Sunday wrap

'Me-Too clause' bedevils upscale taxpayers ... An arbitrator's ruling Dec. 1 states the city of Coral Gables violated provisions of the general employees contract when it did not give the employees a 2 percent wage increase after it gave it to police union employees. All city employee contracts have what is called a "me-too" clause that means that if one union gets a wage increase another gets it also. Withers said he felt the 2 percent in question was not an across-the-board wage increase because it was for hazardous duty. But the arbitrator disagreed and ordered the city to pay the 2 percent increase -- from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008 -- before the end of the calendar year. (miamiherald.com)

Teamster big defends typical organizing method ... “Organized labor’s membership demise would be especially frustrating to its leaders if most union and non-union workers were indeed satisfied with their employers and their jobs. Creating false impressions of tension between workers and employers may generate publicity for union leaders and provide a convenient rallying cry, but it misleads the public,” the report states. Patrick Connors, president of Teamsters Local 401 in Wilkes-Barre, said he doesn’t put much stock in the chamber’s use of the polls because “polls can say anything you want them to say” depending on how questions are phrased and who answers them. “And the Chamber of Commerce is the employers’ union,” Connors said. (timesleader.com)

Actors Union: Strike Democracy Exposed ... So, short of SAG and the studios reaching an 11th-hour bargain, strike authorization ballots will be mailed out to about 100,000 eligible SAG members (those who are paid-up on dues) at the end of the month. Balloting takes three weeks. A thumbs-up to strike requires approval from 3 out of 4 members who return ballots. Still, even if the members vote to strike, the final decision on whether or not to walk out is ultimately left to the guild's 71-member board. Moderates who hold a slim majority on the board aren't expected to support a strike unless there is an overwhelming mandate from members. That makes the size of the "yes" vote critical. But, paradoxically, a small turnout could actually work to the advantage of SAG's leaders. By simple math, the fewer members who vote, the easier it is for the guild to meet or exceed the 75% threshold. SAG referendums typically draw a turnout of 25% to 30% -- and a recent survey conducted by the union drew less than 10%. Of them, more than 90% supported seeking a better deal than what the studios proposed in their "final offer." (latimes.com)

Chicago Window Workers Occupy Factory ... The United Electrical Workers at Republic Window and Door were notified on Wednesday that as of Friday, they were jobless. No severance. No vacation pay-out, as per their union contract. Nothing. Why? Because the business is plunging towards dissolution, unable to get a line of credit, and Bank of America was instructing them not to honor their obligations--no line of credit to honor obligations. So when the workers went in on Friday to pick up their pay checks, 200 strong, they sat down and refused to leave. It's a worker occupation, like the Flint strike of 1936/7. Today they held a vigil event outside the factory doors; labor representatives from every major union--AFSCME, SEIU, UAW, the Teachers, IBEW, and more--showed up to show support. Congressman Luis Gutierrez made a strong statement in support of the workers as well. (gapersblock.com)

Chávez apes ACORN in massive voter-fraud scam ... Venezuela's government distributed electronic appliances, food and cash totaling tens of millions of dollars in an effort to secure the loyalty of voters in poor sections in advance of recent elections, according to evidence and testimony obtained by El Nuevo Herald. Pro-government officials in the municipality of Sucre alone handed out $10 million in cash on Nov. 22 and the day of the balloting, Nov. 24, offering each person between $140 and $480, according to campaign workers who spoke to El Nuevo Herald. Their candidate nevertheless lost. President Hugo Chávez' allies won 17 of the 22 state governorships and most of the municipal elections, though opposition candidates captured the other five governorships and enough municipalities to claim a victory over the leftist president. Documents seen by El Nuevo Herald showed that several companies associated with the government, primarily the state-owned oil company PDVSA, purchased the items distributed during the campaigns with the assistance of businesses located in Panama and South Florida. (miamiherald.com)

The Nation: Behold his enormous stimulus package ... Construction work is less likely to be outsourced and more likely to pay union-scale wages. Money paid to construction firms and workers tends to circulate rapidly in local economies. And if Obama gets his way, there will be a lot of construction going on: He's proposing "the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s," as part of a push to create 2.5 million jobs in relatively short order. (Price tag: Start around $400 billion and move upward.) (thenation.com)

Capitalist defends secret voting scheme ... "If you want to say 'yes' or 'no' to a union, you should be able to do that in the privacy of the voting booth," counters James Sherk, a Bradley Fellow in Labor Policy at The Heritage Foundation. "Promoting unionism is not a wise idea in the middle of a recession," Sherk adds. The real issue in his mind is not whether unions are good or bad. "The issue is, are these specific conditions" - not using secret ballots - "good or bad? I would argue (that) no matter the economic circumstances, workers have the right to a private vote. "They have the right to vote 'yes' or 'no' on unionism without the union officials or their co-workers being aware of how they voted." (pittsburghlive.com)

UAW big grieves domination ... "The Employee Free Choice Act would require employers to bargain with unions based on card-check recognition, provides for a first contract and penalizes employer's violations, such as abuse and intimidation. In the ongoing struggle for workers to organize in a New Bedford plant right now, it's evident we have to stop abuses and unfair labor practice that strikes fear into workers who only want to organize. It's not the unions that are destroying our election process; it's the employers who want to retain their complete domination over workers." - Willie Desnoyers, President, United Auto Workers Massachusetts Community Action Program Council (southcoasttoday.com)

SEIU: Forced-Choice unionism will boost U.S. economy ... "When we look at the facts about what happens when workers have a chance to choose to form a union at their companies, we see good things for our economy and our communities — not a falling sky. The Employee Free Choice Act just makes sure workers can have the freedom to make that choice at the many corporations that use threats and intimidation against employees to deny it. It's a key solution to building long-term success for our economy so that it works for everyone — not just those at the top." - Eliseo Medina is international executive vice-president of the Service Employees International Union (chron.com)

UAW bigs fear Chapter 11 ... The Big Three are burning through $6 billion a month, so $34 billion won't last long. Chapter 11 bankruptcy, or something like it, would at least let them get out from under costly union contracts. Given union opposition, this is highly unlikely. But as Lynn Lopucki, a bankruptcy law expert who teaches at Harvard and UCLA, told Bloomberg, about 77% of all billion-dollar companies survive bankruptcy. Others just sell their businesses. Those are better odds than congressional mismanagement would offer. Chapter 11 would also force the automakers to change their business model and maybe even fire their CEOs. Best of all, it would keep Congress from meddling further in the marketplace. (ibdeditorials.com)

AFSCME stems desert dues cuts for now ... Dennis Mallory, head of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents many state workers, said Gibbons and legislative leaders deserve credit for minimizing layoffs. But, he warned, “if this continues to go the way it is now, they’ll start cutting down programs. When they’re shutting down programs, people are going to be laid off.” The state is facing a 34 percent cut in spending for the 2010 and 2011 fiscal year. And if, as most lawmakers say, there is no more easy money, layoffs will become necessary. Mallory estimated that “a couple thousand” jobs would be lost under that scenario. (lasvegassun.com)

Police Union out-of-step ... Iowa City's police union is asking for a 6.8 percent pay increase for officers next fiscal year, according to an initial bargaining proposal given to the city this week. The city will offer a counterproposal at a time to be determined, Assistant City Manager Dale Helling said. He said officers received a 3.25 percent pay increase this year under the current collective bargaining agreement, which expires June 30, 2009. (gazetteonline.com)

Venezuelan Workers Challenge Chávez on Property Rights ... On Friday, November 21, as part of a protracted conflict, 360 workers of Vivex occupied their factory in the industrial district Los Montones in Barcelona (Anzoategui). The plant makes windscreens for the car industry, and the workers are demanding of President Chávez that he should nationalize it. (venezuelanalysis.com)

Chávez redefines national service ... As President Hugo Chávez launches another campaign to abolish term limits and rule Venezuela until at least 2019, he counts on a loyal and powerful partner: the armed forces. His military made headlines this month conducting a three-day exercise with Russian warships in the Caribbean Sea. But on the mainland, a more lasting transformation is under way: Chávez is converting the armed forces into a revolutionary corps at the service of the president. The military's new motto, which officers now must shout when saluting, is "Fatherland Socialism or Death!" The military even has a new name, the Bolivarian Armed Forces. "Chávez is forming a Praetorian guard," said Rocio San Miguel, president of Citizen Control, a Caracas-based organization that analyzes military affairs. The armed forces "are now the armed branch of the revolution." (chron.com)

New Deal in U.S. Backyard ... A Russian military vessel has docked at a former U.S. Navy base after making a historic passage through the Panama Canal. The destroyer Admiral Chabanenko is the first Soviet or Russian warship to traverse the canal, which was off limits to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It arrived Saturday at the former Rodman Naval Station, which the U.S. turned over to Panama nearly a decade ago along with control of the canal. Vice Admiral Vladimir Korolev said the trip is aimed at showing "the Russian fleet's presence in the strategic areas of the world." (charlotteobserver.com)

Mary Beth Maxwell: In Her Words

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