Barack's secret strategy: ACORN organizers

More ACORN stories: here

Union-backed voter fraud group critical for Dem GOTV effort

Now that the conventions are behind us, the 2008 election is shaping up to be much closer than anyone would have believed months ago. Still, it will be an uphill battle for John McCain as Barack Obama has the advantage this year. If Obama wins, it should be a wake-up call to Republicans that the nation’s political landscape has dramatically changed, making it difficult for Republicans to win national elections.

A key factor in the challenge facing Republicans is shifting demographics. States such as Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, once considered solid red states, are now faltering for the GOP.

In George W. Bush’s home state of Texas, African-Americans and Hispanics — traditionally Democratic voters — form a majority of the population. In 2006, Texas’ popular Republican Gov. Rick Perry won re-election with just 39 percent of the vote in a three-way race.

McCain is still expected to win Texas this time. But Republican majorities in other states are fraying.

Obama knows this. He has solid blue states New York and Massachusetts in his back pocket, along with most of the Northeast. Add to his base titanic California with 55 electoral voters and other left coast states like Oregon and Washington.

There is no indication any of these states will move to the right. In fact, these blue states are moving further to the left. Ronald Reagan won New York in the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections. It is doubtful a conservative Republican will win the Empire State any time soon.

This is why Obama and his campaign are so confident of victory. This is why he could pick Joe Biden as his vice presidential running mate, though Biden adds so little to his campaign.

With such a solid base, Obama knows he needs to focus his campaign in just a handful of states, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Montana, Missouri, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and North Carolina.

If he picks off a few of these states that have traditionally voted Republican in national elections — Colorado and New Mexico, for example — he wins.

McCain, on the other hand, has to run a national campaign to keep his base together and at the same time engage in battle with Obama for these key swing states.

To win, McCain must think outside the box. His pick of Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin indicates he realizes he needs to run a different campaign to beat Obama, the front-runner. McCain’s difficulties are compounded by the likelihood that Obama will outspend McCain by a ratio of 3-to-1 or more in these key swing states.

Obama’s massive campaign spending at the micro level is showing. Anecdotally, I have heard stories about massive voter registration drives and preparations to get out the vote with the help of unions, teachers, and other Obama fans.

Chief among these groups is ACORN, or Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, a radical group that has been caught engaging in voter fraud. Not surprisingly, Obama has close ties to the group since his days as a “community organizer” in Chicago.

The New York Times noted that Obama had been a key ally of ACORN. His influence at charitable foundations “allowed him to help direct tens of millions of dollars in grants.” The paper also noted the key role ACORN played in helping him win his first state Senate race in Illinois.

ACORN’s Web site features a lead article about its voter drive for this election year. The group says it has already signed up more than a million new voters for the upcoming elections.

Joining the group’s efforts in registering new voters is the Rev. Al Sharpton. He is quoted saying that he and ACORN are targeting the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama.

ACORN calls its voter registration campaign “Not This Time” — a reference to the 2000 election when Al Gore lost the presidency by a handful of votes in Florida.

Obama’s team has no plans to repeat the 2000 election. They want to win with a bigger margin, and they have a “whatever it takes” approach to make sure that happens.


‘Community Organizing’ Deserves to be Ridiculed

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

Barack's ACORN a product of subsidized anti-capitalism, Saul Alinsky cited

Oh, the liberal apoplexy. The hard left has responded with delicious howls of indignation to GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s belittling of ‘community organizing.’ More on that in a moment, but just in case you were on Mars and missed it, at the Republican convention Wednesday night, the Alaska governor said:
Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown.

And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves.

I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a “community organizer,” except that you have actual responsibilities. I might add that in small towns, we don’t quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren’t listening.

We tend to prefer candidates who don’t talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.
Although Palin belittled Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s previous career as a community organizer, she didn’t offer any guidance as to what community organizing actually consists of or why she thinks it unworthy of respect.

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani joined in the mockery. In his speech the same night, Guiliani gleefully declared:
On the other hand, you have a resume from a gifted man with an Ivy League education. He worked as a community organizer. What? He worked — I said — I said — okay, okay. Maybe this is the first problem on the resume. He worked as a community organizer. He immersed himself in Chicago machine politics.
After the speeches, it was hardly surprising that milquetoast GOP apparatchiks gently distanced themselves from the two speakers’ remarks. McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds argued Palin’s comments were not an attack on the vocation of ‘community organizer’ itself but were “a direct response to critics who had belittled her executive experience, in particular her experience as mayor. Certainly community organizers serve a valued function in civic affairs.” Former New Jersey governor Tom Kean defended community organizing too, calling it ”a very valuable thing.”

But what exactly is community organizing? And is it “very valuable”?

There might be some form of community organizing somewhere in the nation that is “very valuable,” but in the highly specific sense that Obama –a lawyer who enjoys carefully crafting his sentences– uses the term, it’s not about church bake sales, picking up litter, little leagues, or parent-teacher associations.

Obama-style community organizing is pure leftist, anti-capitalist agitation. It’s about that nebulous Marxist concept of ’social justice.’ It’s about making people angry so they push for change. The kind of change they seek is rarely good. It often artificially creates pressure for government spending on whatever project is fashionable in leftist circles that day. Filled with robust self-esteem, community organizers are typically professional revolutionaries who believe that something is terribly wrong with America and that they are the ones anointed to fix it.

The father of community organizing was ultra-leftist Saul Alinsky (1909-1972), a Chicagoan who elevated local-level political agitation to an art form. Alinsky, a significant influence on Obama, believed in “rubbing raw the sores of discontent.” In his classic book Rules for Radicals, Alinsky prescribed the tactics and defined the goals of community organizing. Among his “rules“: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up” and “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

Alinsky taught his disciples to disguise their radical ideology. “Camouflage is key to Alinsky-style organizing. In organizing coalitions of black churches in Chicago, Obama caught flak for not attending church himself. He became an instant churchgoer,” notes Richard Lawrence Poe. According to Alinsky, an effective radical activist “discards the rhetoric that always says ‘pig’ ” when describing police officers, and uses other linguistic tricks in order, “to radicalize parts of the middle class.” Winning over the middle class is key, Alinsky argued, because “the power and the people are in the big middle-class majority.”

Obama’s would-be castrator Jesse Jackson is a master community organizer himself who now focuses his efforts on Wall Street. His Rainbow/PUSH Coalition has shaken corporations down for millions of dollars. As Shelby Steele writes, Jackson and his brethren in the civil rights establishment have “pursued equality through the manipulation of white guilt.” Those leaders “ushered in an extortionist era of civil rights, in which they said to American institutions: Your shame must now become our advantage,” Steele writes.

Jackson’s less financially savvy competition, megaphone enthusiast Al Sharpton and his National Action Network, have also enjoyed success in community organizing. NAN says “‘No Justice No Peace,’ is its motto and its call to all who want to live in a more democratic and just society.” Sharpton believes America is fundamentally flawed. On the “Tavis Smiley Show” in March, Sharpton pontificated about “the brutality and viciousness of Americans’ racism and America’s war on the poor.”

The Greenlining Institute, founded by John Gamboa and Robert Gnaizda, is also involved in community organizing, and like Jackson and Sharpton, it has been successul. Greenlining activists have become experts at shaking down deep-pocketed institutions. Picketing banks is a favorite tactic. The group typically takes on financial institutions, pushing them to make more credit available to higher-risk, low-income homeowners and businesses. Timid bankers, terrified of bad press, often cave in to the group without much of a fight. Greenlining’s efforts may very well have contributed to the nation’s subprime mortgage meltdown.

Then there’s the vote fraud factory known as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now or ACORN. ACORN describes itself as “the nation’s largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities.” ACORN, Sol Stern writes, “promotes a 1960s-bred agenda of anti-capitalism, central planning, victimology, and government handouts to the poor.”

Obama previously worked for ACORN, directing its voter mobilization arm, Project Vote, a successful voter registration campaign that helped propel Democrat Carol Moseley Braun into the U.S. Senate by adding an estimated 125,000 voters to the rolls. Project Vote claims to conduct “non-partisan” voter registration drives, counsels potential voters on their rights, and litigates on behalf of the poor and “disenfranchised.”

Its greatest legislative accomplishment is the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, commonly known as Motor Voter. In his book Stealing Elections, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund argues that the law leads to voter fraud:
Perhaps no piece of legislation in the last generation better captures the ‘incentivizing’ of fraud… than the 1993 National Voter Registration Act…Examiners were under orders not to ask anyone for identification or proof of citizenship. States also had to permit mail-in voter registrations, which allowed anyone to register without any personal contact with a registrar or election official. Finally, states were limited in pruning ‘dead wood’ - people who had died, moved or been convicted of crimes - from their rolls. … Since its implementation, Motor Voter has worked in one sense: it has fueled an explosion of phantom voters.”
In 1995, Obama sued on behalf of ACORN for the implementation of Motor Voter laws in Illinois and won. That secured Obama an invitation to train ACORN staff. Obama later returned the favor when, as a member of the Woods Fund board, he approved frequent grants to ACORN.

And the list goes on and on. There are pockets of agitators throughout America. They range from the small illegal immigrants’ group Casa de Maryland (which is funded by Venezuela’s Marxist strongman Hugo Chavez) to substantial radical funders such as the Gamaliel Foundation and the Needmor Fund.

Needless to say, those on the political left –you know, those pious people who utter phrases such as ’social justice’ in hushed tones– are infuriated at the disrespect shown the socialist ideals dear to their hearts.

The over-the-top response by Time magazine’s resident lefty hack, Joe Klein, was typical. Klein described Wednesday night at the Republican convention as an “extremely effective bilge festival.” Klein wrote “there was one item, in particular, that has to be considered infuriating: the attack on Barack Obama’s service as a community organizer by the odious Rudy Giuliani–he’s come to look like a villain in a Frank Capra movie, hasn’t he?–and Sarah Palin.” He then cited a press release from Catholic Democrats in which the liberal group insists, “Community organizing is at the heart of Catholic Social Teaching to end poverty and promote social justice.” Klein continued his rant against Republicans:
To describe this service–the first thing he did out of college, the sort of service every college-educated American should perform, in some form or other–as anything other than noble is cheap and tawdry and cynical in the extreme.
The radical Needmor Fund’s David Beckwith, who is also a board member of the Neighborhood Funders Group, said the two speeches made fun of “the people who are organized, not just the people who are doing the organizing. These are people who are deeply engaged in public life, and there are millions of them.”

The president of ACORN, a group whose fall vote fraud campaign is well underway, was indignant. Maude Hurd said:
ACORN members, leaders and staff are extremely disappointed that Republican leaders would make such condescending attacks on the great work community organizers accomplish in cities throughout this country. The fact that they marginalize our success in empowering low- and moderate-income people to improve their communities further illustrates their lack of touch with ordinary people. Every great movement in the history of the world has community organizing.
Hurd asserted that over the past decade ACORN “has helped more than 30 million American families through our various organizing campaigns: better schools, financial justice, living wages, community improvement, immigration, healthcare, predatory lending, voter engagement and utilities.” She cited a 2006 report that quantified the monetary value of ACORN’s “victories” at “$15 billion, an average of $1.5 billion per year going directly into low- and moderate-income communities to help strengthen working families.”

Hurd neglects to mention how much of that money came from taxpayers.

- Matthew Vadum, Capital Research Center


Organized labor looks beyond card-check

Mmore card-check stories: here

The Union Agenda: Forced-membership dues to feed politicians

In the not-too-distant future, when workers begin to wonder why, after falling for Barack Obama's rhetoric and electing he and his fellow union-controlled Democrats to control our federal government, the economy tanks even further and more jobs are lost, they need only to look back at all the "feel-good" bills that Obama and his cronies are pushing today--all of which will have a seriously negative impact on companies and their ability to maintain (let alone) create jobs.

To that end, dear readers, here is a partial list of the legislation that has already been introduced (or is being pushed) that employers should expect to see enacted if Obama wins and the Democrats obliterate the GOP in the Senate to the point their is no ability for a GOP filibuster:

* Employee Free Choice Act (no-vote unionism and binding arbitration 120 days after unionization)
* Elimination of Right-to-Work states (making all 50 states forced unionization states)
* Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (eliminates statutes of limitations on pay discrimination claims)
* Healthy Families Act (mandates seven paid sick days for employers with more than 15 workers)
* Expanding FMLA to include parenting responsibilities (i.e., parent-teacher conferences) and literacy training
* Arbitration Fairness Act (eliminates PRE-dispute arbitration agreements)
* Public Employee-Employer Cooperation Act (unionizes EMS, Fire & Police at the local and state levels)
* WARN Act expansion to smaller companies
* ADA Restoration Act (expands the definition of disability)
* Protecting America's Workers Act (increases penalties--to include prison time--for employers guilty of "willfully" OSHA)
* Legalizing undocumented workers...and, of course,
* Nationalization of America's Health Care System

Note: The above list is a partial list that encompasses only that which we know about today. Obviously, this doesn't include the tax hikes that Barack Obama has promised to inflict on America.

Recently, we have heard that the cost to fulfill Barack Obama's campaign promises may be higher than $800 billion, an amount that Mr. Obama says he can save by reducing the amount America is spending on our military.

We do not believe that the $800 billion price tag accounts for the amount of company closures and subsequent unemployment that any of the initiatives listed above will cost America or her workers.


U.S. leftists grasp for a new Progressive Era

More EFCA stories: here

In another era, climate would seem ripe for unions

An American teleported from the 1950s to now might think this would be a golden moment for labor unions. After all, the wages of most Americans remained stagnant through the most recent expansion, a modern first even though productivity rose 11 percent. The country shed more than 400,000 jobs in the first half of 2008 after weak job creation for seven years. Many who have jobs worry about their positions being sent overseas.

Pensions are in decline, replaced, if at all, with riskier 401(k)s. Health-care benefits are more rare and more expensive. Income inequality has reached its widest gap since the 1920s as economic mobility has declined. This, our time traveler might imagine, would have Americans streaming to join unions.

That was then, when about a third of the work force was unionized, most of it in the private sector. Today, with only 7.5 percent of the private-sector work-force members of organized labor, unions can seem to many a distant anachronism.

Not quite. The Puget Sound region is witnessing two large labor actions, with thousands of Machinists at Boeing having voted to strike and Bellevue School District teachers starting the school year by walking picket lines.

Yet both actions are one window into the state of organized labor today. America's 15.7 million union workers are heavily clustered in the public sector and in the skilled work force of a few large companies that dominate (or once did) their industries.

The result is a disconnect between labor and many American families that would have been unusual even a generation ago. (Private-sector workers made up 20 percent of the unionized work force as recently as the early 1980s). I am the grandson and son of union members, and I've carried a union card myself.

Most Americans aren't that way, even in the one-time militant labor bastion of Seattle. For them, unions are either a negative influence or not an issue at all.

This is borne out by the many comments Seattle Times readers posted on our Web site when Machinists rejected Boeing's "last and best offer" this past Wednesday.

"What a bunch of overpaid arrogant dummies," wrote one. "If the unions want to see what pushing too hard to get more concessions from their company will lead to, just look at the UAW and the Big Three. Get over yourselves — you're lucky to have such good jobs!"

Another reader commented that "they should all be fired. Voting to strike in this economic climate isn't very bright. They should be happy to have jobs at all."

But unions aren't irrelevant. Many are trying new tactics and succeeding. Organized labor remains a potent political force in many states. The question is whether it can adapt and grow in a changed economy, or remain largely a sideshow.

Unions have always faced an imbalance of power. While management has a variety of tools to get its way, labor has few. It can direct its pension investments to pressure corporate boards or carry out public-relations campaigns against companies.

But in the end it is left with the strike, a blunt, increasingly risky weapon.

The golden age of organized labor, from the New Deal through the late 1970s, was laid with public policy that protected organizing, gave unions a fair shot at action through the National Labor Relations Board and, until passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, the closed shop.

Equally critical, unions thrived at major U.S. manufacturers that faced little overseas competition.

What happened next straddles the comic-book interpretations of partisans on both sides. Beginning with the Reagan administration, public policy did increasingly favor business, including the ability to replace striking workers.

Deregulation, mergers and growing global competition decimated many union-dominated industries. And the economy changed, with the rise of technology industries that proved resistant to the organizing that built strong unions in factories.

Unions did sometimes overreach, and were sometimes guilty of featherbedding, where, say, workers were paid to sleep on the job.

Corruption sullied some unions (just as it did some corporations). Unions made self-destructive choices. But organized labor played a major role in improving the lot of all workers, the eight-hour workday being only one example.

The troubles of the American auto industry are often blamed on organized labor. But in the 1960s and 1970s, the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Big Three management were co-dependents in industry decline.

After the late 1980s, the UAW often brought innovative ideas to the table and barely stood in the way of radical downsizing by management. The UAW hardly made the decision to spend years building dull automobiles.

Boeing faces a classic old-school strike, from skilled employees who can't be easily replaced to burn barrels and rallying masses of workers.

Behind the big stated issues are anxieties facing most Americans: Less of their rising productivity is going into their pocketbooks, and jobs are more insecure than at anytime in eight decades.

A new school is emerging in work actions, such as the movement to organize employees at downtown Seattle hotels. Informational pickets walked outside The Edgewater recently, part of efforts by UNITE HERE, which claims to represent about 440,000 workers nationwide.

The union is a product of a merger between unions representing industrial and textile employees, and hotel and restaurant employees. It's part of a new breed trying to organize the service industries that have become dominant in recent decades.

The most politically powerful and fastest growing of the new breed is the 1.8-million-member Service Employees International Union. Among its innovations has been an aggressive outreach to Hispanic workers. Faced with several scandals at its locals, the union just appointed a high-level board to focus on ethics.

The Service Employees joined the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in breaking away from the AFL-CIO in 2006, claiming the labor federation has lost its effectiveness.

In general, labor is doubling down on new organizing techniques, including pushing a bill in Congress, the Employee Free Choice Act, which could make it easier for workers to join unions. It's savvier about using the media, such as the Wake-Up Wal-Mart campaign, and casts itself as a defender of the lower middle class.

America needs a vibrant union movement. It's part of the pluralism of the marketplace that keeps everybody honest. While policy changes would help unions revive, labor still struggles against structural changes in the economy.

Ideas and innovation power much of the wealth creation in advanced nations. The hope for labor may rest there, too, or things must get much worse to send employees streaming to unions for help.

- Jon Talton is a journalist and author living in Seattle.


IAM-Boeing strike costs misunderestimated

Related IAM-Boeing stories: hereVideo: "IAM bigs prep Boeing clash"

Hidden costs of laid-off workers at suppliers, customers are never counted

More than 27,000 Boeing workers have started strike action in a dispute that will cost the aerospace company $100 million in lost revenue for every day that it lasts. Emergency talks on a new wage settlement collapsed at the end of last week and the walkout became formal on Saturday.

Boeing's production lines for 737, 747 and 777 aircraft have been halted, despite a record backlog of work worth $275 billion.

The stoppage could also further delay Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, which may expose the company to yet more demands for compensation from angry airlines. The 787 is already running more than a year behind schedule and was scheduled to make its first flight this year.

Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) voted to reject Boeing's best and final offer last Wednesday, but postponed a strike for 48 hours to give negotiators more time.

Boeing and IAM negotiators, along with federal mediators, met in Florida in a last-ditch effort to end disagreements over wage increases, healthcare contributions and the company's outsourcing policy.

Tom Wroblewski, IAM's Seattle- area president, told union members: “Despite meeting late into the night and throughout the day, continued contract talks with the Boeing Company did not address our issues. The strike is on.”

Scott Carson, Boeing's head of commercial aircraft, said: “Over the past two days, Boeing, the union and the federal mediator worked hard in pursuing options that could lead to an agreement. Unfortunately, the differences were too great to close.”

No further talks are scheduled. Both sides said that they were waiting for the other to make the first move.

Mr Wroblewski said: “If this company wants to talk, they have my number. They can reach me on the picket line.” The strike started officially for most of the union members at midnight on Saturday, when the previous three-year contract expired.

Boeing said that it would keep its plants open, with workers in other unions and non-union employees expected to report for work.

However, production lines at its massive facilities in Everett and Renton, both in Washington State, will stop. The company will deliver aircraft that have come off production lines, but will not do any more assembly work.

Ed Zvonik, who has worked at Boeing for 30 years, said that he did not know how long the strike could last. “It could be a couple of days, or three months. It depends on whether the company wants them to go back to work,” he said.

A Boeing spokesman admitted that a protracted strike could mean that the company would miss its target of making the first 787 test flight in the fourth quarter.

Singapore Airlines, which has 20 787s on order for delivery starting in 2011, said that it was in talks with Boeing over how the walkout might affect deliveries.

Boeing's offer proposed an 11 per cent wage increase over the three-year life of the contract, a one-time lump sum and other incentives.

The union is demanding a 13 per cent wage increase, no change to healthcare contributions and the rollback of provisions allowing Boeing to outsource work.

The dispute between workers and management is said to have stirred strong feelings in Washington State, where Boeing's commercial aircraft division is based. Dale Flinn, a Boeing door mechanic, said: “They took a swing with a baseball bat at a beehive and got stung. They didn't realise how strong we were.”


IAM striker: I didn't think Boeing was serious

Related IAM-Boeing stories: hereVideo: "IAM bigs prep Boeing clash"
Related story
: "The 28 labor-states"

Strike spreads quickly among labor-states

Machinists in Gresham (OR) didn't expect a strike against Boeing, but they found themselves on the picket line Saturday along Northeast Sandy Boulevard. Every 30 seconds or so, a car horn interrupted conversations as a driver waved or gave the workers a thumbs up. Some drivers yelled their support.

"That's because around here, they all probably know at least one person who works at Boeing," said John Curtis, 58, of Troutdale. "They know what Boeing is like."

Boeing's largest union, the International Machinists and Aerospace Workers, went on strike at the aircraft maker's plants in Gresham, Seattle and Wichita, Kan., at midnight. About 1,250 workers at the Gresham facility walked off the job.

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

"I thought they were just testing us," said Ellis Louey, 63, of Vancouver. "I didn't think they were serious."

Curtis and Louey assemble engine mounts for Boeing's 737 aircraft. They said the company's last offer was constructed so that the salary gains were eaten up by higher health-insurance premiums.

"If they had just left the medical the way it was, we wouldn't be out here," Curtis said.

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

Union members Wednesday voted 80 percent to reject Boeing's final three-year contract offer and 87 percent to go on strike, mainly over job security.

The Machinists, representing about 25,000 workers in the Puget Sound area, 1,250 in the Portland area and about 750 in Wichita, Kan., began picketing at 12:01 a.m. with the expiration of a 48-hour contract extension that had been requested by Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and a federal mediator.

Negotiations with the aid of the mediator during the extension failed to resolve the dispute over pay, outsourcing, retirement benefits, health-care provisions and other issues.

It's the first time the union has struck in consecutive contract cycles at Boeing and the shortest period -- three years -- between walkouts.

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

Boeing's commercial airplane operations, based in the Seattle area, have led a resurgence by the company during the past two years amid heavy orders for the much-awaited and increasingly delayed 787.

Analysts have said a strike could cost Boeing about $100 million a day in deferred revenue.

During the last strike, Boeing was unable to deliver more than two dozen airplanes on schedule. As of July, Boeing reported a backlog of airplane orders totaling $346 billion.


Unworkable, unprecedented power grab

More EFCA stories: here

EFCA crushes workers' sacred right to cast secret votes

We are now sprinting toward the November elections, when Americans cast a secret ballot for the candidates of their choice. Sadly, this year -- whether they know it or not -- voters may very well be deciding whether to do away with that sacred tradition when it comes to union organizing campaigns.

That's because the fate of legislation called the Employee Free Choice Act -- better known as the Card Check law -- may depend on what happens in November. Unions are pouring as much as $400 million into the 2008 campaign to ensure that the next Congress will pass Card Check, effectively stripping workers of the private ballot.

How would this unprecedented power grab work?

Traditional union organizing relies on secret-ballot elections overseen by the federal government. Prior to the election, both unions and employers make their cases to workers. If more than 50% of workers then vote to form a union, the employer must recognize that union and begin collective bargaining.

The key is that regardless of what either side tells workers, and regardless of what workers say about their intentions, individual workers get to make their final decisions in private, and no one knows how they voted. This is a critical protection that assures honest elections.

The Card Check law, however, would essentially abolish secret-ballot elections. Instead, union organizers would simply ask workers to sign a card. Any worker who refused could be asked over and over again, and even be repeatedly visited by union organizers in their homes.

Once a bare majority was persuaded to sign a card, the union would be recognized, and it would be illegal to have a secret ballot election. All workers would then be forced into the union, whether they had signed a card, whether they wanted an election and whether they even knew there was an organizing drive under way.

So how do unions justify this violation of workers' freedom?

Unions argue that Card Check would not get rid of secret-ballot elections; it would just give workers the choice of organizing through an election or by Card Check.

In reality, since union organizers are the ones gathering the cards, they would decide which method to use -- and the $400 million they are spending to pass Card Check makes their intentions absolutely clear.

Moreover, Section 2 of the legislation states that the government "shall not direct an election." And as The Los Angeles Times wrote in 2007, "The legislation would do away with a secret ballot in so-called organizing elections."

Unions also claim that Card Check is needed because there is too much pressure put on workers during secret-ballot elections.

Indeed, during election campaigns, workers can face real pressure from unions, from employers and from co-workers. But Card Check will make this worse. Forcing workers to sign cards publicly is simply an open invitation for harassment, coercion and intimidation that would make current organizing practices seem tame by comparison.

Finally, unions claim that Card Check is the only way to ensure that workers can really express free choice. But unions don't want to use Card Check procedures when workers vote on decertifying a union. For that process, unions still advocate the secret ballot. Seems they want an easy way in, but don't want workers to have an easy way out.

Casting a private ballot has been an American right since the beginning of the Republic. Workers need to be on the lookout for those who want to take that right away.

- Thomas J. Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce


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Workers dump unresponsive Teamsters

Related story: "Teamsters win organized labor award"

Most-decertified union in U.S. notches a loss in Canada

After a five-year battle, Air Canada Jazz flight attendants have broken away from the Teamsters to form a union of their own. The newly-created group, the Canadian Flight Attendants Union (CFAU), represents 934 employees of the regional carrier.

"We're very proud – it was a lot of hard work," said Joslyn Dicks, president of the new union and a 20-year veteran flight attendant. "We've got to build confidence in the membership that they now have a union that understands their concerns."

The flight attendants were previously represented by Teamsters Canada Local 938.

Some flight attendants were unhappy with the Teamsters for accepting a deal that saw wage cuts for new employees at Jazz in 2004. At the time, the union argued that if it rejected the deal, Air Canada might dissolve the company.

The wage cuts mean as many as 300 of the union's newer flight attendants make only $19,000 a year, Dicks said. She said flight attendants also wanted to split with the Teamsters because the larger union left some decisions to union officials rather than the workers themselves.

The Teamsters could not immediately be reached for comment.

Flight attendants have tried to form their own union twice before. Their first attempt was rejected when the flight attendants couldn't get enough signatures on union cards. A second attempt fell short when workers filed the application at the wrong time.

Four hundred and sixty workers voted in favour of the new union in a mail-in vote, which closed Sept. 2, versus 178 who voted to stay with the Teamsters.

Dicks said the new union, which is effective immediately, will give decision-making power to its members and start fighting Jazz's two-tiered pay system, under which new employees have a lower pay scale.

"We understand the issues," she said. "We want to build a good relationship with the company."

The CFAU was formed specifically for Jazz, but Dicks said she hopes it could one day represent flight attendants in other workplaces.

"We will build towards having more members," she said.


Façade for collectivism used by U.S. socialists

True liberalism defined

As a 21-year old, I fall right in the middle of "Generation Me," the cohort of Americans currently under the age of 35. Raised by the flower children of the sixties and seventies, we have been trained to embrace diversity, challenge social boundaries, and aggressively pursue our dreams.

Our egotism has produced everything from extraordinary business entrepreneurs to self-entitled brats, yet each member of "Generation Me" shares the demand to be recognized by society as a competent, rational individual. So why not demand the same from the government?

The sole purpose of the government is to protect our freedom from forceful oppression, yet today's government hardly seems like a system of liberty. Instead it resembles more of an annoying "helicopter parent," hovering over every aspect of our lives and providing unsolicited advice. As the members of an incredibly ambitious and independent generation, it is time we told the government the same thing we told our parents on the first day of college: Okay, you can leave now ... no really, get out.

Just as college students need space to grow and develop, human progress requires the opportunity for individuals to take risks and push their creative limits.

When the government regulates the standards of life, labor and competition, it removes the individual's incentive to produce or invent.

This will inevitably lead to a stagnant and mediocre society. So why do the liberal politicians standing on a platform of "change" and "progress" advocate policies that would further expand the government and encroach upon our individual liberties?

Because they are not true liberals.

Liberal, defined

To the world outside of the United States, a "liberal" is a champion of individual liberty, a combination of laissez-faire economics and political tolerance. The classical liberal respects private property rights, thinks in terms of the long-run, and takes a leap of faith into the arms of the free market. Our new definition of "liberalism" is nothing but a façade for collectivism and big-government used by American socialists who were desperate to shed the socialist label of Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin.

To the true liberal, the government does not exist to "walk" him through life, it exists to defend his right to control his own life, plan his own future, and discover his fullest potential for greatness. If he fails in the process, so be it. Moving about aimlessly and feeding off the fruits of someone else's labor would be a far bigger disgrace.

This summer I interned for FreedomWorks, a non-profit organization advocating lower taxes, less government, and more individual freedom.

After watching ordinary grassroots Americans join together to create real change in Washington, I am truly inspired to push the limits of my own individual potential. Now more than ever I understand why a productive society needs capitalism and individual freedom.

Despite the attitudes of imitation liberals, the truth remains that capitalism is the ultimate system of liberty and equality.

Free markets give everyone the equal opportunity to prosper -- so long as they are willing to put forth the effort.

Just as we demand the right to make our own decisions when it comes to our private social lives, we should demand individual choice in the marketplace as well.
Personal choice

The power of personal choice is frightening at times because it holds people accountable to the decisions they have made, good or bad.

But the fear of failure is not enough to justify a society drained of individuality and extraordinary achievement.

Although life in a society free from micromanagement may not always be perfect, it is as close to perfection as we are going to get.

As the narcissistic members of "Generation Me," we are plenty aware of our individual potential.

Yet for reasons unexplained, we largely support policies that stifle creativity, undermine independence and delay human development.

Before hopping on the big-government, "progressive" bandwagon, remember that change for the sake of change is not necessarily progress. You do not have to resist change to be a defender of liberty -- you just have to make sure it's the right kind of change before you accept it.

- Jackie Bodnar


Unionists lead attack v. Colorado voters

Related story: "Out-of-state labor cash floods Colorado"

Leftist heiress Pat Stryker opens her purse to union operatives

At least $7 million has flowed into attack ads and stealth campaigns against state and federal political candidates in Colorado this year, with the most expensive campaigning still ahead.

Nonprofit issues groups last week aired the last of million-dollar campaigns against candidates for Congress, while the independent 527 groups have amassed millions more to launch their political blitzes for control of the state legislature. The result will be a barrage of negative campaigning between now and the Nov. 4 election, analysts said.

"You'll just see a shift in groups, not a diminution in negative ads," said Colorado State University professor John Straayer.

The 527 groups in Colorado, named for a section of the IRS code that regulates them, have collected almost $5 million this election cycle, according to reports filed with the Secretary of State's Office.

There are no limits on the size of donations to the groups as there are on direct contributions to candidates. In addition, they can spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising as long as they do not coordinate the ad campaigns with candidates.

Dems lead in donations

As in past elections, Democratic-leaning groups have collected far more money than Republican-leaning groups, according to the filings. The success of the Democratic 527s in past elections has been cited as a key to the Democrats' taking control of the state Senate and House.

Five Democratic 527s have $3.2 million in donations compared with $1.7 million collected by two Republican 527s through the end of August, according to filings.

Fort Collins heiress and philanthropist Pat Stryker and labor unions have accounted for most of the donations to the Democratic groups. Stryker has donated more than $800,000. The state teachers union has given almost $500,000, while the local United Food and Commercial Workers union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union have donated $275,000 and $300,000, respectively.

On the Republican side, the top donors were Farmers Group insurance company, $40,000, and energy company EnCana and businessman Ed McVaney, $30,000 each.

Swing state dynamics

Both sides have begun buying ad time, the reports show.

That will make for crowded air- waves, Republican political consultant Katy Atkinson said.

"Colorado is a swing state in the presidential election, which means the presidential candidates are buying up airtime," Atkinson said. "In addition, the U.S. Senate candidates and all their related 527s are buying up airtime."

Another $2 million was spent by outside groups against Colorado candidates for Congress and the U.S. Senate, according to separate filings with the Federal Election Commission. That included labor union-financed ads against Democrat Jared Polis in his successful race for the party's nomination for a congressional seat.

But most of the negative ads on Colorado television have been paid for by another type of group that has not had to disclose amounts or sources of funding. They are called C4s, short for the IRS designation 501c4 for social welfare nonprofits.

They can spend up to 50 percent of their money for political purposes as long as they do not advocate the election or defeat of a candidate. They do not have to publicly disclose their political expenditures with federal campaign officials unless their ads run within 60 days of the Nov. 4 election. That deadline was last week.

Negative ad blitz

The most notorious C4 ads were the ones against U.S. Senate candidate Mark Udall, a Democrat, and Republican U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave. Both ended last week.

The Udall advertisement by the conservative group Freedom's Watch depicted Udall "skipping out" of a congressional vote to go to a fundraiser.

The Musgrave advertisement by VoteVets.org showed Colorado veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq criticizing her for voting against combat pay.

Jason Thielman, Musgrave's campaign manager, said the ads cause problems for candidates.

"It's difficult because it's an unseen adversary," Thielman said. "It sort of invokes guerrilla tactics. It's difficult to punch back."

The campaign recently began airing its own positive television ads on Musgrave, which mention her opposition to funding cuts for veterans.

Tara Trujillo, spokeswoman for the Udall campaign, said the anti- Udall ads are not resonating among Coloradans.

"I think it is backfiring because we are hearing a lot of voters come to his defense," she said.

Which ads work?

Representatives of the nonprofit groups defended the ads.

Tim Pearson, spokesman for Freedom's Watch, said the non- profit is concerned with conservative issues such as energy production, which made Udall's track record an appropriate target.

He declined to disclose how much the group paid for the ads except to say that it was "substantial."

Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets, said veterans living in Colorado pushed for the television ad about Musgrave. "This is an issue-based ad," Soltz said. "It's not based on the election."

Soltz said the group paid about $390,000 for the Musgrave ad and $400,000 for another ad criticizing Bob Schaffer, Udall's Republican opponent for the Senate seat.

Robert Duffy, chairman of the Political Science Department at CSU, said it is hit or miss whether negative ads by outside groups have an impact on elections.

The most successful ones tend to emphasize issues that are at the heart of the political race.

"If you have three, four, five, six different entities all repeating variations on the same theme about a candidate, it has a chance to brand them for good or ill," Duffy said.

For example, earlier this decade when Democrat Tom Strickland was trying to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, environmental groups flooded the airways with ads criticizing Allard. But the environment was not a major issue in the campaign and the ads had little impact, Duffy said.

Conversely, during the next U.S. Senate race between Democrat Ken Salazar and Republican Pete Coors, 527s were able to hurt Coors by depicting him as in favor of lowering the drinking age.


Denver Post mocks worker-choice advocate

Reliable pro-union news organ grooves election-season riff

He's been a business owner, chauffeur, screenwriter, window washer and most recently a call-center worker at the state's unemployment office — but David Ohmart's newest role is the voice of dissent as state employees are encouraged to unionize.

The self-described "nonunion rep" worries that the nascent state workers union will eventually draw dues from even employees who voted against it, a specter other states have faced. It's a scenario Colorado union organizers flatly reject.

Nevertheless, Ohmart in June began offering counter-points to union pitches through a group dubbed "Colorado LOSES," a jab at the three-union coalition Colorado WINS that won the right to represent all 31,000 eligible state workers last month.

"I don't want someone forcing me to join something," Ohmart, 59, said. "I want my money to come here and help me and my friends, to help solve problems at work. What they want their money for is political advantage."

LOSES' 50 members, who Ohmart affectionately calls "losers," are a tiny sum compared to the nearly 7,700 state workers who supported unionization.

Difficulties getting e-mail addresses from the state until this week stymied LOSES' growth — and prevented Ohmart from affecting the most recent union vote, he said. Now he's resigned himself to rebutting labor arguments through his newsletter and getting people together at the "non-union hall," also known as Charlie Brown's Bar downtown.

By contrast, WINS began organizing before Gov. Bill Ritter in November signed his controversial executive order allowing state workers to unionize but not strike, one organizer said.

Out of 31,000 ballots sent to eligible employees, about a third cast votes in two separate elections. In total, 72 percent of the voting third favored union representation.

In October, the union members begin crafting bylaws and setting priorities.

WINS booster Patty Herrera — and Ohmart's officemate at the labor department — said there's nothing to fear from the state employees union, which she characterized as a "great way to bring people together."

"Don't rain on our parade. We're happy. We're the majority," Herrera, 40, said. "This whole fear, it's hype. It's the organizers saying it's not our intention" to take nonmembers' money.

In his trademark green Dayton Dragons baseball cap — he's an Ohio native — Ohmart chewed a roast beef sandwich at a downtown shop Wednesday afternoon and disagreed.

He points to states such as Washington, where public employees set up unions and later tried suing nonmembers for dues. Allegedly improper payroll deductions from nonunion paychecks in California and New Jersey have landed labor organizations there in court as well.

For Ohmart, who signs his letters "The Biggest Loser," his group's gallows humor acronym largely sums up his argument.

"Lousy Options Steal Employee Salaries," he said.


The darker side of labor unions

Outdated: Forced-labor unionism model relies on threats, intimidation

In the Aug. 31 Orlando Sentinel, Bruce Nissen, an employee of a union think tank funded by public tax dollars at Florida International University, wrote an eloquent apology for advocating the elimination of secret-ballot elections because in the war of ideas, unions have lost.

He wrote that Florida union workers "earn 36 percent more than nonunion workers." How many of those highly compensated union workers are government employees? Public workers in unions are, indeed, three to four times more prevalent than those in private industry as a percentage of the workforce. Let's have that discussion.

If unions, as Nissen states "start with 60 percent to 80 percent support from workers, only to lose elections," how weak is the union position in the first place? What do they promise workers (please note there is no unfair-labor-practice violation for union lies to workers) to get them to sign a card asking for an election?

My guess is that they are not accurate about what the union benefits are. Merit employers pay and benefits packages compare very well with union benefits -- with none of the baggage.

Union organizers do not disclose union fines and sanctions against a member who goes to work for a nonunion company to feed his family, or that he or she may forfeit accrued benefits as punishment.

They do not disclose mandatory union fees and assessments for political-action funds to support liberal candidates that a worker may not like.

They do not disclose that unions will protect the jobs of the lazy and careless as well as the hardest-working and safest worker.

They do not disclose that as a union member, you cannot hammer a nail if your job description is a plumber. You have to wait for the carpenter. Multiskilled workers are frowned on in a union environment.

They do not disclose that unions in the largest unionized industries in this country have priced their labor so high that the only thing to bargain for is to cut the wages of the newest union members, creating multiple tiers of wages for the same work. That really encourages brotherhood.

They do not disclose that union retirement benefit programs are upside down -- like Social Security -- with far more retiring workers pulling money out than twenty-somethings putting money in. Will the union benefit really be there in 20 years?

Strike and cripple your employer or choose to work for fair wages? The majority decides, right? Get ready for another "secret" union ballot.

There is a great reason why the economy in the right-to-work states of the South has been so robust and the Rust Belt states, like Michigan, have experienced unemployment rates in double digits. It is because of the secret ballot, the exchange of ideas and workers freely choosing to be paid competitively based on merit.

Forming a union should be a basic freedom in the workplace. On that, I agree with Nissen.

Here is where we part company: That decision should also be personal and private -- a decision not made under false pretenses, coercion and threats by either side.

- Mark P. Wylie is president and CEO of the Central Florida Chapter Associated Builders and Contractors in Orlando.


SEIU's Andy Stern threatens the Prog agenda

More Andy Stern stories: hereMore embezzlement stories: here

SEIU Leadership Damage Report

Over the past several weeks, SEIU – arguably the nation’s most politically powerful union and the most prominent financial patron of the U.S. progressive movement – has been rocked by a series of scandals that call into question the basic integrity of the organization's leadership and threaten many of the progressive causes in which SEIU has become an integral player. The widening web of serious financial improprieties alleged in a stunning series of investigative reports by LA Times writer Paul Pringle, compiled here, involves high ranking officers of SEIU, all of whom are personal protégés and appointees of SEIU President Andy Stern and SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger.

At the heart of these scandals is not the series of corrupt acts uncovered by Pringle, but Stern and Burger’s relentless drive to consolidate decision-making power among a small group of appointed leaders and staff and to eliminate any possible base of political opposition to their direction for the union, regardless of the costs to SEIU members and other working families. These costs include the theft of hard-earned union dues from $9.00 an hour homecare workers, long term reputational damage to SEIU and the labor movement as a whole, and negative consequences for progressive candidates and causes that Stern and Burger purport to champion.

In order to eliminate the most prominent whistleblowers in SEIU and divert attention from the growing scandals engulfing them and their hand-picked leaders all in one move, Stern and Burger announced on the first night of the Democratic Convention that they were calling hearings on September 22nd and 23rd to seek an International Union takeover of United Healthcare Workers - West (UHW). The main pretext for these trusteeship hearings against UHW is a recycled set of charges, already refuted thoroughly before. Labor journalist Steve Early, who has written extensively on Stern's ongoing efforts to suppress UHW's dissent, gives detailed background in a new CounterPunch article cross-posted on OpenLeft.

A politically-motivated trusteeship of UHW would consolidate the anti-democratic trend in SEIU and greatly elevate the threat it poses to labor and the broader progressive movement. The International Union’s top staff and massive resources from across the nation would be bogged down, a month before the November election, in an all out civil war that will compound the damage that’s already been done and seriously weaken us all for years to come. It's time for progressive voices to join UHW members in opposing this disastrous trusteeship threat and call for a peaceful resolution of the dispute within SEIU before it’s too late.

SEIU Leadership Scandals Hurt the Progressive Agenda

By renewing its trusteeship threat against UHW, Stern and Burger seek to obscure the pattern of corruption among their hand-picked appointees. Key articles in Pringle's LA Times series expose their alleged misdeeds:

* Tyrone Freeman, President of SEIU Local 6434, the LA-based homecare and nursing home workers union, was forced to step aside pending investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Attorney¹s Office, the IRS, and the FBI regarding at least $1 million in misspending, including hundreds of thousands of dollars of payments to firms run by his wife, his mother-in-law and other relatives and friends for questionable services. See LA Times 8/21/08 "Tyrone Freeman steps aside as head of SEIU chapter"

* Rickman Jackson, President of SEIU Healthcare Michigan and former Chief of Staff to Tyrone Freeman, was forced to step aside pending an investigation of financial improprieties surrounding his LA home and continued pay from Freeman’s union after he moved to Michigan. See LA Times 8/26/08 "SEIU spending scandal spreads to Michigan"

* Annelle Grajeda, SEIU International Executive Vice President, SEIU California State Council President, and former President of SEIU Local 721, the LA-based public employee union, was forced to step aside pending an investigation of the multiple salaries paid to her long-time (now apparently former) boyfriend, Alejandro Stephens. See LA Times 8/31/08 "3rd California union leader gives up post"
These scandals are wreaking havoc inside SEIU, occupying much of its top elected leadership and staff, and calling into question its capacity to deliver widely publicized commitments of $150 million and half of the union’s staff time to achieve key progressive goals in the November election and its aftermath.

Perhaps more importantly, these scandals are creating prime fodder for Republican talking points that will be used to drag down vital progressive causes, including the drive to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, the fight for national healthcare reform, and the necessary prerequisites to these objectives: the election of Barack Obama to the White House, a filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate, and a larger and more progressive majority in the U.S. House.

Over the past year, Open Left readers have participated in the increasingly heated public debate over Stern and Burger’s direction, which has come under sharp criticism inside SEIU, elsewhere in the labor movement, and among a growing number of progressive activists and academics. Stern and Burger’s critics argue they are silencing union members’ voices in order to pursue corporate-friendly, top-down deals that sacrifice workers’ and consumers’ interests without producing significant union growth or building the kind of deep organization that can withstand inevitable realignments of interests among the union and its business and political “partners”.
Critics say that this direction has led Stern and Burger to appoint leaders like Freeman, Jackson, and Grajeda to head newly consolidated, giant local unions where rank-and file input is weak, democratic accountability is non-existent, and the only individuals to whom these local leaders are truly accountable – Stern and Burger themselves – are willing to tolerate and cover up corruption in order to maintain strict political control.

Rather than engage in an honest reckoning about the damage their direction has caused SEIU, the labor movement, and progressives more generally, Stern and Burger are now launching a new public relations offensive and falsely positioning themselves as the cavalry riding in to save SEIU members from any and all forces of corruption, when the real problem is the culture of corruption they themselves have created.

Stern and Burger's latest crisis communications move was to announce the creation of an ethics commission charged with establishing new rules of conduct for SEIU officers and staff, but one union democracy advocate whose organization Stern invoked in promoting the initiative was thoroughly incredulous in an interview with the LA Times published in the September 4th story, "SEIU president says he will seek aid from labor reform groups"

“Why does he need a new code of ethics?” said Herman Benson, founder of the Association for Union Democracy, adding in words that might be applied to Stern and Burger as well as their protégés, “People didn't know that what they were doing was wrong? It's preposterous.”

Preposterous indeed, given that the most important ethical questions immediately at stake are, “What did Andy Stern and Anna Burger know and when did they know it?” and “Why did Andy Stern and Anna Burger appoint and promote individuals they knew or should have known were corrupt, regardless of the consequences for SEIU’s members and the progressive movement?”

Ken Paff of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, another leading union reformer whose organization was referenced in SEIU’s press release also balked at SEIU’s cover up, saying the union should have taken action against Freeman’s corruption long ago and asking, “How could they not know?”

As reported earlier in the LA Times story "U.S. investigates L.A.-based union's election," sources have related their knowledge of an SEIU cover up of Freeman’s corruption as long as six years ago. Additionally, top SEIU staffers have been intimately involved in the workings of all of the local unions under scrutiny as part of organizing and bargaining efforts directed by the International Union and the re-organization of local jurisdiction and establishment of new local leadership in both California and Michigan.

The New York Times on September 3rd quoted an e-mail from senior SEIU Justice for Janitors staffer Jono Shaffer (on whom Adrien Brody’s character in the movie “Bread and Roses” was based) writing about the crisis in Local 6434, “I wish I could say this is unbelievable, but for those of us in Southern California, the only surprise is that it took so long to make it to the public.”

Stern and Burger’s plans for the future of SEIU are evident in their renewed efforts to remove the democratically elected leaders of UHW, whose members have led the opposition to their direction and, as a result, have already faced months of aggressive retaliation, including bogus lawsuits, attacks in the press, and millions of dollars in direct mail, phone calls, and SEIU staff work to discredit UHW’s leaders.
SEIU's upcoming trusteeship hearings are based mainly on the charge that UHW set up a non-profit organization, the United Health Care Workers and Patients Education Fund, for the purpose of defending itself against a trusteeship. The facts are that the fund was set up as a financial vehicle in which, ultimately, union dues could be combined with outside contributions to support a potential healthcare ballot initiative, to pursue the objectives of the union’s unprecedented 2008 contract campaign, to promote UHW’s vision of member-led democratic unionism, and to support other public education efforts on behalf of healthcare workers and consumers. UHW months ago provided SEIU with a full accounting of the expenditures of the fund, which has long since been disbanded, and no question has been raised of any self-dealing or use of union dues for impermissible purposes.

SEIU’s main claim is that the fund was actually created to set aside financial resources that would remain under the control of UHW’s current leaders even in the event of a trusteeship. However, since the fund’s Board of Directors was composed solely of UHW Executive Board members, its assets could not have escaped the reach of a trustee. In the event of a lawful trusteeship, these assets would have been found to be union property and placed under the trustee’s control.

SEIU also places great weight behind the argument that a significant portion of the fund’s resources were transferred to it from the union a week after the legislative healthcare reform package we had hoped to place on the ballot died in the California State Senate. Regrettably, the Washington attorneys and spin doctors who cooked up this attack display their ignorance of the fact that talks continued between the union, key healthcare providers, and elected officials about the possibility of reformulating a healthcare initiative that we could jointly petition onto the ballot after the date of the money transfer.

Interestingly, SEIU’s false charge itself highlights a challenge for union reformers that Herman Benson calls, “a Catch-22 dilemma: the local in effect is threatened with a trusteeship for taking steps to defend itself against the imposition of a trusteeship,” a trusteeship that Benson further characterizes as being threatened, “for politically repressive objectives,” the most egregious of which was to move 65,000 homecare and nursing home workers out of UHW against their will into a long term care union that Tyrone Freeman was slated to lead.

SEIU’s newer and lesser charges against UHW include:

* a false claim that $500,000 was improperly set aside in trust to pay UHW Leaders’ legal fees, although the trust is constructed specifically so that the funds would remain at the disposal of the local’s lawful leaders, including an SEIU trustee if a lawful trusteeship were imposed;

* a false claim that UHW’s communication with other SEIU leaders to provide them our perspective on the scandals and struggles within our union – after months of our members receiving harshly negative communications attacking UHW leaders from the International Union and local unions across the country – constitutes unlawful use of SEIU’s proprietary data; and

* a false claim that two rank-and-file UHW leaders democratically voted out of their previous facility-level leadership positions by their co-workers on their own initiative were somehow subject to retaliation from UHW’s top officers.
For the moment, Stern and Burger appear determined to go forward with placing UHW in trusteeship, regardless of the facts (and regardless of their claims and those of their top staff to the contrary only several weeks ago). Like the worst employers in an anti-union campaign, they know very well that as a matter of law, it is easier for them to break UHW now and take a slap on the wrist later, if at all.

Thankfully, the battle for democratic control of UHW rests largely in the hands of UHW members and their supporters.

In June, 7,000 UHW homecare members, consumers and families rallied across the state against Governor Schwarzenegger’s threats to homecare services and Stern and Burger’s efforts to move them out of UHW against their will. Last month, 6,000 UHW members protested at an SEIU California Long Term Care Jurisdictional Hearing called to take next steps in dismantling the local. This Sunday, 4,000 UHW members will rally for one statewide healthcare union at the local’s annual Leadership Conference in San Jose. Thousands more UHW members can be expected to mobilize for the trusteeship proceedings, whose location remains secret, a hallmark of the anti-democratic style that has become the norm in SEIU. Thousands more still, indeed the vast majority of UHW members, will make their voices heard in the weeks ahead, insisting that their union remain under their control, and pledging their commitment to keep up the fight.
We ask our fellow progressives of good conscience to join us.

- Shayne Silva, Psychiatric Technician, Alta Bates

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