Thursday wrap

The Ugly Face of 'Progressive' Corruption ... Unfortunately, this shakedown mentality is all too common to the Service Employees International Union's way of doing business. A Democratic source confirms that SEIU President Andy Stern is the "SEIU official" referred to in the federal complaint against Blagojevich. Since taking his union out of the AFL-CIO and forming the Change to Win federation in 2005, Stern has sought to assert his union's influence over private equity firms, centralize his authority within the union by forcing various locals to merge, and negotiate large deals with employers without member participation. All of this union-related corruption comes at a crucial point in U.S. public policy. Organized labor has a tall wish list for Obama's administration, including the abolition of secret ballot voting in union organizing elections and ensuring that as much of the $1 trillion Obama plans to spend to stimulate the economy goes to Davis-Bacon compliant jobs. Our economy simply cannot afford organized labor's priorities to be placed above strong economic growth. (hawaiireporter.com)

SEIU bigs throw Blago under the bus ... Officials of a major labor union in Chicago this afternoon joined the long list of local power brokers who say they are cooperating with the federal probe of state government corruption but deny any wrongdoing. A spokesman for the politically influential Illinois State Council of the Service Employees International Union told the Tribune that union officials, including State Council President Tom Balanoff, are "fully cooperating" with the U.S. attorney's office. "We have no reason to believe SEIU or any SEIU official was involved in any misconduct," spokesman Jerry Morrison said. Court documents in the corruption case of Gov. Rod Blagojevich refer to an unidentified "SEIU official" who had a secretly recorded conversation with the governor on Nov. 12. According to the court records, Blagojevich received the SEIU official as an "emissary" on behalf of Valerie Jarrett, President-elect Barack Obama’s one-time preference for his Senate replacement. (newsblogs.chicagotribune.com)

Blago shames Prez Bam ... If nothing else, the complaints represent an embarrassment to Obama given his support for Blagojevich’s gubernatorial reelection bid. The RNC responded to the indictments in part by circulating an Associated Press report from August 2006 in which Obama stated, “We’ve got a governor in Rod Blagojevich who has delivered consistently on behalf of the people of Illinois.” Also, RNC Chairman Robert M. “Mike” Duncan released a statement calling Obama’s reaction to the arrests “insufficient at best.” He added, “Given the President-elect’s history of supporting and advising Gov. Blagojevich, he has a responsibility to speak out and fully address the issue.” (newsmax.com)

Fat-Cat Unions Thick with Blago, Prez Bam ... On page 68, paragraph 107, reproduced here, it is reported that an advisor to the governor, “Advisor B,” told the Governor that the “president-elect” would prefer the “Change to Win” option because there would be “fewer fingerprints on it” to which Obama might later be linked. Advisor B is reported to be a “Washington, DC-based consultant” who had had discussions with a representative from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Change to Win is a coalition of American labor unions originally formed in 2005 as an alternative to the AFL-CIO. Of several union affiliates, the SEIU and the Teamsters are the most prominent. It seems that Gov. Blagojevich, his chief-of-staff John Harris, Advisor B and a high-ranking SEIU representative all considered the appointment of Blagojevich to head Change to Win a conceivable pay-back from Obama for appointing the president-elect’s first choice to his vacated senate seat. This arrangement was seen as a win-win for all. Blago gets a cushy union job, Obama gets support from Change to Win for his political initiatives as well as a Senator that he hand-picks for the job. And, there would be little if any paper trail to implicate the new president in the deal. My question, is how did these very powerful, politically astute people get so far in this scheme and make the assumptions about Obama that they did without some communication with either Obama directly or, at least, someone very close to him? The discussions in the FBI tapes give one the impression that this has all been hashed out at the highest levels and all that remains is to seal the deal. (dakotavoice.com)

Making union-political corruption transparent ... So I don't know why everybody is so outraged by the naked corruption of the Illinois governor. He was just being more direct than every other politician by going around asking everybody with power and money like his pal President-elect Barack Obama the only question that matters in politics today: "What's in it for me?" We should stop calling for Blagojevich to be sent to prison for the rest of his life. We should be sending him around the country to teach seminars on how to clean up government -- or at least how to make the corruption so transparent even the voters could see it. (nbclosangeles.com)

Oppressed workers back Job-Killer Act ... More than 100 representatives from dozens of community and labor organizations gathered on Dec. 10 in Boston to mark International Human Rights Day and kick off a statewide campaign to win passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. "I was fired for supporting a union, even though I had an unblemished work record for 28 years at NCR," said Warren Chesley, a former NCR customer engineer. "We need the Employee Free Choice Act to strengthen the penalties when employers violate our rights." "After we won our union, our managers were completely unreasonable about a wage increase. They just did nothing," said Ron Ascollilo, an engineer who has worked at the Colonnade Hotel for 3 years. "We couldn't get them to budge even though we were really united. The ability to have binding arbitration on our first contract would have really made a difference for us." (gather.com)

Pro-union Prez Bam still likes Job-Killer Act ... Q: On card-check protection [which would make it easier for unions to organize], we've heard that there might be a delay on that, or it might not be an immediate priority? Also, on NAFTA, we've heard that you might support maybe a study and then a report, instead of a wholesale reworking of the agreement right away? Obama: When it comes to unions, I have consistently said that I want to strengthen the union movement in this country and put an end to the kinds of barriers and roadblocks that are in the way of workers legitimately coming together in order to form a union and bargain collectively. My economic team is going to put together a package on trade and on worker issues that will be presented to me. I don't want to anticipate right now what sequences will be on these issues. (campaignspot.nationalreview.com)

SEIU's shameful chickens coming home to roost ... It's a tough being a janitor in San Francisco, and it just got tougher for Local 87 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents the people who clean most downtown office buildings. The chapter recently had five lawsuits filed against it in seven days. First, the city's tax collection division sued Local 87, saying it owes $14,350 in late filing fees for campaign donations in 2002. Then, last week, four former employees took the union to court for, of all things, allegedly failing to follow labor laws, like paying overtime. (sfgate.com)

Fascistic SEIU smears the golden arches ... Two of America’s largest unions have denounced McDonald’s Corp. this week following Crain’s story that the company is mobilizing franchisees against a law designed to make it easier for workers to unionize. The Service Employee International Union encouraged its 1.8 million members to send letters to McDonald’s in support of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act. The AFL-CIO issued a press release saying it “plans to make sure the 10 million working men and women who make up our membership know that McDonald’s has just announced a whopper of a campaign against their economic interests and against their hopes for an economy that works for all, not just for the CEOs.” (chicagobusiness.com)

AFL-CIO craves Green Pork ... It is not clear what form this action will take. It could come in the form of a comprehensive cap-and-trade bill. It could be energy efficiency policies and tax incentives for renewable energy production that would aid in the reduction of greenhouse gases, help revitalize U.S. manufacturing (which has seen a loss of 60,000 jobs per month since May of this year) and create new jobs in the emerging “green” economy by driving investment in clean energy technologies. And ultimately, it could come in the form of the United States agreeing to sign-on to a new climate agreement as President-elect Obama has said the United States “will once again engage toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change.” Whether the United States takes one or all of these vigorously in the negotiations once Obama takes office, we can all be sure that it will affect how nations around the world develop their own climate policies. (blog.aflcio.org)

Culture of Corruption ... The bailout culture, flawed from the beginning, is now completely out of hand. The government, supported by congressional Democrats, bailed out Wall Street, saying that banks were essential to the American economy. Since then, many bank executives have shown their disdain for American taxpayers by continuing to throw lavish parties and pay themselves big bonuses for their incompetence. Predictably, a long line of would-be welfare recipients is forming in Washington, D.C., saying that they too are "essential" to the American economy. The Big Three automakers, city mayors, and others are asking for your money. Having run lousy businesses with unworkable plans, they are asking politicians for your money with no guarantee that they will not simply default in a year or two. (washingtontimes.com)

Prez Bam shames non-union workers ... The organization representing builders and contractors in Arkansas is encouraged by a multi-billion dollar infrastructure stimulus package President-elect Obama is proposing, but concerned that a possible presidential order to favor union workers might limit new jobs in right-to-work Arkansas. As part of his economic recovery plan, Obama's economic team is developing a two-year stimulus package intended to save or create 2.5 million jobs nationwide. A major component of the package estimated by some at $500 billion or more is a massive public works project, including road and bridge construction. Don Culpepper, executive director of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Arkansas, said Wednesday his organization supports Obama's proposal but is concerned the new president may rescind President Bush's 2001 executive order revoking a Clinton administration-era policy requiring contractors in many federally funded projects to use union labor. Arkansas is one of 21 states that prohibit agreements between management and labor requiring union membership as a condition of employment. (arkansasnews.com)

Transit strikers provoke anger ... There was little sympathy for OC Transpo employees walking the picket lines on the first day of the transit strike. During the evening rush hour yesterday, one University of Ottawa student shouted at picketers in front of city hall that she wanted to be reimbursed for the $50 cab fare she was forced to pay to go write a final. Around the corner, in front of the Elgin Street entrance to the parking garage, another woman called them “idiots,” accusing picketers of making her late to pick up her daughter up from daycare. “We get that all day,” said picket captain Norm McDuff. “That’s just another one.” (metronews.ca)

Desert AFSCME big threatens to sue taxpayers ... The leader of the union that represents state employees said today that he might sue the state if Gov. Jim Gibbons follows through on his pledge not to give employees any type of salary increases, including "step" increases, in the next two-year budget. Although his union supports the governor in his move not to offer cost-of-living pay increases, Dennis Mallory said he did not understand when he was questioned Tuesday that Gibbons intends to recommend against giving step increases for state employees and teachers. Gibbons said Tuesday that an "increase is an increase," and all types of pay raises were out because of the state's declining economy. Mallory is the director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 4041. Although the union does not have collective bargaining rights, he said it represents state employees in grievance hearings and lobbies on their behalf for salary increases at the Legislature. (lvrj.com)

UAW postpones campus strike ... A threatened strike by about 300 Fresno State students who teach classes, assist professors and tutor other students was canceled Wednesday, averting potential grading and scheduling problems for faculty and students in the week before final exams. The student employees' union, UAW Local 4123 in Sacramento, wants the California State University system to waive the fees its members pay to take classes on a CSU campus. The union says its members' expenses increased because CSU raised fees this year. Union members earn on average $11.95 an hour. But CSU says the fee waiver would cost $8 million to $11 million a year, which it could not afford in the midst of the state's financial crisis. (fresnobee.com)

Michigan Mafia dissident won't be silenced ... Day said she will not capitulate to the union's "attempts to intimidate and silence" her, and has filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union and contacted the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. As an instructor at Lansing Community College, Day is a member of a union that is a local bargaining unit of the Michigan Education Association. Day said she has contacted her union. The HEA is also affiliated with the MEA. Since the controversy first erupted, Day said, she has "had a lot of support from the community, even from people who don't agree with me but understand my right of free speech." Day said people are tired of smoke and mirrors and "want transparency and honesty and truthfulness." Regarding the rightness of her position: "I'll let the public decide for themselves." (blog.mlive.com)

Teamster thugs get to JCPenney ... The Teamsters union said $20 billion retailer JCPenney dropped Oak Harbor Freight Lines as its western U.S. carrier in support of the union's strike against the company. "Our position has been that this is a dispute between the union and Oak Harbor - we're not taking sides," said JCPenney spokesman Tim Lyons. "We are pleased that JC Penney has made the socially responsible decision to cease working with a company that has so blatantly violated workers' rights," said Tyson Johnson, Teamsters International Vice President and Freight Division Director. "We will continue to take our message to Oak Harbor's customers and bankers until they stop these abuses. Oak Harbor should be willing to negotiate with our workers in good faith and allow for a dignified retirement." (trafficworld.com)

Labor Dept. reports expose union corruption ... A recent Mackinac Center study of union spending, based on LM-2 forms filed by Michigan unions, indicated that most unions spent less than half of their budgets on representation. Representation made up less than a third of spending by the Michigan Education Association. Overhead and administrative costs were notably high for all unions, especially when compared to the standards of other non-profits - and that in spite of the fact that unions in Michigan are relieved of the burden of persuading donors to give funds voluntarily. Further complicating matters, many union expenditures were highly questionable: one UAW local in Dearborn spent $10,000 on softball diamond rentals and another $30,000 on athletic uniforms and treated these as representation. Many unions — not all but many — made payments to political groups that they then tried to pass off as charitable contributions or representation expenses. (mackinac.org)

State of the Unions ... In this country where class warfare is ever escalating, criticizing labor unions is sure to draw charges of elitism and worse: siding with corporate America. But are unions and, more importantly, union membership still beneficial to our country? While an argument can be made for some private sector trade unions where at least the consumer can be assured of qualified workmen, most union growth is in the public sector where it choking governments at every level, and not just economically. Union membership is an attack on productivity. How many of us know someone who, when first getting a union job, was told to "slow down," as they were showing up the rest of the crew? And why should anyone make an extraordinary effort when the best worker will get the same pay as the worst? Unions infringe on the freedom of workers, who, even under the protection of so-called paycheck protection laws, are basically unable to choose the way their own dues -- only 30% of which actually goes to work-related issues -- are used for political purposes. And most of all, as promoted by the humorously titled "Employee Free Choice Act," big labor is now mounting an attack on democracy by seeking to remove secret-ballot voting from the unionization process. The way liberals use the word "choice" would be funny were it not so reminiscent of totalitarian regimes. Yet, to hear union backers tell it, the deck is always stacked against them. (spectator.org)

Collectivist News Union takes dues hit in Toledo ... Twenty-five employees of The Blade, most of them in the newsroom, will be laid off Dec. 27. The cuts are needed because of reduced advertising sales in a slowing economy and the likelihood that the newspaper will be required to make a steep contribution to its employee pension plan as a result of stock-market losses, Luann Sharp, assistant managing editor, said yesterday. Affected employees, including 18 full-time and seven part-time, are represented by the Toledo Newspaper Guild-CWA Local 34043. (toledoblade.com)

1930's-style militancy rewarded ... With A unanimous vote, workers at the Republic Windows & Doors plant in Chicago ended their six-day factory occupation late on December 10 after Bank of America and other lenders agreed to fund about $2 million in severance and vacation pay as well as health insurance. "Everybody feels great," said a tired but beaming Armando Robles, president of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE) Local 1110. Melvin Maclin, the local's vice president, agreed. "I feel wonderful," he said. "I feel validated as a human being. Everybody is so overjoyed. This is significant because it shows workers everywhere that we do have a voice in this economy. Because we're the backbone of this country. It's not the CEOs. It's the working people." (socialistworker.org)

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