Union-backed ACORN in criminal voter-fraud

More ACORN stories: here

Pattern of misconduct begins to anger elections officials around the nation

Milwaukee’s top election official said Thursday she plans to seek criminal investigations of 10 more voter registration workers, including two accused of offering gifts to sign up voters. Most of the suspect workers appear to have falsified driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers or other information on voter registration cards, Election Commission Executive Director Sue Edman said.

Counting the latest group, Edman will have referred 49 voter registration workers this month to Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf for possible prosecution. Milwaukee police are looking at the evidence to determine whether criminal charges are warranted against the workers, Landgraf said.

About 250 to 300 of the registration cards submitted by those workers are under scrutiny, Edman said. All the workers were paid by two organizations running voter registration drives, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now and the Community Voters Project. Overall, 37 of the suspect workers were on the ACORN payroll, 11 were paid by the voters project and it’s not clear who employed the other one.

In many cases, the organizations said they caught the fraud, fired the workers and flagged the cards for investigation before turning them over to Edman.

They also have said the problems involve only a fraction of the hundreds of workers who signed up tens of thousands of new voters.

Among the latest group, two ACORN workers are accused of offering pre-paid gasoline cards or restaurant gift cards to people in exchange for signing up to vote.

Edman said she wants Landgraf to look into whether the workers violated a state law that forbids offering cash or gifts to sway voters.

Eight voter project workers are suspected of making up information on voter applications, Edman said.

Among the workers previously referred to Landgraf, two are accused of submitting cards for dead voters.

Others appear to have submitted cards for people who said they never filled out an application or who were already registered, signed cards themselves, or falsified driver’s license numbers.

The incident has revived partisan debate over whether photo identification for voters would help prevent fraud or discourage the poor and minorities from voting.

On Wednesday, the state Government Accountability Board refused to require voters to show photo ID at the polls if new database checks found discrepancies in their registration information.


Slate urges Barack to abandon EFCA

More EFCA stories: here

Pledge to end secret-ballot unionization elections is not playing well with voters

This Labor Day marks yet another year in which the five-decade-old decline of organized labor as a representative of American employees continues almost unabated. The 73-year-old National Labor Relations Act, the principal legal framework for resolving disputes about the forming of unions, is in complete disarray. It's been tattered by bad appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and by long delays in resolving the elections that determine union representation and charges of unfair labor practices brought by employees.

These delays make it too easy for employers to intimidate and coerce workers, including by dismissing them for organizing. And this in turn diminishes employee interest in unions and thus undercuts the right to collective bargaining they are supposed to enjoy.

Democrats and Republicans (with their respective labor and management allies) are in a standoff about how to remedy the law. That situation is unlikely to change even if the Democratic Party swells its majority somewhat in Congress and recaptures the White House in November. Democrats, with near unanimity, support a bill, sponsored by organized labor and called the Employee Free Choice Act, that would provide for unions to be recognized on the basis of authorization cards signed by employees rather than the secret-ballot elections now provided for by the NLRA. Republicans decry this initiative, arguing that the current elections are sacrosanct. Even assuming Sen. Barack Obama wins the presidency in November, if the Senate remains prey to filibuster with fewer than 60 Democrats, Republicans will be in a position to block the bill from across the aisle from becoming law. The Democrats' view is preferable to the status quo, but there is a better approach that might occupy bipartisan common ground—an approach for which Obama is well-known, though he hasn't championed it in this way yet.

Secret ballots to resolve union representation rights are the way to go, and Obama should meet the Republicans halfway by saying so—and then add this all-important coda: Elections should continue only if the law ensures that voting is conducted expeditiously—for instance, within one or two weeks of the filing of a union's petition seeking recognition. This is the case in Canada, whereas in the United States, the resolution of union drives currently takes months and sometimes years. Quick elections are the key to meaningful reform because delay is the principal way in which labor law stacks the deck against employees. It allows employers to engage in one-sided anti-union campaigns of intimidation and coercion, with little possibility for remedy.

The delay is caused by the NLRB itself as well as obdurate employer behavior. Perhaps, as Obama suggested to the British multinational Tesco, employers should voluntarily agree to expedite NLRB elections on their own. I have acted as an independent monitor to hear employees' complaints about unfair treatment during a union-organizing campaign, in a system devised privately by another British multinational firm operating here in the United States. In my experience, the process can take two to four weeks from start to finish.

But that privately devised solution is a rarity. And until most of business moves toward such procedures, Congress must make them address complaints quickly by imposing time limits for the NLRB is to issue a decision about whether to hold a union election or reinstate unlawfully dismissed workers. The agency's action on election disputes should be final and unappealable so that workers and management can get on with collective bargaining promptly. That there are no such mandates currently constitutes the heart of what ails American labor law.

Other reforms are also needed. For instance, the law should provide that unions have the right to communicate and address employees on company property. Today, only employers may do so. The NLRB must also be given the authority to punish companies through fines that double or triple the amount of back pay owed to workers who are illegally dismissed or demoted. The law could also spur collective bargaining with a provision for arbitration if labor and management are unable to agree on their own.

Then there is the composition of the NLRB. A Democratic president, if we next have one, should make appointments that are freer from partisan pressure from either side than they have been during the past decades. At the moment, board members are frequently reluctant to act promptly, and thus avert the crisis for union recognition caused by delay, because of the fear that their vote will be unpopular and diminish their chances of being reappointed. This has been true in both Democratic and Republican administrations. The next president should address this weakness by recruiting nominees from all parts of the country, not just the Washington-insider circle that has come to dominate federal administrative agencies. Also, appointees should be limited to one eight-year term. In this way the very best people will come to Washington, willing, like Cincinnatus, to return to their homes when their appointment ends.

These reforms would skirt an unnecessary and divisive debate about the secret-ballot election and marshal the support of Congress' center. Obama has pulled off such feats in his career as a community organizer and politician. If he can pull off this one, we might actually achieve the long unrealized objectives of the National Labor Relations Act more than 70 years after its enactment. Better late than never.

- By William B. Gould IV


Big Labor's Campaign to Mislead Workers

More EFCA stories: here

False Choice: Union organizers would never choose secret-ballot elections over card-check recognition.

Organized labor's highest legislative priority is the deceptively named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). EFCA replaces secret ballot elections—the method by which most workers join unions—with publicly signed union cards. While eliminating secret ballots is extremely unpopular, many EFCA support­ers argue that the legislation merely gives workers the choice between organizing using secret ballots or pub­licly signed cards. This argument is false; nothing in the legislation gives workers any control over union organizing tactics. Though EFCA still allows for secret ballot elections under unusual circumstances, stan­dard union organizing tactics ensure that publicly signed union cards will dominate the recognition pro­cess. As a result, the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act effectively eliminates secret ballot elections.

The Current System

Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), workers may be organized in one of two ways: card-check recognition or secret ballot elections. To begin organizing workers, a union must solicit employee signatures on union authorization cards. Once the union has collected signatures from enough employ­ees—a minimum of 30 percent—the union submits the cards to the company and requests the company recognize the union. This process is called card-check recognition. Very few employers accept card-check as the sole means of recognition. Indeed, between 1998 and 2005 only 13 percent of new AFL-CIO members joined through card-check with­out an election.[1]

Employers routinely refuse to recognize unions on a card-check–only basis because publicly signed cards do not reflect employees' preferences. Public card signing exposes workers to pressure, harass­ment, and threats from the union.[2] Even union organizing guidebooks state that a worker's signa­ture on a union card does not mean that worker supports the union.[3]

If, as in most instances, the employer doubts the cards reflect its workers' preferences, union orga­nizers then submit their cards to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and request an election. The typical election occurs six to seven weeks after the union submits its petition.[4] If a majority of workers—expressing their choice in the privacy of the voting booth—support the union, then the company must begin bargaining with it. If most workers vote against the union, then it does not represent them and must cease its organizing activ­ities. Unions win recognition in over 60 percent of these elections.[5]


EFCA requires employers to recognize a union— without an election—once organizers collect cards from a majority of employees.[6] Indeed, the act states that once the union submits signatures from over 50 percent of the employees to the NLRB, it must certify the union without an election. Under EFCA, holding a secret ballot election once unions collect cards from a majority of workers would become illegal.

Additionally, a card-check–only recognition pro­cess strips workers of their privacy. Polls show that most Americans strongly oppose denying workers the privacy of the voting booth when deciding whether to join a union.[7] In response to such criti­cism, unions now argue that EFCA does not end secret ballot elections. Instead, proponents argue that EFCA gives workers the choice between orga­nizing using public card-check or private elections.[8]

Unions make this claim because union organiz­ers can call for an organizing election after cards have been signed by at least 30 percent of employ­ees.[9] Since card-check recognition under EFCA occurs after organizers submit cards signed by a majority of workers, secret ballot elections could— in theory—occur under EFCA if organizers submit­ted cards signed by 30 to 50 percent of workers.

In practice this scenario will not happen. Noth­ing in the legislation gives workers any control over what organizing method unions use. That decision is left to union organizers. Organized labor's well-documented preference for card-check recognition makes it clear that EFCA effectively eliminates secret ballot elections.

Unions Do Not Submit Cards from a Minority of Workers

Unions virtually never call for elections with cards signed by a minority of workers. Organizers are generally instructed to collect cards from 60 to 70 percent of workers in a company before going to the polls.[10] Unions openly state that they do not go to an election without a supermajority of cards:

1. International Brotherhood of Teamsters: “The general policy of the Airline Division is to file for a representation election only after receiving a 65 percent card return from the eligible voters in a group.”[11]
2. New England Nurses Association: “Have 70– 75 percent of members sign cards; if unable to reach this goal, review plan.”[12]
3. Service Employees International Union (SEIU): “...[T]he rule of thumb in the SEIU is that it's unwise to file for an election when fewer than 70 percent of the workforce has signed interest cards.”[13]

Effective End of Elections

As these organizing guidelines demonstrate, unions do not file for an election with cards signed by only 30 to 50 percent of workers. Rather, they only file for an election when they have a superma­jority of cards because workers who sign in front of an organizer often vote “No” in the privacy of the voting booth.[14] Internal union studies show that the union does not have even odds of winning an election until 75 percent of employees sign cards.[15] Unions will not go to the polls without majority support because they know they are unlikely to win and, if they lose, federal law bars them from calling for another election for a year.[16]

Under EFCA, once cards have been obtained from a majority of workers, unions would not file for an election. In fact, EFCA specifically bars the NLRB from conducting an election if the union turns in cards from a majority of workers. Union organizers' jobs are to recruit new union members to pay 1 to 2 percent of their wages as dues to the union. They are not paid to give workers a chance to rethink the wisdom of union membership.

Union leaders openly state that they will not call for elections if given the choice. United Food and Commercial Workers President Joe Hansen admits that “We can't win that way anymore.”[17] UNITE HERE President Bruce Raynor says that he sees “no reason to subject the workers to an election.”[18] SEIU Local 32BJ President Mike Fishman flatly states, “We don't do elections.”[19]

Under EFCA, organizers would submit all their cards directly to the NLRB and demand immediate recognition. This mandatory check-card process would represent a dramatic departure from the cur­rent norm of secret ballot elections that give work­ers an opportunity to privately express their views. Every circumstance that currently leads to a secret ballot organizing election would, under EFCA, lead to card-check recognition without an election.

On paper EFCA leaves secret ballot elections a possibility. In practice EFCA eliminates secret ballot organizing elections for American workers.

Unions Mislead Workers

Union organizers frequently demonstrate that they have no interest in giving workers the choice of how to join a union, especially when such a choice would interfere with Organized Labor's primary objective—recruiting new members who will pay new dues. Organizers in many campaigns tell work­ers that the cards they are signing only count toward an election, and then request card-check recogni­tion on the basis of those cards.

For instance, union representatives attempting to organize Trico Marine told workers the cards were only requesting a vote, and then tried to pressure Trico to recognize the union only on the basis of the cards.[20] Culinary Workers organizers in Las Vegas told the same thing to workers at the MGM Grand.[21]

SEIU workers also made the same promise to Kai­ser Permanente employee Karen Mayhew. The SEIU then used signed cards to pressure Kaiser into recog­nizing the union, without the promised election.[22]

Union organizers do not want to give workers a choice about how to join a union; they only want to collect new dues from new union members.

Workers Have No Choice

Workers have no say in the methods union orga­nizers use. EFCA does not permit workers to sign cards that call for an election without also counting those signatures toward a card-check majority. In fact, under federal law, a worker's signature on a union card counts as a “showing of interest” in union representation.

If workers at a company targeted by union orga­nizers collected signatures to call for a secret ballot election the union could, under EFCA, use those signatures to count towards a card-check majority. For instance, in an attempt to preempt a card-check–only organizing drive, employees might col­lect cards from 35 percent of fellow employees, turn them in to the NLRB, and request an election.

The 35 percent of employees who signed the cards do not necessarily want a union; they simply want an opportunity to consider the matter before casting a private vote. However, in response to the employees' efforts to prevent card-check recogni­tion, union organizers could submit additional signed cards they had collected from pro-union employees. If the combined total of cards col­lected—from both pro-union employees and unde­cided employees seeking to protect their privacy— was greater than 50 percent, the union would be recognized as the workers' exclusive representa­tive—without an election.

Under such circumstances, it is possible that only a paltry 16 percent of employees were in favor of union representation. After all, 49 percent of employees may have been outright hostile to the idea of organizing, while 35 percent—though undecided about representation—wanted to pro­tect their ability to make a decision in a private voting both. Yet, under EFCA, the NLRB would have to consider the 35 percent employees' signa­tures not as a decision to reserve a right to con­sider the matter privately, but as an overt gesture of union solidarity. Subsequently, EFCA provides an opportunity for a small minority of pro-labor employees to impose their agenda on a majority of employees who desire only to make a thoughtful, private decision.

Workers could not insist that they only wanted to vote in privacy and not recognize the union. Under EFCA, employees do not have that choice.

EFCA Effectively Ends Worker Privacy

EFCA strips workers of their freedom to choose in privacy. It requires companies to recognize unions without an election once unions collect cards publicly signed by a majority of employees. Unions contend that because the union could file for an election with signatures from 30 to 50 per­cent of the workers in the company, EFCA does not end secret ballot elections. This is highly mislead­ing. Unions do not file for elections with cards signed by a minority of employees because they know they will probably lose. Their leaders openly state they have no intention of seeking elections if they can avoid them. Once unions have the majority of cards they need for card-check recognition, unions would demand immediate recognition, not request an election.

EFCA gives union representatives—and these representatives alone—the choice of how to orga­nize workers. Union organizers' goal is to recruit new dues-paying members, not give workers an opportunity to privately say “No” to union repre­sentation. Unions will tell workers that cards count only toward an election, then demand recognition without a vote. Employees cannot sign cards to request an election without having those cards count toward a card-check majority. Unions have demonstrated that they have no interest in allowing workers to privately reject union representation. The misnamed Employee Free Choice Act effec­tively ends secret ballot organizing elections for American workers.

[1]Rafel Gely and Timothy Chandler, “Card Check Recognition: New House Rules for Union Organizing?” Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 35 (2008), p. 247, Table 2.

[2]James Sherk, “How Union Card Checks Block Workers' Free Choice,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 1366, February 21, 2007, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Labor/wm1366.cfm.

[3]James Sherk, “Unions Know that Card Check Does Not Reveal Employees' Free Choice,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 1386, March 7, 2007, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Labor/wm1386.cfm.

[4]Office of the General Counsel, National Labor Relations Board, Summary of Operations: Fiscal Year 2007, Memorandum GC 08-01 Revised, December 5, 2007, at http://www.nlrb.gov/shared_files/GC%20Memo/2008/GC%2008-
01%20Summary%20of%20Operations%20FY%2007.pdf (August 20, 2008). The typical election is defined as the median election, which took place 39 days after the election petition's filing. Some 94 percent of all elections took place within 56 days of the petition's filing.

[5]National Labor Relations Board, Seventy-First Annual Report of the National Labor Relations Board for the Fiscal Year Ended September 30, 2006, June 18, 2007, at http://www.nlrb.gov/nlrb/shared_files/brochures/
Annual%20Reports/Entire2006Annual.pdf (August 19, 2008).

[6]Employee Free Choice Act, H. Rep. 800, 100th Cong., 1st Sess., March 1, 2007, Section 2.

[7]James Sherk, “Workers Reject Card Checks, Favor Private Ballots in Union Organizing,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 1363, February 16, 2007, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Labor/wm1363.cfm.

[8]American Rights at Work Resource Library, “Lies and Distortions on the Secret Ballot,” http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/employee-free-
the-secret-ballot-20080730-596-84-84.html (August 19, 2008).

[9]National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S. Code § 159 (e).

[10]David L. Cingranelli, “International Election Standards and the NLRB: Representative Elections,” Parts 1–3 in Richard N. Block, et al., eds., Justice on the Job: Perspectives on the Erosion of Collective Bargaining in the United States (Kalamazoo, Mich.: W.E. Upjohn Institute, 2006), p. 42.

[11]International Brotherhood of Teamsters Airline Division, “Airline Division Organizing,” at http://www.teamster.org/divisions/Airline/
airlineorganizing.htm (August 12, 2008).

[12]New England Nurses Association, “Why a Union?” at http://www.nenurses.org/your_rights.htm (August 12, 2008).

[13]Steven Henry Lopez, Reorganizing the Rust Belt: An Inside Study of the American Labor Movement, (Berkeley, Cal.: University of California Press, 2004), p. 38.

[14]Sherk, “Unions Know.”

[15]AFL-CIO, AFL-CIO Organizing Survey (Washington, D.C.: AFL-CIO, 1989).

[16]NLRA, 29 U.S. Code § 159 (c)(3).

[17]BNA Business Report, “UNITE HERE Picks Hilton as Target for ‘Hotel Workers Rising' Campaign,” March 24, 2006, p. B-1.

[18]Steven Greenhouse, “Labor Turns to a Pivotal Organizing Drive,” The New York Times, May 31, 2003, at http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=
9E0CE6DC1430F932A05756C0A9659C8B63 (August 20, 2008).

[19]Timothy Aeppel, "Not-So-Big Labor Enlists New Methods For Greater Leverage," The Wall Street Journal, August 29, 2005, at p. A-2.

[20]Clyde Jacob, testimony before the Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations, Committee on Education and the Workforce, U.S. House of Representatives, April 22, 2004.

[21]Bruce Esgar, testimony before the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Committee on Education and the Workforce, U.S. House of Representatives, July 23, 2002.

[22]Karen Mayhew, testimony before the Committee on Education and Labor, U.S. House of Representatives, February 8, 2007, at http://www.nrtw.org/pdfs/Mayhew.pdf (August 20, 2008).

- James Sherk is Bradley Fellow in Labor Policy in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation.


Union dues-payers turn to decertification

More decertification stories: here

Workers increasingly wary of union membership

When workers at a privately owned building-products supplier in Sudbury, Ont., decided to stop paying union dues several years ago because they felt the union wasn't doing anything for them anymore, a labour boss was eventually dispatched to the northern city to deal with the situation. The union official told the company it had to start deducting the dues from its pay-cheques. Employees resisted. They hadn't paid dues in more than 10 years.

The union lost touch with its members, failing to bargain a new collective agreement after it expired in 1997, the workers said. Meanwhile, they insisted the employer treated them fairly, giving them raises and an allowance for clothing. Last year, they voted to cut all ties with the union and decertify.

"I don't think the union could get us more [than we have], not here anyway," said Marcel, a worker at the company who spearheaded the decertification. "I am in agreement with unions at certain other retail outlets. They do need it. But over here, no." Similar rejections of organized labour are playing out across Canada.

Workers at seven Starbucks outlets in Vancouver voted last year to decertify from the Canadian Auto Workers union, leaving the global coffee goliath with just one unionized company-owned store nationwide.

Workers at roofing manufacturer IKO Industries Ltd. in Hawkesbury, Ont., voted to leave the the United Steel Workers of America, ending nearly 30 years of labour representation there.

Even in Sudbury, historically a labour stronghold, things are changing, said Marcel, who asked that his last name not be used.

"There are a lot of people that are starting to de-unionize too, but you don't hear too much about it," he said. "The unions don't advertise it. And a lot of other companies are scared to advertise that they're de-unionizing because it is a unionized town. They're afraid that if they advertise that, they might lose business."

Unions can certainly claim some big recent victories. The CAW was let in to organize auto supplier Magna International Inc. after years of fighting with the company. But overall, organized labour may be losing favour.

According to a new and comprehensive poll for the National Post/Global National on workplace issues, not only do working Canadians not see unions as the anti-exploitation saviours of years past, roughly half of them wouldn't blink if they didn't exist at all.

During the past five years, the number of employed Canadians who believe unions are no longer needed has increased by 8%, according to the poll.

During the same period, the percentage of current or formerly unionized employees who said they would prefer to be unionized has dropped 17 points, from 81% in 2003 to 64% today.

The survey found 46% of respondents said unions were needed and relevant at one time but are no longer necessary today. That's on par with the 47% of those who said unions were still as relevant today as they ever have been.

Among non-union workers, 77% said they had no interest in becoming unionized. Among those currently unionized, seven in 10 said they were satisfied with their union while 27% stated that if given the choice, they would prefer not to be unionized.

The percentage of Canadians workers that are unionized has fallen steadily since 1991, to roughly 30% today.

Strong regional economies in some parts of the country, such as Alberta, may push workers to downplay the relevance of unions. The argument is: Things are going well, so why do we need them?

But that theory does not necessarily hold for provinces like Ontario and Quebec, both of which have been hit hard by a manufacturing slowdown that has wiped away thousands of jobs. In Ontario, more survey respondents said unions were no longer needed than said they were.

Alan Levy, an assistant professor at the University of Regina and an expert in labour mediation, said one explanation might be found in the notion of "false consciousness." In the service sector in particular, some service workers tend to see themselves as similar to their non-unionized middle-class clientele, when in fact they're not.

He gives the example of shopping at an upscale furniture store in downtown Toronto.

"You meet the working-class salesperson. But he takes on the air of the customer. And if anything, he's somewhat a little haughty. When you ask that person, 'Do you need a union?', he says, 'No.' But when you look at what would truly be in his individual self-interest, he might well need a union. But he doesn't see that because he's taken the ethos and the culture that the organization has put forward."

Overall, 92% of employed Canadians surveyed by Nanos said they were satisfied with their current job. That's unchanged from 2003 levels. Almost nine in 10 said they were satisfied with their relationship with management at work.

"Employees increasingly see themselves as free agents who decide who they're going to sell their service to," said John Mortimer, president of LabourWatch, an employee-rights organization. He said more workers today also believe in merit over the union principle of seniority.

Far from showing that organized labour is in decline, the Nanos poll contains many findings that suggest Canadians' attitudes are positive toward unionization, said Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress. For example, 20% of non-unionized workers surveyed said they were either "very interested" or "somewhat interested" in being unionized. That's an encouraging number, he said.

"I think you're going to see a lot of growth in unionization," Mr. Georgetti said. "There are advantages to acting collectively. And our employers for the last eight years have done pretty good. And workers that aren't in a union are seeing that they haven't got their share of that prosperity."

A Canadian Labour Congress poll of unionized workers in 2003 found that 44% of those surveyed said they did not need a union to be treated fairly at work. The union has not updated that poll.

State of the Unions, Part 2: In Tuesday's paper ... have labour laws swung too far in favour of the unions?


Union objection to charity over-ruled

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Dues objector prerogative defended in labor-state

The Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) has ruled that Susan Wiggs, a Vancouver middle school teacher, is free to send her union dues to a charity that fights sex-trafficking, despite the union’s objections to this charity. On August 22, 2008, PERC upheld an initial ruling that said individuals who object to union membership for religious reasons are permitted to select the charity that will receive their dues.

In August 2005, Susan Wiggs requested to resign from the Vancouver Education Association (VEA). State and federal law allow teachers and other workers to leave their union on religious grounds and send their dues to a charitable organization. Wiggs indicated her dues would go to Shared Hope International, a 501(c)3 organization that works internationally against sex trafficking and slavery.

VEA Executive Director Roy Maier refused the teacher’s charitable selection, saying the organization was “not acceptable” to the VEA. Wiggs provided the union with documentation of Shared Hope’s non-profit, non-sectarian status, but the union refused to accommodate her selection, and failed to provide a clear explanation for the denial.

On October 18, 2006, the VEA filed a petition against Wiggs with the Public Employment Relations Commission. Wiggs contacted the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF), and EFF obtained legal representation for her PERC hearings, where she was represented by attorney Thomas F. Klein. The main issue was who has the final word on the choice of charity. The union argued it had the authority to approve or disapprove any nonreligious charity Wiggs designated.

The PERC examiner issued an initial ruling agreeing with Wiggs on January 22, 2008. In his decision Examiner Joel Greene said the law “requires the union to agree to Wiggs’s designation of an organization to receive her alternative dues payments once she proves the designated organization is both nonreligious and a charity. Wiggs met her burden of proof.”

The VEA appealed this ruling to the full commission. PERC unanimously upheld the initial ruling on August 22. “We find that the Examiner’s decision accurately states the law. Where a union agrees that an employee’s closely held religious beliefs qualify that employee to assert his or her right of non-association, as long as the employee designates a qualified non-religious charity, there is no legal issue for the Commission to adjudicate. Accordingly, we affirm the Examiner’s decision.”

“This decision has state-wide impact,” said Michael Reitz, general counsel of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. “The union cannot exercise veto power over a teacher’s legitimate choice. Susan selected this charity because of her interest in rescuing children from exploitation. Unfortunately, she’s had to fight her own union for three years to send her money to this charity.”

The VEA has 30 days to appeal the ruling to superior court.


Voter-fraud probed in Cleveland area

More ACORN stories: here

Elections officials cite pattern of abuse by union-backed group ACORN

Are you registered to vote sweetheart," asked Rubie Cardwell as an elderly man walked past her on the sidewalk of an East Cleveland strip mall. Cardwell is on the payroll of the group known as "ACORN," the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

Since 2006, Cardwell has been working to register voters in urban sections of Cuyahoga County. "I think I have signed up at least 1,500 voters," Cardwell said.

ACORN had a part-time staff of 30 who worked five days a week to find unregistered people. Each worker made $8 an hour and was urged to sign up at least 20 voters in each five-hour shift.

"If people do honest work we will keep them on staff working," said Kristopher Harsh, ACORN organizer. "We ask that they work hard enough to be able to register 20 people per day. But we do not pay them a fee based on how many cards they get filled out."

However, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections believes that several ACORN workers turned in flawed voter registration cards. Some cards showed that the same person lived at different addresses.

"It's a responsibility on ACORN to make sure they are getting valid registration cards," said Jane Platten, Director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. "And ACORN needs to be held accountable for that. And that's what we are doing now here at the Board."

Platten pointed to the case of Freddie Johnson, who apparently lives at 2551 park midway. Johnson filled out 73 different voter registration cards.

The Board of Elections has red flagged voter registration cards like Johnson's. Board workers want to make sure that no one is trying to commit voter fraud.

"Yes, there may be isolated problems," said ACORN's Kristopher Harsh. "But the issues that we are having represent less than 1/1000 of the people that we've registered this year. We are trying to spread democracy and not cause problems/"

ACORN has already submitted more than 75,000 voter registration cards this year in Cuyahoga County. And now employees at the Board of Elections are triple checking every one.


Unions bigs, Congress target small business

More EFCA stories: here

Seeking additional sources of union dues to reinvest in politics

A proposed piece of federal legislation poses a serious threat to small businesses if it is passed, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official claims.

The Employee Free Choice Act is proposed legislation which aims to amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish a system to enable employees to form, join or assist labor organizations to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts and for other purposes.

"The Employee Free Choice Act would change the way unions target small businesses," said Marc Freedman, director of labor law policy for the U.S. chamber.

Freedman says currently unions don't normally attempt to organize companies with less than 50 employees.

"EFCA changes that and they would become targets of union organizers," Freedman told members of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Thursday at The Greenbrier during a human resources symposium, part of the second day of the chamber's three-day annual meeting and business summit.

Freedman said the proposed legislation is known in the business world as "the card check forced unionism bill."

Under current labor law, the 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 NLRB election, which is held if more than 30 percent of employees in a bargaining unit sign statements asking for representation by a union.

Under the EFCA, an employer would no longer have the opportunity to demand a secret ballot election when a majority of employees have signed union cards and there is no evidence of illegal coercion. In addition, if the union and employer cannot agree upon 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.

"This would also hurt employers," Freedman said. "Unions would have everything to gain and nothing to lose."

"If the bill passes, unions get much greater strength and employers, especially small businesses, could possibly lose control of their businesses before they even know the threat exists," Freedman added.

Freedman says one union president estimated at least 1.5 million more members would be added to union roles almost immediately following passage of the bill.

"This bill also calls for more penalties on employers and none on unions," he said.

The act would provide for liquidated damages of two times back pay if employers were found to have unlawfully terminated pro-union employees.

According to the AFL-CIO Web site, the bill would enable working people to bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions by restoring workers' freedom to choose for themselves whether to join a union. They claim anti-union forces oppose the bill because they do not want workers to have the freedom to choose for themselves whether to bargain through unions for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

"Employees are on an uneven playing field from the first moment they begin exploring whether they want to form a union, and the will of the majority often is crushed by brutal management tactics," the AFL-CIO Web site stated.

On March 1, 2007, the House of Representatives passed the measure 241-185. The Senate on June 26, 2007, voted 51-48 on a motion to invoke cloture and proceed to consider the bill. Because 60 votes were needed to invoke cloture, the bill is unlikely to pass during the 110th Congress, Freedman said.

"That could change with this election, so employers need to be aware of this potentially harmful piece of legislation," he said.


Barack wants card-check beef at Whole Foods

More Barack - Beef Northwest stories: here

Union-backed candidate protests against secret-ballot

The letter Barack Obama wrote to Beef Northwest regarding the company's employees joining United Farm Workers union has attracted the attention of the John McCain for President Committee. "The McCain campaign has copies of the letter, and we have had conversations with them," said John Wilson, an owner of Beef Northwest, headquartered in North Powder.

Wilson said he's been amazed at the attention Obama's letter has received, considering the dispute between UFW and Beef Northwest directly involves fewer than 250 people.

That dispute is over the process by which workers at Beef Northwest feedlots, including one in Hermiston, should decide whether they want to join the UFW.

Union officials contend a majority of workers have already indicated they want to join the union, by filling out union cards.

Beef Northwest has proposed a confidential vote.

And the ranchers who belong to Country Natural Beef, whose cattle are finished at Beef Northwest's Hermiston feedlot, recommend a secret ballot election.

The labor dispute affects roughly 80 Beef Northwest feedlot employees and 140 ranchers in Oregon and other Western states, including 16 families in Baker County, who raise cattle for Country Natural Beef.

Obama's letter is dated Aug. 4, two days after the Oregon Farm Worker Ministry group, picketed a Whole Foods Market in the Portland area to put pressure on Beef Northwest owners to accept the cards collected by union organizers and to negotiate a union contract.

Whole Foods is Country Natural Beef's biggest customer, buying about 75 percent of the beef finished at the Boardman feedlot.

"The Obama letter was circulated by the UFW two weeks before we received it," Wilson said.

Stacy Davies, a rancher and Country Natural Beef spokesman, said agriculture is not included under collective bargaining laws prohibiting secondary boycotts, along with requirements to hold secret ballot elections to validate employee support for union representation. Those provisions are part of the current National Labor Relations Act, which McCain supports.

Davies said Country Natural Beef is urging the Oregon Legislature to pass collective bargaining to protect agricultural employers and employees.

The card check system favored by the UFW and the AFL-CIO are key provisions of the proposed federal Employee Free Choice Act supported by Obama, Davies said.

While union Web sites espouse the need for a card check system to avert employer harassment and to make it easier for workers to choose union representation, business-sponsored Web sites warn that the card check system would force unionization on workers and employers, and that allowing union organizers to collect signatures on the cards could expose workers to intimidation if they oppose joining the union.

"We need to inspire union members to actively support the Employee Free Choice Act," wrote Fred Azcarte, AFL-CIO voice at work director, in a letter to AFL-CIO members. "We need them fired up and ready to take to the streets if that's what it takes. That is why we have initiated the million-member mobilization to gather one million signatures supporting the law."

According to the AFL-CIO, UFW Web sites, "some 60 million workers say they would join a union if they could," based on research conducted by Peter D. Hart Research.

However conservative groups, including The Heritage Foundation, condemn the Employee Free Choice Act as misleading because it "would require companies to recognize a union without a private election, once organizers collect union cards signed by a majority" of workers.

According to The Heritage Foundation Web site, current labor law requires the National Labor Relations Board to order a secret ballot vote to be held once at least 30 percent of a company's workers have signed union cards.

"The Employee Free Choice Act would strip workers of their fundamental rights and leave them more vulnerable to pressure than before," according to an article by James Sherk and Paul Kersey posted on The Heritage Foundation Web site.

According to information on the Union Facts Web site, union membership in the United States has declined from 33 percent in 1960 to 12.5 percent today. When government unions are subtracted, union membership amounts to about 8 percent of all workers nationwide.

Unions contend the decline is due to employers intimidating workers as well as restrictions on union organizing activities incorporated into the National Labor Relations Act and other laws under Republican administrations.

The Committee For Union Facts, however, thinks the decline is due to public concerns about union corruption and misuse of union dues and pension funds.

Davies said he sees the Obama letter as an important document revealing the candidate's willingness to substitute union cards for a secret ballot vote. Wilson thinks it's likely that the letter is the result of a blunder by an Obama campaign worker who didn't understand the dispute between Beef Northwest and UFW.

"It appeared to me that whatever lower-level staffer put a signature stamp on the letter and sent it out did not have any idea what was going on, or simply responded to a UFW request," Wilson said.

"Union campaign contributions have obviously had an effect on the Obama campaign," Wilson said. "The union uses everything they can to pressure us. In all honesty, we didn't take the letter very seriously at all."

When the Obama letter arrived at Beef Northwest headquarters in North Powder two weeks after it had been circulated and posted on the UFW Web site, Wilson said he responded by inviting Obama to tour the Boardman feedlot, eat lunch and visit with employees to find out how they feel about wages, working conditions and union representation.

"So far, we haven't had any response to our invitation," Wilson said.

"Our position has been constant throughout all of this," Wilson said, which is that employees need to decide on union representation through some type of confidential process that is monitored by a neutral party.

Regarding the Employee Free Choice Act, Wilson said he has seen two or three different drafts, but he's not sure what's in the most recent version to be submitted to Congress next year.

"If the card count is included, to me that would be alarming, unless there are protections built in for both employees and employers," Wilson said.


SEIU remains bitter even after $2 million payoff

Related story:"Yale's $2 million payoff fails to satisfy SEIU"

Jumbo union wants card-check, too

The settlement is over. Now comes the hard part.

This month, Yale-New Haven Hospital paid $2 million to District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union as part of an arbitration deal forged after a near-decade-long battle between the two parties. In 2006, SEIU/1199 workers had tried to have a “fair” union election, but the hospital interfered, according to an independent arbitrator and the National Labor Relations Board.

The $2 million was part of an agreed $4.2-million bill independent arbitrator Margaret Kern slapped on the hospital over violations of a previous Election Principles Agreement between the hospital and SEIU/1199 union organizers to allow for a December 2006 uninterfered union election for the 1,800 service workers there.

But the workers and hospital must now work toward a way to allow for possible unionization of the workers, something that the two have failed to accomplish for the last nine years.

Although the hospital wants the union dispute to be over, union officials said they refuse to continue with the old plan to have an election.

SEIU spokesman Bill Meyerson said Thursday that hospital administrators have been “untrustworthy” and there cannot be a fair election for the workers at the hospital under the current leadership. Meyerson added that the funds SEIU/1199 had gained from the arbitration deal will be used to help the service workers to unionize, but the group has no definitive plans on how to do so yet.

In a statement, Yale-New Haven Senior Vice President Vin Petrini said he hopes the payment “closes the chapter and the book” of SEIU efforts to organize the service workers into a union, according to the New Haven Register in an Aug. 16 article. Petrini, reached at his home phone Thursday night, declined to comment because he did not take non-breaking news interview requests after regular office hours.

Since 1999, SEIU/1199 organizers have been helping some service workers to organize others to unionize. The union election was the first genuine effort for possible unionization that had been agreed upon among the city, hospital officials and union organizers, the organizers said.

At the time when the agreement was broken, the hospital had misled workers, telling them that benefits and wages would dip had they unionized, according to Kern’s conclusions. When the hospital volunteered to have another agreement, the union flatly rejected the request.

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said in March 2007 that the hospital “is very clearly a partner that you not only can’t trust, but is clearly misrepresenting the facts.” His administration had lost touch with the hospital, officials claim, after the agreement violations.

And in May 2007, the National Labor Relations Board found that the hospital management anti-unionization movement had top administrators involved, including then-executive vice president and chief operating officer and now-president and CEO Margna Borgstrom EPH ’79.

But as the flame started to cool in early 2007, hospital officials also focused on pleasing the city by refining an grudgingly approved plan for a new cancer center.

The new center was contentious in the past because, among other things, city officials had wanted an increased amount of housing in the area of the center’s garage. City officials approved a $530 million cancer center in 2006, but the garage, laboratory and pharmacy still needed to be approved.

Ultimately, the hospital and city agreed on having 24 market-rate housing units surrounding the garage.

By October 2007, the arbitrator issued her bill to the hospital.

In a 47-page report, Kern rejected the union’s request for her to issue bargaining order that forces the hospital to acknowledge that the SEIU was representing hospital employees and must thus forge a contract with the union. But she nonetheless mandated that the hospital pay $2.2 million to the 1,800 workers and $2.3 million to the SEIU/1199.

The hospital later disputed the amount they should pay to the SEIU/1199, and a settlement was reached for $2 million this month. The hospital paid the remaining funds owed a week later. Officials paid the $2.2 million to the workers, however, from the get-go.

It remains unclear what the two parties will do now that the payments have been completed. Unionization may still continue, union workers say.

DeStefano said the dispute between the two parties will still continue as long as there is no “free and fair election” for unionization of the workers, the New Haven Register reported Aug. 16.

Meyerson said he was unsure when the dispute between the two parties will come to a close.

“It’s too early to say,” he said.


Striking bus drivers hold out for forced-dues

Related PARTA stories: here

Union bigs send rank-and-file to war over non-member payments to union

Neither side on the strike involving the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority and its union drivers are making a move. Striking drivers represented by the Ohio Association of Public School Employees are nearing their first week on the picket line.

Lloyd Rains, OAPSE regional director, read a letter at Thursday night's PARTA board meeting from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Tim Ryan that urged "both sides to settle through the good faith bargaining process."

PARTA and OAPSE are split over the issue of "fair share," which requires nonunion drivers to pay a percentage of their gross pay, estimated by the union at 2 percent, to the union as an "administrative fee."

PARTA General Manager John Drew said he sees fair share as a money grab by the union, which may not have as many firm supporters as it claims.

The union claims 65 or so drivers as members. PARTA said it has had at least 16 drivers cross the picket line each day.

Drew said he has no objection to collecting union dues, but objects to fair share, "first, because it's just not right."

"I feel very uncomfortable telling someone they have to pay money to someone," Drew said.

While many local OAPSE contracts include fair share, PARTA officials said it is rare to have it in a first contract, as with PARTA.

After a nearly two hour executive session, Drew said there is no change in PARTA's position.

Drew said bus service continues as before the strike without interruption.

So far, pickets have not prevented buses from leaving or entering PARTA headquarters in Franklin Township.

However, there have been some near misses, officials said. PARTA spokesman Frank Hairston said a picket sign blocked the vision of a driver pulling out, nearly causing a collision with car on Summit Road.

The two sides are now in their third year of negotiations on a first contract. The last time both sides met was Sunday with a federal mediator. No new talks are scheduled.

PARTA carries some 7,700 riders daily, with about 5,700 coming from the campus bus service on the Kent State University campus.


Anna Burger bares partisan SEIU fangs

More Anna Burger stories: here

Union big leads anti-GOP tour

Members of the Service Employees International Union held a rally in St. Louis on Friday to kick off a four-state bus tour ending at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. SEIU represents over 2-million workers in 100 occupations.

The union has formally endorsed Barack Obama for president but SEIU Secretary Anna Burger says Republicans need to hear their message too. "I didn't pick Labor Day as the first day of the Republican Convention, it wasn't my choice, it was their choice," says Burger.

"They probably didn't even realize it was Labor Day when they picked it, but since the world is going to have a spotlight on the Republicans, we want the spotlight to be shared with us and our values and our work."

Together with other unions, SEIU is pushing for the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for employees to unionize.

The caravan will culminate on Monday at the Take Back Labor Day Festival , occurring just across the Mississippi River from the RNC.


IAM preps workers for strike v. Boeing

Related video: "IAM bigs prep Boeing clash"

The Boeing Co.'s Machinists could go on strike Thursday based on a recommendation from their leadership to reject the company's contract offer. "We do not take lightly the fact that we have recommended a strike," said Tom Wroblewski, local district president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, in a press conference Friday.

However, Boeing's final offer on a new three-year contract "has fallen short of the expectations of our members" regarding job security, wages, pension and medical benefits, Wroblewski said. As a result, Machinists leaders are urging the 24,000 members in the Puget Sound region to reject Boeing's offer during a Wednesday vote.

A strike would idle Boeing's factories, which industry observers say could cost the company $100 million a day.

Last Thursday, the company presented the union with its "best and final" offer, including an 11 percent pay hike over three years, a $2,500 signing bonus, another lump sum payment of at least $2,500 in the first year and an increase in monthly pension payments to $78 for each year of service. The aerospace giant withdrew several controversial proposals -- ones the union deemed as takeaways -- such as carving Wichita out of the bargaining unit or eliminating pension and retiree medical benefits for new Machinists. Company spokesman Jim Proulx said Boeing negotiators are "extremely disappointed" by Machinists leaders' decision to reject what Boeing calls the "best contract in the industry."

Preliminary negotiations began months earlier than they have in previous years. But the Machinists alleged on Friday that the company tried to bypass union leaders and negotiate directly with the members. The union filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. Boeing's Proulx denied the union's claims.

Analyst Richard Aboulafia, with the Teal Group, noted the difference in Boeing's approach to negotiations this year. "Boeing has been talking directly with the members," Aboulafia said. "It's an aggressive tactic."

If Boeing sways enough Machinists to accept its contract offer, then the tactic will prove successful, Aboulafia said. That's something the company may keep in mind when it heads into contract talks with its engineers union later this year.

Analyst Aboulafia said the cost of a strike is a tough number to determine due to unknown penalty fees, discounts and agreements with airlines. Instead, he suggested what really matters is how quickly Boeing could catch up from a strike. That will be particularly true of Boeing's 787 program.

Boeing increased significantly the amount of work it awarded to outside partners on its 787 Dreamliner, a jet that has been delayed as a result of supplier and production problems. The union wants to strengthen its oversight of outsourcing and secure assurances on materials delivery and facilities maintenance work for its members. Boeing has said it met some of the union's demands.

Issues such as job security are up to union members to consider as they head into the long holiday weekend. Boeing isn't expected to resume talks with the Machinists over the weekend, despite willingness of the union to do so.

"We are focused entirely on helping the Machinists understand the offer," Proulx said. "We hope our employees recognize the benefits of our best and final offer."

But many Machinists who stopped by the union's hall in Everett on Friday didn't think highly of Boeing's proposals.

"Every three years, we have to fight for our pensions and we have to fight for our medical benefits. It's just getting tiring," said Tim Brewer, a Boeing worker for 11 years.

The Machinists staged a 28-day strike against Boeing in 2005. Its leaders recommended a strike in 2002 but failed to get two-thirds of the members to agree to strike. The Machinists' Wroblewski believes that won't be a problem this time around.

"We've got leverage this time," Wroblewski said.


SEIU bully tactics make Ohioans sick

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Out-of-state SEIU cash colors state ballot

The coalition backing the statewide mandatory sick-days ballot issue has received $1.5 million -- almost all of it from a single union. Campaign-finance reports on file with Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's office show that the Service Employees International Union and numerous affiliates have provided money and in-kind services accounting for nearly all of the total contributions.

The Ohioans for Healthy Families coalition, the union-led group backing the sick-days proposal, has spent about $250,000, according to the report. Nearly half of the total went to Fieldworks, a Washington, D.C., political consulting firm. Other major expenses were for printing the petition, staff time, polling and $11,800 to Butland & Associates, a Columbus consultant.

Contributions and spending are actually far greater because updated financial reports are not due until October.

Issue 4, as it will appear on the Nov. 4 general-election ballot, would require companies with 25 or more employees to provide workers with seven paid sick days annually. Part-time workers would receive a pro-rated amount.

The issue has not been officially certified for the ballot. However, supporters turned in nearly double the 120,583 signatures of registered voters needed to put the issue on the ballot.

Last week, Gov. Ted Strickland called the proposal "unworkable, unwieldy and ... detrimental to Ohio's economy." Strickland and Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher came out against Issue 4 after failing to broker a deal between union and business interests to pull the issue off the ballot.

Business opponents charge that the proposal is a "job killer" that will further depress the already sluggish Ohio economy. An opposition group, Ohioans to Protect Jobs and Fair Benefits, has not yet filed a campaign-finance report, but it has vowed to spend millions of dollars fighting the issue.

Supporters counter that Issue 4, formally known as the Ohio Healthy Families Act, is needed to help the 2.2 million Ohioans who have no paid sick days for themselves or family members.


Praise the teacher, not the union

Kids return to schools under monopoly bargaining

In the coming days, millions of students and teachers will go back to school for another nine months of homework, exams and extracurricular activities. But there is a worm in the apple: forced unionism, which allows teachers-union officials to gain an increasingly stifling grip on America's educational system.

Al Shanker, the late president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union, once remarked, "When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of schoolchildren." Yet many teachers are not even happy with this union "representation."

Across this nation, 2 million K-12 public-school teachers, or about 65 percent of all such teachers, according to a new study by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, labor in a workplace where they must accept a single union as their bargaining agent, like it or not.

Meanwhile, in Connecticut and 26 other states where teachers' dues payment may be compelled, 1.3 million teachers pay forced union dues or fees as a condition of employment. The forced dues, typically between $700 and $1,000 for a full-time teacher every year, are divvied up by the various local, state and national teachers-union affiliates, the AFT and National Education Association (NEA).

Under monopoly bargaining, a major culprit behind our lackluster public school system, individual teachers lose their right to negotiate with the principal or school board. Instead, once union agents gain the power of "exclusive representation" to negotiate wages and work rules, it becomes illegal for teachers to have a direct bargaining relationship with their employers or to be judged on their individual merit.

Unfortunately, the union hierarchy often cares more about filling its coffers and pursuing its political agenda than creating an atmosphere that rewards quality teachers who educate, inspire and serve as role models for our youth.

For example, union officials are notorious for blocking merit-pay proposals, which would allow the best teachers to make more money. And teachers-union bosses appear to be more willing to let our nation's children fall further behind the world in math and science than let school boards offer higher compensation to attract candidates for hard-to-fill teaching jobs in these crucial subjects.

The NEA and AFT union empires use part of their $1.3 billion in annual forced dues revenues to fund radical ideological activities.

And this does not sit well with many teachers. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation provides free legal aid to thousands of teachers and other employees who object to their compulsory fees funding the political agenda of union bosses, whose ultimate goal, according to one former NEA official, is "to reorder the priorities of the United States of America."

Foundation-won Supreme Court rulings establish that, while teachers unfortunately can be forced to pay some dues, they cannot lawfully be forced to fund nonbargaining activities such as politics. But teachers-union officials routinely make it as difficult as possible for teachers to exercise this right.

An individual should be free to join any association of his or her choosing, be it a union, a political party or a church, or none. Fortunately, there are truly professional, nonunion alternatives out there, such as the Association of American Educators. These groups are totally voluntary. So naturally, they are far more accountable to their members.

Even so, it is unconscionable that teachers are forced, as a condition of employment, to support unions such as the NEA, which heavily fund political activity often at odds with individual teachers' deeply-held political or religious beliefs.

Teachers may have the right to refuse to fund union activism, but fighting a union to get money back can be difficult, and back-door procedures do not reliably protect the individual liberty of our children's educators.

Our teachers deserve better. That's why it's time to end forced unionism altogether. No teacher should be forced to join or pay money to a union just to teach our children.

- Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.


SEIU strike tees up diplomatic win for Mayor

Labor-Day strike at LAX side-stepped thanks to union-backed Villaraigosa

Workers at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) returned to their jobs on Friday, one day after they went on strike over issues of wages, benefits and allegedly unfair labor practices. The workers, who provide "curb to cabin" services for major airlines, returned to work under an agreement negotiated by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The agreement, which went into effect at 8 a.m., calls for three-week "cooling off" period and for union leaders to resume negotiations with contractors.

As a result of the "cooling off" agreement, there are no plans to picket the airport for the next three weeks, said Mike Chavez, a spokesman for Local 1877 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Earlier this morning, Chavez said in a statement that the strike would be going into a second day on Friday and that the job action would be expanding, with picketing taking place outside every terminal at LAX.

"In these difficult economic times for the airline industry and for hard-working Angelenos at the airport, we must come together to find a solution that meets the needs of workers and the airline industry," Villaraigosa said.

"I am urging the workers and contractors, with the support of the airlines, to come to a fair agreement that ensures quality services and keeps passengers moving safely and efficiently at the international gateway to Southern California."

Chavez said employees immediately went back to work once the agreement was reached.

A bargaining session on Thursday morning between the union and the companies that employ the workers failed to produce agreement on a new contract, prompting the decision to strike, said SEIU Local 1877, which represents about 2,500 airline service workers at LAX.

The workers, who earn about 10 dollars an hour, are not employed by the airlines, but by sub-contractors.

Union officials said the companies have refused to make a contract offer that included improvements in training or wage and benefit increases despite months of negotiations and the presence of a federal mediator at this week's talks.

An estimated 825,000 passengers will arrive and depart on flights at LAX over the four-day Labor Day weekend.


Tom Allen's EFCA Deception

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