Fed investigators join SEIU payola probe

More Andy Stern stories: hereRickman Jackson stories: hereTyrone Freeman stories: here

U.S. government notifies Andy Stern of inquiry

A growing financial scandal in the 2-million-member Service Employees International Union has prompted a federal criminal investigation into the labor organization's largest California local, sources familiar with the probe say.

U.S. Labor Department authorities are examining payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars by the union and a related charity to firms owned by relatives of the Los Angeles local's president and expenditures of similar sums on a golf tournament, restaurants, a cigar lounge and entertainment companies, according to people with knowledge of the investigation.

The investigators are also looking into allegations that some union staff members faced retaliation last week after they refused to sign a petition supporting its president, Tyrone Freeman, the sources said.

The Times disclosed the spending practices of the United Long-Term Care Workers this month. The union's 160,000 dues-payers earn $9 an hour or slightly more tending to the elderly and infirm in their residences or nursing homes.

Two agencies of the Labor Department are conducting the inquiry -- the Office of Labor-Management Standards and the Inspector General's Office. They are responsible for investigating allegations of criminal embezzlement and racketeering in unions and work with U.S. attorney's offices in pursuing prosecutions.

A spokeswoman for SEIU President Andy Stern said late Wednesday that the Labor Department had notified the union that an investigation had been launched.

"We are deeply concerned about these allegations," said spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette. "We are cooperating fully. We will not tolerate in any leader actions that threaten the best interests of our members."

Labor Department officials declined to confirm whether an investigation was underway. In response to the allegations of retaliations, however, the head of the Office of Labor-Management Standards, Don Todd, said in a statement: "We take seriously any allegations of intimidation, violence or retaliation. Intimidation of union members is unacceptable and is prohibited by law."

Investigators from Todd's agency and the Inspector General's Office are interviewing potential witnesses about the local's financial transactions and the role that Freeman played in the expenditures, the sources said. The sources asked to remain anonymous because they feared reprisals.

Freeman, a longtime Stern protege who has taken a leave of absence, could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and his representatives did not return phone calls and e-mail messages. He previously denied any wrongdoing.

The union's national office has placed Freeman's local in trusteeship, removing its elected officials, including 55 board members. The local is the second largest in the Service Employees International Union, the fastest-growing labor organization in the country.

A second union official, Rickman Jackson, Freeman's former chief of staff, has stepped aside from his post as president of SEIU's biggest Michigan chapter.

A housing corporation that Freeman helped found used the address of a home that property records show is owned by Jackson, The Times has reported.

Union and housing corporation officials have declined to say whether Jackson was paid for any use of his residence. Jackson said in an e-mail that he had no comment.

It was not clear Wednesday whether the federal inquiry extended to Michigan. Stern's representatives have saidhis administration is examining the Detroit local's financial records.

Freeman's local has paid nearly $178,000 to a video firm operated by his wife at the couple's home, The Times has reported.

A day-care service run by his mother-in-law at her house has received $96,000 annually for several years from a union-affiliated charity, the Homecare Workers Training Center.

In addition, the local has paid $16,000 to a now-defunct minor league basketball team coached by Freeman's brother-in-law and $219,000 to another small video firm run by a former staffer, Brian Cheatham. Three other former staffers said that Cheatham is a close friend of Freeman and his wife, Pilar Planells, and that he had been pictured as a member of their wedding party on the website of a Hawaiian nuptials service.

The photo recently was removed from the website.

Altogether, payments to Freeman and the firms operated by his relatives and Cheatham totaled more than $1 million in 2006 and 2007. That includes Freeman's compensation from the union, which was about $213,000 last year.

The local also spent nearly $300,000 in 2007 on the Four Seasons Resorts golf tournament, restaurants such as Morton's steakhouse, the Grand Havana Room cigar club in Beverly Hills, and the William Morris Agency, the Hollywood talent firm, The Times has reported.

The union spent at least $123,000 more on the Carlsbad tournament than it received in reimbursements, although the event was billed as a fundraiser, records show.

After The Times raised questions about the nearly $10,000 paid to the Grand Havana Room, Freeman said he refunded the money.

He said all the other expenditures were in the interest of the union's members.

Freeman and union representatives have declined to discuss an $82,000 payment to a Florida video firm that has said it never received such a payment.

The payout was reported in the union's Labor Department filings.

Meanwhile, several union staff members told last week of being pressured by Freeman's lieutenants to sign the petition supporting him.

Some of those who initially refused were transferred to positions far from their homes, according to three staffers who asked not to be identified because they feared retribution.

About 10 workers who balked at signing the petition had their union-provided cellphone service discontinued, the staffers said.

Ringuette said the union was investigating those complaints "very aggressively."


ACORN voter-fraud tracked in Ohio

More ACORN stories: here

Union-backed group heaps abuse on elections officials around the nation

A national organization that registers low-income people to vote has cut back its push in Cuyahoga County after workers were accused of registering phantom voters. The Cuyahoga County elections board is investigating ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which has submitted about 75,000 voter registration cards to the Cuyahoga board this year.

No one knows how many registrations were faked, but the voter registration department received so many suspicious cards that it began compiling a binder with evidence. The binder grew to be an inch thick.

Board employees said multiple ACORN workers often handed in registration cards listing the same people but showing them living at different addresses. Other times, multiple workers submitted cards with identical voter names but showing different dates of birth.

"I'm obviously very concerned," Board Chairman Jeff Hastings said. "This goes to the essence of our democracy."

ACORN had a part-time staff of 30 who worked five days a week to find unregistered people.

The workers were paid $8 an hour and had to sign up 20 voters per five-hour shift.

The elections board said in a report that ACORN's quota contributed to the possible fraud.

ACORN stopped the registration efforts of the part-timers on Aug. 15. Three salaried employees continue the drive to sign up voters.

At its Tuesday meeting, the elections board canceled five fraudulent registrations submitted by ACORN workers.

The cases involved people who already were registered to vote and were alerted to the fraud through notifications that they had been newly registered.

Elections officials do not expect fraudulent registrations to affect the November election. Betty Grant Edwards, manager of the board's registration department, said voters must provide identification before voting, listing a current address.

If the names and addresses don't match, voters receive provisional ballots, which are not counted until registrations are verified.

ACORN is a national organization that promotes social justice for low and moderate-income families. It is among many groups that register voters.

In August 2006, elections boards in Franklin and Summit counties investigated potentially bogus registration cards submitted by ACORN.

The Franklin board turned over 500 cards to its county prosecutor, but no charges resulted.

ACORN's national voter registration director, Kimberly Olsen, said Cleveland voter registration efforts have been wildly successful.

"We hit our goals early, registering 86,000 people in Cleveland proper," Olsen said Wednesday in a written statement.


Teamsters win organized labor award

More decertification stories: here

SEIU takes 2nd place in most-decertified union contest

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is the winner of Union Free America’s 3rd Annual “Most Decertified Union Award.” This honor is awarded to the labor union that lost the most decertification elections during the preceding 12 months.

The judging was based on an analysis of the reports of election results on the National Labor Relations Board’s web site for the period August 2007 through July 2008. During that time the NLRB conducted 330 decertification elections. Employees seeking to rid themselves of a union won 201 or 61 percent of them.

The Teamsters union won the “Most Decertified Union Award” by being decertified 64 times during that period. The Teamsters were involved in a total of 84 decertification elections of which they lost 76 percent.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) came in a distant second by being decertified 15 times.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) won honorable mention by being certified 9 times. This may seem paltry compared to the Teamsters, but IBEW deserves recognition for being decertified in 9 out of 10 elections.

The Teamsters outstanding performance helped the Change to Win unions soundly defeat the AFL-CIO affiliates in the competition, despite the fact that the AFL-CIO is a considerably larger federation. Change to Win unions participated in a total of 164 decertification elections and lost 97 of them compared to just 132 elections with 80 losses for the AFL-CIO.

Colorful certificates commemorating these achievements have been sent to the Teamsters, Service Employees and Electrical Workers unions.

The number of union certification elections conducted by the National Labor Relations Board has been declining for quite some time. Between August 2000 and July 2001, the earliest comparable period for which data is available online, the NLRB conducted 2,726 certification elections and unions won 1,445 of them. Between August 2007 and July 2008 the NLRB conducted only 1,604 certification elections and unions won just 995 of them. That's a decline 40 percent.

The same isn't true of decertification elections. Between August 2000 and July 2001 the NLRB conducted 360 decertification elections a decline of only 8 percent.

The decline in the number of certification elections is generally attributable to the unions inability to convince workers to vote for union representation in a secret ballot election.

Labor union officials are pressing for legislation to deny employees the right to a secret ballot vote on union representation. This bill is ironically named the "Employee Free Choice Act." The undemocratic scheme the unions would use to replace elections is called a "card check" in which a union is certified by a bare majority of workers signing authorization cards.

David Denholm, the founder of Union Free America, observes that, "The so-called 'free choice act' is a completely one sided proposal. It has no provision for allowing employees to rid themselves of unwanted unions through a card-check."

Union Free America was founded in 2002 to provide advice and encouragement to workers fighting to stay, or become, Union Free. The “Most Decertified Union Award” was established in 2006 in response to the growing number of requests from workers for information about how they could rid themselves of unwanted union representation.


Today's unions are failing America

Union bigs' sense of entitlement bankrupts public sector

Labor Day is this Monday. Are your plans all set to honor the American union worker? After all, Labor Day was first created by this country's organized labor unions for that sole purpose.

That's OK. Most of us won't celebrate anything more than the hot dogs and hamburgers on the backyard grill. To be honest, it's been a long time since Labor Day meant anything to most Americans but the end of summer and the start of school and football season. More Americans think of Labor Day as the day to put away the swim trunks rather than as a day to honor the achievements and legacy of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Today, phrases such as "organized labor" and "American worker" - and even the word "union" itself - are only weak echoes of a language fewer and fewer Americans speak. That wasn't always so. Anyone 50 years old or thereabouts who grew up in a working-class family can tell you about shop stewards and business agents, about grievances and wildcat walkouts and scabs. Ask most 20-somethings what any of those terms mean and you'll be answered with a blank stare.

In history's big lens, organized labor's era of power and influence in America only lasted a very short time, less than 100 years. And their most powerful time of influence in American life extended only from the late 1940s to the 1980s. But for those 30 or 40 years after World War II when American unions were at their height, they were a mighty thing.

Oh, there are still unions. And there are still a lot of union members, private and public, throughout America. But today's unions possess only a small, pale shadow of their former brawling, pushy greatness.

Unions were once a very big part of the cultural, economic and political life of Berkshire County. Local politicians actively sought the support of union officials at G.E. and Sprague Electric and the Laborers' International. An endorsement from any of those three groups translated into community backing and an instant group of volunteers for chores such as holding signs at the polls on Election Day.

Many Berkshire folks are quick to blame unions for the demise of both General Electric and Sprague. There is more than a grain of truth to that belief. Almost anyone who spent any substantial time working at Sprague or General Electric will tell you about good men and women in the union leadership who fought hard for their membership's legitimate needs. They will also tell you about other union leaders, short-sighted hotheads who had no interest in what was best for most. Their only goal was to endlessly torment the company with crazy, pointless grievances and walkouts.

As they did in all of America, unions helped working people in Berkshire County live better lives. Sadly, once the wages and benefits and improved working conditions they fought so hard for were achieved, they never figured out how to handle success.

In theory, unions make sense. But in the real world, today's unions are failing American workers. There is no better example than public service unions. Because of their inability to assume responsible partnership with the taxpayer, because of their unrealistic sense of self-entitlement, unions representing public employees are bankrupting many of the very cities where their workers live and that pay those workers' salaries.

However far unions have strayed from their heroic roots, in their infancy they were a beautiful thing for working American men and women. Before unions, life in the mills meant a harsh and brutal existence. So if you have a desire to celebrate the real meaning of Labor Day, here's a verse for you from an old International Workers' song describing a union worker's vision of heaven:

The mills are made of marble.

The machines are made of gold.

Nobody ever gets tired.

Nobody ever gets old.


GOP rejects 'no-vote, no-choice' unionism

More card-check stories: here

Barack, union bigs on the wrong side of workers

Republicans are aggressively courting blue-collar votes by adding a plank to their policy platform that demands workers retain the right to unionize through secret-ballot elections. One of the party's iconic law-and-order figures warned on Wednesday that Democratic efforts to change the labor voting system would leave workers vulnerable to corruption and intimidation.

"I think that it's just a principle of American democracy that you should be able to choose to be a member of a union or not be a member of a union, and you should be able to make that choice without anything rigged either way," former New York mayor and one-time Republican presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani told The Washington Times in an interview.

"I would think that that position of Senator [Barack] Obama's really comes about because of special interest pressure, not because of any logical analysis of what is right in the Democrat system," he said.

Mr. Giuliani, who gained fame in the 1980s as a federal prosecutor who aggressively pursued organized crime, said he feared the Democrat-backed proposal to change the long-standing union voting system would "create a real problem for prosecutors" trying to fight union corruption.

"This idea that Senator Obama is somehow the 'new politics' is really one of the bigger myths that exists. He is very much the old politics; he does the things unions want," Mr. Giuliani said during a stop in Denver designed to raise the Republican Party profile during the Democratic nominating convention.

Labor's biggest legislative prize in decades could be the Employee Free Choice Act, a measure that would allow unions to form after a majority of employees sign cards or petitions, bypassing the traditional secret-ballot method of organizing.

Mr. Obama's support of the change puts him directly at odds with the Republican plank.

Unions say the card-signing - or "card check" - method is fairer than the secret ballot because it's a simpler, more direct approach for workers to decide whether they want to unionize. The unions argue that they need the legislation to defend against anti-union companies and lawmakers, which they blame in part for decades of declining membership.

Republicans "don't care if they destroy the middle class, and the middle class in this country was created by the right to form unions and collective bargain - there's no other way," said Stewart Acuff, assistant to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

"It should not be up to the boss to decide how a union is organized; it should be up to the unions," Mr. Acuff said.

Opponents of the bill, including big businesses like Wal-Mart, say Democrats are making a desperate attempt to pander to organized labor - one of the party's most loyal backers - and say the measure would deprive workers of their privacy and their right to vote and would expose them to intimidation by union organizers. Many worry that the change would allow for unions to organize workers more quickly.

Groups on both sides of the debate are expected to spend millions of dollars to campaign on the issue this election season. Opponents of the proposal are airing radio ads in Denver during the Democratic convention that feature an animated ballot box pleading to keep the secret-vote system.

In Michigan, where unions in the automotive and related industries still wield influence, state Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis told The Times that "nationwide, the right to a secret ballot is important to everybody, union members and non-union members. The union bosses would like to have the card-check system, which basically allows someone to walk in and intimidate a voter by giving them a card, watching how they vote, having them sign that card and give it back to the union officials."

The issue is not just Republican versus Democrat, he said, noting that even some liberal Democrats oppose the idea of stripping workers of the right to a secret vote and not be intimidated. "George McGovern came out for preserving the secret ballot in union elections," Mr. Anuzis said.

The fight over the bill underscores the historic alliances of labor with Democrats and business with Republicans.

The final version of the Republican Party platform is scheduled to be approved Monday morning by the 112-member platform committee and go for final approval before the full convention Monday afternoon in St. Paul, Minn.

Titled "Stopping the Assault on the Private Ballot," the secret-ballot plank says that the "recent attempt by congressional Democrats to deny workers a private ballot in union referenda is an assault, not only against a fundamental principle of labor law, but even more against the dignity and honor of the American work force."

The Democratic Party platform adopted in Denver this week takes the opposite position, pledging to strengthen the ability of workers to organize unions and fight to pass the card-check proposal.

The legislation failed in Congress last year, but unions are pushing hard to get the proposal reintroduced next year.

"It's ironic Republicans are pushing this because it's bipartisan legislation, so they're writing a plank to their platform that members of their own party reject," the AFL-CIO's Mr. Acuff said.

A card-check proposal passed the House last year by a 241-185 vote, with the support of 13 Republicans. The bill failed in the Senate by a vote of 51-48, with Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania as the lone Republican supporter.

Business and corporate interests adamantly oppose the proposal. The AFL-CIO says big business will spend $300 million through 2009 in advertising and lobbying efforts against the card checks.

But union leaders say that because the card-check system is considerably quicker than conducting secret-ballot elections, which typically take weeks, it reduces the potential for employers to harass and intimidate workers against joining a union.

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in Denver Wednesday blamed "special interest pressure" for presidential candidate Barack Obama's support for eliminating secret balloting in union organizing efforts. (United Press International)

Labor unions represent one of the strongest constituencies in the Democratic Party. Although membership has dropped to an estimated 7 percent to 12 percent of the work force, unions provide a reliable volunteer force of doorbell ringers and Election Day workers.

Since President Richard M. Nixon's first White House win in 1968, however, Republicans have been able to appeal to more of the blue-collar voters who hold dear their respect for "God and country."


Disinterested workers don't want to be bullied

More EFCA stories: here

Why unions are bad for business

While the 40-hour work week, overtime, child labor laws and improved working conditions are now common place because of organized labor’s work in decades past, unions have outlived their usefulness. Their long-time stranglehold on companies like GM and Ford show what kind of damage they can do to once-strong businesses.

Union membership has steadily declined over the past several decades because they’ve gone from helping workers to becoming a bureaucratic obstacle to workplace efficiency and employee freedom. One of the latest examples of this is the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would eliminate the private ballot that currently exists for employees to vote on whether or not they want to join union.

The EFCA advocates obviously want to use peer pressure and intimidation tactics to swell the union ranks. Of course, increased union membership means more dues automatically deducted from employee paychecks and into the union coffers.

Employees should have the freedom to decide—without intimidation—if they want to join a union or not. The Coalition for a Democratic Workforce (CDW) agrees. This week the CDW unveiled an ad that exposes the ‘card check’ scheme that would drive a wedge between employers and employees.

The ad encourages voters to get Congressman Mark Udall (D-CO), a co-sponsor of the EFCA when it passed the US House of Representatives last year, to change his support for ‘card checks.’ The card check is a process where a union could force a public vote—instead of a private one—if a majority of employees to sign cards indicating interest in the union.

“Union bosses are working overtime and spending tens of millions of dollars to get card check passed. We’re going to work equally hard to educate people about the threat to private ballots in union organizing elections,” said Brian Worth, of CDW, in an 8-26-08 CBS MarketWatch.com article. “…The ability for workers to cast their vote in private is at stake.”

Unions are desperately trying to stay relevant in an economy that no longer needs them. As businesses increase automation and become more global, unions are an obstacle to business efficiency and, by extension, lower prices for the consumer.


Union secret-ballot ads gain attention

More EFCA stories: here

Voters wary about herding disinterested workers into labor unions

Heard on the 6:40 a.m. drive to convention-world this morning: A radio ad highlighting Colorado Senate Republican candidate Bob Schaffer on the union card check issue. My colleague Michael Mishak is the resident expert on this, having written extensively about the importance of card check for unions. Unions want to be able to organize by having employees sign a card rather than going through what they see as an often problematic secret ballot process. They need Congress to pass a law.

But stopping card check is a top priority of the business community, as well as the number one fundraising issue for Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign, who is leading his party’s efforts to elect Republicans to the Senate this fall.

The Colorado Senate race will be among the most watched in the nation as Schaffer and Democratic Rep. Mark Udall battle for the open seat being vacated by a retiring Republican. Polls show Schaffer had gained on Udall last month, but another recent poll showed Udall extending his lead.


Worker coercion is the norm

More worker-choice stories: here

Do Dems prefer France's labor law to U.S.?

Almost two years ago, Cathy Curran voted to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. A driver for Fed­Ex Home Delivery, Curran says she felt management was ignoring workers' concerns about long shifts and unexplained deductions from paychecks, and she sought to form a union to gain leverage.

In October 2006 a majority of workers at her Wilmington (Mass.) terminal voted to organize. But even though the U.S. National Labor Relations Board certified the election and told FedEx to bargain, Curran is still not a Teamster: Fed­Ex won't recognize the union and is appealing the certification in federal court. "FedEx refused to bargain because these workers are contractors, not employees," company spokesman Maury Lane says. "It's not against the law to work for yourself, which is why more than 10 million Americans pursue that work lifestyle every day."

For FedEx and other companies, such a situation would change under the proposed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a bill being pushed by Big Labor. It would allow workers to skip the lengthy process of an NLRB election and unionize if a simple majority sign authorization cards. The system, dubbed "card check," also calls for unresolved conflicts to be adjudicated by a federal mediator who would issue binding arbitration if the sides can't reach an agreement. The bill boosts penalties for illegal acts by employers during union drives, which would cause them to tread more carefully when talking to employees.

"France in the U.S."

Home Depot (HD) co-founder Bernie Marcus says he is shocked at how little business leaders know about EFCA. "This bill is going to create France in the U.S.," Marcus said on July 22 on CNBC. Home Depot spokesman Ron DeFeo says the retailer plans to educate salaried managers about the bill in the fall. This being an election year, the legislation has become the central issue in the tussle between labor and business. Will American unions retool and grow, or continue their long decline toward oblivion? As the economy has shed manufacturing jobs and embraced a more service-intensive, contract-labor model, unions' ranks and power have dwindled radically. Today, just 7.5% of private sector workers belong to unions.

Plenty of companies would like to keep it that way. They see in card check a path toward more unions and expensive new contracts. The bill also mandates binding arbitration within 120 days of a card-check union action. Additionally, employers found to have unlawfully fired pro-union employees would be fined three times the amount of the back pay owed the workers. Current penalties are minimal. Michael J. Lotito, a labor attorney at Jackson Lewis, says certain industries in a "sweet spot" for organizing, such as health care, hospitality, and retail, need to pay special attention to the bill. Experts say EFCA may be the unions' only chance to reverse course.

Unions—which are expected to spend $300 million on efforts to elect Democrats—are battling employer-backed lobbying groups such as the Center for Union Facts and Coalition for a Democratic Workplace. Some companies have taken their advocacy a step further by reaching out to employees. The Wall Street Journal reported in July that Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) is warning managers that if Democrats win in November, union gains could mean fewer jobs because of higher labor costs. In response, union groups have filed a complaint against Wal-Mart with the Federal Election Commission. The retailer denies any wrongdoing.

Worker coercion is the norm

For union advocates, EFCA is the No. 1 legislative priority because they say the current union election system favors employers. Employers have access to workers on the job while unions can only contact them off-site. According to research conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago, 91% of employers require employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with their supervisors during union organizing drives. It also found that when faced with organizing efforts, 30% of employers fire pro-union workers, 49% threaten to close the worksite, and 51% of employers coerce workers into opposing unions with bribery or favoritism.

Other academic studies support these findings. Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor studies education at Cornell University, says employer intimidation to discourage unionization is the norm rather than the exception. "One thing that stands out in the research is how routine this all is," she says. "These elections haven't been free or fair in the 20 years I have studied them. During an organizing drive, the workplace is a totally coercive environment; workers are not making a free choice."

Research shows that fear of employer retaliation is one of the main reasons workers don't join a union, so EFCA's protections could clear the way for more union wins. "There are always eulogies about the labor movement," says Clete Daniel, a Cornell University history professor. "But while it's been battered, the idea of workplace democracy has not been drained of its last ounce of vitality."


SEIU big Burger warns against worker-choice

More Anna Burger stories: here

Jumbo union's high-flyer speaks out

Anna Burger says her prime-time speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday sent an important message to working people about the relevance of labor unions. Her appearance also acknowledged her role as labor's most powerful woman.

Burger's involvement with organized labor started in 1972 when she was a social worker in Pennsylvania. Her activism led to political positions with the Service Employees International Union. She now holds the secretary-treasurer post. The Rocky Mountain News caught up with Burger this week. Edited excerpts follow:

* On the state of unions: When I was born in 1950, one in three workers in Pennsylvania was a union member. Union density is much lower now.

It's much more difficult to organize because of threats and intimidation by employers. As unions gets smaller, it puts the American dream at greater risk.

* On her own union's political strategy this year: We have said we're not going to be lap dogs to the Democratic Party.

We're going to be a watchdog for our members. We have tried to stick to issues and be independent. We're spending $85 million this year to get Sen. Barack Obama elected and to win many other key races in battleground states.

* On what workers want: They want a voice on the job. They want health care. They want a platform. They want to bargain for wages.

We believe unions are the critical factor in helping workers get ahead. The Employee Free Choice Act will give workers the ability to form unions more easily than they can now.

* Of the "right-to-work" amendment that will ask Colorado voters to decide whether to ban mandatory dues workers with union contracts: What a waste of resources - millions of dollars that could be going toward something else.

They might be sorry they started this fight - that led to countermeasures by unions - because some of the union proposals will have a lot of popularity with workers who vote.


Striking Teamsters slapped with ULP

More Waste Management stories: here

Militant union charged with bad-faith bargaining

Waste Management said this afternoon that it had filed an unfair labor practices charge against Local 200 of the Teamsters, the union that went on strike Tuesday morning. Bill Plunkett, a Waste Management spokesman, said the company is accusing the Teamsters of failing to bargain in good faith. The charge was filed with the National Labor Relations Board.

The Teamsters have already filed an unfair labor practices charge against Waste Management.

"It's become obvious to everyone that the union was simply stalling in the hope that their walkout would disrupt the Harley celebration," said Michael Fleming, Waste Management's general manager in Wisconsin. "It's disappointing that after refusing to meet for so long, the union is trying to penalize the people of this community by attempting to disrupt our services."

The company said that, in recent weeks, Teamsters officials had refused to meet on four different occasions, and walked out of a fifth session after five minutes. That occurred on Tuesday, when an estimated 243 Teamsters went on strike.

The Teamsters had no immediate comment. The Teamsters have accused the company of coercion and intimidation of workers. The workers drive the hundreds of Waste Management trucks that collect and transfer trash in a six-county area in southeastern Wisconsin.

The drivers have been without a contract since April 30. The company says it has offered what it called a "safe alternative" to the union's pension plan. Union officials say they won't discuss issues related to the contract with members of the media.

In its filing with the NLRB, Waste Management accused the union of failing to provide the company with information regarding the Central States Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund. That is the Teamsters' main pension fund.


Striking Teamsters upset by replacements

More Waste Management stories: here

Citizens brace for picket line violence as stench rises

Trash cans and recycling bins were full throughout southeast Wisconsin on Wednesday as a strike by Waste Management truck-driver Teamsters entered its second day with no signs of a settlement in sight. From Germantown and Menomonee Falls to the Town of Somers in Kenosha County, Waste Management customers are experiencing delays in the pickup of their trash and recyclables as a result of the strike.

Replacement workers began arriving to pick up the slack, but the chances of a contract resolution between Waste Management and Local 200 of the Teamsters worsened Wednesday. The company filed an unfair labor practices charge against the union, accusing the union of failing to bargain in good faith.

“It’s become obvious to everyone that the union was simply stalling in the hope that their walkout would disrupt the Harley celebration,” said Michael Fleming, Waste Management’s general manager in Wisconsin. “It’s disappointing that after refusing to meet for so long, the union is trying to penalize the people of this community by attempting to disrupt our services.”

Harley-Davidson’s 105th Anniversary Celebration, which officially launched Wednesday, is bringing tens of thousands of people to the Milwaukee area.

The union did not have an immediate comment on the charge that Waste Management filed with the National Labor Relations Board.

The union has already filed a complaint against the company with the NLRB, accusing Waste Management of failing to bargain in good faith.

Tom Millonzi, secretary-treasurer of Local 200, said the estimated 240 Teamsters on strike were prepared to stay out “as long as it takes.”

“I do think it’s obvious that if you inject 100,000 or more Harley visitors into Milwaukee, that will cause more refuse,” he said. “Then you compound that with (replacement) drivers who don’t know where they’re going. You can come to a logical conclusion.”

Kristi Cullen figures she could hardly have picked a worse time to remodel her bathroom.

The Menomonee Falls resident was aghast Wednesday to learn that the strike meant nobody was coming to haul away the discarded toilet outside her house.

“That’s a shock,” she said. “I don’t want garbage at the end of my driveway.”

But garbage remains at the end of a lot of driveways.

Trash cans lined streets in neighborhoods where Waste Management crews were scheduled to provide curbside pickups. City officials said the trash hauler was running at least one day behind schedule with replacement workers.

Judy Neale, another Menomonee Falls resident, said she was concerned about how quickly her family of five would accumulate more trash.

“Oh, my gosh, my garage will be full,” she said.

Taxpayers in Menomonee Falls pay about $1.5 million a year for Waste Management’s services.

Arlyn Johnson, the village’s director of public works, said most residents who called to complain about their garbage weren’t aware of the strike. He said Waste Management had assured him it would maintain service.

Some municipal officials are reviewing their contracts with Waste Management to determine whether it is possible to end the agreements if delays persist.

“I’ve got to think that this is not going to be smooth for any community that has contracts with Waste Management,” said Germantown Village President Tom Kempinski, who asked the village attorney to review Germantown’s contract.

In Cedarburg, where the Common Council approved a new five-year contract with Waste Management on Monday, officials said garbage pickups were running a half-day behind.

In Milwaukee, Waste Management doesn’t do residential pickup, but does move garbage from city transfer stations to landfills. So far, those transfers have not been delayed and the company has assured the city that “there will not be a problem,” said Cecelia Gilbert, spokeswoman for the city Department of Public Works.

Deb Berchem of the Town of Somers is afraid critters will come calling as the garbage hangs around.

“If it doesn’t get picked up, it’s going to be a mess,” said Berchem, whose trash was supposed to have been hauled away by 8 a.m. Wednesday.


Bus drivers still on strike in Ohio

Related story: "Bus drivers cross picket lines"

Drivers cross picket line, strikers unable to shut down employer

As a strike by its drivers continued Wednesday, the Portage Area Regional Transit Authority exchanged words with its union. The bus system has operated on a basic-service level since the strike began Monday, said spokesman Frank Hairston. He said the transit system is not ''as flexible as we have been, but we are providing the transportation to the people who need it most in the county.''

Hairston said service is being affected not only by the striking drivers, who number between 55 and 65, but also by such factors as fuel costs and insurance rates.

But Hairston said buses ran on time Tuesday in Portage County.

The transit system has operated its buses with nonunion workers, including managers, drivers who crossed the picket line and student drivers.

PARTA buses serve about 5,700 Kent State University passengers and about 2,000 other riders each day.

An official with the Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 037 had another take on the level of service.

While some buses have hit the road, Trina Molnar, an OAPSE field representative, said it is far from normal service.

PARTA General Manager John Drew said in a news release Wednesday that ''PARTA will continue to provide transportation to citizens of Portage County, whether or not the drivers decided to stay on strike.''

One of the key issues in the strike is something called ''fair share,'' which is a demand by OAPSE that drivers who choose not to be represented by the union pay a fee to the union.

Drew said PARTA opposes any contractual provision that would require employees who chose not to join the union to pay a fee.

Molnar said fair share amounts to about 2 percent of a worker's gross pay. She said that the union has in effect represented workers who have not joined the union from the beginning of negotiations and those workers ''never had to pay a penny.''

She said the transit system doesn't want a union shop.

Negotiations for the first contract for drivers began two years ago. An impasse was declared a year ago.

PARTA said that before the strike, it had offered drivers about $30,000 in economic incentives in the form of a $600 lump sum ratification payment to full-time drivers and $300 to part-time drivers.

Molnar said the union believes PARTA has spent $200,000 of taxpayer money fighting the union. Hairston countered that only $60,000 has been spent since 2006 on costs associated with contract talks.


IAM-Boeing worker raps union bigs

More union dues stories: here

Union leaders just out for themselves

Can't people see the Machinists union is just trying to look powerful and dominant? They want to double our union dues -- that is why they want big pay raises and such. What do they actually do all day? Sit around in their $500 suits that we workers paid for, talk big and do nothing. They charge for T-shirts that if they really wanted to give in good faith, should be given away for free. We paid for them already with our union dues.

If people what to be sheep and follow the union's BS, that's their problem. Boeing provides my paycheck, not the union.

Gene Carpenter, Stanwood, WA


Union organizer charged with embezzlement

More union embezzlement stories: here

National epidemic of union crime touches Pittsburgh

Federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh said a western Pennsylvania woman embezzled more than $87,000 from the United Steelworkers of America. Prosecutors said between June 2006 and January, Donna Simpson, 42, of East McKeesport, embezzled the money from a bank account for the Steelworkers Organization for Active Retirees. Prosecutors say Simpson was working as a field secretary for the union at the time and wrote 82 unauthorized checks to herself.

A grand jury has indicted Simpson on a charge of embezzlement from a labor organization. A phone number listed in her name rang busy continuously on Tuesday afternoon.


Ninth Circuit OKs perpetual union-dues flow

Union will likely be forced to pay for Supreme Court appeal

Culinary and bartenders unions have won another round in their 14-year legal battle with former owners of the Sahara and Hacienda hotel-casinos in Las Vegas. But there's still no final decision in the case.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the National Labor Relations Board to reconsider its decision to let former hotel-casino owners Paul and Sue Lowden stop collecting union dues from employees after a contract expired.

Richard McCracken, the Las Vegas attorney for Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165, said there are three vacancies on the five-member NLRB that probably won't be filled until a new president is elected — so any NLRB decision will take time.

The Hacienda Hotel has been demolished and a new casino has been built on the site. The Sahara is under new ownership. But the Lowdens are still part of Archon Corp., which is the subject of the legal action.

When the unions' contract at the Hacienda and Sahara expired in 1994, Archon stopped collecting dues from employees and sending the money to the unions. The unions filed a complaint with the NLRB, which ruled in favor of the casino owners.

The 9th circuit court in 2003 voided the ruling, but in 2007 the NLRB again ruled in favor of the Lowdens.

The unions appealed again, and the circuit court on Wednesday sent the case back to the NLRB for further review. The question is whether the Lowdens could cut off the dues without bargaining over the issue, even if the contract had expired.

Nevada is a right-to-work state and the employees agreed voluntarily to have the dues deducted from their paychecks. Archon argued it was within its rights to stop sending the dues to the unions. Instead, it put the money in the paychecks of the union members.


Mark Udall's EFCA Deception

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