SEIU serves DMV sickout in California

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Jumbo union leads labor-state through budget crisis

DMV workers upset with state cutbacks staged a sick-out Friday, shutting down the bureau's Hawthorne office and forcing the agency to warn their customers of anticipated problems as a result of the depleted staff.

The DMV's Web site announced the closure in a statement that read, "Due to public safety concerns, the Hawthorne Office is currently closed. "Service levels in many of the Southern California offices are currently impacted due to reduced staffing, also DMV offices will not be open on Saturday, August 16, 2008."

DMV customers surprised by a vacant office were incensed about the sick-out. "They should be fired, they should [have] come to work," an irate customer told KNBC's Doug Kriegel of the workers who called in sick. "There's no excuse not to come to work, just because they disagree with whatever the governor did or didn't do.

DMV customer Simone Jackson said she was upset because she was planning on getting her license.

Customers waiting at a jam-packed Montebello DMV office expressed their discontent with what they said was sluggish service.

DMV customer Paul Reyes said the staff was "dragging feet."

DMV spokesman Mike Marando told the Los Angeles Times delays of up to two hours were reported at the Inglewood DMV, though less than ten of the state's 169 offices -- all in the LA area -- were impacted by the walk-out.

He told the paper that personnel had been transferred to accommodate the anticipated shortcomings.

"When we see a staff shortage in one or more offices, we work immediately to rectify that," he told the paper.

According to the Times, Jim Zamora, a spokesman for Service Employees International Union Local 1000, which represents the DMV workers, said that union leaders "did not coordinate, organize or sanction" the sick-out.

Zamora said the union sympathizes with the workers, who he said were "incredibly demoralized and upset right now."


Yale's $2 million payoff fails to satisfy SEIU

Jumbo union wants card-check, too

Yale-New Haven Hospital issued a $2 million check to the Service Employees International Union Friday, settling a contested $4.5 million award granted by an arbitrator who ruled the hospital’s conduct had jeopardized the ability to hold a free and fair unionization vote.

While the settlement has now been paid, discord remains between the hospital and SEIU over continuing unionizing efforts.

While Y-NH Senior Vice President Vincent Petrini said in a statement he hoped the payment “closes the chapter and the book on what has been a decade-long attempt by SEIU to organize employees at Yale-New Haven,” union leaders said the $2 million would be spent on labor organizing at the hospital.

Union spokesman Bill Meyerson said Friday he did not believe a union election could take place at the hospital under the current administration. The union may now pursue alternatives, including a card check, he said.

If a card check election takes place, the employer must agree to recognize a union based on signed authorization cards instead of a secret ballot. Petrini called a card check “nontraditional.”

“We think our employees don’t need a third party to represent their interests, but if they were to pursue a union, every employee deserves a right to vote on the issue,” he said.

Without a “free and fair election,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said Friday there has yet to be closure of the long-standing dispute.

“New Haven still has work to do on this issue,” he said.

Arbitrator Margaret Kern slapped the hospital with a $4.5 million penalty in October 2007. While Y-NH paid the $2.2 million portion due to the 1,736 workers eligible to vote in the canceled election, the hospital contested the remaining $2.3 million due to SEIU to cover past organizing expenses.

A $2 million settlement in that dispute was reached last week, and the hospital paid the award Friday.

The action ultimately cost the hospital $4.2 million.

In March 2006, the city, union activists and Y-NH reached an accord, clearing way to break ground on the hospital’s multimillion dollar cancer center, which is under construction.

After seven years of labor unrest, that agreement paved the way for a secret-ballot union election that was to be held Dec. 20 and 21, 2006.

Both parties signed a conduct accord that dictated each side would run a positive, factual campaign, would not demonize each other, and that Y-NH would not hold one-on-one meetings with workers.

But Kern found in December 2006 that Y-NH repeatedly violated labor law and the agreement, jeopardizing the ability to hold a free and fair union election at the hospital.

Kern found workers had been threatened with loss of pay and benefits, and possibly their jobs if they were to unionize. False information about union dues had been spread prior to the vote. The hospital gave permission to more than 200 managers and supervisors to conduct mandatory meetings on work time to discuss the union with employees, a violation of federal law.


Special interests fight against secret-ballots

More EFCA stories: here

Unions, Dems seek to suppress dissenters

We take it for granted that a vote means a secret ballot but it was not always that way. Moreover, it will not remain that way for workers who vote on whether or not they want a labor union, if legislation sponsored by Congressional Democrats and endorsed by Senator Barack Obama becomes law.

Before there were secret ballots, voters dared not express their true preferences if those who watched them vote could retaliate-- whether by firing them, beating them up or in other ways. Anyone who is serious about people being free to express themselves with their votes wants a secret ballot.

The problem for labor unions is that workers in the private sector increasingly vote against being represented by unions. The proportion of workers in the private sector who are represented by unions has fallen below 10 percent.

Since unions are losing the game under the current rules, their obvious answer is to change the rules. Specifically, they want to do away with secret ballots when the government conducts elections to determine whether the workers in a particular company or industry want to be represented by a union.

With labor unions being major supporters of the Democratic Party-- spending hundreds of millions of dollars in this year's election campaign-- it is hardly surprising that Congressional Democrats have lined up solidly behind legislation to let union organizers simply collect signed cards from a majority of workers, in order to be certified as the officially recognized union for those workers.

Of course, the union organizers will then know who did and who did not vote for them. And they may have long memories or short fuses, or both. Moreover, the workers themselves know that, so they may find it prudent to sign up for a union, whether they want one or not.

This legislation passed the House of Representatives last year but did not make it through the Senate. "I will make it the law of the land when I'm President of the United States," Barack Obama has said to the AFL-CIO.

Senator Obama has also said many times that he is against "special interests." But, like most politicians who say that, he means that he is against other politicians' special interests. His own special interests are never called special interests.

Neither are the environmental extremists who support the Democrats called special interests. But the green zealots who have for decades blocked the country from using oil within our own borders-- more oil than in Saudi Arabia, by the way-- are also among the special interests with a big voice in the Democratic Party.

They are also a major factor in shutting down the democratic voting process-- in this case, in the House of Representatives, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi refuses to allow a vote on drilling for oil in places where the green zealots don't want drilling.

The Congressional Democrats could of course vote to continue forbidding drilling in those places. But voters paying $4 a gallon for gas are not likely to agree with the green zealots-- and recent polls show that they do not.

Rather than lose votes in the November elections by voting with the green zealots, or lose the money that the green zealots contribute to the Democratic Party coffers, Nancy Pelosi simply shut down the House of Representatives, so that there could be no votes, and turned off the lights so that C-SPAN could not broadcast Republicans' speeches protesting what happened.

After all, what is democracy compared to support from the green zealots?

It is the same story when it comes to the teachers' unions, the biggest special interest of all in the Democratic Party. They not only contribute money, they can contribute people who walk the precincts on election nights, rounding up the faithful to go vote.

Even the Congressional Black Caucus dares not vote for vouchers or any other form of school choice that the teachers' unions oppose. Better to let a whole generation of black children be trapped in failing schools that employ union teachers.

But special interests? Not at all.

- Thomas Sowell


ACORN sets up voter-fraud in Connecticut

More ACORN stories: here

Labor-backed front group acts against GOP

State Republicans have asked Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz to investigate possible voter-registration irregularities by a community-activist organization in Bridgeport. Joseph Borges, the city's Republican Registrar of Voters, and GOP State Chairman Chris Healy, said Friday that ACORN, the nonprofit community organizing group, signed up many ineligible voters during its recent registration drive.

Related video: "ACORN voter fraud in CT"

The Republicans do not allege that ineligible people may have cast illegal ballots during Tuesday's Democratic primaries. But Healy alleged possible "fraud," the way ACORN submitted many registration applications that were thrown out by city officials.

Borges said ACORN's errors amount to about 20 percent of thousands of registrations it filed with the city this year. It has cost Bridgeport thousands of dollars in overtime to corroborate, he said.

But Bysiewicz said that the Republicans would have to file any complaints with the State Elections Enforcement Commission. Borges said late Friday afternoon that he will meet with his Democratic counterpart next week to determine whether a formal complaint will go to the SEEC.

Registrations with errors are automatically invalidated, Borges said, adding that his employees "dread" it when ACORN deposits registrations. "We'll decide what to do next week," he said in a phone interview.

He said that ACORN officials asked to come in next week and review a couple of boxes full of applications that were thrown
out by the registrars.

Nicholas Gaber-Grace, ACORN's head Connecticut organizer, said Friday that there was a case in April where a newly hired field worker, who gathered information in a city housing complex and was found within days to have violated registration procedures, was fired.

Gaber-Grace, said the group is working with city registrars in good faith and that it filed about 8,000 applications out of a total of 20,000 new voters statewide.

"We are going to have a person specific pretty soon whose job is going though that list and try to get rid of the snags and get as many people on the rolls as possible," Gaber-Grace said.

Borges said that his staff has had to disqualify "a ton" of applications submitted by ACORN staffers. Most problems include duplicate registrations, incorrectly completed forms, incorrect addresses and improper procedures in the field.

"It's causing us a problem," he said. "We have a small staff. This is costing us a ton of labor. Some of my staff has been here for 15 years and when they see ACORN come in, they start crying."

Healy called ACORN "a troubled group at best" and said that state and local voting officials should be "vigilant" for fraudulent registrations. He said part of ACORN's problem might be its policy of paying employees by the number of new voters they sign up.

"When you get people out there compensated for how many people they register and not for accuracy, it raises questions about whether ACORN is legitimate or not," Healy said.

Gaber-Grace said that the nationally known activist group has been struggling to register voters in urban areas, whose residents have become politically marginalized.

Bysiewicz, in a statement from her Capitol office, said fraud allegations are taken "very seriously" by her office, but the only agency with the power to investigate is the SEEC.

"In fact, the Office of the Secretary of the State has consistently instructed local Registrars of Voters that if they see any voter registration cards that raise red flags or do not look correct, they should make photocopies for their own records and send the problematic cards to the State Elections Enforcement Commission for investigation," Bysiewicz said. Bysiewicz said that the primary day turnout in Bridgeport was 13.6 percent, compared to the statewide turnout of 13.9 percent. The lowest percentage turnout was in upstate New Fairfield, where a meager 4.2 percent came out for a state Senate primary.


Congress weighs worker-choice ban

Unions: Pay Us Or Be Fired!

Going largely unnoticed in the media and blogosphere over these past few weeks is a bill that was introduced in the House of Representatives on July 10th which, if enacted, will eliminate the Right-to-Work provisions of the 1947 Labor Management Relations Act (better known as the Taft-Hartley Amendments). To view the bill, click here.

While the bill has little chance of passing before 2009, it should send a clear warning to workers and employers in the 22 "Right-to-Work" states that labor bosses at the AFL-CIO and Change to Win federations are hell bent on requiring workers to pay dues or be fired.

Some readers may not understand the ramifications of this, so here is a brief explanation of Right-to-Work versus Non-Right-to-Work:

Prior to the Taft-Hartley Amendments to the National Labor Relations Act, it was legal for unions in all 50 states (48 at the time) to negotiate "union (income) security" clauses into collective bargaining agreements (CBA), which requires all workers covered by a CBA to finance the union through dues or fees or be fired. In essence, if a workers fails to pay the union, the union (under the CBA) has the right to require the employer to terminate the employee.

In 1947, over President Truman's veto, Congress amended the NLRA by passing the Taft-Hartley (LMRA) amendments. This allowed states, for the first time, to pass so-called "right-to-work" laws, which enable workers to work at a unionized employer without being fired for refusing to pay union dues.

There are currently 22 Right-to-Work states. To see a map of which states provide the freedom to pay or not pay a union without the threat of termination, click here.

If unions succeed in getting their union-backed candidates elected this fall and this bill passes, workers who choose to keep their own money from the pockets of the union bosses will suddenly be faced with the choice to either pay union dues or be fired.

Clearly, the agenda of today's union bosses is to force workers into unions by any means possible--be it the hallucinogenically-named Employee Free Choice Act, the equally moronically-named Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (HR 980) (which forces unionization on state and municipal police, fire and EMS personnel) or the elimination of workers' choice to refrain from paying dues in Right-to-Work states.

Union bosses now dictate the agenda of the Democrat Party's candidates making the November elections determinative as to whether union bosses get their way with the American worker.


RICO brings ex-Teamster big to heel

Hoffa faced with massive mob-corruption cleanup

A contempt-of-court hearing for accused video-gambling racketeer John Neal was canceled Friday after he agreed to mediation. Through a RICO lawsuit, Special Prosecutor Kit Crane is seeking forfeiture of millions of dollars in cash and other assets reportedly belonging to Neal. RICO is the racketeer influenced and corrupt organizations law.

Crane's attorney, Greg Garrison, asked Special Judge Steve Nation to find Neal in contempt of court after he did not appear for a July 17 mediation session that he had been ordered to attend.

A hearing on Garrison's motion was scheduled before the judge beginning at 8 a.m. Friday.

Neal and his daughter/co-defendant Vicky Massey appeared in court with their lawyers Richard Kammen and Donald McClellan.

But after lawyers for both sides met in a private room and reached an agreement, the hearing was canceled.

In an interview, Garrison said the parties agreed to ask the court to withhold a ruling on Garrison's renewed motion for summary judgment while the parties sought to end the lawsuit through mediation.

As a result of the agreement to go to mediation, the issue of contempt of court became moot, Garrison said.

No date has been set for the mediation.

In 2000, Neal, a rural Yorktown tavern owner and retired head of the Teamsters union in Indiana, pleaded guilty in federal court to operating an illegal gambling business, conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and money laundering, for which he was sentenced to 42 months in prison. He was returned to prison for violating supervised release but is now completing his sentence at a halfway house.

He is also defending himself against the racketeering lawsuit as well as 71 counts of gambling, money laundering and corrupt business influence in Madison County.


'No-choice' unionism unites nation

Related story: "Respected Democrat rips EFCA"

Most voters oppose anti-democratic scheme

Although I'm a lifelong Republican, my hat's off to George McGovern for his excellent article and his courage to put what's best for the country and its people, including union members, ahead of what his party and its politicians want. I wish more politicians would do that -- Republicans and Democrats alike.

Dave Paul, Peabody, Mass.


SEIU interactive model unveiled

Track SEIU Money and Influence

The Service Employees International Union, besides representing 2 million workers, is one of the most active and powerful political organizations in the nation. Beyond its own direct efforts, which are vast, the union also helps create, lead and fund dozens of other organizations and coalitions that are influential in public policy debates and elections.

Here is a look at the union’s involvement in other advocacy groups this election cycle, showing the money it gives and the SEIU officials involved. Go to the interactive page. Click on the name of a group to find out more about what it does and how it's linked to SEIU.


Legal woes for anti-corporate exortionists

UFCW must mount expensive legal defense

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed in December by Bashas' grocery stores against a labor union. Judge Douglas Rayes also ruled that an affiliated group called Hungry for Respect, which has targeted the company, could not be sued because it is not a distinct legal entity.

Bashas' suit accuses the United Food & Commercial Workers and several affiliated individuals of defamation, extortion, trespassing and interfering with business.

A company press release said the UFCW has distributed fliers, door hangers and direct mail blasting the Chandler-based grocer. It also accused the group of planting expired products on store shelves, making false health complaints to governmental agencies and organizing demonstrations at stores.


Reformer Barack sucks up special-interest cash

Labor-backed Dem risks alienating voters sensitive to hypocrisy

Facing a large deficit in the Democratic National Convention budget, officials from Barack Obama's campaign have begun personally soliciting labor unions and others for contributions of up to $1 million. In exchange, donors could get stadium skyboxes for Obama's acceptance speech and other perks.

Obama has regularly criticized politicians seeking large donations outside the framework of campaign finance regulations -- so-called soft money -- while touting the virtues of relying on small donations.

But campaign officials last month reluctantly decided they had to take a hand in raising large donations from individuals, unions and corporations. Some of the donors get special bundles of perks, including use of the party suites at Denver's Invesco Field, as well as special policy briefings by Obama advisors, choice hotel rooms and party invitations.

What caused the shift was evidence that the Denver Host Committee was having trouble raising the estimated $60 million in cash and in-kind contributions needed to fund the convention, which runs Aug. 24-29.

Partly as a result of the boost from Obama's campaign, most of the goal has now been met, said Steve Farber, the Denver lawyer helping to lead the effort. In mid-June, the Denver Host Committee's fundraising team reported that it was $11.6 million short of reaching a funding goal.

In an example of the campaign's late-innings effort, a very senior Obama campaign official called the political director of one of the largest labor unions about two weeks ago and asked for a $500,000 contribution on top of a similar amount that had been committed just a few weeks before, according to the union official.

Lawrence Scanlon, the political director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said that since AFSCME had already contributed, he declined to contribute more, urging the campaign to seek donations from wealthy individuals or corporations to help pay for the convention so that the union could spend its funds on voter outreach.

A spokesman for the campaign, Hari Sevugan, declined to say whether Obama himself had become involved in these fundraising efforts or to confirm any details of work done by others from the campaign.

"We are working together with the convention committee on many levels to ensure a successful convention this year," Sevugan said. "As we announced earlier, moving forward, one of Sen. Obama's reform priorities will include changes in the way party conventions are funded to assure they can be run without dependence" on soft money.

Donations made to convention host committees are not covered by federal donation limits. As a result, corporations and wealthy individuals can donate unlimited sums under the premise that the committee is promoting civic pride and economic growth, not a political cause.

However, the leadership ranks of these local fundraising committees are dominated by political partisans and elected officials.

In Minnesota, similar appeals are being made by Republicans to fund their September convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

"Both conventions are bringing in new fundraisers connected with the presidential candidate to go the last mile," said Steve Weissman, a reform advocate with the Campaign Finance Institute. Weissman said that the campaigns' involvement in raising these large-dollar contributions contradicts the reform rhetoric both candidates employ to win votes.

Big-dollar donations from corporations and wealthy individuals hark back to the days before the Watergate scandal when big checks from such sources were a staple of campaign fundraising.

Rules now limit the amount individuals or groups can donate, but there remains a loophole for conventions.

The Service Employees International Union has already committed $500,000 to the Democratic convention and an undisclosed sum to the Republicans.

In addition, a new labor consortium it belongs to, Change to Win, has been asked to donate. Other unions that are members of Change to Win, including New York-based Unite Here, have made unspecified donations to the Democrats' host committee. The American Federation of Teachers donated $750,000 last month.

For the GOP convention, the Twin Cities Host Committee recently turned for help to a strong supporter of Sen. John McCain's candidacy, Robert Wood "Woody" Johnson IV, owner of the New York Jets. Committee Chief Executive Jeff Larson said it now is close to meeting its fundraising goals.

After Obama became the clear nominee, a member of the Denver Host Committee's executive panel, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), approached the Illinois senator, telling him that the committee would need the campaign's assistance in raising funds. Obama did not respond in any detail, she said.

Since that conversation, Farber has been in touch with Obama's chief campaign finance advisor, Julianna Smoot, and others from the finance team.

The campaign team provided the host committee with the names, addresses and telephone numbers of likely donors and dispatched a fundraising expert, Jon Rotenberg, to help.

Use of Invesco Field skyboxes as a fundraising tool provides a positive ending to what was at first considered a financial headache. When Obama announced that he planned to deliver his acceptance speech at the outdoor stadium, campaign officials estimated that it would add about $6 million to the convention's cost. Since then, the sale of the $1-million packages has been highly successful, with many of the boxes selling out.

Those paying the $1-million price tag will get skybox tickets for 25 people and an additional 50 regular tickets to Invesco Field.

What's more, donors will get occasional access to skyboxes at the Pepsi Center, where the rest of the convention will take place. Donors will also have access to private parties and receptions.

Obama spokesman Sevugan insisted that none of the campaign's involvement with large-dollar convention funding indicated a weakening of Obama's resolve to reform the system.

Sevugan said: "In addition to his commitment to reform the convention funding process, Sen. Obama has also taken unprecedented steps to curb the influence of money on the political process in refusing contributions from PACs and Washington lobbyists, money raised by them, and asking the DNC to do the same -- all steps that John McCain refuses to take.

"While we recognize that the steps we have taken are not perfect or even a perfect symbol, they do reflect the fact that Barack Obama shares the urgent desire of the American people to change the way Washington operates.


Middle class faces fewer choices

More EFCA stories: here

'No vote, no choice' unionism would harm workers

On Tuesday the president of the Georgia AFL-CIO wrote that the Employee Free Choice Act, which is at the forefront of the Democratic agenda this election year, would "restore America's workers' freedom to choose to come together to bargain for a better life" ("Put unionizing power back in workers' hands," @issue).

Nothing could be further from the truth. The centerpiece of the act is the elimination of government-run secret-ballot union elections. And by stripping employees of the fundamental right to cast a private vote for or against union representation, the Employee Free Choice Act undermines the very principles of a free and democratic society, and only robs employees of their vital "freedom to choose."

Since its formation in 1935, the National Labor Relations Board has conducted approximately 500,000 secret-ballot elections. All told, more than 40 million employees have voted in these elections. The union election begins when an organizing labor union obtains signed "authorization cards" from at least 30 percent of the employees in an appropriate voting unit. This "showing of interest" leads to an election. A government agent sets up a voting booth (complete with privacy curtains) and watches over an official, sealed ballot box. Employees are given a ballot and then enter the booth. They mark either "yes" or "no" to union representation, fold the ballot, and then place the ballot into the sealed box.

At the end of the election, the government agent counts the ballots, free from possible interference by either the company or the union. If a majority votes "yes," the union wins. If a majority votes "no," the union loses.

Lately, however, unions have not been winning as many elections, or bringing in as many dues dollars, as they would like. Unions have responded by trying to eliminate elections altogether.

With the Employee Free Choice Act, the employee's process of selecting a union begins and ends when the employee signs an authorization card. There is no election. The employee cannot go into a private booth and vote "yes" or "no." And the employee certainly cannot return the card to a neutral government agent. Instead, the employee is forced to hand the very card stating that the employee is either in favor of or against union representation back to the very union he is accepting or rejecting.

The dangers are obvious. This law would leave employees vulnerable to threats and intimidation, and produce extraordinarily unreliable results. Even the U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged that "the unreliability of [authorization] cards is inherent ... in the absence of secrecy and the natural inclination of most people to avoid stands which appear to be non-conformist and antagonistic to friends and fellow employees."

However, the unions justify their support for the Employee Free Choice Act by making completely baseless accusations of "corporate bullying." Again, nothing could be further from the truth. Under existing labor laws, any company that would "resist, prevent, impede or interfere" with a secret-ballot election would be subject to criminal prosecution. And any company that would "interfere with, restrain or coerce" employees in the exercise of their election rights would risk civil prosecution and the possibility of re-running an election the union may have lost.

Just as important, the "corporate bullying" that unions complain of is most often nothing more than protected free speech. Unions hurl accusations that large companies hold meetings "warning" their store managers of the dangers of unionization while ignoring the fact that corporations have long been free to share certain opinions on the effects of unionization, both with employees and managers.

Complaints that companies may direct their managers or employees to vote against certain candidates are similarly false. The unions' own political maneuvering underscores their hypocrisy. According to recent reports, unions will spend more than $300 million in support of Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign this year, and the AFL-CIO alone has budgeted more than $53 million to campaign on behalf of Obama. These enormous financial contributions are made almost entirely by utilizing member dues, without concern for the members' beliefs or political affiliations. The unions' hasty charges that companies direct the manner in which their employees vote are therefore absurd.

The effects of EFCA, and the underlying union support that drives the act, are clear. Very few American workers ever have the opportunity to vote in a union election. Most of the rest of us, however, have — and exercise — the right to vote in political elections. Imagine what you would think this November if you learned that the scheduled presidential election had been canceled — and one of the candidates certified — based only on voter opinion polls.


ACORN voter fraud in CT

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