Rathke-ACORN ripoff misunderestimated

Related story: "ACORN's Wade Rathke: Disgraced organizer"
Related ACORN stories: hereWade Rathke stories: here

A never-ending embezzlement cover-up

Further reporting from the New York Times today about wrongdoing at ACORN, the community activist group with deep Little Rock ties.

In June, it was discovered that founder Wade Rathke had failed to disclose to the group's board that his brother, Dale, had embezzled $1 million from ACORN in 2000. He instead arranged for his family to repay the group and listed the stolen money in the books as a legitimate expenditure.

Now two members of ACORN's 51-person board are suing their own organization an attempt to obtain its financial documentation. The plaintiffs say that, contrary to a prior agreement, Wade Rathke continues to run ACORN. More startling, the suit claims that the theft may have been a million dollars more than previously reported.


ACORN's Wade Rathke fakes resignation

Related story: "ACORN's Wade Rathke: Disgraced organizer"
Related ACORN stories: hereWade Rathke stories: here

Ongoing criminal cover-up at union-backed voter-fraud group exposes Rathke's reign of error

Board directors at ACORN -- the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- are demanding the organization turn over financial records relating to the embezzlement of nearly $1 million by the brother of ACORN's founder.

Board members Marcel Reid and Karen Inman are seeking a court order that also would sever ties between ACORN and founder Wade Rathke, The New York Times reported Tuesday. Although Rathke resigned as chief organizer, he oversees staff and expenditures, the lawsuit contends.

The court action reflects continuing turmoil at ACORN. Rathke resigned after it became public this summer that his brother, Dale Rathke, embezzled $948,607.50.

ACORN discovered the embezzlement in 2000 but did not alert law enforcement officials. ACORN's management committee, instead, negotiated an agreement to have the Rathke family pay back the stolen funds. A donor since has agreed to pay the promissory note.

ACORN will "suffer irreparable harm if defendants are not restrained from contact with employees, expending and receiving, destroying or prohibiting the review of accounting and other data necessary to fulfill the fiduciary responsibility of the interim management committee," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the entire 51-member board, although some executives and board members said Reid and Inman have no authority to act on the board's behalf, The Times reported.

ACORN's Web site describes the organization as the nation's largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people. The organization operates in 110 cities across the country, including Pittsburgh.


Andy Stern ripped by pro-democracy unionist

More Andy Stern stories: hereSEIU stories: here

SEIU needs more democracy not more codes

Paul Garver is disappointed because I did not respond more positively to reports that Andy Stern's ethics commission might request my comments for proposals to strengthen the SEIU ethics code. He writes, "Why don't we accept Andy Stern's offer ... in the spirit of giving this process a genuine test?"

But what is there to test? An ethical practices code can be helpful in resolving ambiguities and fine points. Can a business agent accept a $25 holiday gift from an employer? $50? $1000? Can a union rep. hold stock in a major corporation represented by the union? In a small family owned business? (The SEIU already has a code of ethics.) But that's not what triggered this moral crisis in the SEIU. We are confronted here essentially by the outright misappropriation of hundreds of thousands of dollars of union money to enrich union leaders and their friends and family. Does a bank need an ethical practices code to inform tellers that it's wrong to steal money from the till? Is it necessary now to remind SEIU officers that they must not steal, and that we really, really mean it?

From that standpoint, all this talk about appointing a new commission would be a simple waste of time, but then, time exists to be wasted. But this is more than a time-waster. It is an evasion. The real problem is that these officials were originally appointed, not elected, to their powerful positions by Andy Stern himself; they were endowed with authority over mega locals and a staff which they, in turn could appoint. And in their locals, as in the SEIU, an atmosphere of intimidation has been created which makes members, appointed staff, and even elected local officers afraid to speak out. In that atmosphere, where democracy recedes. corruption festers. The problem in the SEIU is not the lack of an ethical practices code, it is the suppression of the democratic spirit. At least, that's how I look at it.

But there's even more is at stake. The problem is the undermining of democracy. And while Andy Stern shifts attention to an ethical practices code, he himself is making the problem of democracy even worse! He is now trying to destroy Sal Rosselli, president of United Healthcare Workers-West, who criticizes his policies. In fact, Rosselli has been the only critic with enough influence and resources to constitute any serious opposition to Stern. Unlike Stern's own appointees, Rosselli has never been charged with trying to enrich himself or friends. The attack on Rosselli derives from his political opposition to Stern.

And so, because the talk of a new ethics code is a waste of time, and is an evasion of the real problem of democracy, and because it can serve as a cover for a new attack on democracy, and because I fear being used in any effort to divert attention from these sordid facts, I could only react with skepticism.

- Herman Benson, Benson's Union Democracy Blog


IAM-Boeing strikers spread the hurt

Related IAM-Boeing stories: hereVideo: "IAM bigs prep Boeing clash"
• "IAM-Boeing strikers welcome 'time off'"
• "Others pay price for IAM strike v. Boeing"

Impact of Machinists' strike shouldered by workers beyond Boeing

The effects of grounding 27,000 Machinists started surfacing Monday just three days into a labor strike at the Boeing Co. From Everett to Wichita, Kan., the initial effects of shutting down Boeing's aircraft factories hit suppliers and community members. Machinists continued their round-the-clock picketing, which began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday after contract negotiations between the union and Boeing failed.

No further contract talks have been scheduled, though both sides maintain they're open to discussions.

On Monday, Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems announced it would reduce production volumes on various Boeing parts. The Wichita, Kan.-based company supplies fuselage sections for Boeing's commercial aircraft, including producing a one-piece composite barrel for the 787 Dreamliner.

Spirit employees will see their workweeks reduced as a result of the slowed production.

"We are working closely with our customer and taking the necessary steps as we respond to an unfortunate situation," said Jeff Turner, Spirit's president, in a press statement.

Spirit withdrew the 2008 financial outlook it had provided on July 31. The company will give a new estimate for both 2008 and 2009 after the strike has ended. Spirit implemented the shortened workweek when Machinists went on strike against Boeing in 2005 rather than halt production and lay off employees.

Boeing spokesman Tim Healy indicated last week when the strike was called that Boeing would work with individual suppliers to determine whether production of parts should continue.

In Snohomish County, Goodrich operates a landing gear production factory as well as an engine cover plant that Goodrich built for 787 Dreamliner product. Goodrich is still shipping parts to Boeing, said Laurie Tardiff, a spokeswoman for the company.

"We're watching the situation closely and hoping it's resolved quickly," she said.

About 36,000 people work in the aerospace industry in Snohomish County -- including Boeing Machinists and engineers and workers at other aerospace companies such as Goodrich.

Analysts estimate the labor strike costs Boeing as much as $100 million daily in lost production. Boeing's backlog of unfilled jet orders is so full that most of its airplane lines are sold out through the three years the Machinists' contract would cover. And the company is under pressure to get its delayed 787 Dreamliner jet on track.

Boeing officials have said the company offered the Machinists an "outstanding" offer that included an 11 percent wage hike over three years, bonuses and lump sum payments of at least $5,000 per Machinist. The union maintains that Boeing shifted money around by boosting health insurance maximums and cutting survivorship benefits on pension plans. Machinists also said the company's offer fell short on job security guarantees.

On the picket lines in Everett, Machinists say they're prepared for the long haul.

"We will continue this fight 'one day longer' than the company can afford until they meet your demands," said Tom Wroblewski, district president of the International Association of Machinists, in a note to members.

In the near term, the strike could cost some non-Boeing workers inside the factory.

Coffee-brewer Tully's said on Monday it will keep an eye on the Machinists' strike. Tully's operates several coffee shops on Boeing property in Everett, including shops inside the factory, in the main office complex and at the jet delivery center. The coffee roaster's "Main Street" location in the aircraft factory has been among Tully's highest sales locations anywhere in the country.

"Tully's hasn't made a decision to close its stores," a spokesman for the company said Monday.

Gary Zinter of Mill Creek said Monday that he already received his two-day layoff notification from the food services company that provides meals in Boeing's cafeterias. A Boeing retiree, Zinter took the position with Eurest Thompson to supplement his pension and Social Security payments.

"Instead of them -- the IAM -- getting back at Boeing, it's affecting the rest of us," Zinter said. "It's affecting the community."

The 66-year-old Zinter said he needs enough income to pay his wife's health insurance costs through Boeing. On Monday, he appealed not only to Boeing and the union but also to the governor's office to put an end to the strike.

"They need to stop playing games and reach an agreement," Zinter said.


SEIU puts disgraced big on leave

Related stories: "Prominent SEIU big behind bars" • "Disgraced SEIU big was not vetted"
More SEIU stories: here

Still no comment from Andy Stern

A Sacramento man arrested on suspicion of possessing child pornography who also held a leadership post with a union representing state workers will be at least temporarily replaced. Registered sex offender Jaime Feliciano, 49, was taken into custody at his south Natomas home Tuesday and remained Wednesday at Sacramento County Jail without bail.

Feliciano is set to appear in court on Thursday. He faces charges that include possession of child pornography. Authorities allegedly found thousands of child pornographic images on a computer belonging to Feliciano, who lives next door to a children's day care facility. Feliciano, a researcher at the state insurance department on Capitol Mall, has served as president of Service Employees International Union Local 1000 District Labor Council 784. He will be temporarily replaced by Mike Allen, the acting president.

"Everything that I've seen him do as a fellow union employee and a state worker -- very hard-working, very personable -- just seemed like a stand-up guy," Allen said.

State officials said they are working with law enforcement officials and are checking Feliciano's work computer to see if it contains any illegal images.

SEIU officials said they had no idea Feliciano had a criminal record and that no background check was done.

Probation officers went to Feliciano's home on Tuesday after receiving a tip from police in Reno.

Feliciano was convicted in 1993 of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14.

KCRA 3 has learned that Feliciano got a job at the Employment Development Department in 1994, just after that conviction.

Court records show that Feliciano has a history of run-ins with the law, from a conviction for battery in 1991 to a dismissed charge of marijuana possession in 2006.


Will coaches cross striking teacher-pickets?

More strike stories: hereRelated story: "The 28 labor-states"

Labor-state teachers strike gives community a lesson in collective bargaining tactics

Organized sporting events at Saucon Valley (PA) High School could be pre-empted or even canceled if the teachers union makes good on its threat to strike next week. During a heavily attended school board meeting Tuesday night, many in the packed audience wanted to know how a work stoppage, which has been called for Monday if no agreement is reached, would affect sports.

President Ralph Puerta said that the board would do nothing to prevent coaches from performing their duties if that is what they want to do, but they can only do so within the guidelines of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing body for interscholastic athletic competition.

A spokesman for the PIAA in Mechanicsburg said Wednesday that such a decision would be left in the hands of the school district if its teachers strike.

''It is entirely up to the board's discretion as to whether they continue or suspend the games,'' said Mark Byers, assistant executive director.

Superintendent Sandra Fellin said a clarification would be posted on the district Web site Wednesday, informing parents and students of how a strike would affect the schedules for fall sports such as football, soccer and track.

The message, posted Wednesday morning, basically reiterated what Puerta said during the meeting.

''The district will allow any and all coaches to coach if they choose to do so for the students during a strike situation and while they are in contract discussions,'' it said.

But that is unlikely to happen if the coaches, most of whom are district teachers, follow their marching orders.

Saucon Valley Education Association President Vivian Demko said the coaches have been asked not to perform their duties until a new contract is ironed out.

''We have asked the teachers that are coaches not to cross the picket line,'' she said.

Almost all of the coaches are also teachers at the school, Demko said.

The district and teachers union have agreed to meet tonight in an effort to prevent the Monday work stoppage.

Both sides last formally met Aug. 20, although Puerta and Demko met one on one over the Labor Day weekend.

Many who spoke at the Tuesday meeting asked the board to reach a speedy agreement with the teachers so that their children's sports seasons could continue. Also addressing the board was a handful of student athletes offering similar sentiments.

Demko said she wasn't surprised at the turnout.

''I wish parents would come out and talk about education, so I guess you could say no, I wasn't shocked,'' she said.


Typical oppressive non-union boss

Disgraced SEIU big was not vetted

Related story: "Prominent SEIU big behind bars"
More SEIU stories: here

Convicted sex offender was arrested near day care

The president of a state workers' union and a registered child sex offender living next to a day care facility was arrested Tuesday, police said.

Jaime Feliciano, who was previously convicted of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14, was arrested at his home located in a south Natomas neighborhood on Rancho Roble Way after authorities allegedly found thousands of images of child pornography on his computer, police said.

Neighbors and a local day care center owner said Feliciano, 49, always seemed like a normal and nice guy.

"He was giving treats to kids," said Liliya Lyubezhanin, who operates a licensed day care facility with 12 children near Feliciano's home. "He was OK, and I was thinking he was a nice guy."

Feliciano is a researcher at the state insurance department who was elected in June to be president of the union known as SEIU 784. The union represents workers not only with the state insurance department, but also the state controller's office, general services and other agencies, law enforcement officials said.

State officials said they are working with law enforcement officials and are checking Feliciano's work computer to see if it contains any illegal images.

SEIU officials said they had no idea Feliciano had a criminal record and that no background check was done.

Probation officers went to Feliciano's home on Tuesday after receiving a tip from police in Reno.

Authorities said they are concerned there may be more potential victims in the Sacramento area.

Some neighbors told KCRA 3 that Feliciano interacted with them on a regular basis.

"I would skateboard down the street a couple of times and he would say 'Hi' to me," Leanndra Goodenough said. "He says 'Good morning' when I'm getting ready for school."

Neighbor Joanie Chaudhary never let her children play outside because she knew that Feliciano was on the Megan's Law List.

"I was wondering how they have the child care next door with him on there," Chaudhary said. "I wanted to ask my neighbor, but I didn't want to be rude."

According to Jessica's Law, which was passed by voters as Proposition 83 two years ago, registered sex offenders cannot live within 2,000 feet of a school or park.

The law, however, does not include any restrictions about living near day care centers and law enforcement officials said nothing can stop Feliciano from moving back near the day care once he is released.

"God only knows what he likes about those children," Goodenough said. "He could just be sitting out here watching our children, getting off on it. It just disgusts me."

Feliciano is currently being held on $120,000 bail at the Sacramento County Jail.


Striking teachers spook scabs

More strike stories: here

Teaching opportunity: Kids get lesson in gov't-union bargaining tactics

The sun was just starting to rise Wednesday morning when a replacement worker allegedly drove through the Newton Falls picket line at what police say was a high rate of speed. "A replacement went through the line and hit one of our teachers," said striking teacher Sue Layshock. "He flew up on the roof of the car and then hit a security guard who bumped her mirror."

The driver, thirty nine year old Marcita Spencer, is facing a charge of assault and is due in court tomorrow. The striking teacher was taken to a hospital and the guard was not injured.

Police Chief Bob Carlson says his officers also found more than one hundred roofing nails near the school entrance and on the roadway. Police are looking into reports of replacement workers' cars being keyed.

"They claim when they were leaving here yesterday afternoon that the cars were keyed, we can't verify any of that at this time," Carlson said.

Just a few hours after the incident on the picket line, union officials were in the office of the schools superintendent and both sides say they are talking.

Late Wednesday afternoon rumors were circulating that a possible agreement has been reached. Teachers say they were being called to a meeting by union officials but were not told why.

Teachers say they want to get back to their classrooms as soon as possible.


Editorial bucks gov't unions on dues collection

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Urges voters to approve tough-love for unions

Amendment 49 has folks in the Colorado labor community fired up. One flier from a largely union-funded organization lumps it with a couple other measures on the ballot this year and makes the laughable claim that Amendment 49 will make it tougher for public safety officers to do their jobs.

It will do no such thing. Amendment 49 will make it marginally more difficult for police unions and other public-employee unions or professional organizations to collect dues. If the ballot measure passes, they will no longer be able to use payroll deductions from government agencies to collect their dues.

The amendment prohibits any public entity in Colorado — state government, county and municipal governments, school districts and special districts — from collecting union dues or professional-group membership fees through payroll deductions.

Payroll deductions for charitable groups such as United Way would still be allowed. So would deductions for court-ordered garnishments or liens, traditional health-care plans and pensions.

Employees could still belong to professional organizations or unions, but would have to pay dues some other way.

Despite the scare tactics from the union-backed mailer, that’s not something that endangers public safety.

“The government shouldn’t be bookkeeper, accountant and collection agency” for these groups, said Jon Caldara, with the Golden-based Independence Institute, which drafted the amendment.

We agree, which is why we urge readers to vote “Yes” on Amendment 49.


Law enforcement union bigs look out for #1

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Compensation for union GM rose 80 percent

So we all know that the deputy sheriffs are in the crosshairs of a county lawsuit that seeks to rescind generous pension benefits granted in 2001.

Treading into the crossfire, The Watchdog thought it would be interesting to take a look at the most recent tax returns of the union representing said deputies - The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, which has about 1,800 members who are “fervently committed to public safety.” (The union is exempt from income taxes, and files returns annually with our friends at the Internal Revenue Service. The following figures are based on the three most recent returns posted on www.guidestar.org, for 2004, 2005 and 2006.)


* Compensation for the union’s officers, directors and key employees increased 74 percent over three years, from $300,592 to $522,939.
* Total compensation for then-general manager Robert J. Macleod increased 80 percent, from $115,522 to $207,677 over the same period (the latter figure includes deferred compensation and benefits totaling $66,896).
* Compensation for President Wayne J. Quint, Jr. increased 29 percent, from $185,070 to $239,296.

Macleod has since left the union. The general manager is now Mark Nichols.


President Quint returned The Watchdog’s call last night (thank you, Mr. Quint), and was a bit flummoxed by some of these figures. “I don’t make $185,000 or $239,000,” he said. “That is not my salary. I make about $150,000 in salary.”

The Watchdog apologized and explained that she took the numbers right off the union’s own tax returns.

The figures, Quint said, might reflect his total compensation, with benefits factored in. But not his salary. (The tax returns, however, list “zero” under Quint’s benefit plan contribution, deferred compensation and expense accounts. We’ll post further clarification as it emerges).

Quint asked us to stress that “this is not taxpayer money, not one cent.” Union salaries are paid by the deputies’ membership dues, which produced $1.35 million in 2006.

As my colleagues noted in their investigation of overtime at the Sheriff’s Department - which has enraged many deputies - Quint is on formal leave from the department to concentrate on his union duties. Under the union contract, the Sheriff’s Department continues to pay Quint’s salary, and the union reimburses the county for the salary, overtime and benefits. (Quint boosted his paycheck with $35,908 in overtime in 2006 and $38,548 in 2007, according to the Register’s analysis.)

Quint also asked us to find out what sort of raise others of his rank received over the same time period. He expects it will turn out to be 29 percent, if that’s indeed what his raise was. We’ll post the answer to that question when we get it as well. (We’ll be calling, Amormino!)


Its members are fully sworn deputies, investigators and sergeants of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigations. “Our members proudly protect, at any risk or harm to themselves, the residents and visitors of Orange County, California, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” the union’s web site says.

There’s more financial detail on the union here, including The Watchdog’s Three Year Financial Snapshot.


Indefensible unions smacked down

More EFCA stories: hereMore SEIU stories: here

When corruption and 'no-vote' unionism collide, workers suffer

It is ironic that Thomas Frank's column ("Happy Labor Day. Drop Dead." The Tilting Yard, Sept. 3) defending organized labor's power-play to eliminate secret ballots in unionization elections was just a few inches away from a news article on a Service Employees International Union's multimillion-dollar scandal. In this fiscal year alone the Labor Department has indicted 112 labor leaders for embezzling more than $3 million in compulsory union dues.

Incredibly, Mr. Frank defends this plan to eviscerate employee privacy based solely on one suspect study. What he fails to mention is that this authoritative "study" he relies on for his facts was a survey of union organizers by a former union organizer. Instead, he should have turned to government-compiled data from the National Labor Relations Board, which indicates that just 3% of union organizing campaigns involve an illegally fired employee.

Big Labor's history of corruption is as indefensible as its new plan to hijack elections in the workplace. Mr. Frank should join with other pro-labor advocates, including former Sen. George McGovern, who have denounced the anti-worker Employee Free Choice Act.

Richard Berman, Executive Director, Employee Freedom Action Committee
Washington, D.C.


News Union takes dues hit in St. Louis

Related stories: "Spotlight: The Newspaper Guild" "The 28 labor-states"

Industry beset by red ink, leftism, paper-stream waste

On the morning of August 28, unwelcome news began circulating through the newsroom at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: layoffs were imminent. By the end of that day, five editors — two with almost 30 years of service at the daily — were asked to collect their belongings and leave the building on North Tucker Boulevard.

"Unreal," "eerie," "bad, bad, bad," was how several reporters described the chain of events. In a subsequent telephone interview with Riverfront Times, Post-Dispatch executive editor Arnie Robbins refuses to rule out further editorial staff reductions.

"Will there be more layoffs? I sure hope not," says Robbins. "But in this day and age, no editor or publisher or company can promise anything to anybody anymore."

In recent years, metropolitan newsrooms across the United States have become unsettling places to punch a clock. Advertising revenues for print editions have plummeted, and online ad sales are lagging. Circulation at most major dailies is, at best, stagnant. Newsprint costs nearly twice as much per ton as it did five years ago. Decreased profit margins have caused some of the most venerable papers in journalism — Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post — to slash staff and shed news pages.

But the Post-Dispatch's parent company, Lee Enterprises, is weathering the storm better than most media firms, says media analyst John Morton. "Because most of their newspapers are in smaller markets, with the exception of the Post-Dispatch, of course, the company's overall advertising performance has been hit much less severely than the other publicly owned companies," says Morton.

Lee, based in Davenport, Iowa, owns 50 dailies and more than 300 weeklies in 23 states. Although the company does not break out financials by newspaper, Post-Dispatch staffers, including Robbins, say they've been assured by Lee that the St. Louis daily is profitable.

"That's what's really upsetting to me and to just about everybody who works at the paper," complains Shannon Duffy, the business representative for the St. Louis Newspaper Guild, which represents some 400 of the paper's employees. "They're laying people off, and yet we know the Post-Dispatch is not losing money."

Robbins demurs on the question of why layoffs are necessary. "Because everybody [in the newspaper business] is traded on Wall Street, and you need strong year-over-year results," he says. "It may be fair, it may be unfair, but [layoffs] are the reality."

Last week, Lee's stock price was trading at $3.47. In June 2005, when Lee purchased the Post-Dispatch from Pulitzer Inc. for $1.46 billion, the stock price was a robust $42 a share.

Since the acquisition Lee has continually shrunk the newspaper. More than 120 employees took a buyout offer in the second half of 2005. A second buyout in late 2007 cost the paper another 60 employees, two-thirds of them in the editorial department.

In March of this year, the Post laid off 31 employees, including some Guild members. And the latest round of job slashing affected thirteen HR and production staffers and five editors (none of whom belonged to the union): Dale Singer, online news editor; Courtney Barrett, chief of the copy desk; Carl Green, night city editor; Sid Hastings, photo editor; and Rick Pierce, chief of the Illinois bureau.

"It's an inexcusable thing," laments Florence Shinkle, a retired reporter who wrote for the Post for 30 years. "I'm a subscriber; I love the paper. I think [investigative reporter] Jeremy Kohler is doing amazing stories and [Metro columnist] Bill McClellan is a fantastic writer.

"But I feel like with these layoffs they've breached some critical boundaries for the health and stability of the newspaper. The big tanks are at the door."

Walking a tightrope between its online and dead-tree editions, the Post-Dispatch last month made its most substantial reductions yet to the print edition. For one, the paper halted its zoned editions in St. Charles and the Metro East. Now every subscriber in the metro area receives the same newspaper.

Beginning on August 25, numerous other changes took effect: The Metro section was condensed into the "A" section on Mondays. Several features sections were also condensed, and the floundering "Everyday" section was reduced to four pages — nearly all of which contain comics. The daily also eliminated its TV grids, much to the dismay of subscribers.

"I love the P-D's business plan," commented one reader on stltoday.com. "Costs are high and revenue low, so cut out features that readers really want but are expensive (i.e. TV listings, comics, and real, hard-hitting local news). Watch subscriptions plummet, which in turn reduces ad revenue, leading to more cuts. The quality of the Post-Dispatch has deteriorated severely since its glory years, and there is very little reason to read it anymore."

Executive editor Robbins doesn't believe the quality of coverage has suffered. "Over the last year in particular we've done a good job focusing on public service, watchdog journalism, and as I've said over the last week, if I have to eliminate TV grids to keep our watchdog journalism up, I can live with that."

Many of Robbins' staff members disagree. Said one longtime reporter: "There's no doubt that we're giving people less of a newspaper than we were previously, and every employee of the newspaper is very sorry about that."

Media analyst John Morton says layoffs and page reductions could spell disaster. "A lot of the steps that companies are taking now are the very wrong steps to take," Morton cautions. "You're cutting news staff and the news hole, you're making the paper smaller and thinner and covering less, and that affects the two major assets that newspapers have: brand name and standing. They're the two things that newspapers will have to use to try to succeed on the Internet, and they're undermining themselves at every step."

The guild's contract with Lee does not expire until June 5, 2009, but business rep Duffy worries more layoffs are around the corner. On August 24, the union voted unanimously to enter into early bargaining with Lee. Both the guild and Lee will bring five or six issues to the table, with job security being the guild's number-one concern.

Negotiations are expected to begin soon and could last several weeks. It is the first union contract to be negotiated since Lee took control of the newspaper. If no agreement is reached, says Duffy, the parties will start from scratch next spring.

As to the current mood in the newsroom, several staffers sum it up as "resigned." Says Bill McClellan: "I think the changes are all kind of shortsighted, but all I can say in our defense is they're happening everywhere."


Faculty member rips collective bargaining

More AAUP stories: hereRelated story: "The 28 labor-states"

Labor-state university professor speaks out against AAUP

This quarter I have a class on Monday evenings, and am not free to participate in the Faculty Senate deliberations over unionization, scheduled for a vote in October. I use The Post as a platform for expressing my opinion for this reason.

Over the past year, I became aware that there is a plan on the part of a few of my colleagues to replace our Faculty Senate with a Faculty Union. This troubles me. Over the summer, I made an effort to attend the two information and planning sessions sponsored by the American Association of University Professors. In looking at their Web sites and talking to colleagues on campus, I have sought to understand what advantages there might be in going down the path toward collective bargaining. My conclusion is that an effective Faculty Senate is the way to go. If we don’t have one, we should work at creating one.

The faculty senator from my school in the College of Communication was quoted in Tuesday’s Post as saying, “I have never seen my faculty so discontented.” With all due respect to my colleague, I have never seen our faculty so creatively engaged in teaching and advising, in recruitment and retention of students, in scholarship and productive work and in service to the community. I do not personally feel that my alternative is either to shut up or send out my resumé, as suggested by the senator from Arts and Sciences; nor do I find these comments representative of other faculty members in my college or elsewhere in the university.

My own perspective is that I am fortunate to work in a fine university where I can (within reasonable constraints) teach, research and write about things that interest me; I am amazingly free to set my own schedule; I am paid well; and I have one of the best health care and benefits plans short of the U.S. Congress. If I see something I object to on campus or off, I am free to speak my mind without fear of retribution.

Ours was the 27th school or department that President Roderick McDavis made a personal visit to last year. When he came into the room, he took off his jacket and said, “I am here to get to know you.” There were about 25 faculty and staff present. We told him our names, talked about the courses we teach, explained our research and creative agendas, and ended up discussing for over an hour what makes our school distinctive in the state and in the world. He listened and learned, and I for one was impressed.

I happen to think that Ohio University needs a Vision Ohio: Unless we do innovate in undergraduate and graduate education, unless we do increase our creative/research productivity, build partnerships domestically and abroad, and find ways to make ourselves usefully distinctive, we will be left in the dust of those that can.

My vision of an effective Faculty Senate is one that worries about the quality and credibility of our academic programs, that serves to stimulate innovation and productivity among faculty, that genuinely cares about the nature of the student experience at Ohio University. I cannot imagine how collective bargaining of the faculty will help us attain such goals.

- Don Flournoy is a professor in the School of Media Arts and Studies.


Labor-state pol misunderstood worker-choice

More worker-choice stories: hereRelated story: "The 28 labor-states"

Now regrets responding to issue survey

I believe in the dignity of work. Supporting the dignity of work means supporting unions, which I did when I was in the state Senate. Unions help give better wages to workers and working families. I support unions and the workers in them, and I intend to take that support to the state Legislature.

When I hear the phrase "right to work," I think of the dignity of work. Everyone has a right to that dignity. But the so-called "National Right to Work Committee" is twisting that phrase. This fringe group tries to pass legislation that weakens unions and makes it harder for working families to have better wages and greater dignity.

Recently, I received a survey from this group. I saw "right to work" and thought they believed what I believe, that work brings dignity for workers and that unions protect workers and their dignity. In that line of thought, I filled out their survey. But I was wrong, and now that group is trying to use my survey against me.

Let me be clear: Working people need all the help they can get. I proudly support working families, as I did when I served Concord as a state senator. I want to serve as state representative to help Gov. John Lynch keep the economy strong. I will never support this group. It tries to hurt working parents and their children. Just like unions, I'll work to help families.

- Chip Rice, Concord, NH


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