ACORN crime covered-up by Drummond Pike

Related Drummond Pike stories: here
Related Wade Rathke stories: here

Leftists display lack of transparency

"Keep your yaps shut." That's what people working for two left-wing groups were told when word started to filter out that the head of another benefactor of "progressive" causes was going to bail out one of the groups stung by an embezzlement scandal.

Drummond Pike, the founder and CEO of the Tides Foundation, agreed to buy a nearly $1 million promissory note from the family of Wade Rathke, founder and recent leader of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, reports The New York Times.

Wade Rathke sits on the Tides Foundation board. (And Pittsburgh's Heinz Endowments, chaired by ketchup heiress Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of U.S. Sen. John Kerry, funded Tides with more than $8 million between 1994 and 2005.)

Mr. Rathke's brother, Dale, embezzled $948,507.50 from ACORN. The theft was discovered in 2000. Law enforcement never was notified. Instead, the Rathke family was allowed to work out a deal to repay the money. "That agreement was carried on the books of an affiliate, Citizens Consulting Inc. (CCI), as a loan to an officer," The Times says.

Last month, ACORN and CCI officials were told to "keep your yaps shut" about the dealings in a confidentiality memo, the newspaper says.

Which is quite an irony for a bunch of leftists who have been known to yap at others for their lack of transparency.


ACORN sugar-daddy pulls Dems leftward

More George Soros stories: here
More ACORN stories: here

Michelle Malkin ties Dems, Soros, ACORN

The Democratic Party platform is like a bag of pork rinds. You never know what high-fat liberal government morsel you're gonna get.

Buried in the 94-page document is a noble-sounding proposal to create a "Social Investment Fund Network." The program would provide federal money to "social entrepreneurs and leading nonprofit organizations [that] are assisting schools, lifting families out of poverty, filling health care gaps, and inspiring others to lead change in their own communities." The Democratic Party promises to "support these results-oriented innovators" by creating an office to "coordinate government and nonprofit efforts" and then showering "a series of grants" on the chosen groups "to replicate these programs nationwide."

In practice, this Barack Obama brainchild would serve as a permanent, taxpayer-backed pipeline to Democratic partisan outfits masquerading as public-interest do-gooders. This George Soros Slush Fund would be political payback in spades. Obama owes much of his Chicago political success to financial support from radical, left-wing billionaire and leading "social entrepreneur" Soros. In June 2004, Soros threw a big fundraiser at his New York home for Obama's Illinois Senate campaign. Soros and family personally chipped in $60,000. In April 2007, Obama was back in New York for a deep-pocketed Manhattan fundraising soiree, with Soros lurking in his shadow.

No doubt with Soros' approbation (if not advice from the hands-on "progressive" activist or his advisers), Obama fleshed out his Social Investment Fund Network plan last December. In concert with his mandatory volunteerism pitch and $6 billion anti-poverty plan, Obama called for the creation of a "Social Entrepreneurship Agency" to dispense the funds in unspecified amounts. The agency would be a government-supported nonprofit corporation "similar to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting," which runs public television. (And we've all seen how fair and balanced that lib-dominated, Bill Moyers-boosting private-public enterprise turned out.)

Obama cites the Harlem Children's Zone, which provides after-school activities and mentors to children in New York, as an example of a program that should be funded. (HCZ's former senior leader Shawn Dove is now an official at Soros' Open Society Institute.) The problem with such initiatives, as Mitchell Moss pointed out in the Manhattan Institute's City Journal several years ago, is that these private-public partnerships formed under the guise of economic renewal often become nothing more than fronts that coordinate "an enormous safety net for social services." Private donations give the illusion of self-help and philanthropic independence, but in reality, the "clients" are never weaned from the teat of the welfare state. They simply learn how to milk it more efficiently.

Even more troubling is how the Democratic Party/Obama plan would siphon untold millions or billions of public tax dollars into the Soros empire without taxpayer recourse. Obama promises "accountability" measures to ensure the money is spent wisely. But who would assess effectiveness of the spending? Why, experts in the social entrepreneurship community, of course. Fox, meet henhouse.

Soros has donated some $5 billion of his fortune to left-wing nonprofit groups through the Open Society Institute—an institution committed to Soros' militant ideology of toppling the "fascist" tyranny of the United States, which he says must undergo "de-Nazification" in favor of "justice." The mob at Obama-endorsing MoveOn, purveyors of the "General Betray Us" smear against Commanding General, MNF-I, David Petraeus, is the most notorious Soros-backed political arm. But scores of other activist nonprofits have received Soros funding under the guise of doing nonpartisan "community" or "social justice" work—and it is exactly such leftist activist groups that would be first in line for the Democratic Party/Obama's "social investment" seed money.

Point in case: ACORN. As I've reported before, Obama's old friends at the Chicago-based nonprofit now take in 40 percent of their revenues from American taxpayers. They raked in tens of millions in federal antipoverty grants while some of their operatives presided over massive voter fraud and others were implicated in corporate shakedowns and mortgage scams across the country. Soros has donated at least $150,000 to the group, according to Investor's Business Daily, and "heads a secretive rich-man's club called 'Democracy Alliance' that has doled out $20 million to activist groups like ACORN."

Once the spigot is turned on, there's no turning back.

Where are fiscal conservatives on this far-left boondoggle? Well, if you're wondering why the McCain campaign doesn't raise hell over this proposed left-wing nonprofit/government pipeline, it's because McCain himself is a Soros beneficiary. His "Reform Institute," a tax-exempt, supposedly independent 501(c)(3) group focused on campaign finance reform, was funded by the Soros-funded Open Society Institute and Tides Foundation.

Birds of a Big Government feather flock together—and look out for each other. Watch your wallet.

- Michelle Malkin is author of Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s review. Click here for Michelle Malkin's website. Michelle Malkin's latest book is "Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild."


UPS, Teamsters challenged over union dues

More union dues stories: here

Does Jimmy Hoffa Jr. really run UPS?

With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, three UPS employees in Kentucky and two UPS employees in Ohio filed federal lawsuits Friday and Monday, respectively, against national and local Teamsters officials for illegal extraction of forced union dues.

In the lawsuits, the nonmember employees claim that the national and local unions breached their duty of fair representation and violated the employees’ First and Fifth Amendment rights by charging and collecting fees used for organizing nonunion workers throughout the United States and financing a members-only “Strike and Defense Fund.”

At UPS facilities in Louisville and Dayton, Teamsters Local 89 and Local 957 had been certified as the respective monopoly bargaining agents. With Teamsters officials in place as “exclusive representatives,” nonmember employees lose the right to negotiate with their employer on their own merits, and a compulsory unionism clause in the contract compels them to pay tribute to the union as a condition of employment.

In the Foundation-won Communication Workers of America v. Beck (1988), the Supreme Court allowed certain forced dues but established that objecting employees cannot be compelled to subsidize union activities unrelated to collective bargaining. One in a series of decisions in which the High Court ruled certain expenditures non-chargeable, Ellis v. Railway Clerks (1984) prohibits unions from charging and collecting fees from nonmembers for union organizing and member-only benefits.

Since March 2006, the union charged and collected from the nonmembers compulsory fees greater than 80 percent of the full dues and fees paid by union members. Union bosses failed to provide a required notice of Beck rights and disclosure detailing the basis of the fees until this year. The financial disclosure reveals that Teamsters’ compulsory fees include disallowed expenditures for the national union’s efforts to help organize nonunion employees in both the private and public sectors nationwide. The employees have also been forced to contribute to the “Strike and Defense Fund,” which bars benefits flowing to nonmembers.

Foundation attorneys are asking the U.S. District Courts for the Western District of Kentucky and the Southern District of Ohio to enforce the Supreme Court’s rulings in Ellis and Beck. The District Courts should prohibit the union from collecting fees used for these non-bargaining activities and award damages for the nonmember employees including all such illegal fees collected plus interest.

“It’s bad enough that employees who exercise their right to refrain from union membership are forced to pay fees to a union they do not want,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “But Teamsters bosses are violating the law by compelling nonmembers to fund strikes and organizing activities which seek to corral even more workers into forced unionism.”


Employers organize against Job Killer Act

Momre EFCA stories: here

Pushing back against unions on behalf of workers

A pro-business bus tour organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will come to Portland (ME) Thursday to promote its opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act.

The EFCA has emerged as a major issue for third-party business and labor interests both locally and nationally. The legislation seeks to make it make it easier for unions to organize by requiring that they be recognized if a majority of the potential collective bargaining units sign an authorization card.

Opponents criticize the act because the new system takes away the mandatory private ballot process. Under the current system – which will still be an option if the law is enacted – organizers must get 30 percent of the potential unit to sign authorization cards and then an election is held.

The bus will register voters from 12 to 2 p.m. Thursday at Monument Square. A media briefing is planned at 11.


Card-check violates unionization process

Momre EFCA stories: here

If you have to show anyone how you voted, that's wrong.

The relationship between unions and management has been strained over the past few decades. Despite this rift, there was consensus that the process used to organize workers into a union was fair and respected the rights of all parties involved.

For the past 70 years, the National Labor Relations Board has overseen and protected the union-organizing process. Under today's system, workers are entitled to an election to vote for or against organizing. A worker's vote is private, which means that the worker has the peace of mind that neither paid union representatives nor management will ever see how he or she voted. The privacy built into this process keeps coercion and intimidation at bay and gives credibility to the voting results.

But now the nation is engaged in a debate over EFCA, the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that could turn the unionizing process upside down.

This proposed legislation creates an unfair system that steps on workers' right to a private ballot vote to organize.

EFCA was presented to Congress earlier this year. In the House of Representatives, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., was the lead sponsor, while Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., was the lead sponsor in the Senate.

Although EFCA passed in the House, the bill died in the Senate. But, plans have already been made to introduce EFCA again in the upcoming session of Congress.

EFCA would undo our current time-tested process and eliminate workers' rights to a private ballot. Instead, a union could be formed in a workplace through a system known as "card-check."

Under the card-check system, paid union representatives would distribute a ballot card to workers. To cast a vote in favor of unionizing, the worker would sign the card. To oppose unionizing, the worker would have to decline to sign – with the paid union representative watching the entire time.

Under EFCA, workers would no longer be guaranteed the right they now have to a private ballot. They would be forced to vote in the presence of a paid union representative and run the risk of facing threats and coercion if they are undecided or in opposition to organizing as a union. This is unfair, unjust and anti-democratic.

The results of any election are only as reliable as the process by which the election was held.

Will the results of an open and public vote truly reflect the wishes of a majority of the voting workers? Or will the public nature of the election yield election results that we can never trust to be the accurate will of the workers? This uncertainty can only mean that EFCA's card-check system is a bad idea.

Supporters of EFCA claim that the card-check system will make it easier to organize a union. I agree.

Under card-check, thousands of workers across the country would soon become dues-paying members of a union. But, there is no way of knowing whether those workers sincerely wanted to pay dues to belong to a union, or if they wanted to spare themselves and their families from harassment.

With a private ballot, the will of the voting workers is clear.

Even former Democratic senator and presidential candidate George McGovern wrote a Wall Street Journal column giving his opposition to EFCA.

The private-ballot vote to organize has been working for decades. It has protected workers from intimidation and harassment and has given credibility to election results in the workplace. EFCA would reverse our long-standing practice of private-ballot votes and trample the rights of our nation's workers.

This harmful legislation should not become law. We must alert our elected officials that EFCA is a bad idea and their help in opposing EFCA could make all the difference.

Together, we can broadcast our support for workers on the job and play an important role in protecting their right to a private ballot.

- Godfrey Wood


Employers defend secret-ballot elections

More EFCA stories: here

Union organizers want to see your ballot

Organized labor is pouring more than $300 million into election races this year in hopes of passing legislation that could potentially swell its ranks after years of declining union membership, a Chamber of Commerce official said Tuesday.

The Employee Freedom of Choice Act (EFCA), or card-check organizing, passed the House last year but died in the Senate after a Republican filibuster.

Supporters say the proposal would allow more workers to unionize without pressure from their employers to not unionize. Critics say the bill is not about freedom at all, but would eliminate the secret ballot for union organization and allow intimidation by union organizers.

Under federal law, it takes one-third of employees to call an election to unionize. Then a majority of workers vote in an election by secret ballot whether to establish a union. The election is supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The proposed EFCA would shorten that process by allowing a majority of workers to sign authorization cards – in the presence of other employees – saying they support unionizing. Upon a majority signing the card, the company would be required by law to immediately recognize the union after the NLRB certifies the cards.

Putting a signature on the card allows union organizers to know who supported unionization and who did not, unlike a secret ballot.

“This exposes employees to coercion, harassment, and denies them the right to vote on a union contract,” Glenn Spencer, director of research at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a business advocacy group, said during a conference call held Tuesday at the Heritage Foundation.

“These decisions should be made in the voting booth surrounded by a curtain, not in a parking lot surrounded by union bosses,” Spencer said.

Supporters of the bill say there is too much pressure on workers leading up to a union election. Spencer said he agreed that both employers and colleagues lean on workers to vote one way or another during a union election. But “this would add another pressure point when you have to sign a card in front of a union organizer,” he said.

The problem with elections is that management controls the process and can intimidate or fire people that initiate the process, according to the AFL-CIO, a labor advocacy group that lists the EFCA on its Web site as a top priority.

Further, a workplace could still hold an election, while the EFCA would just provide a second option for union organizers, according to the AFL-CIO.

The AFL-CIO says majority card check is nothing new and “responsible” companies such as Cingular have allowed it voluntarily.

However, a Heritage Foundation study cited evidence of coercion at workplaces where card check was used. During a card check campaign at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, union organizers said that workers who did not sign union cards would lose their jobs, according to the study.

In another case, a United Steel Workers of America official threatened to report migrant workers to federal officials if they did not sign the cards.

Last week, George McGovern, the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in 1972 – considered by many the most liberal nominee in U.S. presidential election history – announced his opposition to card check, agreeing with Republicans who said it ends the secret ballot.

“We cannot be a party that strips working Americans of the right to a secret-ballot election,” McGovern wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

“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,” McGovern added.

McGovern’s commentary further stated, “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.”


Judge: Dems can't shut down anti-EFCA speech

Related Al Franken stories: here
More EFCA stories: here

Dems want to curb discussion about plan to end secret-ballot union elections

In a decisive blow to the Minnesota Democrat Farm Labor (DFL) Party's attempts to curtail free speech, on Monday a Minnesota judge dismissed the DFL Party's complaint against the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW). CDW's television ad said Al Franken supports a federal bill to permit labor unions to force themselves on workers without a secret ballot. The DFL claimed that statement was false. But after examining the DFL's evidence at a hearing, Judge Barbara L. Nielsen dismissed the case, ruling that "The statement that Mr. Franken wants to eliminate the secret ballot is not factually false." (To view the ad, please visit http://www.MyPrivateBallot.com).

In addition to explaining that the bill Franken supports explicitly curtails workers' existing rights to secret ballots, Judge Nielsen noted that respected sources from across the nation and the political spectrum had described the bill in the same way as the CDW's ad.

"The ruling is a vindication of what the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace has been saying all along: that the Employee Free Choice Act represents a real threat to a worker's right to cast a private vote on whether to unionize. This is not only a victory for workplace privacy, but for free speech as well," said Brian Worth, vice president of the Independent Electrical Contractors of America and member of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace. "The DFL and its labor union allies can't hide from the facts and they can't prevent us from educating Minnesotans about Al Franken's and Norm Coleman's positions on the critical issue of worker privacy."

The DFL has consistently rejected the facts about how EFCA will effectively end the right of workers to cast their vote in private when deciding whether to join a union.
Under EFCA, the NLRB must recognize the union without an election if a majority of workers sign an authorization card identifying who they are. Once the 50% threshold has been crossed, the statute is unequivocal in its command: "the [NLRB] shall not direct an election but shall certify the individual or organization as the labor representative." (Emphasis added.)

According to a recent poll conducted by the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), 72% of Minnesota voters prefer secret ballot elections over a card check process when deciding whether or not to join a union. The same poll found that 65% of Minnesota voters were opposed to the Employee Free Choice Act.

About the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace

The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace is made up of more than 500 associations and organizations from every state across the nation that have joined together to protect a worker's right to a private ballot when deciding whether to join a union. For more information and a listing of our membership, please visit http://www.MyPrivateBallot.com.


Rally staged to oppose union agenda

Related story: "Unions stage counter-protest v. employers"
More EFCA stories: here

Employers organize to protect jobs

Pro-business forces say a piece of federal legislation that would make it easier for workers to unionize could be disastrous for employers and ultimately their employees. If it becomes law, the Employee Free Choice Act could lead to lost jobs and business closings, said Greg Thompson, North Carolina State Director, National Federation of Independent Business.

"The majority of small business owners don't know about this legislation, and we're here to help get the word out," said Thompson, speaking to a group of about 75 people gathered Tuesday outside the Catawba County (NC) Chamber of Commerce.

Sponsored by the National Federation of Independent Business, the Chamber and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the "Business Vs. Labor" rally drew mostly business and industry leaders.

More than a dozen union supporters also attended.

There were no confrontations.

Speakers opposing H.R. 800 — also known as the Employee Free Choice Act — included U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, Randel Johnson of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a labor law attorney and the Western Piedmont field representative for Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

The card-check legislation would amend the National Labor Relations Act, making it easier for workers to unionize.

Under existing labor law, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board will certify a union as the exclusive representative of employees if it is elected by either a majority signature drive, the card check process or by secret ballot election.

Card check is a method of organizing employees into a labor union in which employees sign authorization forms or cards.

Under the Employee Free Choice Act, an employer would no longer have the opportunity to demand a secret ballot election when a simple majority of employees have signed union authorization cards and there is no evidence of illegal coercion.

The act would allow employees to choose the secret ballot process to elect union representation if they did not want a card check election, but employers would have to accept whichever method employees choose.

Further, if the union and employer cannot agree on the terms of a first collective bargaining contract within 90 days, either party can request federal mediation, which could lead to binding arbitration if an agreement still cannot be reached after an additional 30 days.

The Employee Free Choice Act also would provide for liquidated damages of two times back pay if employers were found to have unlawfully terminated pro-union employees. That is in addition to the back pay owed, for a total of three times the back pay. Current damages are limited to back pay, less any wages earned by an employee if they are hired by another employer.

The House of Representatives passed the act by a vote of 241 to 185. The bill is stalled in the Senate and faces a presidential veto. However, the bill is expected to be voted on in the 111th Congress and is supported by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. Republican nominee John McCain opposes it.

Speakers at Tuesday's rally focused on the importance of preserving secret ballot elections for workers deciding whether to unionize.

Under provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act, workers would be put at greater risk of harassment and intimidation by union organizers, they said. Supporters of the act say the current process gives employers time to bully workers before a secret ballot election is held.

"Eliminating the democratic process in the workplace is a serious violation of workers' rights and a threat to their wages," McHenry said.

The bill would take control of the workplace away from employers and hand it to government-appointed arbitrators, said Johnson, vice president of labor immigration and employee benefits for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Most employers don't want a government arbitrator stepping in and telling them what is going to be, Johnson said.

"This legislation is over the top, outrageous," he said.

Thompson, whose National Federation of Independent Business represents 7,200 small business owners in North Carolina, said the Employee Free Choice Act stands to affect small and family owned businesses in ways never seen before.

Thompson noted that North Carolina is one of 22 right-to-work states in which laws prohibit agreements between trade unions and employers making membership or payment of union dues or fees a condition of employment, either before or after hiring.

"If the Employee Free Choice Act passes, being a right-to-work state won't matter anymore," he said.

Danny Hearn, president and chief executive officer of the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged that the Hickory area is not a hot bed of union-organizing activity.

"Not yet," Hearn said.

"If this act passes, it will be like letting a kid loose in a candy store."

Speakers at a post-rally labor forum held at the nearby Park Inn Gateway Conference Center agreed.

"This is critical, and needs to be done in every chamber in North Carolina and America," Winston-Salem labor attorney Kenneth Carlson Jr. told about 40 forum participants.

"Being against certain expansive labor and employment laws does not mean that you're against employees.

"At heart is maintaining control of your workplace."


Unions stage counter-protest v. employers

Related story: "Rally staged to oppose union agenda"
More EFCA stories: here

Change the rules to unionize disinterested workers

As MaryBe McMillan talked about legislation supporting unions on Tuesday, members of the standing-room-only crowd cheered and waved their "Employee Free Choice Act Now!" posters.

"It's disgraceful that they're opposing worker legislation when we need it most," McMillan said, speaking of elected officials and business owners who met earlier Tuesday in front of the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce at a rally against the Employee Free Choice Act. "The Chamber took a stand against freedom of choice."

McMillian is the secretary-treasurer of the N.C. State American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization. She said the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as H.R.800, is so important to her because of all the manufacturing jobs lost in her hometown of Hickory.

"If employees are able to work for better wages, they can have a better job, a better life," she said, adding that the act will ensure that by letting employees form unions.

The act would allow employees to form unions without any pressure from their employer to do otherwise. Rob Black, a spokesman for the N.C. State AFL-CIO, said the fact that business owners who say employees won't be able to vote in secret under the act doesn't hold water.

"The word 'secret' is being thrown out by chamber officials as a red herring, to take away from worker rights," Black said. "There's no great secret here. If 60 cards are signed by employees, you know they're pro-union. There's no secret to it. People who don't want it won't sign the card. If you're on the fence, you don't have to join the union. These companies will stop at nothing to threaten and harass workers. If businesses are worried about how their employees will vote in an election, maybe they shouldn't trample on their freedoms."

Catawba County resident Robin Crafton attended the rally to learn more about the labor laws in the state. She said she became interested in finding out what her rights were last year, after her company was bought out by a larger employer and things changed.

"I found out what my rights as a worker are, and I was shocked. The right to work sounds good, but it doesn't mean squat. I have the right to quit, and that's about it," Crafton said. "Longevity doesn't mean much at businesses anymore. My son got a 27-cent an hour increase, which is about $12 a week. Sure, that's $12 more, but with gas prices and food prices the way they are, there's no way you can keep up."

She said she was "very disappointed" that U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry had sided with big business, showing up at the rally at the Chamber earlier on Tuesday, but not at the AFL-CIO rally later in the day.

Arlen Clark, of MV Transportation, was at the AFL-CIO rally. She spoke about her experience with a fledgling union. Clark began working at the company seven months ago. She said she'd never worked at a company where people were treated so unfairly. However, starting a union turned out to be a great experience for her and her co-workers.

"My first thought was that someone could care about the employees," Clark said. "Now, they're fixing all the vehicles that were dangerous. We were working 12 to 13 hours a day with no breaks, but they're trying to work with us on that now. They're listening to our complaints."

She said not everyone joined the union when it was first created. However, some of the people who didn't first join are considering joining now.

Not all businesses are against unions. Jim Logan, owner of American Income Life in Charlotte, spoke at Tuesday's rally for the Employee Free Choice Act.

"I can't think of one good reason to oppose a union. Collective bargaining agreement benefits a highly trained and productive team," he said. "I can solve problems collectively, rather than dealing with everyone individually. It's never hampered my business or ability to make a profit."


Labor expert raps No Growth agenda

It's all about mandating union dues to secure political power

Next week's Democratic National Convention will celebrate organized labor, crucial to Democratic electoral success. Then, on September 1, Americans will celebrate Labor Day, the holiday in honor of organized labor.

Private sector union membership peaked in the 1950s at 36% of the workforce. Now, only 7.5% of private sector workers belong to unions. Yet the DNC will pay homage to the union agenda, including removing the right to a secret ballot for workers voting on whether or not to join unions, higher minimum wages, higher taxes, and extending mandated benefits, such as paid leave, to even the smallest employers.

Such policies would drive some companies out of business and encourage others to move offshore, reducing the numbers of jobs in America, opportunities for entry into the workforce, and upward mobility.

But even as unions promote counterproductive economic policies, and push for legislation allowing them to essentially force more workers into their ranks, a look at union finances shows that many unions aren't looking after the members they already have — especially their retirement plans.

The Sheet Metal Workers International Union says prominently on its Web site that "Union Members Have Strong Retirement Plans."

But it turns out — as disclosed in unions' mandatory annual financial reports to the Labor Department — that the Sheet Metal workers' union pension plan is underfunded and so risks the future pensions promised to its members. Many other union pension plans are in similar straits.

The histories of several union pension funds demonstrate why they are in poor financial condition:

* In 2008 the significant liabilities of the Sheet Metal workers pension plan required it to negotiate combinations of increased contributions and decreased benefits.

* The Teamsters implemented only modest reforms of their pension plans, too late to forestall automatic penalties.

* The Plumbers and Pipefitters Union lost millions to former trustees, who made investments favoring family members that yielded low returns.

* A bookkeeper of the Laborers' pension fund embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions.

Adding insult to injury, many union plans for union officers and staff are more generously funded than plans for the rank-and-file.

Consider these facts about the Sheet Metal Workers Union: At the end of 2006, the latest year for which pension plan filings have been made public to the Labor Department, the union's retirement plan covered more than 136,000 people.

The plan "guaranteed" $7.45 billion in benefits to active and former workers. But it had accumulated only $3.1 billion in assets — less than 42% of the amount needed to pay workers all promised benefits.

Accounting rules in force before enactment of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 had allowed the union and its counterpart employers to pay less than nominally-required sums by virtue of earlier overpayments. Consequently, despite earlier credits, the fund fell behind on its payments and the coverage ratio declined.

Even though the union lauded its pension fund for regularly earning a return of 8.5%, liabilities were $4.3 billion greater than assets.

One of the reasons the plan was in trouble was that it offered a generous cost-of-living adjustment, a 13th monthly pension payment to beneficiaries each year, amounting to an 8% bonus. This piece of generosity cost the fund heavily.

After implementation of the Pension Protection Act of 2006, fund managers developed two recovery options for each union branch and employer to bring the fund into balance, both eliminating the cost-of-living adjustment. In 2008, participating employers will be asked to contribute an extra 10% to the pension fund in 2008, followed by rising additional sums over the next nine years, at a cost of approximately $168 million.

If the union cannot win such additional sums from employers, benefits would have to be cut, with workers paid smaller pensions than they originally were promised.

But the president of the sheet metal workers' union, Michael Sullivan, will do fine. The union's own plan for its employees was funded more than 10 times more generously than the collectively bargained plan for rank-and-file members.

In 2006, Mr. Sullivan received, in addition to his $263,092 salary and $125,734 expense account, $133,198 from employer and employee rank-and-file benefit plan contributions. The union staff plan, covering 250 people (69 active workers), had in 2005 $57 million in assets, and was 81% funded. It held an average of $230,848 for each of its participants, compared with $22,879 a person in the fund that covers the rank-and-file.

While the rank-and-file saw cost of living benefits disappear, the union staff plan's cost of living fund more than tripled in 2006, entirely due to employer contributions. These employer contributions would have been better used to stabilize the financial condition of the rank-and-file pension plan.

Next week, barring any surprises, Senator Obama will be nominated as the Democratic Party's candidate for president. He will pledge to move forward the union agenda. But American workers won't be the beneficiaries.

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


Teamsters mini-strike kills Ford deal

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Militant labor-state union action may hurt workers

A two-day Teamsters strike ended abruptly yesterday as workers left the picket lines upon learning that their employer apparently was no longer doing business with Ford Motor Co.

Asked why Ford had terminated its contract to load new vehicles onto railcars from both the Kentucky Truck and Louisville Assembly plants, Keith Reardon, a spokesman for Auto Port, of Flat Rock, Mich., declined comment.

Ford Motor Co. spokeswoman Angie Kozleski said little more.

"I can't talk about the relationship between Ford and Auto Port," Kozleski said.

Production of F-Series Super Duty trucks at Kentucky Truck and Explorers at Louisville Assembly continued despite the strike that began Monday and ended yesterday afternoon.

Ford previously contracted with RCS Transportation of Shelbyville to ship new vehicles.

A breakdown in talks between Auto Port and Teamsters Local 89 sparked the walkout.

Trouble started last spring when Ford awarded a three-year contract to Auto Port, bumping RCS Transportation. Within weeks, 450 Teamsters who earned between $20 and $22 per hour were informed their union was out. Auto Port invited some to reapply for their old jobs at a pay scale of between $10 and $12 an hour.

The Teamsters -- who have loaded new vehicles since both plants opened decades ago -- rallied. Negotiating behind the scenes, Local 89 President Fred Zuckerman cut a deal in June that lowered the Teamsters pay to $17 and $18 an hour, while preserving existing health and pension benefits. When RCS Transportation exited their contract, the Teamsters went to work for Auto Port via that oral agreement beginning July 1.

Auto Port is a subsidiary of CN International, an international transportation conglomerate based in Toronto.

But when talks for a new contract with Auto Port broke down, the Teamsters hit the pavement Monday on Fern Valley Road and Chamberlain Lane, outside both factories.

About noon yesterday, word spread down the picket line outside Louisville Assembly that Ford was no longer doing business with Auto Port. That message came to Local 89 Business Agent Aubrey Cheatham's cell phone shortly after pickets outside Kentucky Truck folded up.

"We took pay cuts to keep our jobs," Cheatham, 55, said. "Ford did the right thing."

Seated on his Suzuki motorcycle in the shade of a tarpaulin at roadside, J.R. Botkins, 56, noted that relief came sooner than he thought.

"It did surprise me," said Botkins, who drives tractor-trailers loaded with Explorers for shipment from a Shelbyville railyard. "I figured it would take longer than 24 hours."

"Maybe it shows that Ford does care," said Sam Rich, 57, a Teamster shop steward sitting nearby.

"We are extremely happy they are gone," Botkins said. "And Ford, regardless of whether they'll admit it, is also happy they are gone."

Zuckerman did not respond to several messages seeking comment yesterday.

The Teamster workers sort new vehicles into parking bays for shipment to Ford dealers nationwide. They also clean and maintain railcars at both plants, loading and securing new vehicles for shipment.

As the strike began, United Auto Workers Local 862 President Rocky Comito said he counseled his members not to perform Teamster duties as new trucks came off the line. Instead, UAW workers stockpiled new Super Duty trucks and Explorers in hastily assigned parking lots outside both plants, Comito said.

Teamster duties "are just not our work. We were not going to do something we were not trained to do," Comito said. And Ford didn't ask the UAW to go outside its usual duties, he added.

"Ford was good to us, really. They did not put us in a bad position."


Unions charged with 'environmental extortion'

Related Project Labor Agreement stories: here

New form of greenmail: Project Labor Agreements

A construction industry association has accused local labor unions of using “environmental extortion” to secure a union-only contract to construct the proposed Big West of California refinery expansion.

A coalition of local building trade unions has hired a Bay Area law firm to raise environmental objections to leverage labor negotiations with Big West, said Kevin Korenthal, government affairs director for Associated Builders and Contractors of Los Angeles/Ventura and Central California, which represents non-union construction firms.

Gloria Smith, the Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo attorney representing the unions, says Korenthal’s wrong. She maintains her clients include air quality advocates, residents near the refinery and unions who want to protect the community and environment.

Korenthal, however, says the firm’s main purpose is to make the refinery expansion a union-only job. The unions plan to dangle the spector of an environmental lawsuit — driving up expenses and delays for Big West — to intimidate the refinery to use only union hires for construction, he said.

If Big West agrees, Korenthal predicts the law firm will drop its environmental complaints.

“Their intent is to use the precious time by holding up the project in the hopes of getting Big West to agree to sign the project labor agreement,” he said.

Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo has filed the most extensive objections to the refinery project since the environmental review began more than a year ago.

The firm represents the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 460, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 428, the Asbestos Workers Local 5, the Boilermakers Local 92, the Ironworkers Local 155 and the Road Sprinkler Fitters Local 669.

It also represents the Association for Irritated Residents, a local air quality advocacy group, and a few former refinery workers who live near the facility.

Smith points out her clients’ involvement so far helped expose the refinery’s initial plans to use the hazardous chemical hydrofluoric acid, which sparked widespread public outcry and an eventual modification of plans. They’ve also raised awareness about the threat of contaminated soil becoming airborne during construction.

“We have never threatened anybody in this case,” Smith said. “We've got a broad coalition. It isn't just trade groups trying to get a labor agreement.”

She did say a third goal is “good paying jobs for the community” and that her clients would like this to be a “union project.” But she denied the firm would drop its environmental concerns if there’s a union-only labor agreement.

“It just would never happen that (my other clients) would let me say, ‘We'll just walk away because we got this (union agreement),’” Smith said.

Big West confirmed that several of the labor unions Smith represents presented the company with a draft labor contract.

The company is negotiating with the unions, said Big West Health, Safety and Environmental Director Bill Chadick.

He declined to comment further on the talks but said the company has always planned to use both union and non-union labor. “We're open to negotiating an agreement that makes sense for both parties,” he said.

Union involvement in the environmental review of major industrial projects has become common in California. According to a a 2006 Sacramento Business Journal article, Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo has been active in the process, intervening in almost all state applications for new, large-scale power plants in recent years and more recently turning its attention to refineries.

In many cases, the Journal reported, a union-only labor agreement has resulted along with an out-of-court settlement on environmental concerns.

Korenthal said a union-only labor agreement for the Bakersfield project would prevent local non-union construction workers from working the job due to the escalated costs of benefits and union dues it would create for their employers.

Smith, the attorney representing unions, dismissed Korenthal’s concerns, saying they come from a group representing contractors that “don't want to have to pay union wages.”


IAM strikers look for outside income

Related IAM-Beechcraft strike stories: here

Paltry strike pay from dues compared to huge spending on union politics

As strikers at Hawker Beechcraft continue into the third week, more machinists are deciding it's time earn a little extra cash without crossing the picket lines. But even though some are seeking jobs elsewhere they still remain loyal to the cause.

Machinist Ben O'Shea has only been with Hawker Beachcraft in Salina for 10 months, but when it came time to vote whether to strike he said it was an easy decision. "Contract wasn't fair enough, I'm looking for the future of my family."

Like many out here on the line O'shea says he's looking out for his wife, their six-year-old daughter, and his son. "I wanted to be on the line as much as possible and support my union brothers here in Salina and in Wichita."

While he says he was prepared to go without a paycheck, he started looking for a job before the vote just in case. "Yes it hard, no one wants to hire you for part time."

Then the unexpected came up. "My daughters teeth need to be pulled all the sudden we found out yesterday she has an abscess tooth, so we need the money." Forcing him to seek outside employment for help. "I went out there not expecting anything and they said show up tomorrow morning 7:00." He will work construction until an agreement can be made. "I'm really grateful to them. It's not about me it's about my family."

And while he's supporting his family, he'll still support his coworkers, walking the picket lines on weekends.

After this week striking machinists will be able to receive strike benefits from the union. That will be $150 a week for walking the picket lines. In the meantime Salina machinist tell us they have been receiving lots of support. The local food bank has been assisting families.


Gov't unionists disrupt Council meeting

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Militant labor-state public safety unionists cause a ruckus

Not even Mayor Rudy Clay's city-owned sport utility vehicle was safe from the blistering criticisms of scorned city workers and local activists who vented about pay and staffing cuts at Tuesday night's Gary (IN) City Council meeting. "You've got to get rid of that Hummer," activist Kwabena Rasuli said.

Dozens of firefighters, paramedics, uniformed police, secretaries and clerks filled the gallery, clapping and hooting for speakers who attacked the city's pay cut and hours shifts for police and firefighters. Arnetta Davis makes about $20,000 as a receptionist and clerk for the Health Department, she said. She has worked for the city for 31 years, and she said she can't handle the 20 percent pay cut. "It's gonna kill me. I don't know what I'm gonna do," Davis said.

Clay defended the cuts and staffing changes. The police union is suing the city to stop the changes. The firefighters' union was considering a similar suit after some firefighters were told not to come to work Monday. Clay said the city is exiting a financial storm, and the pay cuts and staffing changes are needed to weather a $12 million budget shortfall that he blames on unpaid property taxes and the lack of a 1 percent local option income tax.

"We've got to be sure that we don't shut the city down," Clay said.

City Council members spread blame to many parties: delinquent taxpayers, the state of Indiana, U.S. Steel, casino mogul Don Barden and neighboring politicians who opposed the 1 percent tax. Councilman Roy Pratt suggested suing insurance companies for unpaid ambulance bills. Councilman Kyle Allen said casino money can't be the city's budgetary cure. Allen said the city's "eroded" tax base is the problem.

Councilwoman Ragen Hatcher drew applause from a skeptical union crowd when she suggested U.S. Steel has not paid its share and the city needs to restructure its departments.

Clay left before the public comment period. Firefighters' union President Raynard Robinson chastised Clay for leaving the meeting. He also said Clay never consulted union officials about scheduling changes.

"Give us a chance to adjust our schedule," he said.


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