GOP labor big: Probe Stern's SEIU right now

More SEIU stories: hereAndy Stern stories: here

Dems drag their feet to shield Stern's political 'investments'

The top-ranking Republican on the House labor committee called Friday for immediate hearings on a spending scandal at California's largest union local. In a statement, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) suggested that the committee's Democratic chairman intended to delay an inquiry into the Service Employees International Union local because of the labor group's political support for Democrats.

The Bay Area-based chairman, Rep. George Miller, announced about two weeks ago that the Education and Labor Committee would examine the local because of Times reports on its spending practices. But the panel has yet to schedule any hearings.

"The allegations against local union officials in California are deeply disturbing," McKeon said. "If true, they would represent a serious breach in the public trust and a violation of the rights of thousands of dues-paying union members, and they deserve a thorough investigation."

Noting that Congress is set to adjourn Sept. 26, McKeon said, "It would be inexcusable for these reports to be ignored simply because the alleged perpetrators are political allies of the Democratic majority."

Miller spokesman Aaron Albright said Friday that the inquiry is underway, although he would not provide any details. In a subsequent e-mail, he said Miller's office would respond to McKeon next week.

The Times has disclosed that the SEIU local and a related charity have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to home-based firms owned by the wife and mother-in-law of its president, Tyrone Freeman, and $16,000 to a now-defunct minor league basketball team coached by his brother-in-law.

The local also has paid $219,000 to a video company run by a former staffer, Brian Cheatham. Three other former employees said that Cheatham is a close friend of Freeman and his wife, Pilar Planells.

The 160,000-member local, United Long-Term Care Workers, represents low-wage caregivers who tend to the elderly and infirm.

Freeman and two other SEIU leaders, who have said they did nothing wrong, have gone on leave. At the same time, a federal criminal investigation into the local's finances has been launched.


Workers disinterested in irrelevant unions

Why union bigs favor forced-labor unionism

A survey released by Canadian LabourWatch Association found unions are irrelevant and their leaders out of touch, but one union leader believes this view of the results is biased and distorted. LabourWatch hired Nanos Research to conduct a telephone survey of 1,000 employed Canadians between July 27th and Aug. 6th.

One of the most important findings of the Nanos survey is that 77 per cent of non-unionized working Canadians are not interested in being unionized. The survey also found that more than 25 per cent of currently unionized respondents said they would prefer not to be unionized, if given the choice.

“These results speak for themselves” said John Mortimer, president of LabourWatch.

“Union leader positions on a range of issues are contributing to this continuing slide in both interest and actual union representation.”

A spokesperson for union workers in Alberta has a very different interpretation of the survey commissioned by LabourWatch.

“It (LabourWatch) is a who’s who of anti-labour organizations that exists to undermine unions and get them off work sites,” said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

“When you look at this poll, you must consider the source. This is a laughable group that must not be taken seriously.”

McGowan said Nanos is a reputable research firm, but it is clear that the questions have been written in such a way as to encourage negative responses to unions.

“Even with this bias approach the survey shows that 75 per cent of the people polled are happy with and support their union,” said McGowan. “This is a higher approval rating than any provincial government in Canada and higher than the Harper government. As a labour leader these figures suggest we are on the right track.”

In response to the survey’s finding that people are not interested in union membership, McGowan argued that the restrictive labour laws in Alberta were the main reason more people are not being able to join a union.

“LabourWatch is not the only organization looking at or asking these types of questions,” explained McGowan. “Our own internal survey shows that 30-40 per cent of the people who are not currently unionized would join a union if they could.”

Another finding of the survey was that 84 per cent of working Albertans disagreed with union leaders using union dues to pay for advertising campaigns opposing political parties. Almost 70 per cent of working Albertans also disagreed with unions contributing to groups advocating causes unrelated to the workplace.

“The results clearly indicate that workers are rejecting the heavy handed tactics and negative rhetoric of union leaders who claim to speak for all working Albertans, said Stephen Kushner, president of Merit Contractors Association. “The recent provincial election in Alberta which saw the Alberta Building Trades Council (ABTC) and the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) spend millions of dollars on attack ads is a case in point.”

In the run up to the Alberta election on March 3, the ABTC and the AFL sponsored a campaign called ‘Albertans for Change’. The main aim of this campaign, which began before the election was announced, was to question the leadership abilities of Conservative party leader Ed Stelmach.

Union leaders did not disclose the cost of these so-called attack ads. However, critics of the campaign estimate the cost at $1 million for prime-time TV spots and full-page newspaper ads.

McGowan said the decision to spend union funds on the election campaign was made after going through a very democratic process. The union leadership consulted the grass roots and was fully accountable to members.

Despite this fact, McGowan is concerned about the direction the Conservatives are taking public policy on union dues and political campaigns.

“They (Conservatives) will probably get their wish on this one,” said McGowan. “The will issue legislation this fall to reduce the unions ability to spend money during an election.”


Fighting against voter-fraud in Ohio

More ACORN stories: here

Dems, Barack bank on ACORN and lax elections officials

The Ohio Republican Party spearheaded a lawsuit Friday over a directive from the office of Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner that would allow some early voters to register and vote on the same day.

The suit, filed by two Ohio voters in the Supreme Court of Ohio, in Columbus, ramps up the battle over voting procedures in a critical swing state with 20 electoral votes. But the parties' roles are reversed from the 2004 election. This time, a Democrat is setting the rules, and the state Republican Party is charging that those rules favor Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate.

Conflicts over voter registration and voting procedures are heating up across the U.S. as the Nov. 4 election approaches. In Wisconsin, the Republican attorney general sued a state board this week over a process of comparing voter names with driver's-license records. The Florida Department of State made a last-minute announcement this week that it will begin enforcing a controversial law that requires matching an identifying number on voter-registration forms with government databases that critics say are prone to mistakes.

In Ohio, a recently enacted state law -- the subject of the Brunner directive -- allows residents, for the first time in a general presidential election, to vote early by absentee ballot without providing a justification. Advocates for the homeless and other groups say they will direct new voters to take advantage of the overlap between early voting, which begins Sept. 30, and voter registration, which ends Oct. 6. During that window, citizens can register and vote simultaneously. The outreach efforts are expected to benefit Democrats.

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, a Cleveland-based umbrella group for service providers, housing activists and others, is making plans to drive about 2,000 shelter residents to polling places during the overlap period. "This is a huge opportunity to prove to elected officials that very low-income people do vote," said Brian Davis, executive director of the group.

Republican officials are furious, charging that the one-stop process will encourage voter fraud. They argue that a state law requires Ohio residents to register at least 30 days before voting, so same-day registration and voting should be banned.

Ms. Brunner's position is that early ballots do not constitute votes until they are tabulated on Nov. 4, said Jeff Ortega, a spokesman for Ms. Brunner. In a statement about Friday's lawsuit, Ms. Brunner said, "It is unfortunate that a small, but vocal, group of Republican leaders continues to inject confusion and chaos in our elections."

Responding to the charge that Ms. Brunner favors Democrats, Mr. Ortega said, "Secretary of State Brunner has simply tried to provide clear, consistent, statewide standards for election boards in this state on a whole host of issues."

Ohio's boards of election are hoping that many people will vote before Nov. 4, easing the strain on an Election Day expected to produce a huge turnout. Ohio had a strong 46% turnout in the March primary, with 15% of the vote coming from absentee ballots.

Another wrinkle this year is the thousands of foreclosures hitting Ohio each month, which could mean many voters no longer live at their registered addresses. Nonprofit groups conducting voter-registration drives are concerned that these people will be challenged at the polls.

Ohio residents must present identification to vote, but they can use utility bills, bank statements, pay stubs or other documents in place of a driver's license or ID card. Early voters may provide the last four digits of their social-security numbers in lieu of such documents.

In 2004, Ohio was in an uproar over a tactic known as "caging," in which a political party calls for voters to be stricken from the rolls because mail sent to them was returned as "undeliverable." In the last presidential election, the state Republican party used returned mail to challenge the registrations of 35,000 new voters, most of whom lived in urban, heavily Democratic areas.

Not many voters were successfully removed, because "there was so much litigation and public backlash," said Teresa James, a lawyer in Ohio for Project Vote, a nonprofit voter-registration group. But she said some voters likely were intimidated by the challenges and stayed home.

On Sept. 5, Ms. Brunner told election boards that Republicans had passed a law concerning caging that she considered unconstitutional, and that a single returned election notice cannot be used as the sole basis to cancel a voter's residency. She also said every challenged voter must be notified and given a chance to attend a hearing before Election Day.

Kevin DeWine, deputy chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, said "nothing is off the table" in terms of election tactics, but he declined to be more specific.

Allegations of voter fraud are potent charges that have been part of elections for more than a century. Project Vote, which is running voter-registration drives with the community organization Acorn, says it has responded to the concerns. Recruits are paid by the hour, rather than by the name, to sign up new voters. Project Vote has set up call centers to attempt to contact people listed on all registration cards to verify their information. Canvassers found to falsify registrations are fired and reported to state boards of elections.

While the administration of President George W. Bush has made prosecuting voter fraud a priority, the government has provided little evidence that registration fraud is widespread or that it has a significant impact on elections. The U.S. Department of Justice said in March that it has convicted 102 people of voter fraud of various types since October 2002.

In 2004, a margin of 118,601 votes in Ohio gave President Bush the electoral votes he needed to reclaim the White House. The many election problems in that state still rankle Democrats. After the election, the Democratic staff of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee compiled a list of irregularities and grievances, including 10-hour lines in some urban areas, thousands of Republican challengers concentrated around polling places in minority and Democratic areas, and fake voter bulletins that told Republicans to vote on Tuesday and Democrats to vote on Wednesday.

Some Democrats alleged that J. Kenneth Blackwell, then the secretary of state and co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio, deliberately disenfranchised Democratic voters. He denied that partisanship affected his decisions.


Reinforcing a labor-state's disadvantage

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Mandating union membership as a precondition of employment is not enough for Colorado leftists

Unions and business groups in Colorado are preparing for what now seems to be an inevitable ballot war between the two political titans, with one side opposing a measure that would restrict the way unions organize and the other side determined to fight two labor-backed amendments regulating employer conduct.

Two union-supported initiative proposals — Amendment 53 and Amendment 55 — were certified for the state ballot during the hoopla of the Democratic National Convention, adding on to what is now the longest ballot in the nation.

Amendment 53 is considered the “corporate fraud” initiative, and would make corporate executives criminally liable for acts of fraud committed by their businesses, while Amendment 55 would ask voters if an employer should be required to state a “just cause” for firing an employee.

A campaign called Protect Colorado’s Future, which has been primarily funded by labor unions, worked to put the measures on the ballot.

The two amendments were submitted in response to Amendment 47, a “right-to-work” proposal that will also be on the ballot. If passed into law, Amendment 47 would restrict the way labor groups organize and negotiate in the state, by banning collective bargaining agreements between unions and businesses that require minimal agency fees from nonmember employees who receive union-negotiated benefits in the workplace.

Labor supporters have characterized Amendment 47 as being an attempt by stealth business interests to break up unions in Colorado, because the pro-47’s campaign coffers have been funded primarily through anonymous contributions.

That ground war is being fought between the lines of Internal Revenue Service loopholes governing certain political committees, better known by their tax law subsection number as 527s, and tax-exempt 501c4 charitable organizations that have less stringent rules on accountability and transparency.
Because of new 527 regulations, nonprofit groups are becoming a more attractive option for political donors who don’t want their names to see the limelight on public disclosure forms, according to Sheila Krumholz, an executive director with the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics.

“It’s an enormous problem,” Krumholz told the Colorado Independent in June. “It’s the last great refuge for donors who want to give unlimited contributions and maintain their anonymity while doing so.”
At the same time, groups campaigning against Amendments 53 and 55 claim that the proposals would dissuade businesses from investing in the state and be disastrous for the economy.

The possibility of a sharply divided political clash between labor and business groups moved high-profile public officials like Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter to try to encourage the backers of the three measures to surrender their plans to put the proposals up for a vote.

In an Aug. 22 story in the Denver Business Journal, Kate Horle, a spokeswoman for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, said she hopes both sides will back off.

“We really want this to go away,” Horle said. “It is so potentially devastating.”

On Monday, the campaign for Amendment 47, called A Better Colorado, sent out a press statement announcing clearly that sponsors of the measure had no intention of pulling their proposal off the ballot.

Defend Our Economy, a pro-business campaign created specifically to oppose Amendments 53 and 55, announced last week it would also be supporting Amendment 47.


Corrupt Carpenters big gets the Big House

More union-dues stories: hereEmbezzlement stories: here

Judge's sentence sends other union embezzlers a message

A former shop steward and executive delegate for the Carpenters Union was sentenced Friday to five years in prison. Michael Annucci, also known as Mickey Annucci of Local 157 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, was convicted following an eight-day trial in February for conspiracy, wire fraud, aiding and abetting the embezzlement of funds from employee benefit plans, and receipt of bribes by a labor representative.

Annuncci served as a shop steward for the District Council, an executive delegate to the District Council representing Local 157 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, and a member of the District Council’s trial committee – which imposed discipline on carpenters who broke union rules.

From July 2001 through February 2006, Annucci was the shop steward for a Manhattan jobsite of L&D Installers, Inc., a furniture installation and construction contractor. L&D was a party to a collective bargaining agreement with the District Council, pursuant to which L&D was obligated to pay all of its workers at a specified hourly rate and to make contributions for each hour worked to District Council benefit funds, which provide life insurance, hospitalization, medical care, pension and vacation benefits to union members.

As a shop steward, Annucci was required to enforce the CBA by submitting weekly reports to the District Council setting forth the hours worked by each of carpenters assigned to the jobsite. The union’s auditors rely on the accuracy of shop steward reports in auditing contractors to ensure that all benefits contributions have been paid.

Annucci, however, omitted more than 22,000 hours from his shop steward reports, thereby enabling L&D to cheat the benefit funds out of hundreds of thousands of dollars it owed. Annucci submitted false shop steward reports to the union, on a weekly basis, for nearly five years. As a result, carpenters got paid lower wages and lost credit towards pension, vacation and retirement benefits, and some lost their health care coverage. At the same time, L&D paid Annucci for hundreds of overtime hours and at least 80 days that Annucci did not work.

In sentencing Annucci, Judge Barbara S. Jones stated that “this is a very serious offense,” and that the length of the sentence is necessary “to send a message to other union members and executives that this type of conduct will not be tolerated.”

In addition to the prison term, Annucci was sentenced to two years supervised release. He is to surrender to begin serving his sentence next month.


Andy Stern ducks accountability, responsibility

More SEIU stories: hereAndy Stern stories: here

Union Democracy Group Says SEIU’s New ‘Ethics Commission’ a Scam

For those of you following the several recent L.A.Times stories ( see here, here, here and here), the Service Employee International Union (SEIU) has been embroiled in scandal over misuse of funds in California and Michigan. Several SEIU head operatives have vacated their positions of power and all are tied to SEIU president Andy Stern.

Recently Stern announced that the SEIU was setting up an internal ethics commission to look into allegations of fraud and abuse of funds. But, this sham effort to root out corruption is so transparent that even other pro-union groups are skeptical that Stern is seriously trying to stamp out corruption.

The Association for Union Democracy issued a press release scolding Stern for his obvious attempt to cover up, rather than root out, corruption in the SEIU.

Now, remember, the AUD is a pro-union group. In their mission statement, the AUD claims to support “actions which strengthen the democratic process, promoting membership participation, free speech and fair elections, so that union members can transform and lead their unions.”

Despite the AUD’s desire to support unions, they find Stern less than forthcoming.
An internal panel of the kind proposed by SEIU President Andrew Stern would simply mull over the niceties of still another code and would be more than a waste of time; it would be an evasion. What the SEIU needs now is to establish a board composed of respected individuals, independent and completely outside the union power structure - a kind of supreme court endowed with the power, in defense of member rights, to overrule decisions of the international president and the international executive board in those circumstances in which members’ democratic rights could be endangered.
Instead of an internal group answerable to and controlled by President Stern the AUD thinks that any ethics commission should be made up of folks outside the direct control of the SEIU.
The need is not to devise a code of ethics, the need is the genuine practice of democracy. The basic code of ethics was deliveresd on Mount Sinai in the commandment “Thou shall not steal.” Everything else is a refinement. If the SEIU feels it needs an amplification of its own code to remind its officials of that commandment, it need only copy one of the many excellent codes already available. The problem in the SEIU is not that it lacks an ethical code, but that it has evolved a bureaucratic system of organization and, despite any code, has created an atmosphere of authoritarianism that obviously spawns corruption.
But, there’s the rub. Andy Stern is not interested in rooting out corruption as much as he is interested in iron-fisted control of everything SEIU. In fact, Stern’s rival in California is already afraid that Stern is merely using this facade of setting up an ethics commission as a weapon to attack rebel elements inside the SEIU. Sal Rosselli, a major thorn in Stern’s side, thinks that Stern will use this commission to further undermine his own status in the California branch of the SEIU.

It appears that President Stern is not fooling anyone with his proclaimed intentions to root out corruption inside his own union.


Union worker 'used and betrayed' by Barack

Related video: "Barack pulls a Biden"

Union-backed candidates abandon workers

With election campaigns in both Canada and the U.S., there’s a lot of attention being paid to laid-off workers and Kenora’s getting its fair share of attention. Earlier this week, Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, ran a story that wondered if NDP leader Jack Layton and Democrat nominee Barack Obama were sharing notes, and it centred on Layton’s visit to Abitibi in 2006.

On a summery day in early July, the party leader said he met with a group of Steelworkers, who described how they felt as they worked disassembling machines and the parts were being labelled for shipment to China.

The Globe article speculated about the similarity in language in recent speeches by both Layton and Obama, as they talked about the need for changes in economic policies.

However, the whole affair has left one former Abitibi employee feeling used and betrayed. John Pereira was a member of the United Steelworkers local executive, and he was on the tour with Layton two years ago.

He watched as the NDP leader called Abitibi’s head office in Montreal from the site on Ninth Street North in order to stand up for laid-off staff.

Today, though, after 43 years of paying union dues, he feels forgotten. Now that he’s no longer a mill employee, he says he doesn’t have a voice.

“We’ve been swept under the rug, as if we don’t exist,” he said.

Pereira ran unsuccessfully for office in the last municipal election, saying he wanted to help rebuild the community in the wake of devastating job losses. As the forestry crisis continues, more than 650 workers from the community that has shrunk to less than 14,000 have been laid off from three of four local mills — two of which are closed for good.

“You would think the labour movement would be leading (the charge),” Pereira said Thursday.

“Who’s doing the fighting for these people ... We have no voice,” he said.

Since getting his notice from Abitibi, Pereira acknowledged he has been one of the lucky ones. He was able to draw an early pension from the company, then supplement it by working as a self-employed janitor.

He listed all the ideas for rebuilding the local industrial base. He noted the house in a box, the bio-mass plant, the possibilities for food processing, but added they haven’t come through and are rarely mentioned today.

“I feel we’ve been lied to,” he said bluntly.

He also has three daughters in university. While they pleaded with him to stay in Kenora, after he lost his job, his daughters have since acknowledged that they aren’t likely to come back to the community after graduation.

In his conclusion, Pereira compared politicians to Santa Claus, because they only come offering gifts once a year.


Labor-state unions use fear against voters

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Pro-union campaign also calls on midnight boogie man

Seems like this year’s political messaging is all about who’s going to do what in the middle of the night. And one pro-union Colorado group is using this latest tactic.

First, Hillary Clinton capitalized on our fear of things that go bump in the night with her primary commercial. “It’s 3 a.m and your children are safe and asleep,” a narrator says while images of sleeping babies flash across the screen. “But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing. Something is happening in the world. Your vote will decide who will answer that call.”

Now organized labor is using similar language in an effort to quash three ballot initiatives. The pro-union organization Protect Colorado’s Future, sent out a mailer warning against the “real danger” that could follow if voters pass Amendments 47, 49 and 54, three measures that would weaken collective bargaining in the state.

The mailer features photos of a disgruntled Deputy Sheriff Jeff Shaw from Commerce City with the words, “For officers like Jeff Shaw — our safety is his top priority. But at 2:00 am when he responds to a call — Officer Shaw shouldn’t worry whether or not his vest can take that bullet. But that’s EXACTLY what Amendments 47,49, and 54 will do.” The ad goes on to say that police unions will be diminished by the three measures.

Protect Colorado’s Future is the organization behind two other ballot initiatives. Amendment 53 seeks to quash corporate fraud while Amendment 55 protects workers from being fired for no reason.


Court asked to reject bargaining agreements

Denver Post advocates for Brotherhood of Teamsters

Frontier Airlines asked a U.S. bankruptcy court on Friday to reject its contracts between several local unions, representing 425 mechanics, cleaning crews and materials specialists. The move would lead to a loss of 130 mechanics jobs, as Frontier seeks to outsource all of its heavy maintenance work to a company in El Salvador.

Denver-based Frontier is reorganizing under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and has reduced wages for some of its union workers.

In the latest filing Frontier requested that the court "grant an order authorizing them to reject the collective bargaining agreements" between the workers that belong to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The two sides have been negotiating a new contract, particularly wage concessions the union agreed to after the airline filed for bankruptcy in April.

"The teamsters are fully prepared to meet them in court," said Matthew Fazakas, president of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 961. "Their management team went down and told our members more than three weeks ago that they were planning to subcontract the work out."

Frontier spokesman Steve Snyder said in a written statement that the motion outlines the company's "proposal to achieve several million dollars in savings each year for the next several years."

"A major part of our proposal consists of work rule changes that will allow us to outsource our heavy maintenance work, which will lead to the elimination of approximately 130 jobs," Snyder wrote. "Now that our fleet will be considerably smaller because of our previously announced capacity reduction, there will be less heavy maintenance work for employees to perform."


SEIU members abuse sick-leave policy

Sick notes now asked of county employees

County officials have stiffened their sick-leave requirements for 2,700 employees represented by the Service Employees International Union, which has threatened to strike over a contract dispute.

In a memo dated Wednesday, Tulare County's Human Resources Director Tim Huntley said that "effective immediately and until further notice," employees must present a note from a physician to collect sick pay. The county personnel policy says doctor verification of illness may be requested, but officials said it rarely has been enforced.

The two sides spent three hours in mediation Tuesday, according to Sam Shaw, an SEIU spokesman.

"Nothing has changed," he said.

Memo lists requirements

The memo requires employees in SEIU bargaining units to provide written documentation from their physician stating:

- That the physician has examined the employee.

- That the employee is unable to work during the time in question.

- The date the employee is expected to return to full duty.

The memo further states that the county may contact employees' physicians "to verify the circumstances."

Huntley said in a written statement that the strike threat made the policy change necessary.

"The strike authorization makes it more difficult to ascertain if the absence is for an authorized reason," the statement said. "Further, the county also has an obligation not to pay an employee who withholds services."

The policy is under review by the union's legal team, Shaw said. SEIU officials are scheduled to appear before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

SEIU isn't the only collective bargaining unit at odds with the county. Members of the Government Lawyers' Association of Workers, which represents attorneys with the district attorney's and public defender's offices, are also at an impasse with the county over salary increases and benefits, said Paul Greco, a Tulare County deputy district attorney.

"There's been no progress," he said.


America Today!

HT: savetheelection.com
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