Why EFCA will end secret-ballot elections

More EFCA stories: here

The truth about card-check, EFCA: Union bigs' self-interest

Unions, and their friends in Congress, must have figured out that eliminating workers’ access to secret ballot votes for more than 100 million working Americans wasn’t popular. Go figure. That is probably why they are pushing the line that the deceptively-named Employee Free Choice Act “does not strip workers of their right to choose a secret-ballot election to decide whether to select — or not to select — a union representative.”

Right. To justify that, union bosses deceptively suggest that unions will still call for elections with less than a majority of a bargaining unit’s signed authorization cards. But their own words belie their true intentions, not to mention their unions’ own internal policies.

Technically, under EFCA the only statutory possibility of holding an election is if a union submits a petition to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with signed cards from more than 30% of a bargaining unit, but less than a majority. Specifically, the bill states that:
If the Board finds that a majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for bargaining has signed valid authorizations … the Board shall not direct an election but shall certify the individual or labor organization as the representative described in subsection (emphasis added)
I call this the “30-50 Myth.” And that’s just what it is, a myth. While there may be some mention of elections remaining in the legislation, they will become the appendix of union organizational campaigns — there, but an unused vestige of days gone by.

Frankly, it defies logic—and I’m going to give union leaders the benefit of the doubt here—to suggest that a union that is incapable of getting cards from 50% of the employees would go to an election where they expect an additional 25% fall off. In fact, the AFL-CIO admitted that “It is not until the union obtains signatures from 75% or more of the unit that the union has more than a 50% likelihood of winning the election.”

What union organizer would risk losing an election—and thus being barred from redoubling his or her efforts to unionize the company—with less than a majority of employees’ signed cards? None.

But don’t take my word for it. I did some additional research to examine unions’ internal policies on how many cards they typically gather before calling for an honest-to-goodness election. I’ll let the unions and their advisors speak for themselves :


Teamsters, Airline Division:
“Petitioning for a representation election requires a showing that 35 percent of the eligible employees have signed cards. However, 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.”

Motion Picture Editors Guild:
“The signing of authorization cards is a very significant part of the campaign. The cards confirm that a majority of the bargaining unit is committed to forming a union. While not a hard and fast rule, ideally, we like to see between 70 and 80 percent of the crew sign (see counter-campaign). While the EMPLOYER WILL NOT SEE WHO SIGNED THE CARDS, the employer will know how many cards were signed. The more cards we have, the stronger our messages.”

Security, Police, Fire Professionals of America union:
“Signed pledge cards typically are needed from at least 30 percent of the employees to trigger an NLRB-sanctioned election. Maritas said the SPFPA’s policy is to collect pledge cards from at least 70 percent of the workers before filing an election petition.”

New England Nurses Association:
“Have 70–75 percent of members sign cards; if unable to reach this goal, review plan.”

Description of the UFCW’s activity:
“At the meeting, the union organizers verbally indicated that they had withdrawn the petition because they had originally had the support of 70% of the staff but now felt that they did not represent a clear majority and would not feel comfortable with a union in the store which only represent ed slightly more than half of the workforce at the store.”

Graphic Communicators Conference of the Teamsters:
“To obtain an election through the services of the NLRB, at least 30 percent of the employees in the bargaining unit must sign authorization cards for a valid petition. As a practical matter, the GCC/IBT prefers about 70 percent of the eligible voters to have signed cards.”

Other Articles

Book, Reorganizing the Rust Belt, page 38:
“…the rule of thumb in the SEIU is that it’s unwise to file for an election when fewer than 70 percent of the workforce have signed interest cards.”

Samuel Estreicher, labor lawyer and New York University Law School professor, in the book The Future of Private Sector Unionism in the United States, page 325:
“It is no surprise we win only 50 percent of NLRB elections (even though we normally wait for card signatures from 70 percent of more of the work force before filing a petition).”

State University of New York-Binghamton Professor of Political Science David Cingranelli in book Justice on the Job:
“In modern practice, union organizers usually collect card from 60 to 70 percent of the workers in the bargaining union before proceeding to the next step.”

Texas Bar Journal, May 2007:
“If the union was able to establish workers’ support of the union by a showing of signed union authorization cards from at least 30 percent of workers, it could petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for an election. However, because employee support for unions typically wanes in the weeks leading up to an election, unions generally sought to obtain 50 percent to 70 percent or more of the signed union authorization cards before seeking an election.”


Non-citizen voters could swing '08 election

More ACORN stories: here

Union-backed voter fraud group ACORN cited

“The Threat of Non-Citizen Voting,” recently released by the Heritage Foundation, raises concerns that this year’s national and local elections could be determined by votes cast by non-citizens.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, passed during the Clinton Administration, enables non-citizens, including illegal aliens, to obtain voter registration cards. Known as the “Motor Voter Act,” the information provided by driver’s license applicants is also used in many states for voter registration unless the applicant indicates they do not want to register to vote.

Many illegal aliens take advantage of this because a voter registration card along with a Social Security card is all that is needed for proof of legal eligibility to get a job or for other purposes where proof of citizenship or legal residence is required.

How easy is it for non-citizens to register to vote? Eight of the 19 terrorists from 9/11 were registered to vote either in Virginia or Florida.

Hans A. von Spakovsky, author of the Heritage Foundation report, states there are tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of non-citizens registered to vote nationwide. Von Spakovsky, who served as a member of the Federal Election Commission and as Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the U.S. Justice Department on voting and election issues, points out the problem is more serious than the numbers would indicate. Many of the illegally registered voters are congregated in key states such as Florida, Texas and California where illegal votes could swing Congressional races or even the entire state in a presidential contest.

While most people would quickly agree that allowing non-citizens to vote would be a serious issue, there are some who believe there should be no citizenship requirements to vote.

Some supporters for allowing non-citizens the right to vote claim it is a matter of social justice and in the best interest of national unity. According to a paper written for the Center for Immigration Studies by Stanley A. Renshon, proponents of universal enfranchisement claim that allowing non-citizens to vote will help them feel more a part of America. But Renshon, a political science professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center, points out some leading proponents of non-citizen voting readily admit that their agenda is really about gaining political power to implement a progressive left-wing agenda.

The Immigrant Voting Rights Project is a national network of liberal activists whose goal is to gain voting rights for people residing in the United States regardless of citizenship. They claim it will promote civic participation and responsibility and help educate them in preparation for becoming citizens.

However, Immigrant Voting Rights Project co-founder Ron Hayduk revealed a different agenda when he wrote, “Creation of a truly universal suffrage would create conditions conducive to forming progressive coalitions. Imagine the progressive political possibilities in jurisdictions of high numbers of immigrants such as New York City; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C. and Chicago….”

With over 20 million adult non-citizens living in the United States, about half of them here illegally, it is easy to see how left-wing politicians and activists groups could be imagining the possibilities.

In contrast to voting age non-citizens, 2004 data from the Federal Election Commission reveals there were 221.3 million citizens of voting age in the United States, of which 79 percent were registered to vote. This means that over 46 million citizens were not registered to vote in the last presidential election.

The fact that there are so many unregistered citizens and so many who are registered but will not bother to vote is motivating liberal activists to spend millions of dollars on major voter registration campaigns. One group, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), claims to have turned out 2.3 million voters in the 2004 election and to have registered 1.15 million.

Unfortunately, ACORN has been accused of widespread voter fraud with workers implicated in voter fraud cases in 13 states. According to testimony, ACORN workers admitted to filling out voter registration cards and absentee ballots with names from the phonebook, names of relatives or names they simply made up. Other liberal activist groups are presently working to register convicted felons including some who are currently in prison.

Advocates for non-citizen voting may claim this is about the struggle for equality and social justice. But what non-citizen voting is really about, according to Ron Hayduk, is building progressive political majorities. With so many apathetic citizens who are registered voters not participating in the elections and with over 46 million citizens not even registered, we may see future politicians elected to office by a constituency of non-citizens and ineligible voters.

States could significantly reduce voter fraud and eliminate voting by non-citizens simply by passing laws requiring proof of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote and a photo ID when voting. And U.S. citizens can protect the sovereignty of our nation and the integrity of our elections by simply registering and voting. It should be obvious that the consequences of not exercising this most important civic duty will be severe.

- Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.


Organized labor celebrates its leftist roots

Related stories: "Collectivist mantra goes mainstream", "Unions win using Rules for Radicals"

Saul Alinsky's influence cited by award-winning journalist

Once a year, I and a few dozen other reporters and columnists write a Labor Day story. And, like most Americans we don't remember our history. We don't remember that the Knights of Labor created the first Labor Day in 1882 and that Congress made it a national holiday in 1894.

Almost none of us will write about the personalities of the labor movement. About Mother Jones (1830-1930), the militant "angel of the coal fields" for more than six decades. About "Big Bill" Haywood (1869-1928) who organized the Industrial Workers of the World, a universal coalition to fight for the rights of all labor. About cigar-chomping Samuel Gompers (1850-1924), the first president of the American Federation of Labor, a job he held for 38 years.

We won't be seeing any stories about Sidney Hillman (1887-1946) who led strikes in 1916 to reduce the work week to 48 hours, from the standard 54–60 hours, and then helped create the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) before becoming a major political force for workers during the labor-friendly Roosevelt administration. Missing will be remembrances of Saul Alinsky (1909-1972), known as the "father of grassroots political campaigns" who worked alongside Cesar Chavez (1927-1993) who used Alinsky's tactics to organize the United Farm Workers.

Hardly any of us remember Heywood Broun (1888-1939), one of the nation's best-paid columnists who risked his own financial stability to create The Newspaper Guild in 1935 to help those reporters making one-hundredth of his salary. Most reporters never heard about him or the history of the Guild. After all, we may believe that unions are acceptable for factory line workers, but we're "professionals," and mistakenly believe we don't need unions; we'll just continue to get assigned unpaid overtime and split shifts, while working for low wages, minimal benefits, and without a minimally-acceptable recourse for our grievances. Besides, if workers mattered, our newspapers would have a Labor page in addition to the daily Business pages.

Also missing from the news media will be stories about Eugene Debs (1855-1926), Joe Hill (1879-1915), and thousands of others who went to prison defending the rights of the workers not only to organize, but to demand better working conditions. We won't become involved in the struggle, risk our jobs and futures. That's someone else's responsibility. We'll just follow inane rules and complain privately.

We will make the effort to find a couple of current labor leaders, both of whom will say organized labor is having a tough time but is still strong and vital, the only recourse against poor working conditions and unfair labor practices. We'll report that fewer than 13 percent of all workers are now in unions, down from a peak of 35 percent in 1954, but won't dig into myriad ways of intimidation by Management.

We may interview the workers. An elderly man's remembrance of his life in the coal mines or breakers, and what Black Lung did not only to his own health but to his family and friends. We might chat with an elderly woman who worked 12-hour days six days a week for $3–$4 a day in the heat and humidity of a garment factory. We may talk with a few current workers who will tell us they don't have it great, but it could be worse and overall, on the record of course, they work hard and are pleased with their jobs. And we probably won't be too shocked to learn that most readers seem to think that Labor Day seems not to be a remembrance of the struggles for respect, dignity, and acceptable wages and working conditions, but of self-serving political speeches, hot dogs, burgers, and a pool party.

Some of us may write about the statistics of labor that show a retreat from the robust economy of the Clinton era. It doesn't take much research to learn that the Consumer Price Index, a measure of inflation, is 5.5 percent higher than a year ago, the sharpest increase since the last year of the George H.W. Bush administration. Factoring in inflation and recession, even with minimal raises, the rank-and-file workers are making about 3.1 percent less than a year ago, according to the Department of Labor. We'll quote the most recent data of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that "Employment continued to fall in construction, manufacturing, and several service-providing industries, while health care and mining continued to add jobs."

We'll point out that unemployment in a depressed economy is now 8.8 million, an increase of 1.6 million over the past year. We'll note that "non-farm payroll employment continued to decline" and that payroll employment is down by 463,000 since the beginning of this year.

Business euphemistically claims it is "downsizing" or "rightsizing." The "bottom line" is improved; corporate investors are being "optimally compensated." About 550,000 Americans were part of mass layoffs last year. Recent Department of Labor studies report that American workers are "the most productive" ever. That's because not only are they are doing so much more to compensate for their fellow workers having been laid off, but because they live with the fear if they don't work even harder they, too, may be laid off, or lose promotions, in an economy that is going as far south as our manufacturing plants.

We'll report the cold statistics that among the unemployed are about 461,000 "discouraged" Americans, about 90,000 more than a year ago, who "wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job" but are not counted as unemployed because "they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey," according to the BLS. These Americans are not only discouraged by the labor economy, they have undoubtedly been absorbed by a long-term depression.

Meanwhile, corporate executives are taking multi-million dollar bonuses for improving the "cash flow." Even if executive management makes a few mistakes along the way, and the "return on investment" isn't what the Board of Directors expects, almost all CEOs and their immediate underlings have the "golden parachute" that allows a soft drop from employment, yielding termination packages that amount to millions of dollars and considerable benefits that no working class person will ever receive.

Of course, there are some industries that have gained in the past year's plunging economy. Retail sales, which the Department of Labor reports as having the lowest average wages, is gaining workers. But, that's because it's just "good business sense" to hire 100 low-paid part-timers and save the cost of benefits than to hire 50 full-time clerks. About 5.7 million Americans work part-time, up from 1.4 million the previous year. This category, according to the BLS, "includes persons who indicated that they would like to work full time but were working part time because their hours had been cut back or they were unable to find jobs."

To the 50-year-old who worked hard for one company half of his life, showed up for work on time, left on time, and tolerated the company's banal preaching about everyone is "part of our happy family," and then is laid off as an "economy measure," the numbers don't matter. To the worker who put in 20 years in one job, and then is fired for reasons that would be questionable under any circumstance, the numbers don't matter. To the $20,000-a-year worker who is told that her raise can only be 2 percent this year because "we're having a bad year," but sees upper management not only get raises and more stock options, but also hire other managers, all of them making five times or more than her salary, the other numbers don't matter.

This year, I'm writing a Labor Day column. With all the layoffs and unemployment, with the blatant anti-labor biases of the current administration and the decisions by the pro-corporate National Labor Relations Board that will linger long into the next administration, next year there may not be much American labor to write about.

- Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist and university professor.


Modern Labor Day Hero

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Individual seeks an end to forced-labor unionism

This Labor Day, don't expect to see Simon Campbell — a critic of union practices — protesting the union movement. While he spends much time and energy needling elected officials, firing off lengthy e-mails and fighting for laws that would change long-accepted practices in union contracts, Campbell insists he is not anti-union.

“I'm a champion of the U.S. Constitution,” said the Lower Makefield resident and president of StopTeacherStrikes Inc. “Any form of coercion is unconstitutional and un-American.”

As the name of his organization suggests, Campbell wants to eliminate strikes, and he targets specific provisions as a means to that end.

“If we can eliminate forced unionism, we can lead the way to eliminate strikes,” he said.

Enter the Bucks County commissioners.

When Campbell learned earlier this summer that the commissioners were poised to approve American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees contracts, he began attending meetings and sending countless e-mails. The contracts passed 2 to 1, but without Campbell to draw attention to the following contract provisions, the vote would probably have passed unanimously:

* Fair Share. Critics call this provision forced union dues. This means employees hired into unionized shops don't necessarily have to join as full members but must pay nonmember dues, which often amount to about 80 percent of the full members' fees.

* Maintenance of Membership. This means union members can only leave the union during a narrow time window, usually 15 days before the contract expires. Bucks recently negotiated five-year contracts with AFSCME District Council 88.

* PAC money. The county facilitates employees' contributions to the union's political action committee. Of the county's 892 AFSCME workers, 40 have opted into the program. The county says cutting the checks costs $250 a year, which the union has agreed to pay starting with this contract; Campbell said he thinks the costs are greater.

District Council 88 referred phone calls seeking comment on the provisions to AFSCME headquarters in Washington, D.C., which did not return calls.

Technically, none of these practices is illegal, but the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation challenged the maintenance of membership agreement two years ago. The suit was settled, and a federal district judge granted a preliminary injunction, which Right to Work's vice president Stefan Gleason considers a major victory.

The provision violates the Constitution on two fronts, Gleason said.

“The First Amendment says you have the freedom to associate or not associate,” Gleason said. “So forcing someone to maintain membership as a condition of employment infringes on that. Forcing someone to remain a member and forcing them as a member to pay full dues that are then spent on actions that are ideological is a violation of freedom of speech.”

Campbell links fair share or “forced dues” to strikes.

He said dues artificially inflate membership due to the comparatively high cost of nonmember dues, which are supposed to cover only what it costs the union to negotiate a contract. Employees often feel it's in their best interest to become full members for not much more money, he said. Then, he said, if a strike vote is held, even those who vote against a strike can be compelled to hit the picket line.

Anthony Visco, a Philadelphia labor attorney who has represented the county in past union arbitration, likened maintenance of membership to a bargaining chip. It's hard for politicians to resist because no one wants a union working against them, he said.

“The unions usually want that because it's their lifeblood financially, and they will often offer other concessions to get it,” he said.

Visco said the provisions Campbell and Right to Work oppose make the rules governing public sector unions less restrictive than those for private companies at which workers must join a union as a condition of employment within 30 days of starting the job.

Campbell, meanwhile, supports the Strike-Free Education Act, a bill that would make Pennsylvania the 38th state in which teacher strikes are illegal.

“That is why I tend to get crazy with these people,” he said, “I tend to think the First Amendment is pretty good.”

His allegiance to the Constitution is significant, considering he is British and a permanent U.S. resident seeking citizenship, meaning for now he pays taxes but cannot vote. His three children are in public school.

Some find Campbell's tactics unsavory. After a testy e-mail exchange with a staffer in the county's public information office, Campbell retaliated with a request for her salary, which is a matter of public record.

He has no plans to challenge her compensation but said he wanted “to make the point that it's her job to serve the public.”

He has targeted all three commissioners and is critical of Democrat Diane Marseglia for voting “yes” on the contract, but attaching a note that indicated she had no confidence in the commissioners' legal representation.

Campbell is convinced she is worried about the legality of provisions he opposes. But Marseglia, who routinely refuses to sign county contracts because she feels uneasy about county legal opinions, said she signed this time because the contract wouldn't take effect without her official endorsement.

“It had absolutely 100 percent nothing to do with what Simon Campbell was talking about,” she said.

Campbell plans to take another crack at the commissioners at their next meeting set for Wednesday in Perkasie.

“We're going to ask some tough questions and see what kind of answers we get,” he said.


Unions to report $385 million for politics

More EFCA stories: here More union-dues stories: here

Undisclosed, in-kind campaign aid usually adds 10x to reported figures

The labor movement's big-money campaign for Sen. Barack Obama faces stiff challenges in getting rank-and-file union members to overcome their concerns about the candidate, according to labor specialists and polls.

“There's been a cultural and political divide between union members and Democratic candidates who may not care as much about trade and some other issues as they do,” said Bruce Cain, a professor of political science at the University of California at Berkeley. “That makes it hard for union leaders to deliver the vote.”

This clearly worries union leaders, who see the November election as pivotal in getting key legislation passed. At the top of the list: the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would allow workers to organize via card checks rather than the usual secret ballots. Mr. Obama endorsed the legislation, which passed the House before stalling in the Senate. Sen. John McCain opposed it. Last week, U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue said his group would lobby against the bill.

“All of labor's eggs are placed in this legislation's basket,” said Mike Asensio, a management labor lawyer for Baker Hostetler in Columbus, Ohio. “If they don't get the bill passed, it raises a specter about their future.”

Given the stakes, it's hardly surprising that organized labor is splashing massive amounts of cash on the election. The AFL-CIO and its 56 member unions plan to spend a whopping $300 million to support Democrats in the presidential and congressional campaigns this fall and produce about 250,000 volunteers. The breakaway Service Employees International Union plans to pitch in another $85 million.

To put that in perspective, the Democratic Party as a whole had raised $416 million through July.

The campaign at the AFL-CIO is typical of labor's big-money strategy. The union will target 3 million undecided members, voting family members and retirees in 24 battleground states, the group's political director, Karen Ackerman, said. That target group consists of about a quarter of all union members.

The umbrella labor organization's highest priorities will be voters in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania—swing states with large numbers of union members. It plans to spend as much as $18 million to reach undecided union voters and others in those three states with TV ads, flyers, phone calls, e-mails, mailings and one-on-one visits.

“Union members vote at a higher rate than the rest of the population,” said David Karol, a political science professor at the University of California at Berkeley. “Many are basically Democratic who will end up coming around.”

Maybe. But the largest block of undecided U.S. voters consists of older white, blue-collar, church-going men and women, according to a recent bipartisan poll of 1,000 registered voters conducted by Lake Research Partners and the Tarrance Group.

Blue-collar workers in Macomb County, Mich., a Detroit suburb, favor Mr. McCain over Mr. Obama by a 51%-42% margin, according to a survey by Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg that was released Aug. 25.

The Michigan workers, many of whom voted for Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, harbor doubts about Mr. Obama's experience, values and patriotism, with lesser concerns about his race, the poll found. “Many folks have never voted for an African-American,” Ms. Ackerman granted. “It's complicated by unfamiliarity, inexperience and rumors. Our job is to make sure people know who Barack Obama is and what he stands for.”

But earlier labor-funded ads seem to focus on what John McCain supposedly stands for. One flier about Mr. McCain's proposal to privatize Social Security said: “McCain's worth over $100 million.... He owns 10 houses.... He flies around on a $12.6 million corporate jet.... He walks around in $520 loafers.... If John McCain lost his Social Security, he'd get by just fine. Would you?”

An online video showcases Mr. McCain's houses and condominiums in Arizona, California and Virginia while also needling the Arizona senator about his calfskin loafers made by Salvatore Ferragamo. The video, distributed by the AFL-CIO and SEIU, then focuses on a person whose house was lost to foreclosure.

“Labor's money provides them with the potential to make a significant impact in publicizing who Obama is, and it doesn't really matter that it's coming from the unions,” said Alan Gitelson, a political science professor at Loyola University of Chicago. “Political advertisements have an impact if they are repetitive.”

With the rolls of organized labor down nearly a quarter since 1979, union leaders will no doubt continue to hammer away.


Some states offer workers a union choice

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Most states mandate union membership as precondition of employment

Labor Day is one of the great American ironies. It is a day to celebrate and honor hard-working Americans, particularly union workers, and has been since 1894. And we celebrate all that hard work ... by not working. Most Americans have the day off.

But before you fire up that grill and barbeque some brats, burgers, and dogs, take a moment to consider what the day means. The holiday was started in 1882 as “a day off for the working citizens” by the Central Labor Union of New York City.

The CLU later broke up into individual unions, then came together again as what we today know as the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization, or more simply the AFL-CIO.

Labor Day back then began with street parades and festivals filled with pro-union messages and speeches.

Congress adopted it as an official federal holiday in 1894.

Today, it’s basically just a day off work.

Of course there are some businesses that will be open.

It’s actually another of the ironies.

In those companies where front-line employees (even union employees) have to show up and open the doors on this day which honors workers, just another workday for them, you’ll often find the non-union bosses, managers, and owners relaxing at home.

In some parts of the country, it’s the last chance to travel with the family before the start of school.

And while meteorologists, calendar makers, and Mother Earth herself all disagree, most acknowledge it as the end of summer.

(The actual last day of summer is Sept. 21 this year, the day before the Autumnal Equinox.)

Another irony of the day is the fact that unions, which were created to help people join together in a show of unity and strength, have become something of a political divider.

There are a number of people in the U.S. who fervently oppose unions as a concept.

It’s ironic that those who are anti-union won’t let their philosophical stance stop them from taking the day off for a holiday that was founded to celebrate unions.

It’s also a sort of irony that most people in the United States of America do not belong to a labor union, but the word “union” is a derivative of the word “united”.

In fact, the U.S. Constitution begins with the line “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…”

In Nevada, unions aren’t as strong as in other states, mostly because it is a “right to work” state.

In “right to work” states, you cannot force someone to join a union in order to get a particular job.

In other states, in order to get hired for certain jobs with certain companies, you must be a member of the union.

There aren’t a lot of unions in Mesquite.

While unions have become common in the gaming and hospitality industries in Las Vegas, Mesquite’s casino employees are not part of any union.

Some City employees are also union members, as are some teachers.

The best known local “union” is probably the Mesquite Police Officers Association, which last year helped negotiate a new contract and raises for all of the city’s police officers.

It’s just one more irony that many members of Mesquite’s most visible union will not have Labor Day off, as police officers continue to patrol and protect the city while the rest of us relax.

So enjoy your day off.

In between flipping burgers, be sure to give a thought to the hard working Americans who helped make this country great.

Especially union workers.

After all, without unions, most of us would probably be reading this article on our computers at work.

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday.


IAM big raps Obama-Biden campaign

Buffenbarger: They just don't get it.

To use a familiar phrase, Barack Obama needs Tom Buffenbarger to get fired up and ready to go. The fact that he isn't should worry voters eager to see the Democrats to win in November.

I ran into Buffenbarger in a hotel lobby, as I was moving around town earlier today, trying to get a sense of things. He is precisely what you would think a Tom Buffenbarger would be: a thickly built, balding, blunt-speaking guy with a firm handshake and a sports coat you'd never see in the pages of GQ magazine. His roots and job are Buffenbargeresque: the blue-collar precincts of Cincinnati; the presidency of the Machinists Union.

Buffenbarger was a Hillary Clinton guy. Now he is an Obama guy. But he is worried--worried that the Obama-Biden campaign still doesn't get it about the voters he represents and the part of the country he comes from. "I'm not sure they have anyone on the inside of that campaign who really knows my voters," he told me.

Besides inside advice, the Obama campaign, in the view of many here, hasn't been as diligent as they should be in wooing and winning Clinton delegates. Some Obama supporters in states Obama won--Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, to cite one example--have worked hard on their own to reel in their local Clintonites. But neither Obama nor his top lieutenants have reached much beyond the Clinton donor base to reach out directly to individual delegates.

These two trends--blue-collar worries, and reluctant Clinton supporters who feel they are being ignored--cross in a particular geographical area: the Great Lakes states of Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. It's a cliché of the campaign but nevertheless true: this election battle with John McCain will be won or lost in those places, where less educated, Roman Catholic blue-collar workers still form the backbone of the traditional Democratic Party.

Said another union official, who did not want to be quoted: "The fact that we are fighting tooth and nail in Pennsylvania--when we shouldn't have to be, given George Bush's record--tells you everything you need to know about this election."

What does Obama need to do and say?

"He needs to challenge America again," Buffenbarger told me. "He needs to say that we are going to rebuild the middle class and renew our technological base." Obama can't merely promise to repeat the policies of Bill Clinton, he said. The former president was too willing to sign trade deals, he said, and too willing to sometimes let Wall Street get its way.

There was a fair amount of talk among insiders that Obama's economic plans and language remain vague--an argument summarized in The New York Times Magazine by influential reporter David Leonhardt. "Just read that article and you will see what the problem is they have to solve."

In another hotel lobby I ran into another Clinton person--a higher-up who had gotten on board, but who remained skeptical of Obama's ability to make the sale. "The best thing we have going for us is George Bush," said this person, who was busy raising money to pay off Hillary's debt and did not wanted to be quoted by name. "That's how we win: Bush equals McCain. That's going to have be the way we win, the only way we win, this election."


Canadians losing their appetite for unions

Disinterested workers plague union organizers

Across the country, more and more Canadians appears to be losing their taste for unions. A new survery reveals the number of employed Canadians who say unions are losing their relevance has increased by 8-percent to 46-percent.

Breaking down the numbers, 77-percent of non-unionized employees have no interest in becoming unionized while 25-percent of those already part of a union would happily go without if given the choice.

The survey also shows the majority of unionized employees are fed up with seeing union dues going towards a political party or having union bosses use the money to attack political leaders.


'The One' to save unionism from disinterest

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Persuasion fails, so union organizers turn to politics

On this Labor Day, unions are thinking about Election Day. They're looking for a candidate who will enforce their rights, expand their legal protections, and not buckle under pressure. They're betting on Sen. Barack Obama. But even if he wins, their job will not be over.

Over the last few decades, companies have increasingly opposed unions, and many have gone to great--and illegal--lengths to block workers' right to organize. But the government has punished only a few companies--and then with just a slap on the wrist.

As a result, the percentage of the U.S. work force that's unionized today is only 7.5 percent in the private sector, and 12 percent overall. It's not that workers don't want to join unions. Some 60 million workers would join a union if they safely could, according to a December 2006 poll by Peter Hart.

So to make joining a union easier, labor is now calling for a different method of establishing new union bargaining units.

Legislation called the Employee Free Choice Act--which Sen. John McCain opposes and Obama supports--passed the House in 2007 but Republican senators blocked it from coming to a vote. It's likely to come back up for a vote next year. Under this bill, employers would be required to bargain with their employees as soon as a majority of them sign union-authorization cards, eliminating the procedural delays and opportunities for interference that exist under the current law. Unions and employers unable to agree on a first contract would submit the dispute to binding arbitration.

The bill would also put some teeth into the law. Workers fired for union organizing would be eligible for "treble damages"--three times their lost pay--rather than just back pay. And other serious unfair labor practices would be punishable by $20,000 fines.

If Democrats gain additional Senate seats in November and Obama wins the White House, labor law reform will have its first real chance of passage in 30 years. That's why unions are pushing Democratic candidates at labor rallies all over the country this weekend.

But labor activists need to remember that elections aren't a panacea. In 1977-78, President Carter half-heartedly pushed for pro-worker amendments to the National Labor Relations Act, only to see them killed in a Senate filibuster. Fourteen years later, President Clinton appointed a presidential commission to study labor law reform, thereby wasting the only two years during his presidency when Democrats controlled the House and Senate and could have introduced new legislation.

Will Obama be any different? If he wins, he may try to avoid a knock-down, drag-out fight with corporate America during his first few months in office. Only grassroots pressure, now and then, can ensure that this bout occurs--and ends favorably for labor.

Then, next Labor Day, workers would have something to celebrate.

- Steve Early is a labor journalist and lawyer. He wrote this for Progressive Media Project.


Change union bigs can believe in

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Labor-backed candidate shows hostility to capitalism

This week, the Republican National Platform Committee will present their final draft of the GOP platform to the party delegates assembled in St. Paul. The proposed platform will closely reflect the priorities and positions that are important to values voters.

The Democratic Party's platform for 2008, which was approved earlier this week in Denver, is a marked departure that stands in stark contrast to the proposal that will be put forth by the Republican Party. At 94 pages, the Democrats' platform is more than twice as long as their 2004 version. Buried deep within it are planks that will take our country in the wrong direction, including plans to reverse the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, increase funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

Consider these troubling excerpts buried within the Democrats' 94-page document: Special Rights for Gay Couples: "We support the full inclusion of all families, including same-sex couples, in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections. We will enact a comprehensive bipartisan employment non-discrimination act. We oppose the Defense of Marriage Act and all attempts to use this issue to divide us."

Support for Card Check: "We will strengthen the ability of workers to organize unions and fight to pass the Employee Free Choice Act."

Overturning NLRB Decisions: "We will restore pro-worker voices to the National Labor Relations Board and the National Mediation Board and we support overturning the NLRB's and NMB's many harmful decisions that undermine the collective bargaining rights of millions of workers."

Taxpayer-Funded Abortions: "The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right."

According to the Grand Rapids Press, "The plank in support of abortion rights is even stronger than usual....Gone is the phrase from the past that abortions should be safe, legal and 'rare." (Editorial, Grand Rapids Press, 8/26/08)

This is the agenda that Barack Obama, as his party's leader, has vowed to implement. But is this the type of "change" that America is ready for? All week long, a strong case has been made that Obama is not ready to lead. Now, we must also ask ourselves: Is America ready for Obama and the direction he wants to take our country?

The choice this November is clear. John McCain will be ready to lead on Day One. He will reform broken policies, not reinvent them with the help of special interest groups. He has a solid values-based voting record. We can count on him to continue that record in the White House.

I hope John McCain can count on your support in November.


Embezzlement scandal claims SEIU bigs

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Inconvenient timing for hyper-political union as election-year enters crucial phase

The executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union has stepped aside while under investigation for allegations she paid thousands of dollars in union funds to a former boyfriend, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

Annelle Grajeda is the third major SEIU official to be placed on leave in recent months amid allegations of financial misspending. Grajeda was also president of the SEIU's state council for California and president of the Los Angeles local representing 77,000 county workers.

She is on leave from all three positions, the SEIU said.

Grajeda was "very confident" she would be exonerated, she told the Times on Saturday.

The SEIU said that it has demanded that her ex-boyfriend, former Los Angeles chapter president Alejandro Stephens, return money he received from the local and the state council.

He was paid nearly $89,000 in consulting fees and "disbursements for official business" by those entities last year, according to the union's financial filings with the U.S. Labor Department.

Two other SEIU leaders have been placed on leave recently amid allegations that the group's largest local, United-Long-Term Care Workers, misspent $1 million of members' dues.

The local, which represents thousands of health care employees, is the subject of federal inquiries into payments that made to companies owned by relatives of local President Tyrone Freeman. Freeman and his former chief of staff, Rickman Jackson, who now heads the ULTCW's Detroit local, are both on leave.


She backs America's most-decertified union

Related story: "Teamsters win organized labor award"
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Unionist explains why Teamsters want to force dues from disinterested workers

Kathy Tiihonen has been an organizer for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 104 for eight years. Before that, she was a bus driver with Sun Tran for 10 years. She became an organizer, she said, because she had struggled as a single mother and wanted to share the benefits she had gained from joining a union.

Here are excerpts of an interview Friday:

Q: What's the biggest problem facing Teamsters members?
A: It's the same problem as it has always been — weak labor laws. They're weak laws or no laws at all to actually protect workers.

Q: What has been the biggest hurdle you have faced while organizing?
A: Companies do not abide by the laws that are set out for workers so that they can organize. There's no real incentives for companies to abide by the rule because it doesn't make any difference. At best they have to stick a piece of paper on the wall that says, "We won't do it."

Q: What is the union's biggest issue going into the presidential election?
A: The Employee Free Choice Act. It's legislation that protects workers' rights through forming a union. Where if a majority of workers sign a card saying, "We want to be a union," instead of going through a four- to six-week period of getting beat up by the company and threatened, they just get recognized and sit down and negotiate.

Q: What is the biggest problem facing you and other union organizers?
A: It's the dirty campaigns run by the companies where they literally lie to employees. An example would be them saying "if you vote for the union, you start with nothing and lose everything you have and you could get less."

Q: How much has the Teamsters been growing in Pima County?
A: Let's just put it this way — I have a very secure job. There are not enough hours in the day to take care of the campaigns that keep coming at me. The workers are trying to organize.

Q: What has sparked an influx of workers to organize?
A: They're starting to organize because of the economy; with gas at $4 a gallon, the cost of groceries going up, but the only thing that isn't going up is workers' wages. If they have health care, they are paying more and more and more out of their pocket just to have it. It's just harder to make ends meet these days with a family.

Q: Is there any hostility from Tucson businesses?
A: Not from any company we hold contracts with. We have good relationships with UPS, Sun Tran, Van Tran, just to name a few. They're great companies.

Q: Where are you currently organizing?
A: We just finished the voting process with US Food Service, and we get the results next week.

Q: What is one of the biggest successes you have had?
A: UPS was a great one. We had an agreement with the employer for neutrality so the workers didn't have to undergo all that torture. We got the majority and we presented the majority, then we sat down and negotiated a good and fair contract for the employees.


Forcing workers into unions is wrong

More card-check stories: hereMore EFCA stories: here

Card-check erodes freedom at work

Labor Day is unlike any of the other major U.S. holidays. It does not celebrate an individual or an anniversary. Instead, it honors the collective achievements of the American worker.

Its roots lie in the efforts of 19th century labor unions to establish a "workingmen's holiday," a paid day off as part of their goal to establish or increase worker benefits. Unions' growing political power influenced local and state governments to formally declare the day a holiday, which traditionally was celebrated with marching parades, picnics and speeches by union officials and pols. In 1894, Congress jumped aboard the bandwagon and passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday.

Like many longtime American traditions, the reason for Labor Day has gradually taken a back seat to the general celebration, much the way Christmas has become more of a commercial season than a religious observation. Part of that is attributed to the decline of Big Labor, which now lacks the reach it once had to wrap its arms around the holiday it invented. In 1954, one in three American workers belonged to a union; today, only 12.5 percent do. Of those, less than 8 percent belong to a private sector union. The public sector - i.e., government employees - today constitutes the bulk of organized labor.

The inability of unions to adapt to the changing American economy of the last quarter century, with its emphasis on technology and individualization rather than collectivism, placed them on the road to obsolescence. Because the public sector is its only growth area, Big Labor concentrates on expanding government, a far cry from its initial goal of improving working conditions.

But unions are seeking to reverse that trend, not through moral suasion, but by subverting a precious democratic tradition: the secret ballot.

Big Labor's top federal legislative priority is the grossly misnamed Employee Free Choice Act, which would revoke the right of workers to have a secret ballot in union elections. Publicly signed union cards would be allowed to count as votes instead (a practice commonly known as "card check"). If the measure becomes law (it passed the House last year but was filibustered in the Senate), workers hardly will have "free choice." Rather, they will be subject to intimidation: Vote for organizing a union - or else.

The legislation is popular with union leaders and Democratic politicians (including Barack Obama) who rake in Big Labor's big bucks campaign contributions - but not among the rank and file. A Zogby poll last year found that 71 percent of union workers think the current private-ballot system is fair, and 78 percent don't want it replaced with card check.

Today, most Americans will celebrate their hard-earned day off with a trip to the beach, a backyard cookout or just a lazy afternoon lying around the house. It is for them a second Independence Day, a celebration of their freedom to develop their skills, market them to the highest bidder and reap the rewards. Passing the card check law would erode that freedom.


Labor Day not a celebration of collectivism

Editorial: Union militants turn to politics

Labor Day has a different history in America than in Europe, points out Julia Vitullo-Martin, editor of "Breaking Away: The Future of Cities."

Europe's Labor Day observance was announced in 1889 by the first Paris Congress of the Second Socialist International. "The Socialists planned to have workers enforce a May 1 holiday whenever it occurred, whether on a weekend or during the work week," Ms. Vitullo-Martin notes. "Disruption was to be part of the holiday, and there was no notion that anyone but workers would participate -- certainly not owners or capitalists."

In contrast -- while no one should suggest the American struggle to gain recognition for the right of workers to organize was a mere walk in the park -- in America things proceeded in a generally more conciliatory vein.

Matthew Maguire, a machinist from Paterson, N.J., and Peter J. McGuire, a New York City carpenter who helped found the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, were instrumental in staging the first Labor Day parade in New York City in September 1882. No heads were broken. And by 1894, President Grover Cleveland had signed a bill making Labor Day a national holiday.

It may be this notion -- that a celebration of labor is an appropriate undertaking for Americans of all classes and political persuasions -- that allowed America's holiday to be marked with "picnics, parades, baseball games ... and a few mild speeches," rather than "clashes between cops and workers," Ms. Vitullo-Martin theorizes.

In today's America, "The working class and the employing class now have a great deal in common -- a joint drive for prosperity," Ms. Vitullo-Martin explains. "We also recognize that the labor movement's great days may be behind it. Less than 10 percent of the American private-sector work force is unionized, down from 35 percent 30 years ago."

Does this shrinking of union membership mean American workers are being reduced to a new level of serfdom? Just the opposite. "Labor's problems can be traced, in part, to its own success in reducing unsafe working conditions and giving workers a voice," editorializes the Journal of Commerce.

Europe's socialist labor movement assumed a Manichaean duality: Workers were good, employers evil. The goal was to equalize distribution of the fixed pile of available wealth by getting as much as possible, while providing as little benefit as possible to their "ruthless exploiters."

In America, on the other hand, union pioneer George Meany advised his brethren to avoid divisive, partisan politics. The average American worker, far from seeking to sabotage his work product when no one was looking, clung to a pride in his craftsmanship, realizing early on that his energy and creativity could increase the value of his employer's product, often making the difference between whether a company succeeded or failed. Wealth could only be shared after it was created, and a job well done was something to be proud of.

Thus the inevitable decline of the old-style, confrontational union in the private arena. The collapse of bureaucratized socialism around the world stands in stark contrast to the material health and well-being of the lowliest worker in a free, capitalist society -- a well-being undreamed of by even the elite in yesterday's gray cesspools of collectivism.

That's why we Americans can be proud of our work -- setting aside a weekend each year not just for a last summer fling, but also to honor what we've built and the labor it took to get it done.


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