ACORN's voter-fraud gone wild

More ACORN stories: here

Ohio reels from union-backed 'community organizers'

Ohio election officials are sending out a mass mailer stamped “do not forward” to all registered voters today (Sept. 5) with an absentee ballot application and other important notices for Nov. 4.

What’s important here is not so much what’s going out as what’s being returned to sender. Unbeknownst to the would-be recipients, the same mailer — just 60 days before the election — has the potential to determine their eligibility to vote, challenged not by election officials but by partisan opposition.

A similar mailer in March netted nondeliverable mail from almost 600,000 registered voters in just five Ohio counties who could now have their ballots thrown out for voting under the wrong address.

The National Voter Registration Act prohibits any state from purging names from the voting rolls within 90 days of an election.

The law doesn’t, however, preclude mass partisan challenges on or shortly before Election Day — known as voter caging — based on the same returned envelopes from state-sponsored mailers like the ones in Ohio and others going out across the country.

In 2004, the year the national election hinged on results from Ohio, the Ohio Republican Party challenged 35,000 voters based on returned mail from these friendly reminder notices. From 2004 to 2006, Republicans challenged 77,000 voters this way nationwide. A consent decree issued in 1982 and amended in 1987 enjoins the GOP from instituting “ballot security programs” that focus on minority voters.

No evidence so far suggests Republicans — who traditionally are much more proactive than Democrats in this regard — have mounted a caging campaign this year. Yet, in July, Franklin County Election Director and County GOP Chairman Doug Preisse told reporters he didn’t rule out challenges before November, particularly because of increased home foreclosures, which would make failures to change address on voter registration records more common.

A challenged voter will likely cast a provisional ballot, which often requires voters to return to election divisions to prove their identity and address. Nearly a third of all 1.6 million provisional ballots cast in 2004 were thrown out.

Voting-rights groups don’t oppose voter-roll housekeeping, but they cite the federal law as evidence that executing it so close to the actual election isn’t fair.

The fraud that voter caging purportedly roots out is relatively rare, although vote solicitors working for the liberal group ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, in 2004 and again this year were accused of submitting false registration forms. Ohio is one of five states where ACORN employees have been investigated and, in some instances, jailed over submitting false voter registration forms.

Unrelated to ACORN, the Web site GOP.com cites two voting-fraud court cases in Ohio, both focused on individuals casting a second ballot intentionally.

On Nov. 1, 2004, voter-rights groups reacted and challenged the partisan caging in Ohio all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in just two days but lost in a final-hour appeal. This year, they want to be as proactive as possible, said Donita Judge, Ohio staff attorney for the nonprofit Advancement Project.

“A single returned piece of mail is not a reliable basis for challenging the right to vote,” Judge said. “Mail may be returned for many reasons, including errors in the database from which the mailing is derived, errors in the mailing labels, failure to include an apartment number or poor matching criteria.”

Since 2005, Ohio state law has required a non-forwarded mailer 60 days before each federal election. The suspicious part about the law, Judge said, is that it’s set to expire after the November election.

But it’s not all about throwing votes out. Another aspect of Ohio’s reformed election law is that it opens a window between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6 when voters can register one minute and cast a ballot the next.

That’s generally seen as a benefit for Democrats this year since the new registrations refer mainly to 400,000 or so resident college students in Ohio. Obama holds a 2-to-1 lead over McCain among 18- to 34-year-olds, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released last month.

Following a statewide mailer similar to the one going out today, before the Ohio primary in March, the Advancement Project obtained the lists of returned notices through simple public records requests. The organization requested records from five urban Ohio counties — Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas and Summit.

The total came to 600,000 names out of 3 million voters, amounting to 19.7 percent of all registered voters.

Sally Krisel, director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, said the high percentage was misleading because the mailer in her county included those on the inactive voter roll. Considering only active registered voters, the county received about 5 percent returned in March, she said.

Inactive voters, tagged for possible removal, are given two years to cast a ballot before they can be removed from the rolls. None of the returned, 60-day notices are used for that purpose, Krisel said.

“We have not purged anybody this year,” she said. “In big counties, we’re often carrying a lot of inactive voters.”

In Franklin County, the March mailer went to all registered voters as well. Out of 780,000, more than 150,000 notices were returned. Those voters are now excluded from receiving another notice this week, said Ben Piscitelli, spokesman for the Franklin County Board of Elections. The only public records request for the list so far came from the Obama campaign, Piscitelli said.

Meanwhile, the sweeping Ohio election law loosens the rules around challenging voters. It also strips much of the ability of voters to know they are being challenged and defend their right to vote before an election judge.


Labor-state card-check deal goes to court

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Lawsuit reflects strong ties between unions, pols

Everyone who does business in Boston knows that if you want to build a commercial project of any size in the city, you've got to go through the Menino administration and its Boston Redevelopment Authority. But if the claims made by operators of the Courtyard by Marriott in Dorchester are true, you may have to get a union's approval as well.

The tensions between the hotel's management firm, South Bay Boston Management Inc., and Unite Here Local 26 landed in Boston federal court now that the firm has sued Local 26 to end a unionization agreement that was signed five years ago.

South Bay, which is affiliated with Jiten Hotel Management of Brockton, wants a judge to rule that it no longer has to recognize Local 26 as a bargaining unit for the hotel workers. South Bay claims Jiten, which developed the hotel, was forced to sign the unionization agreement to get the BRA approval to build the hotel.

The fight reflects the strong ties that unions have with key political leaders in this state. It also highlights the potential ripple effects from an ongoing debate that will likely resume in Congress next year over whether unions should be given the right to use card-check agreements to organize, which are faster and easier to manage than long, drawn-out secret ballot elections.

As South Bay explains it in the suit, the controversy dates back to August 2003 when Jiten officials wondered why they were having a hard time getting the hotel on the BRA's agenda. A Jiten vice president, working with then-Brockton Mayor Jack Yunits, lined up a meeting with Boston Mayor Tom Menino in Brockton to discuss the problem.

At the meeting, according to the suit, Menino said the hotel operators would need to sign a card-check agreement with Local 26 to ensure the hotel's work force would be unionized. Such an agreement allows a union to be recognized as long as it collects authorization cards from the majority of affected workers. Approve the agreement, the suit says Jiten was told, and the hotel is a go. Jiten had already plowed $3 million into the project, so Jiten president Nayan Patel signed the agreement. The next day, the BRA approved the hotel.

The 164-room hotel, which overlooks the South Bay Center, opened for business in May 2005. Later that summer, Jiten sold a significant stake in the project to Pennsylvania hotel investment firm Hersha Hospitality Trust, and South Bay Boston Management was born.

Today, the hotel managers want out of the original union agreement. Local 26 obtained enough authorization cards to be recognized, but South Bay points to a clause in the agreement that says it expires three years after the hotel opens.

South Bay also claims the agreement has been illegal all along and an example of local interference with federal labor laws because of the way city officials forced the hotel to let Local 26 in its doors.

It's hard to know if this pushback against the union is being driven by Patel or his partners in Pennsylvania. Patel, who is also the president of South Bay, didn't return calls seeking comment. A representative who could speak for Hersha couldn't be reached, either. And a lawyer representing the hotel declined to comment.

City and union officials deny the charges in the lawsuit. “Boston is a union town and hotels are built and operated (with a) union,” says Janice Loux, the president of Local 26. “(But) this is a frivolous lawsuit brought by some bad people.”

BRA spokeswoman Susan Elsbree says the Menino administration tries to support organized labor. Unions, Elsbree says, have well-trained workers and strong safety records. She says they also help ensure appropriate compensation for employees. But she says the city does not legally require the use of a union to get projects through the BRA.

Debates like this may become obsolete if Congress approves the Employee Free Choice Act, which recently passed the House but died in the Senate and would guarantee unions the right to bypass elections in favor of the more expeditious card-check route.

For now, though, this particular fight will be left in the hands of a federal judge to decide.

- Jon Chesto is the business editor of The Patriot Ledger.


Undoing Andy Stern's corruption

AUD Proposes Democracy as a Weapon Against Corruption

In today's New York Times, the Service Employees International Union announced plans for an internal ethics commission to address recent corruption charges facing several top union leaders. The union indicated that it would consult the Association for Union Democracy as part of its efforts.

The Association for Union Democracy is very willing to bring our forty years of experience to bear in assisting the SEIU, but what the SEIU faces is a moral crisis involving both democracy and corruption.

We believe it is essential to ensure protection for democracy and dissent within unions. Our experience shows that democracy is the linchpin for preventing corruption.

An internal panel of the kind proposed by SEIU President Andrew Stern would simply mull over the niceties of still another code and would be more than a waste of time; it would be an evasion. What the SEIU needs now is to establish a board composed of respected individuals, independent and completely outside the union power structure - a kind of supreme court endowed with the power, in defense of member rights, to overrule decisions of the international president and the international executive board in those circumstances in which members' democratic rights could be endangered.


Labor-backed Dem in tax scam

Typical double standard at work

Rep. Charles Rangel insisted yesterday that he did nothing wrong by claiming no rental income for two years from a Caribbean property. "It's totally unfactual and it will be proven," the Harlem lawmaker said of a Post report revealing that his financial-disclosure forms showed no income in 2006 and 2007 from a villa he owns at the Punta Cana hotel resort in the Dominican Republic.

The property had generated income in the past. Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, offered no further details. "I don't think it's anybody's business where I go on vacation. That ends that discussion," he said, referring to a photo in The Post that showed him snoozing on a beach chair under the headline "Cash Cow."

"I was on vacation with my son."

Rangel made his comments at the Caribbean Day parade in Brooklyn, where not one Democratic politician was willing to criticize him.

"We're not going into that today," said City Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn), usually one of the most outspoken legislators in town. "Today is a celebration."

Mayor Bloomberg, seated two seats from Rangel, said the issue never came up when the two chatted. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo sat between them.

"In terms of renting places, quite frankly, I have a job that keeps me here, so I don't have time to rent a place anyplace else," added the mayor. "So I certainly didn't call him."

When asked about Rangel's finances, Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), the state Senate minority leader, said, "He's the only person that can answer this question."

Councilman John Liu (D-Queens), who pulled no punches in attacking the leader of his legislative body during the phantom-funds mess, said he was thrilled just to see Rangel at the event.

"It's great that he's not only all over the country but all over the city, too," Liu said. "He's like the Energizer bunny of New York."

Pressed about whether Rangel has anything to be concerned about, Liu added, "Congressman Rangel is confident in his decades of service."


Barack, ACORN to organize your community

More ACORN stories: here

Get organized or get left behind

The recent dig by Sarah Palin at Obama's "community organizing" past brought a quick and pointed response from the Democratic party in his defense and revealed their thin-skin when confronted with any criticism of their candidate no matter how valid or documented.

What it didn't reveal is the shady relationship Obama has maintained over the years with radical and openly "above-the-law" groups from his past.

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now is the organization Obama both organized for before attending law school and provided legal counsel to after. According to the Wall Street Journal article, ACORN is a radical partisan group using partial funding from the federal government to pressure Wal-Mart and other non-union businesses. Their tax status requires that they be nonpartisan but they are in-fact anything but. They have been involved in voter fraud and other scandals bordering on extortion, intimidation, storming council meetings and other such "community" activities.

There have been convictions related to voter fraud in at least two states and investigations underway in several others. The founder's brother and organization CFO (Dale Rathke) embezzled nearly $1 million from the organization in 1999-2000 timeframe which he and founder brother (Wade Rathke) covered up along with others in the organization. Neither this organization, nor Obama's ties to it, has received appropriate media scrutiny. His ability (like ACORN's) to wrap his radical beliefs and methods in a pleasant non-threatening veneer is misleading and bodes danger for the country if it remains undisclosed. See also this and that and the other. By the way, ACORN is a private corporation and thus doesn't divulge financials, but they and subsidiaries do receive federal funds (at least $2 Million in 2003 in one subsidiary alone). ACORN endorsed, guess who, Obama for President.

In a related circumstance, Sarah Palin was wrongly criticized from some on the left (although not by Obama) for having a Downs Syndrome baby and how that might interfere with her VP duties. Her unmarried seventeen year old daughter's pregnancy to her future husband and intention to keep the child contrasted markedly with Obama's statement that he wouldn't "penalize" his daughter "with a baby" if she found her self similarly pregnant from such a "mistake" (Watch).

This situation is illuminating since Obama spoke at Planned Parenthood during the campaign, praised them for their work, and received their endorsement for President. What else does Planned Parenthood do? They received about $300 Million in Federal Funding in 2005 and used it to perform about 1 out of every 5 US Abortions (See here). Equally important, they refuse to follow the law and report child statutory rape events (here) and are perfectly willing to accept racially motivated donations (watch this) and ( this).

Why doesn't he hold organizations that he is involved in accountable to at least the law of the land?

Why does Barack Obama endorse, encourage, and seek the endorsements of organizations that behave dishonestly? A similar question could be asked about his long term associations with admitted terrorist Bill Ayers and convicted Tony Resko. Why does the Democratic party allow these shady allegiances to prosper?

More importantly, why doesn't the mainstream media ask about these matters. Why won't they tell you about these issues? What else won't they tell you about Barack Obama and his "community"? Is his the kind of "change" you want? Do you want him "organizing" in your community or taking the oath to be your President? Given his history and relations to these organizations, would his oath even mean anything?


Community organizer strikes back

More ACORN stories: here

Seeing through the faults of union-backed voter fraud group

In a basement conference room at the Codman Square Health Center yesterday morning, Lew Finfer did what he's been doing for almost four decades: community organizing. This time that meant leading a meeting of 20 representatives of grass-roots and nonprofit organizations from Dorchester and Mattapan to mobilize city residents against a ballot question that would abolish the state's personal income tax.

Finfer's profession took center stage at the Republican convention in St. Paul this week when Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the vice presidential nominee, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani mocked Democrat Barack Obama's experience as a community organizer in Chicago. "Community organizer," Guiliani shrugged. "What?" Palin likened her former job as mayor of an Anchorage suburb to being "sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."

With that, Palin and Giuliani ridiculed a tradition whose roots in this country reach back to the Boston Tea Party and organizers' successful efforts to persuade colonists to boycott tea to protest taxation without representation. ACORN, a nationwide network of community organizations, issued a statement condemning the GOP's "condescending remarks." Anti-Palin T-shirts emblazoned with "Jesus was a community organizer; Pontius Pilate was a governor" appeared for sale online almost immediately.

Community organizers in Boston and beyond have taken offense at the barbs from St. Paul.

"You get angry that somebody is disrespectful of what you've done all your life," said Finfer, director of the Massachusetts Community Action Network. "Community organizing is what the civil rights movement was. The key people were community organizers who worked for Martin Luther King Jr. and with him. Sarah Palin held up that her husband was a union member. Unions have organizers."

"Without organizers things don't happen," said Marvin Martin, 54, director of Dorchester's Greater Four Corners Action Coalition. "Ideas often come from the community. People who organize bring ideas to the legislators and work with them to pass it. If they don't understand that, I'm concerned with how they make decisions."

Marshall Ganz, a lecturer at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, sees an irony in Palin's remark. "The very politics that Palin and McCain have rooted their appeal in are the result of a social movement on the right, the conservative movement, which was organized by organizers, too," he said.

For Finfer, 57, the comments conjured memories. In 1991 a former intern recommended that Finfer recruit a Harvard Law School classmate who had been a community organizer in Chicago. The classmate's name was Barack Obama. The young law student came for an interview.

"He said, 'I learned a lot about organizing, but I'm interested in going back to Chicago and getting into politics,' " Finfer said. "I joke that I'm glad that I wasn't successful."

To Finfer and his colleagues, organizing entails reaching out to members of disenfranchised communities, learning about them and their issues, then mobilizing and empowering them to address those issues. "The ability of a community to survive and understand its power and make changes happen is the responsibility of the community organization," said Dawn Nardi, 35, lead organizer with United Interfaith Action in Fall River.

While Finfer was meeting on the "Vote No on Question 1" campaign, community organizing of a different sort was occurring on Perrin Street in Roxbury. In a demonstration called by City Life/Vida Urbana, 50 people tried to block an eviction. Police arrested four protesters who chained themselves to a railing.

City Life organizer Stephen Meacham wasn't surprised by the Republicans' comments. "Community organizers by their very nature are organizing the grassroots against power," Meacham said, "and generally speaking power doesn't like that."

Mimi Ramos, director of Massachusetts ACORN, works 50 hours a week for a salary of $30,000. "They shouldn't be bashing other folks' hard work," she said. "I'm 26 years old. I'm a single mom from Boston. We've worked to raise the minimum wage, fight for health care for all, issues that affect low-income and moderate-income families who wouldn't be at the table without ACORN and other community organizations."

Mark Pedulla, manager of organizing and policy initiatives of the Hyde Square Task Force in Jamaica Plain, works on youth organizing. "Organizers stand with people at the most difficult moments of their lives, whether that's a job loss, an eviction, youth violence," he said.

Behind the comments of Palin and Giuliani is Obama himself and the attention to community organizing generated by his candidacy. "It's very emotional for me to hear him talk about being an organizer," said Nardi, the community organizer in Fall River.

Perhaps more important than the attention is Obama's use of grass-roots organizing. The Kennedy School's Ganz, whose resume includes community organizing in the civil rights and farm workers' movements, is helping Obama's campaign train workers in community organizing.

Ganz predicts Palin's comment will backfire. "One thing it's done is galvanize a reaction from grassroots organizers all over the country like I've never seen," he said. "These are the people who are going to organize the vote for Obama."


IAM goes out on strike v. Boeing

Related video: "IAM bigs prep Boeing clash"

Killing the goose that lays the golden egg

Boeing Co. machinists walked out on strike Saturday after talks with a federal mediator failed to produce an agreement. About 100 Machinists union members hoisted their strike signs at 12:01 a.m. outside the Boeing plant in this city north of Seattle, cheering and blasting air horns at passing cars, many of which honked back.

"It's been about lack of respect," said Steve Morrison, 42, a tester at the Everett plant. "They always tell us we're valued much but labor is the first out the door, the first to be outsourced."

This is the machinists' second strike in as many contract negotiations with Boeing. They struck for 24 days in 2005.

The machinists assemble Boeing's commercial planes and some key components. Key strike issues include pay, outsourcing, retirement and health care benefits.

The company said it would not try to assemble planes during the strike.

Boeing spokesman Tim Healy said the company is open to further discussion, but both sides were too far apart to reach an agreement. No additional talks were scheduled.

Union members voted to strike on Wednesday, but both sides agreed to a 48-hour contract extension _ requested by Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and a federal mediator. However, negotiations failed Friday and the strike was on.

The union bargains for about 25,000 workers in the Puget Sound area, 1,500 in the Portland, Ore. area and about 750 in Wichita, Kan.

"We're not greedy, we just want a piece of the pie," said Scott Daniels as he helped make picket signs late Friday. "They offer us bonuses. We don't want bonuses." Machinists want an improved 401k and improved vacation, he said.

Analysts have said a strike could cost Boeing about $100 million per day in deferred revenue. During the last strike, Boeing was unable to deliver more than two dozen airplanes on schedule.

Boeing's commercial airplane manufacturing operation, based in the Seattle area, has led a resurgence by the company over the past two years amid heavy orders for its much-awaited and increasingly delayed 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Overall, the company reported in July a backlog of airplane orders worth $346 billion.

Asked why he thought a strike would be effective, Eras Gattshall, a 47-year-old aerospace mechanic in Everett, replied, "Boeing is its best financial shape in years. All we're asking is a fair wage."

Gattshall has been with Boeing for 12 years but has been laid off twice.

Tom Wroblewski, president of Machinists District Lodge 751, declared in a statement Friday that Boeing had "disrespected the finest aerospace workers anywhere on the planet" by failing to meet machinists' expectations.

In a last-ditch attempt to avoid a paralyzing strike, negotiators for the aerospace giant and the union had jetted off to a Disney resort in Florida, in part so Tom Buffenbarger, International Association of Machinists international president, could participate. He was at the resort for an IAM convention.

"Over the past two days, Boeing, the union and the federal mediator worked hard in pursuing good-faith explorations of options that could lead to an agreement," Scott Carson, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said Friday in a statement. "Unfortunately the differences were too great to close."

Boeing operations in Washington, Oregon and Kansas will remain open, Carson said. Employees, such as engineers, who are not represented by the Machinists are expected to report for work as usual, he added.

Boeing's "best and final" three-year contract offer included bonuses totaling at least $5,000 and averaging $6,400, raises averaging 11 percent, pension increases and a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment _ $34,000 in average pay and benefit gains per employee, according to the company.

The average Boeing machinist earns $27 an hour, or about $56,000 a year, before overtime and incentives.


Teamsters still on strike v. Waste Management

Picket line fails to shut down labor-state employer

Replacement drivers at Waste Management are still working to catch up collecting trash from businesses and apartment complexes, a Waste Management spokesman said Friday. An estimated 240 members of Teamsters Local 200 walked off the job Aug. 26 in a dispute with Waste Management negotiators.

The workers’ contract expired April 30.

Lynn Morgan of Waste Management said the drivers were gaining ground, “but we are still not fully restored.”

Waste Management collects trash and recyclables in Kenosha, Racine, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties.

The company also has contracts with a number of municipalities in southeastern Wisconsin.

In those cases involving municipalities, she said, “We feel we are caught up.”

On Friday, she said, drivers also began making headway collecting recycled materials.

Negotiators for the company and the union plan to meet on Tuesday in a session that will include a federal mediator.

The main stumbling block appears to be an effort by Waste Management to offer an alternative to the Central States Pension Fund that covers drivers.

Union officials say they have an alternative similar in form to a pension plan for Teamsters who work for UPS.

In Chicago, Teamsters from around the country met and passed a resolution in support of the Waste Management strike.

Tom Keegel, general secretary-treasurer for the Teamsters, said Waste Management did not care for worker rights.

“They would rather spend millions of dollars to break the will of our members who have been forced out on a picket line by a lockout or strike than provide good wages, benefits and a pension for their work force,” Keegel said.

A Waste Management spokesman declined to comment.


Community organizing

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