a prime-time speaking role at the Democratic National Convention later this month when Edwards endorsed him to talk about economics and poverty, a Democratic official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, told The Associated Press.

But it became clear to Edwards he would be left off the convention schedule in recent weeks as questions grew following a tabloid story about the affair with Rielle Hunter, a woman who made a handful of videos about his campaign, the official said.

Edwards was also being considered as a possible Obama running mate, a congresswoman said two months ago, though Edwards said he never believed that was serious.

Discussion of a Cabinet position, such as attorney general, is all but over now.

"Had that not happened, I think he would have made an absolutely incredible secretary of labor," said Harris Raynor, Southern regional director of UNITE HERE, a union representing textile workers, hotel employees and restaurant workers nationwide. "We would have loved to see him play a prominent role in government."

Edwards worked with union and advocacy groups, some of whom would become his strongest supporters. Edwards told a crowd in Iowa last year he had walked union picket lines, rallied for labor and worked with employees more than 200 times.

Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, also traveled through pockets of poverty to put a face on the more 30 million people defined as the working poor.

"He was the first person since Lyndon Johnson to address it in a meaningful way," said Todd Mayo, 38, of Auxier, Ky., who heard Edwards speak during an eight-state anti-poverty tour in July 2007. "He was very sincere about wanting to cure the problems."

But he's lost the trust of others since acknowledging his romantic relationship in 2006, months before he kicked off this presidential campaign, according to Roos, the union leader in New Hampshire.

"He's going to have to start over," Roos said. "He's going to have to rebuild his base from the bottom."

His home state may not be the place to do that. Democratic officials there say no discussions are taking place about Edwards campaigning or raising money on behalf of top statewide candidates this fall.

At age 55, with an ailing wife and two children still at home, his life may take a different direction.

When asked by ABC News in an interview whether he believed his political career was over, Edwards replied: "I'm not sure I had a political career for the future anyway. I mean, I'm not sure that politics was what I wanted to spend my life doing."

Unlike other politicians who have overcome moral failings to revive their careers, the one-term senator doesn't have a large body of political work in elected office to base a comeback.

"Edwards was never that high to begin with," Black said.


ACORN preps Florida for '08 voter-fraud

Mysterious drop-off in non-partisan registrations reported

If the state's new voter-registration numbers were a public poll, here's what they'd say about the political climate in Florida:

• Democrats are surging and boasting of an "enthusiasm gap." Since the Jan. 29 primary, the party increased its ranks by 252,600 voters, ticking up 6 percent. Overall voter registration across all parties grew 4 percent to 10.6 million.

• Voters are less inclined to register with no-party affiliation, once the fastest-growing segment of the electorate. NPA registration increased 2.5 percent since January.

• The Republican Party is not doing as well. Its membership increased by just 2.5 percent -- about 98,000. The nearly 4.4 million Democrats outnumber Republicans by 465,000.

• Hispanics, who make up a crucial voting group, are flocking more to the Democratic Party, which increased its Hispanic rolls by 18 percent. African-American voters increased 8 percent statewide. The gains among black voters in Broward and Miami-Dade counties: 14 and 12 percent, respectively.

• Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, as well as the tough economy, seems to be the difference maker.

"I don't know what else to attribute it to," said Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, noting the high numbers of minorities in Florida, when asked if the voter rolls showed an Obama bounce.

"Across the country, clearly, it's been a difficult headwind for the Republicans," said Crist, a possible running mate and close ally of Obama opponent John McCain. "My own election, I was only one of only two that got elected in '06 as a Republican."


And that's something that doesn't show up in registration numbers -- the Crist effect. Whether he's chosen as a running mate or not, the popular governor has pledged to campaign hard for McCain, who hasn't spent money advertising on Florida television during the general election while Obama has coughed up a bundle.

Yet public-opinion polls show that McCain is still edging Obama in Florida, though the race is tightening.

Democrats dismissed the accuracy of the polls so far from the Nov. 4 Election Day, and celebrated the new registration numbers as a sign of things to come. They point out their candidate drew more than 1,500 people to an office opening in Brevard County -- Republican country -- while McCain drew about that many supporters to a free country music show in Republican country in Panama City last month.

"It points to one fundamental point that's hard to dispute: There's an enthusiasm gap," said Obama's Florida campaign chief, Steve Schale. "In 2004, their side was more excited than our side. Now, our side is more excited than their side."

Another factor: Outside groups like ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, are conducting huge voter drives targeting minorities and the poor at the same time the Obama campaign registers more voters.

But all the talk of new voters, office openings, enthusiasm and outside groups sounds an awful lot like the Democrats' talk in 2004, when the party had a 329,000 voter edge and registered about 60,000 more people that year than Republicans.


Yet the machine-like Republican Party of Florida hit the telephones and the voter lists and started a get-out-the-vote effort that resulted in 138 more Republicans showing up on Election Day than Democrats. Democrats had a 66 percent turnout rate compared to the GOP's 75.7 percent turnout in an election with an overall 74 percent turnout.

"At the end of the day, would I rather have our operation or theirs? I would take ours any day," said former state GOP chief David "DJ" Johnson. Johnson also said ACORN had a "sketchy" history of voter-registration drives, something that Florida ACORN's head organizer, Brian Kettenring, said was an inaccurate partisan attack.


Regardless of how the voters got on the rolls, Johnson said the sheer number of Democrats is a concern this year -- as is the fact that more Hispanics are now registered Democrats. About 455,000 Hispanics are now in the Democratic Party, which only this year surpassed Republicans, who count 425,000 in their ranks.

Compared to the last presidential election, the numbers are even more dramatic for African-Americans. More than 207,000 have joined the Democratic Party since 2004, accounting for 44 percent of the new-voter growth.

Ever the optimist, Crist found something positive.

"The good news is people are registering to vote," Crist said, before acknowledging: "Being a Republican, I wish more of them were Republican."


Dems disrespect secret union ballots

Related story: "Respected Democrat rips EFCA"
More EFCA stories: here

Unions get Dems to downgrade democracy

Voting is an immense privilege. That is why George McGovern, a former senator from South Dakota and the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate, says he is concerned about a new development that could deny this freedom to many Americans.

The legislation is called the Employee Free Choice Act, and according to McGovern, 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 percent 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.

EFCA would strip working Americans of the right to a secret-ballot election. To fail to ensure the right to vote free of intimidation and coercion from all sides would be a betrayal of what the Democratic Party has always championed, says McGovern.

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, says McGovern.

Source: George McGovern, "My Party Should Respect Secret Union Ballots," Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2008.

For text:


For more on Unions:



Union bigs assault workers' rights

Union organizers want to see your secret ballot

On Thursday, Vince Beltrami, the head of Alaska's largest labor organization, took me to task in his column for my opposition to the so-called "Card Check" bill in Congress. The "Card Check" bill is an assault on a worker's right to make a free and private decision about whether to join a union. I support all workers casting their ballots privately. Mr. Beltrami's bill requires them to vote in public.

Our freedom in elections is protected by the anonymity of citizens casting a ballot in private. Ballot box privacy is sacred and essential to democracy and human dignity. Tyranny would prevail if we went to our local polling station and the kingpins in the neighborhood stood around, handed you the ballot, and asked you to cast it in front of them. Coercion and undue pressure would be overt and commonplace.

Now, imagine voting in your workplace with a limited circle of people, many of whom, if not all, know each other. People walk around with cards asking you to sign to join the union, and you have the choice to decline or sign. No privacy, no free democracy. Do you think there's pressure in that or do you feel completely free to vote your conscience? The answer is plain.

Incredibly, Don Young was one of just a small handful of Republicans to join Nancy Pelosi and the liberals in Congress in stripping away workers' right to privacy in voting. Now, Mr. Beltrami's union has endorsed Young's reelection campaign, along with endorsing liberal Democrat Ethan Berkowitz. It should be telling to voters that this special-interest group sees no difference between the positions of Mr. Young and Mr. Berkowitz. I think Alaskans deserve a more conservative choice.

I will always stand up for workers, whether they choose to join a union or to work in a non-union workplace. I will stand up for each worker's right to privacy in choosing whether to join a union.

Card check legislation is not about whether one supports unions or non-union workplaces. It's about supporting freedom for Alaskans.

- Sean Parnell is lieutenant governor of Alaska and a Republican candidate for the U.S. House.


Right To Work law boosts Palmetto State

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

A Tale of Two States

South Carolina has no Empire State Building, no financial district, and no Metropolitan Museum of Art. Yet, for all of its handicaps, in recent years South Carolina has surpassed New York State in job creation. The Palmetto State's best years are clearly ahead; the same observation cannot be made as confidently for the Empire State. Employers and other New Yorkers who pay high taxes and who are leaving the state know why.

Because its government spends and taxes less than New York does, and imposes fewer regulations on employers, South Carolina is producing more jobs. That simple message makes sense to South Carolinians, and it should make sense to Albany as well.

Although sectors of the New York economy that employ relatively few workers, such as finance and real estate, have generated substantial economic growth over the past five years, employment in South Carolina has grown by 8.1%, whereas employment in New York has grown by 3.3%.

Last week the Tax Foundation published its estimates of state and local tax burdens for 2008. New York residents had the second highest tax burden — all taxes, income, sales, property — in America, 11.7% of their income. New Jersey headed the list at 11.8%. South Carolina came in 37, at 8.8%.

South Carolina is a "right to work" state, which means that workers are not forced to join unions in order to work, and has no state minimum wage law.

Driving south on Interstate 95, 45 miles beyond the North Carolina border, an exit leads to "Honda Way." That's Timmonsville, home of a Honda plant, which opened in 1998 and now employs 1,750 people, with 2007 annual revenues of $244 million. It's no accident that the Japanese automaker located its plant in South Carolina, not New York.

How can New York compete with a state that runs so much more efficiently? New York could imitate South Carolina and have a more efficient state government, with lower taxes and fewer regulations of employers.

Less obvious but perhaps just as effective in the long run, New York could vote to elect an American president dedicated to centralizing regulatory power in Washington and raising taxes on everyone.

To New York: Senator Obama may rescue you from your own mistakes and impose them on the rest of the country.

A careful reading of the draft Democratic Party platform, to be considered at the Democratic National Committee meeting on August 25, suggests that if Mr. Obama were elected, South Carolina's employers would not find it easy to keep creating jobs. This is one more reason that Senator McCain might carry South Carolina.

One set of proposals in the Democratic platform calls for increasing worker pay and benefits, driving up employment costs, and discouraging new hiring. Among the planks:

* Employers would be required to raise wages, such as the minimum wage and wages for women, who, the Democrats allege, are paid 78 cents on a man's dollar.
* Taxpayers would pay for increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit, transfer payments to low-income workers which give them relief from Social Security and sometimes income taxes.
* The Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new baby or recover from a major health problem, would be expanded to cover domestic violence and sexual assault, meetings with children's teachers, and care of parents, which it does already.
* Family and medical leave, now unpaid, would be paid — by employers.
* Employers would be required to give seven days paid sick leave to workers who are ill, or who care for a sick family member.

Another set of platform proposals addresses expansion of unions, a vital Democratic constituency, raising employer costs and lowering job creation. Among those planks:

* Democrats want to pass the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act, which would take away workers' rights to a secret ballot when they vote whether to join a union. Even a former Democratic presidential candidate, George McGovern, opposes this bill.
* The platform opposes "right to work" laws in 22 states, laws that mean workers cannot be required to join a union or pay dues or equivalent fees as a condition of getting or keeping a job.
* It opposes "paycheck protection" laws, which give workers the right to recover union dues spent on political activity.
* Public-sector employees, including public safety officers, would have the right to bargain collectively, as they already do in some states.

The Democratic platform states "We Democrats want — and we hereby pledge — a government led by Barack Obama that looks out for families in the new economy with health care, retirement security, and help, especially in bad times."

If Mr. Obama wins and the Democrats implement their platform, South Carolina and the rest of America need to watch out.

- Ms. Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.


Strike pay can't make up for losses

Related story: "IAM strikers fail to enforce picket line"

Lingering Machinists strike enters new territory

Starting next week, Machinists union members at Hawker Beechcraft can collect $150 weekly when they work at least four hours on strike duty. Strikers received their last paycheck from the company Thursday, and health care benefits ran out Aug. 4, the day the strike began.

Cheryl Tate, a sheet metal assembler, has four children, two who live at home. Her husband has insurance coverage for the family, but she said going from two incomes to one is a struggle.

"We weren't prepared for it," she said. "They always say to prepare (for a strike), but we weren't."

A Machinists union community service committee is compiling a list of temporary jobs for strikers, union spokesman Bob Wood said Tuesday.

Temporary agencies and others have contacted the union saying they had job openings, Wood said. Many have already taken advantage of them, he said.

The temporary jobs won't pay as well as their jobs at Hawker Beechcraft. "But it helps keep the wolf from the door," Wood said.

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

The union represents 4,700 workers in Wichita and 500 in Salina.

Food will be available soon for distribution to those who need it, Wood said. There are diapers and baby formula on hand.

School supplies also will be available for strikers' children who need them, thanks to the Salvation Army, Wood said.

And the union has a strike fund for those who may face a catastrophic medical problem while on strike.

Some doctors are offering treatment and to wait until after the strike ends for payment, Wood said. Some are offering discounts, Wood said.

Strikers have up to 60 days to elect to continue health insurance coverage through COBRA, according to the union. It is retroactive to the date the insurance was terminated, it said.

Monthly medical insurance premiums under COBRA cost $386.74 for single coverage; $665.58 for the employee and one other person and $1,031.44 for a family, according to information on the company's Web site.

Ryan Rogers, who was on the picket line this week, has four children.

"Hopefully, no one gets hurt or gets sick," he said.

For him, not knowing what health insurance costs would be during the last two years of a new contract period was one of the sticking points.

"Nobody likes it, but sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe in," he said.

Alfreda Taylor is an assembler at Hawker Beechcraft. She's a widow and said she can't afford COBRA insurance.

"That will drain you real fast," Taylor said.

She wants the strike to end soon but says she'll stay out as long as it takes.

If the union settled for the company's offer, "the next one will be even worse," Taylor said.


ILWU embezzler arrested in L.A.

Lax union management an easy target

A former union bookkeeper has been arrested in Los Angeles for allegedly embezzling union funds. Prosecutors say Rosa Della Porta was arrested Tuesday after a grand jury indictment. Della Porta worked for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 26 until she was fired in November 2006. She is accused of embezzling $108,000 over three years.

U.S. attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek says Della Porta received union dues and other funds in cash, kept some of it and deposited the rest in the union's bank accounts.

If convicted, she faces up to five years in federal prison.

Attempts to identify and reach the woman's attorney for comment were unsuccessful.

The local union chapter represents about 1,000 people at 28 industrial companies in the Los Angeles area.


Feds bust CWA big over dues embezzlement

Poorly-managed unions trigger national epidemic

A Derry man has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on an embezzlement charge. According to the two-count indictment, Michael R. Rhoades, 39, of 313 Short St. took an unspecified amount of money from the union while employed as an officer for the Communication Workers, AFL-CIO Local 88667.

Assistant U.S. District Attorney Tina O. Miller, who presented the case to the grand jury, said Rhoades faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both if convicted.

The federal Department of Labor conducted the investigation.


Feds side with SEIU

Workers' attempt to choose new union smacked down

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that St. Rose Dominican Hospitals illegally assisted an insurgent union’s campaign this year to gain representation of nearly 1,100 registered nurses.

At issue is a neutrality agreement St. Rose’s parent company, Catholic Healthcare West, signed with the California Nurses Association last year. In it, the company agrees not to campaign against the union during organizing drives at its hospitals and to grant employees unpaid leaves of absence so they can organize.

Honoring the agreement, St. Rose management gave the California group access to conference rooms and bulletin boards in three Las Vegas Valley hospitals while it campaigned to oust the Service Employees International Union, which represents the nurses. The company also granted two nurses leaves so they could campaign for the rival union.

In doing so, St. Rose violated federal labor law because management bypassed the SEIU, which has been the “exclusive collective bargaining representative” of the nurses since 2004, the board found. Issues such as facility access and leave are subject to negotiation, the board said.

St. Rose spokesman Andy North said the company “has not intentionally engaged in any conduct or practice that would ruin the integrity of the impartial environment it has worked to foster.”

He added: “During the election process, St. Rose worked collaboratively with SEIU, CNA and the National Labor Relations Board to foster a fair and impartial environment in which the nurses involved could freely make an informed decision.”

The board’s complaint nevertheless gives the SEIU ammunition against its competitor as it negotiates a new contract with St. Rose — and campaigns to keep its members.

In the election battle this spring, more nurses voted to join the California association than to retain the SEIU. Neither union won, however, because a small number of nurses voted for neither union and six votes were contested. That prevented either side from reaching the federal labor law threshold of 50 percent of votes.

In the aftermath, the SEIU filed objections and unfair labor practice charges, triggering an investigation that led to a formal complaint against St. Rose last month.

Jill Furillo, Nevada director of the California Nurses Association, called the board’s ruling a “technical argument that obscures the fact that the SEIU did have far greater access during the election.”

A majority of nurses in the St. Rose bargaining unit have signed a petition asking management to withdraw recognition of the SEIU, she said. “Rather than get hung up on all these technicalities, let’s go forward with a new election,” Furillo said. “The SEIU is trying to stall the election because they know they would lose the election.”

An SEIU spokeswoman said officials familiar with the St. Rose campaign were in meetings and unavailable for comment.

The two unions have battled bitterly over registered nurses here and elsewhere.

St. Rose has until Thursday to submit its response to the board’s findings, and the matter will be heard by an administrative law judge, who could decide to call either a runoff election between the two unions or a rerun election with the “no union” option.

The judge could also decide, based on the outstanding objections, to dismiss the California Nurses Association’s election petition altogether. A hearing date has not been set.


Huge Chicago teachers union authorizes strike

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Typical labor-state bargaining tactic

District 158 teachers have filed an intent to strike. Although we hope for the sake of parents and students in District 158 that this dispute is resolved short of a work stoppage, we are somewhat curious about what a picket line would be like.

District 158’s initial proposal called for a 4.25 percent raise in the first year of the contract and subsequent raises that matched the Consumer Price Index, plus 0.25 percent, as long as that rate is no lower than 2 percent and no higher than 5 percent.

Union leaders have said their current proposal was for salary and benefit increases of less than 10 percent in the first year of the contract. Whatever that means.

Although both sides have been fairly tight-lipped on recent negotiations, we doubt that District 158’s proposal has worsened.

Perhaps union leaders do not realize it, but we are in a sluggish economy. And we are in one of the worst housing markets in decades. Most people would be thrilled with raises that were guaranteed to keep pace and even surpass inflation. Instead, with increasing food and gas prices and stagnant wages, many people have seen their salaries eroded.

If the union strikes, what will be chanted on the picket line? “Hey yo, our raises are too low!” Or perhaps it will reflect the union’s position that because the district currently has a budget surplus, it can afford to spend more on benefits and salary: “They have the money, give it to us!”

These just doesn’t seem like compelling reasons to even consider a walkout.

On the plus side, an intent to strike is a far cry from an actual strike. We still have hope that District 158’s school year will begin on time.


Teamsters face unexpected dues hit

Cost of production can outweigh profitability

Graphic Packaging International of Marietta, Ga., plans to close several folding carton centers, including one at 2600 E. Market St. in Greensboro (NC) that employs 98 salaried and hourly workers, said Lois Becton, the company’s director of corporate communications.

Those workers include 78 hourly employees who are unionized under the Graphic Communications/Teamsters, Local 465-S. Tracy Hinshaw, the company’s human relations manager, said in a letter to Greensboro Mayor Yvonne Johnson that the union has been notified of the layoffs; nonunion employees will be notified individually.

Becton said salaried employees will get severance packages according to company policies and hourly workers will get benefits after the company discusses the layoffs with the union.

Hinshaw said the first layoffs will occur about Oct. 10 and continue through the end of the year.

The company’s carton plants in Greensboro and Richmond, Va., are expected to discontinue production at the end of 2008.

The folding carton plant in Smyrna, Tenn., is expected to close during first quarter of 2009.

Greensboro’s packaging plant was built in 1947 for Container Corp. of America and covers 68,000 square feet, plus a warehouse of 48,000 square feet, Becton said. Several companies have since owned the plant.

The plant closure comes as a result of the merger between Graphic Packaging Corp. and Altivity Packaging that was announced earlier this year. Graphic Packaging said it could save $90 million a year through the merger, which created a company with gross annual revenues of more than $4.4 billion.

It employs more than 15,000 people worldwide, Becton said.

Graphic Packaging will also close its Handschy ink and coatings sales office in Grand Rapids, Mich., and its ink manufacturing operations in Indianapolis by the end of August.

“We are working very aggressively to integrate assets, streamline our operating footprint and achieve announced synergies of a minimum of $90 million, all of which will ultimately make us a more successful company, and better able to reduce debt and sustain our competitive market position,” David W. Scheible, president and CEO of Graphic Packaging International, said in a news release.

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