Bait-and-switch: Secret vote, binding arbitration

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Strategists say secret ballot ban is a stalking horse

When the dust settled after the election last week, the Democrats fell just short of the 60-vote, filibuster-proof Senate majority they wanted. That's put a question mark over one of the party's most controversial initiatives: the Employee Free Choice Act.

Democrats, including President-elect Barack Obama, campaigned hard for the pro-union legislation, also known as "card check." Big Labor, which threw its support behind the party, wants it badly. But without a filibuster-proof majority, its chances are slim.

That's prompted rumors in Washington that unions might accept putting card check aside in favor of pushing issues like binding arbitration. Big Labor publicly scoffs at such talk.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

AFL-CIO Legislative Director Bill Samuels said the card check side can count on 58 votes, just two votes short of the number needed to overcome a filibuster.

But three Senate races remain unresolved and some senators may flip, Samuels says. So they see no reason not to push for a vote.

"Business may be looking for a way out of this debate . . . because of the election results," he said. "But this is a new president, a new Congress, and we hope to bring more Republicans on board."

He conceded, though, that a Senate vote may have to wait until after Obama's first 100 days.

The legislation would make union organizing radically easier by bypassing federally monitored elections with an open petition drive. If a majority of workers sign the cards, then a workplace is unionized.

Unions see it as the best hope for reviving their sagging numbers, which have dropped to just 12% of the work force and only 7.5% of the private-sector work force.

Critics, led by big business, say card check would let unions intimidate and coerce workers into signing since the process would end the secret ballot in federally monitored elections.

Public polling suggests voter opposition to card check, though outside of certain blue-collar audiences the idea got little attention during the election.

Last week both sides drew lines in the sand. When asked by reporters if Big Labor would draw back on card check, Service Employees International Union Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger gave a curt "no."

Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue similarly told reporters that his organization would fight card check aggressively and "we will win."

The last time card check came up was in June 2007. The 51-48 vote came far short of breaking a GOP filibuster. All but one of the Senate's 51 Democrats backed it as did Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., was ill.

At least five more pro-card-check Democratic senators were elected last week. Sen.-elect Mark Warner, D-Va., hasn't taken a stand but is generally viewed as a card check vote.

The House has easily passed card check before, and activists expect it will do so again next year.

Some pro-business activists wonder if the push for card check isn't a bluff, given that Democrats likely lack the 60 Senate votes to stop a GOP filibuster.

They think labor may be using it to draw attention away from other items on their wish list, like binding arbitration and changes to the National Labor Relations Board. Under this scenario, Big Labor would drop card check and push for the other items as a compromise.

In his press conference last week Donohue noted: "The unions have some 14 other points that they are trying to advance . . . all of which can be discussed at the appropriate time in Congress."

Going For Half A Loaf

Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee, which opposes unions, cited a Slate column by William Gould, a NLRB chairman under President Clinton, that advocated a compromise as evidence that Big Labor may take that option.

"The real power for organized labor comes in the forced arbitration," Mix said. "The secret ballot provision (i.e., card check) is a political loser. They know that. So it's trade bait for them."

Brian Johnson, executive director of the Alliance for Worker Freedom, which opposes card check, says some activists fear business groups may accept a compromise.

"There is a scary idea that perhaps the chamber and other business groups might squish," said Johnson, who added: "According to the chamber and people I've talked to, no, they're still vehemently opposed."

Robert Borosage, co-director of the labor-backed Campaign for American Future, says the anti-card-check forces are missing the point. Unions believe Democrats' sweeping win last week means they have a mandate that includes card check.

Besides, he says, business is opposed to card check and arbitration. "So it's hard to see what splitting the bill gets you," he said.


Dem Govs launder out-of-state union cash

How gov't unions bought North Carolina

The Alliance for North Carolina may not be going away. A spokesman for the independent 527 group, which ran five ads against Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory, said that it may still play a role in state politics.

"As issues present themselves where we feel the need to take a stand, we will," said Scott Falmlen, a Democratic political consultant. That would be fairly unusual for a group that got its start essentially as a hit-and-run organization against a GOP candidate for governor in Oklahoma. It would also require more fundraising, since the group appears to have only about $350,000 left.

About 88 percent of the alliance's funding this year came from the Democratic Governors Association, or $3.7 million out of $4.2 million it received, according to reports filed with the State Board of Elections.

Another $250,000 apiece came from two unions, the National Education Association and the Service Employees International Union, while the Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association gave $15,000.

The State Employees Association of North Carolina, which is affiliated with SEIU, also gave $5,000.


Union secret-ballot news - Nov. 12

Bookmark Secret-Ballot News posts: herecard-check: hereEFCA: here

Stories-of-the-day concerning Organized Labor's #1 priority.

Unions Try to Get Rid of Secret Ballot ... When running for president, Barack Obama promised American unions that he would push the Employee Free Choice Act through Congress. This act is horribly misnamed, for it does not aim to give employees any free choice; instead, unions want to use this bill in order to force themselves on employers and employees alike. (poligazette.com)

Unions poised to pounce, victims seek compromise ... A gaming company CEO who spoke on the condition he not be identified said with a tone of conviction, "We will be hearing a lot more about this because Obama owes so much to organized labor." MGM Mirage Senior VP Alan Feldman says there is no question that the Act will get a lot of attention "considering one of its original sponsors is in the White House. "All we (the industry) want is an even playing field and the way this thing is written now it is totally one-sided," he said. The goal will be to get some reasonable minds together and work toward a compromise that takes some of the lopsidedness out of existing language. (gamingtoday.com)

Capitalists cower, gird for Obama onslaught ... The Employee Free Choice Act, otherwise known as the card check bill, passed the House in March but stalled in the Senate. Obama co-sponsored the legislation and has said he would continue to fight for its passage, while business groups have aggressively opposed it. “Seems to me that would not be the most politically astute move,” said Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s executive vice president for government affairs. “Why would you want to start picking a fight right away on a major, titanic clash?” (mlive.com)

Union boost more likely with Obama ... Steven Biddle, a labor lawyer with the Phoenix office of Littler Mendelson, said he has been getting calls from anxious businesses ever since it became clear that Obama had a good chance of winning - and especially on Wednesday after the election. Businesses favor the secret ballot because it prevents employees from being unduly pressured by labor bosses, he said. "Studies have shown employees will sign a card because they are pressured or intimidated into doing so either by peer pressure or by the union organizers. What happens is when the employee goes into the ballot booth and fills out a ballot, they change their vote. And there's no way for the union or the employer to know which way they voted," he said. He said the proposed law would "absolutely" make it easier to form unions, even in a right-to-work state like Arizona. Right to work means employees don't have to join unions to get jobs. (azcentral.com)

Rocking voters the wrong way ... But let us look at some of your "facts." The insert states that "McCain opposes [and Obama supports] the Employee Free Choice Act, which gives workers the right to form a union and bargain for better pay, health care and working conditions." You leave out that opponents point out that workers already have the right to form a union, and that this act would eliminate the secret ballot and open up workers to intimidation both by corporations and by labor bosses. (thelantern.com)

Employee Forced Choice Act is a Black Power Issue ... In the final analysis, it is changes in power relationships that determine who emerges from this crisis with a stronger hand. In strategic, real-power terms, possibly the most important measure on Barack Obama's menu for early action, is the Employee Free Choice Act, which organized labor believes would add five million new union members to the rolls over five years. At present, unions represent only 16 million workers, many of them public employees. In the private sector, only 7.5 percent of workers are unionized, the result of decades of unrelenting Republican assaults on the right to organize and backstabbing by corporate Democrats eager to declare an end to the class struggle. The Employee Free Choice Act would require companies to recognize a union as soon as a majority of the workforce signed a union card, and to move immediately towards a contract. If negotiations were unsuccessful, a federal arbitrator would step in and impose a contract. As things stand now, even after workers win the right to a union, about one-third of the time the effort fails to lead to a contract. (blackagendareport.com)

Prez Bam faces loyal opposition ... When President Obama makes a verbal gaffe or stutters, as he is prone to do when he is not using a teleprompter, I will laugh. When his administration has a scandal or makes a mistake, which it will, I will criticize. When he fails to fulfill even one of his plethora of promises, I will call him a liar or maybe I'll be nice and say that President Obama just "misled" us. I will fight every effort President Obama makes to restrict my freedoms. If he proposes a new "fairness" doctrine for broadcasters, I will fight him. If he proposes or supports efforts to implement the anti-American "card check" system for union organizing, I will fight him. When he attempts to take the wealth from those in this nation who have earned it and give it to those who have not earned it, I will fight him. (news-leader.com)

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

Restaurant lobbyist paints bleak picture

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
More EFCA stories: herecard-check: here

How Congress could foist unions on the restaurant industry

During an interview with Rick Berman, CEO of Washington, D.C.-based Berman and Company, the restaurant industry lobbyist abruptly ends the conversation to take another call. When Berman rings back, he explains it was "a crisis phone call" from a client worried about the Employee Free Choice Act, which President-elect Barack Obama supports. That's just one nail-biting issue for restaurants that Berman says may plague operators as a new administration takes shape.

Does Berman and Company expect to be much busier during the Obama administration?

(Laughs) I don't know if we can become much busier than we are right now. My guess is that there will be far more challenges than we have seen. My hope is that the industry will act in a more pre-emptive fashion so that we are not engaged in as many fire drills as I fear we may be.

You mentioned challenges. For example?

The unionization issue. Attempts to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. In addition to that, the issue of bottom-up unionization, whether they pass it or not, as evidenced by activity against Starbucks by their own employees. There have been other incidents.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

What is the immediate fear from unionization?

My fear is that this thing will pass or fail by a one-vote margin in the Senate.

Why won't it pass more easily given the new Democratic majority?

Just looking at math and politics, the vote will either be 59 votes in favor, which means it goes down. Or 60 votes in favor, which means it passes. Obama has pledged to sign it.

What are the implications of its passage?

Everyone from QSR to institutional food to table-service restaurants to family table-service to fine dining are all in the unions' cross hairs. Companies with heavy franchised operations are not immune.

Why would they assume to be immune?

Thinking that if you have a lot of franchisees, it's a greater hassle for the union to organize it because [the union] would have to do it company by company. Anyone who thinks a heavily franchised system cannot be unionized is whistlin' past the graveyard.

How do you see union activity unfolding?

I do have some sense of where they are going first. But I can't give you this information in this interview. It is proprietary.

You've spent lots of time defending the industry against animal-rights activists. Will animal-rights advocates be more emboldened to attack restaurants given the progressive-leaning administration-elect?

The biggest change isn't in the change in the administration but the change in the [non-governmental organization] community. The Humane Society is taking more of a role, and groups like PETA are fading into the background. HSUS is really the same as PETA but with a more expensive wristwatch.

Are they the same people?

[The Humane Society] has some of the same attitudes and goals. But they seek to get there with more sophisticated campaigns, and they have far more money. They are aware of what it takes to capture public opinion without looking like lunatics.

Which types of restaurants are most vulnerable?

They are not going after restaurants. That's what PETA tries to do. These people are going after the food suppliers and seeking to drive up the cost of production, which will translate into higher prices.

Will this be poultry?

It's poultry, veal, hogs and cattle. Other people are targeting fish. Some of this is done through an animal-rights prism, some through an environmental one, and some through labor and health prisms. But in all cases, the end goal is to drive up the cost of producing food on the plate or to depress consumer demand.

Speaking of health issues, where is menu labelling headed in 2009?

More of these local ordinances will be popping up.

Is that a forgone conclusion, or is there a way to fight back?

There was a way to fight back, but it took a while. There were companies like Wendy's at the forefront, trying to make a change. But there weren't enough [companies] early and it slowed the momentum. At this point, I fear it is very difficult to manage this issue to a satisfactory conclusion.

Does that mean capitulation?

Draw your own conclusions.

What other issues should operators be paying close attention to?

There are the mandated health-care issue, continuing pressure on minimum wage issues and paid sick leave. There is a host of issues that the labor unions would like to achieve--and if they should get beyond successful passage of this so-called Employee Free Choice Act, my guess is they will try to change federal law to allow state governments to pass right-to-work laws.

What can operators do to defend their turf?

This is going to sound self-serving, but we manage several multi-issue coalitions on all these issues. If people want to participate in them, they only need to pick up the phone. Our job is to look over the horizon and anticipate the evolution of an issue, find forward-thinking people that understand early is better than late, and then put a pre-emptive plan in place.

- David Farkas, Senior Editor - Chain Leader


Catholics address ACORN, EFCA

Wade Rathke: here ACORN: herefraud: here

Catholic bishops cut all funding to ACORN, activities funded hard to determine

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has not yet been able to determine if grants made to ACORN were used for fraudulent voter registration, but has cut off all funding to the community organizing group, Bishop Robert Morin announced on Tuesday.

Shortly after addressing the full assembly of U.S. Catholic bishops, Bishop Morin spoke to reporters about what the bishops had learned concerning the use of grants from the CCHD to the group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which is currently under investigation in 13 states for voter fraud.

CCHD originally announced in July 2008 that it was suspending funding to ACORN because of the embezzlement of 1 million dollars by the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke. Today, however, the Bishop Morin went one step further and announced the cancellation of all funding to the group.

When Bishop Morin was asked by the press why CCHD didn’t cancel funding earlier, given the nearly decade-old accusations of voter fraud, he responded that “there are hundreds of local ACORN affiliates” and then made reference to his estimate that CCHD only had a relationship with 40 to 45 of them.

“It’s a mistake and an erroneous assumption when people equate ACORN activities with something that the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is doing,” Bishop Morin added.

In an earlier report to the full assembly of bishops, Bishop Morin announced that a forensic audit that was conducted for the bishops found that "our funds were not involved with those that had been embezzled.”

However, speaking at the press conference, he added that “the question I can’t answer, which I think is essential, is whether or not CCHD did make or has ever made a grant or activities to those particular ACORNS [involved in voter fraud].”

“We have not had reports from individual locations where we’ve been involved in a funding relationship that those local authorities were involved. If they were, then funding was cut off,” Bishop Morin said, stressing that CCHD’s ability to discover how its funds were used is hampered by the co-mingling of Catholic dollars with other grants.

Bishop Morin also pointed out that the forensic audit conducted for the bishops was a fiscal audit that did not look at the activities of the ACORN branches and not their activities.

The press conference then turned to questions about the Freedom of Choice Act and the statement that Cardinal Francis George will make on Catholics and politics tomorrow.


Catholics slash ACORN funding

Wade Rathke: here ACORN: herefraud: here

Shame on the union-backed fraud group, shock troops for the AFL-CIO

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, also known as ACORN, will lose about $1 million it was to have received from a Catholic relief organization.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development supports anti-poverty and social justice programs nationwide. The decision was made following claims that nearly $1 million had been embezzled from ACORN by the brother of its founder.

Word of the grant being pulled came from Auxiliary Bishop Robert Morin of New Orleans. Morin says forensic accountants hired by the church found that its funds were not involved "with those that had been embezzled."

ACORN's founder (Wade Rathke) has defended allowing his brother to make restitution privately, saying that getting law enforcement involved could have risked ACORN's financial ruin.

ACORN has made headlines recently for completing a massive registration drive in poor and working-class neighborhoods. Critics questioned its registration practices.


Community organizer faces challenges

Saul Alinsky stories: hereMore collectivism stories: here

Student of power is a disciple of late Chicago socialist - agitator

So, despite being warned repeatedly, the American people have decided to give "The One" the keys to the Oval Office. I certainly hope this assuages, finally, our national angst over our segregationist past.

The biggest challenge of Barack Obama's presidency lies not in solving our economic crisis — which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's stimulus package will have little effect on — but rather in somehow making his extreme liberal-socialist views palatable to mainstream America. Somehow he has to convince us that it's really in our best interest to give up a rather large chunk of our hard-earned paychecks to fund all his "spread the wealth" social programs. But wait, didn't he promise 95 percent of us a tax cut? To some people, Obama's breaking of his tax-cut promise will come as a complete surprise.

Yes, if Obama can somehow pull this off and convince the American people that his brand of socialism is better than sliced bread, he'll be a shoo-in for the "Saul Alinsky Community Organizer of the Century" award.

- Gary Porter, Yorktown


Labor Dept. rumored for DINO Bonior

Related: "Ex-U.S. Rep. David Bonior, Michigan DINO"
Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
More EFCA stories: herecard-check: here

Fascistic labor agenda demands a militant advocate

A former Democratic congressional leader who’s on the short list for a cabinet post in the Obama Administration says the president-elect has an opportunity to lead America like no president since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Obama has a “deep almost spiritual, hopeful message that he’s capable of giving,” David Bonior told a Monday crowd of over 100 at the University of Iowa. “It doesn’t work when you do it all that time, but he was fabulous on the campaign picking those moments.”

Bonior, a 1967 University of Iowa graduate, served more than two decades as a Michigan congressman and rose to the rank of minority whip, number two in the Democratic leadership. He managed John Edwards’ 2008 presidential campaign and has been mentioned as a possible Secretary of Labor.

“He will be a great asset not only to our country but internationally,” Bonior said of the president-elect. “He is the embodiment, literally, personally, of the hopes and dreams of billions of people in the world, and it is a gift that you, the American people, have given the world.”

Bonior did not openly speculate on his own cabinet chances. “I don’t know (Obama) hardly at all, we’ve talked maybe four or five times” at multi-candidate events during primary season, he said. Bonior left Congress, redistricted out of office by a Republican Michigan legislature, in 2002, before Obama was elected to the Senate in 2004.

Still, Bonior’s reputation as a labor and economic expert led Obama to include him in a group of economic advisors who met with the president-elect on Friday. “He told us our business was to deal with this immediate crisis,” said Bonior.

Bonior also stressed the importance of helping his home state’s auto industry, an issue Obama also raised during a Meeting with outgoing President Bush at the White House. “We’ve lost over 400,000 good paying auto jobs in the last six years,” said Bonior.

Bonior said the early days of the Obama Administration will be critical for the labor movement, and he hoped the new president and the expanded Democratic majorities in Congress will move forward on the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow a simple “card check” method of organizing unions. Instead of elections, which Bonior says are stacked in management’s favor, workers would be allowed to organize unions simply by signing up.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

“It’s what they do in every other industrial country in the world,” said Bonior. “The right to organize is a human right.” Bonior said the Senate, which stands at 57 Democrats to 40 Republicans with three races still undecided, may be the holdup. “It will require the power of the presidency, and it may require one or two Republicans, and holding all our Democrats together.”

Bonior said union membership was not only important as a right, it played a key role in the 2008 election. Across every demographic, union members voted more Democratic than non-members. Bonior said this helped Obama rebuild a new version of a Roosevelt coalition, with emerging ethnic groups like Hispanics taking the place of the eastern European groups that Roosevelt relied on. He said the Hispanic vote had swung to the Democrats by 11 percent since the 2004 election, and was a major factor in Obama’s wins in Florida, Colorado and New Mexico.

Audience members asked if the Roosevelt comparisons set the bar too high for the next president. “I by no means want to equate what we’re going though now with the great depression,” said Bonior, “but there are some parellels and some lessons we would be wise to follow.” Many problems, like inequality of income and an under-regulated stock market damaged by speculation, are similar, he said. The New Deal “was an activist govt that engaged its people and it made a huge difference.”

“There was no safety net, no health care, no food stamps, no housing policy. The country was in deep despair. And what was needed then was bold leaders who could inspire based policy on the premise that govt could and should help its citizens. Roosevelt wasn’t interested in baby steps.”

“Boldness is not something we should be shying away from in these troubled times.”


Union Big teaches IR on the picket line

More strike stories: here

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