Wednesday wrap

SEIU radioactive? ... The reported ties between Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the nation's largest labor union continue to be ad fodder for organizations wary of a pro-labor agenda item that looms as one of next year's brewing legislative showdowns. The pro-business issue group, Americans for Job Security (AJS), is up with a new ad linking Blagojevich, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Employee Free Choice Act -- a union-backed measure that would overhaul labor law and forbid employers from mandating that workers cast secret ballots in union negotiations. The ad, running in red states Nebraska, Arkansas, and North Dakota, calls the proposed legislation "a bailout for union bosses" meant as "payback" to the political arms of unions like SEIU that fundraised heavily for Democratic senatorial candidates. (firstread.msnbc.msn.com)

Yet another Dem. Gov. Cabinet nominee implicated in Pay-to-Play ... A federal grand jury is investigating whether a financial firm improperly won more than $1.4 million in work for the state of New Mexico shortly after making contributions to political action committees of Gov. Bill Richardson (D). The probe focuses on whether the governor's office urged a state agency to hire CDR Financial Products. The probe is in a highly active stage at a time when President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Richardson as his nominee for secretary of commerce, according to two sources familiar with the investigation. The grand jury in Albuquerque is expected to hear testimony today from several key witnesses, including officials at Richard's political action committees and bankers at J.P. Morgan who worked with CDR on the state's investments. The inquiry is part of a long-running nationwide investigation into "pay-to-play" practices in local government bond markets. In other cities, federal investigators are questioning whether financial firms have lavished politicians with money and gifts in exchange for fee-paying work advising municipal and local governments on investments. Authorities indicted the mayor of Birmingham, Ala., this month on charges of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and loans from a firm that led the city into toxic investments and massive bankruptcy. (washingtonpost.com)

SEIU's expanding Blagosphere ... In the past two days a trio of ads have surfaced from pro-business groups attempting to draw some association between Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Service Employees International Union (whose Illinois State Council sponsors progressillinois.com), and the fight over the Employee Free Choice Act. It mostly amounts to desperate, guilt-by-association tactics. But it's a trend that seems to be catching on among anti-labor forces and bears watching. (progressillinois.com)

No Pay-to-Play Bailout

SEIU's Pay-to-Play at work

SEIU $$ will fund Blago's Pay-to-Play legal defense ... Facing 30 years in prison on corruption charges, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is assembling the best defense team money can buy. The question is, whose money? There has been speculation that Blagojevich will use his expansive campaign war chest, $3.6 million at last count, to pay for his defense. Can he really do that? To paraphrase a fellow Chicagoan: Yes he can! (propublica.org)

California SEIU: Bam has promised us cash ... The Republican budget proposal relies too heavily on cuts, requires a successful ballot initiative to take money that voters already allocated for children's health care and aid to the mentally ill, and outsources state services to more expensive private contractors. Worst of all, the Republican budget proposal completely ignores the potential for guaranteeing our state's allotment of the federal economic stimulus package. SEIU Local 1000 urges Republicans and Democrats to join our campaign to push Congress and President-elect Obama to give California our fair share of federal stimulus money. (sacbee.com)

SEIU ready to give Bam tough love ... President-elect Barack Obama's transition team was facing an onslaught of advice, and what some could call threats, after winning the popular vote Nov. 4. One of the brashest voices came from union advocates, who called for quick action on a so-called “card-check” bill. The Service Employee International Union (SEIU) also announced it and three other groups would spend $1 million in an advertising blitz urging the president-elect to focus on healthcare reform during his first 100 days in office. One SEIU official commented that the groups would run the advertising effort as if it were a presidential campaign, and their candidate is healthcare reform, according to a published report. “What he owes to the unions clearly is a negative,” noted Sun Healthcare Board Chairman Richard Matros, speaking before the election at the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care annual conference. (mcknights.com)

Stiglitz: Chapter 11 for UAW ... The debate about whether or not to bail out the Big Three carmakers has been mischaracterised. It has been described as a package to help the undeserving dinosaurs of Detroit. In fact, a plan to bail out the carmakers would benefit shareholders and bondholders as much as anybody else. These are not the people that need help right now. In fact they contributed to the problem. Financial markets are supposed to allocate capital and monitor that it is used to good effect. They are supposed to be rewarded when they do that job well, but bear the consequences when they fail. The markets failed. Wall Street’s focus on quarterly returns encouraged the short-sighted behaviour that contributed to their own demise and that of America’s manufacturing, including the automotive industry. Today, they are asking to escape accountability. We should not allow it. (ft.com)

UAW inspires SAG ... Hollywood liberals are never reticent when it comes to sanctimonious lecturing of industrial America concerning labor relations. With the news that apparently out-of-work actors such as Elliot Gould and Hal Holbrook are eager for the Screen Actors Guild to strike, it seems there is a great opportunity to show solidarity with the auto unions by demanding that television and movie studios institute a UAW-style “Jobs Bank” for unemployed thespians. Your TV show is being cancelled due to low ratings? No problem! Just join the SAG Jobs Bank and receive 95% of your salary until you pick up a new role. Can’t get bit parts locally because the studios are moving production to Canada to save costs? Just join the jobs bank and have plenty of time to write angry letters-to-the-editor of the LA Times denouncing the “outsourcing of jobs” enabled by NAFTA. After all, what is good for Detroit has got to be good for Hollywood! (americanthinker.com)

UAW Bailout: Unionist gets it ... I have been following the automaker loan sessions on CSPAN-2. I am also a union member; but over the years I have seen the unions become more interested in gaining power and not thinking about what is good for their members. The question that keeps popping into my head is this: Would it not be better for the workers to have their wages lowered than not to have a job at all? I think the union is more worried about a drop in the union dues than the workers, or maybe they know the Big Three can work something out if they do not get the bridge loan they have asked for. (modbee.com)

Parasitic collectivism plagues federal gov't ... It’s clear that the Congressional Democrat leadership and President-elect Obama have determined that the unionized “Detroit Three” auto companies are “too big to fail.” This is not surprising. The United Auto Workers (UAW) has spent decades planting ticking financial time bombs (pensions, VEBAs, etc.) in every collective bargaining agreement with General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. In a rational market, competitors and shareholders would punish the Detroit Three’s management for never biting the bullet and fixing these endemic problems. In negotiation after negotiation, the CEOs chose an early round of golf over a hard-nosed position in the best interests of the company. This logical process of host-parasite-death presents a problem for the parasite—the UAW. At 465,000 members in their latest Labor Department disclosure report (and millions more family members and retirees), the UAW was in a position to contribute 99% of its $1.9 million in political giving to Democrats, according to OpenSecrets.org. Who knows how much they funneled through the AFL-CIO and various 527 groups like MoveOn.org. Now, it’s payback time. Put simply, the UAW would like the federal government to fleece taxpayers in order to socialize the Detroit Three automakers and give the UAW effective control. For now, they’re willing to settle for a mere $14 billion (with the help of a now feckless and weak Bush White House). (hawaiireporter.com)

Congress out to eradicate worker-choice ... One piece of federal legislation that could severely chill the business climate is the Employee Free Choice Act, Saxman said. The proposal would eliminate secret-ballot elections in determining if a union will represent employees. Instead, the act would allow a workplace to become unionized after a certain number of union authorization cards are signed. "We've always been a right-to-work state," Saxman said. "I didn't think that it would ever come to this, that the cornerstone would be unraveled." He plans on proposing a state constitutional amendment that would "enshrine Virginia's status as a right-to-work state." "This is the most scurrilous piece of legislation that I've ever seen," he said, calling it "un-American." Opposing the legislation is also the No. 1 priority for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the NFIB. (rocktownweekly.com)

Ambinder predicts Bam EFCA Rope-a-Dope ... Here, the goal is to get 40 senators to vote against cutting off debate for "card check" legislation. As this column has noted, they'll be assisted by reliable party allies, from the Chamber of Commerce to NFIB to the usual crowd of corporate issue entrepreneurs; millions will be spent to rally the Republican base and set the tone of the debate. One problem: Democrats might not do card check until it is politically precarious for certain Republicans to oppose it, so Republicans may have to wait on this one. (marcambinder.theatlantic.com)

AFL-CIO excuses Bam for Job-Killer Act ... We can see ample political logic (from the point of view of the Republican minority) for imposing strings along the lines of the Corker proposals. By including strings around union concessions, the Bush administration would be setting up a political challenge for the incoming Obama administration. If the new administration leaves the strings in place, they would risk union ire, upsetting a large constituency that was helpful in winning the White House and a larger Senate majority. On the other hand, if the new administration were to introduce new legislation to override the strings, it could create a political stage for Republicans to argue that a “union giveaway” was in progress. Moreover, this would focus public attention on union demands, perhaps making it harder to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. (blog.aflcio.org)

Tech gets switched on ... “They spoke in almost apocalyptic terms and they made it clear they didn’t support it,” said Connolly, a Democrat, who would end up winning the race to replace Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who did not run for reelection. “I was a little surprised by the vehemence of the argument against the bill.” The bill would allow workers to organize by signing a petition, instead of through a secret ballot. Critics say that could lead to intimidation of workers. “The tech industry has been asleep on the switch on this one,” Shapiro told The Hill. “If you want to devastate our country economically and shut us down every week with a strike, card-check is the answer.” (thehill.com)

Pro-unionization rules explained ... The letter to the editor from Jamie Sanderson, a member of the local Steelworkers Union ("Columnist wrong about union organizing," Nov. 21), requires a different version of interpretation of the Employee Free Choice Act. As a member of management for over 35 years, I have been involved with union organizing attempts several times. What this bill is trying to do is give unions easy access to corporations. Under the present laws, employees already have a "free choice" to be unionized or not. But today it is determined by secret ballot. What is wrong with this? When an employee votes secretly, he votes no. By presenting cards that were signed under duress, the union gets in. They are afraid of the secret vote. Well, union organizers do exactly what they claim companies do. They intimidate (visit their homes in groups and "explain'" how they need the union, ostracize non-signed employees) and they coerce (won't help, surround employee after work, etc.). The difference is the law protects union organizers when they do this. It is considered "protected" against prosecution from the law. (myrtlebeachonline.com)

The numbers don't add up ... For pols addicted to polls, Gallup recently released an analysis titled “Americans remain broadly supportive of unions.” Failing to read beyond this headline of the polling outfit’s publication, though, could mislead some into believing Big Labor has bigger backing than it actually does. As always, the devil is in the details. But beyond a simple approval rating, these recent Gallup figures have huge implications for the coming debate over labor law reform and whether to pass the grossly misnamed Employee Free Choice Act. EFCA, which would effectively end secret ballots in workplace union elections and see government-imposed arbitration set contracts for private employers, is the unions’ top political priority. It’s a one-bill union bailout. Unfortunately for union bosses, the Gallup union-approval numbers show that only one-third of Americans want unions to have more influence. That means two-thirds want unions to maintain or reduce their current level of power in society. Notably, independents show a slight preference for less union influence, rather than more. Dueling polls from labor and business interests aside, the well-respected Gallup poll delivers no real mandate to hand union officials more power. That means voters aren’t asking for EFCA. Congress shouldn’t, either. (dcexaminer.com)

Union bigs really looking out for #1 ... The ideal of organized labor — united brother standing together against their exploitation — is a romantic one. Today’s union labor is a self-perpetuating bureaucracy supported by unwilling workers and taxpayers. It is a structure that would be becoming obsolete. Unions will be pushing for several measures — while Democrats have control of Congress and the White House — that will continue their expensive existence largely by appealing to our better natures with ideas of fairness and rootin’ for the underdog. Really, they will just be further examples of using political power to favor the groups that hold it. (news-tribune.net)

Cowardly News Union goes on phony strike ... Associated Press editors and staffers are being advised to honor employee requests to withhold bylines during the current byline strike. But, in a memo from Senior Managing Editor Mike Silverman, they are also reminded that stories with anonymous sources must carry bylines and no columns or analyses will run without a writer's name. The memo is in response to the byline strike called Sunday by the Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America, which represents 1,400 AP employees. The union is in talks for a new contract. (editorandpublisher.com)

SEIU: Competition kills ... The Ontario government's commitment to quality home care is undermined by their decision to maintain a system of competitive bidding for home care contracts says Cathy Carroll, Secretary Treasurer for Service Employees International Union, Local 1. "Patients deserve the best possible care we can deliver but the current system of competitive bidding makes that impossible. The plan may be new but the status quo - competitive bidding - hasn't changed and will continue to fail people who rely on home care services," said Carroll. (marketwire.com)

Thespian thugs acting tough ... Awards season is here, and so is the prospect of another Hollywood strike. As acting nominees rack up their kudos, their biggest union, the Screen Actors Guild, is urging its 120,000 members to authorize a walkout. If 75% of voters approve and SAG's board calls a strike, its first target is expected to be the film industry's biggest night: the Oscars on Feb. 22. Considering the weak economy and "the embryonic state of the new-media market, the offer is not only fair but generous and is the best deal achievable," the alliance says in a statement. Studios argue that writers and directors ultimately accepted similar deals. But SAG president Alan Rosenberg (L.A. Law) warned members that studios "hope to use the economic uncertainty of 2008 to scare you into making a deal you will regret." And he signaled the timing wouldn't be accidental. SAG hopes to pressure the studios by disrupting awards shows, the year's most high-profile marketing events. The strike-vote tally, due Jan. 23, would come too late to hurt the Golden Globes. SAG's own awards, with nominees due Thursday, will go on as planned Jan. 25. (wzzm13.com)

NLRB smacks down anti-CNA decert ... A petition to decertify the California Nurses Association at Fremont-Rideout Health Group did not have the required number of valid signatures to oust the union, the National Labor Relations Board said Tuesday. It's a claim Employees for Self-Representation said is not true. The employee group, formed to help collect signatures to decertify, submitted a petition in November claiming they had signatures from at least 50 percent of the nurses stating they no longer wanted to be represented by the union. When that petition was submitted, hospital administration announced it would no longer recognize the union and would negotiate directly with its employees. NRLB attorney David Reeves said many of those signatures, though, were not valid. "A number of signatures were revoked and a number were too old," Reeves said. "They did not have the support to revoke the union." Tresha Moreland, vice president of human resources said, "This appears to be an attempt from CNA to obtain mandatory dues from our nurses," Moreland said. (appeal-democrat.com)

Union-backed fraud group back in the news ... To be sure, ACORN the national entity has brought some of this scorn upon itself. Complaints had gradually built over the last few election cycles that ACORN volunteers (who contrary to rumor, are paid a wage that is not based on the number of registered names they submit) padded their voter-registration lists with duplications and false registrations obviously pulled from phone books. And ACORN opened itself up to allegations of a coverup with the June announcement that Dale Rathke, brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke, embezzled nearly $1 million in organization funds in 1999 and 2000. Even some ACORN board members asked why it took so many years for this scandal to reach the public. In response to the Rathke embarrassment, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, a key ACORN donor over the last decade, suspended more than $1 million in promised grants to ACORN affiliates. “[ACORN has] well over 50 organizations — some for-profit, some non-profit, some partisan, some non-partisan — and they pass money, often taxpayer money, between these organizations,” says Tim Miller, spokesman for the conservative Employment Policies Institute. “It allows them to cloak their activities and use government money improperly.” (sacurrent.com)

Ill-timed Steelworker strike drags on ... Striking workers at Thomas Steel Strip plan to make a counteroffer today after rejecting a proposed labor contract from the company. The counteroffer will not include the company’s attempt to change work rules and eliminate 50 jobs or about 20 percent of the hourly work force, said Mike Boyle, president of United Steelworkers of America Local 3253. About 260 union members have been striking the steel processer since July, but the plant has continued to operate with replacement workers. (vindy.com)

Northern elves protest outsourcing ... This time of year, the workshops are generally bustling with activity, but this year is different. The workshops are silent, filled with dusty work benches and cobwebs. Unbeknownst to most, Santa decided after last Christmas to outsource nearly all of the jobs to the South Pole. With the enticingly low taxes of Antarctica and a steady supply of cheap penguin labor, it was a logical move. The last several years in the North Pole had been plagued by tensions between Santa and labor unions including the now infamous "Strike of the Sugar Plum Fairies." Santa had had his fill. Elves everywhere are feeling the pinch as many have fallen on hard times since the workshops closed. The North Pole economy has relied on the steady work for years. Several former Santa employees picket on behalf of the Elf Labor Union outside of the old workshop, its windows boarded shut. (charlestoncitypaper.com)

AFL-CIO gets offensive in North Carolina ... Buoyed by the November election results, in which North Carolina went blue in the presidential race and sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate, labor unions are pushing for legislation in Washington that would make it easier for them to organize and could push again in 2009 to remove a ban on collective bargaining by government employees in the state. "We were very active last year around that," MaryBe McMillan, secretary-treasurer of the state AFL-CIO, said of the push to remove the collective-bargaining ban. "It's definitely something that will be on our agenda." (thetimesnews.com)

Socialists smack Bam over Arne ... In the past couple years, Duncan has been turning public schools over to private operators--mainly in the form of charter and contract schools--at a rate of about 20 per year. Duncan has also resuscitated some of the worst "school reform" ideas of the 1990s, like firing all the teachers in low-performing schools (called "turnarounds"). At the same time, he's eliminated many Local School Councils and made crucial decisions without public input. Charter schools and test-score driven school "choice" have been the watchwords of Duncan's rule in Chicago. Expect more of the same in Washington, D.C. To me, the thing that made Duncan's role clear came after three months of organizing at Senn High School, the community school where I teach, against the Chicago Board of Education's proposal to install a Naval Academy. The exchange showed that when push came to shove, Duncan was always a loyal henchman of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's political machine--albeit with a style that made it seem like he was listening. He's just the kind of person who will look at you with a straight face and tell you that, as a person with a pacifist background, he supports a military school. (socialistworker.org)

Alinsky cited in Dem voter-fraud ... Another politically active group that was used to shove the applications through in 1996 was the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). A memo forwarded to President Clinton from the California Active Citizenship Campaign (ACC), complained of a backlog of alien applications for naturalization in Los Angeles, according to David Schippers. The memo complained that “INS inaction (on the backlog) will deny 300,000 Latinos the right to vote in the 1996 presidential elections (sic) in California“. Schippers writes “The memo outlined the services that the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) in Los Angeles could provide. The IAF offered thousands of volunteers to help process voter applications, register thousands of new voters, conduct 5,000 house meetings, encourage voting by mail, and get more than 50,000 occasional voters out to vote in the presidential election.” The Industrial Areas Foundation has interesting history. It was founded in Chicago by Saul Alinsky, who claimed to be socialist, but not communist. His ideas were definitely radically socialist. Working with him was a young Hillary Rodham. He offered her a job, but she decided instead to go to Yale Law School. There has been speculation about how a Republican Hillary could become so radically liberal. Perhaps her relationship with Alinsky explains it. Alinsky was very good at organizing and bringing people into his orbit. An influential book was “Reveille for Radicals”. In another book, “Rules for Radicals”, Alinsky states “An organizer working for change….does not have a fixed truth - truth to him is relative and changing”. (pages 10-11). All of his books were dedicated to Satan. We have seen Democrats organizing get out the vote efforts in cities with large populations of Latinos, such as Los Angeles. Their tools have been updated, but their methods and morals have not. (webcommentary.com)

Workers' paradise exposed ... The unemployment rate in Venezuela dropped to 6.1 percent in November, the lowest percentage in over a decade, President Hugo Chavez said in a nationally televised meeting with his cabinet. He explained that “capitalism is the cause of the closing of huge factories that are leaving hundreds of thousands without work in North America and Europe.” Chavez said that his government “has made these types of improvements possible, through the construction of the new socialist model, a profoundly democratic socialism.” (venezuelanalysis.com)

Latin socialists warm to Iran ... Venezuela: President Hugo Chávez, for instance, has held up his close ties with Iran as an example of what his revolution can do for the region. He has much to show for it, including an Iranian ammunition factory, a car assembly plant, a cement factory and other such examples of Iranian involvement. And just to make sure the United States can't interfere (as it has in the past), Iran Air initiated direct air service between Tehran; Damascus, Syria, and Caracas, Venezuela. Paraguay: President Fernando Lugo Méndez was lauded in the Iranian media as "an enemy of the Great Satan" after naming Hezbollah sympathizer and fundraiser Alejandro Hamed Franco as the country's new foreign minister. Hezbollah -- which is Iranian funded and supported -- has a well-documented presence in Paraguay, and the U.S. State Department has banned the minister from entering the United States or from flying on a U.S. airline. Bolivia: President Evo Morales jumped into Iran's lap even more quickly than his neighbors, ordering his foreign minister to lift visa restrictions on Iranian citizens in exchange for a $1.1-billion Iranian investment in Bolivia's gas facilities. Morales then gushed that Bolivia would move its only embassy in the Middle East from Cairo to Tehran. (miamiherald.com)

Latin socialist defaults on U.S. ... Ecuador may saddle investors with the biggest losses in a government bond restructuring since at least World War II after President Rafael Correa fulfilled a two-year pledge to default on debt he calls “illegitimate.” The country’s three dollar-denominated bonds, with a total face value of $3.9 billion, fell below 25 cents on the dollar following Correa’s announcement on Dec. 12 that he wouldn’t make a $30.6 million interest payment due today, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. (bloomberg.com)
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