Tuesday wrap

Unions turn against labor-state Dems ... Unions invested heavily in the 2008 election in Colorado, and it paid off ... Instead of celebrating, however, labor leaders find themselves butting heads with the very people they helped elect. Last week, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, confronted with a $56 million budget deficit, asked the city's police, sheriffs and firefighters unions to absorb a 2 percent cut in their scheduled 2009 pay increases. It's a scenario being played out nationwide as states and municipalities grapple with the economic downturn. Forced to make deep budget cuts, many elected officials are opting for the low-hanging fruit of union contracts by slicing into pay increases and paid workdays ... More often, however, unions are going on the warpath, often against Democratic executives and legislatures. The most visible examples can be found in New York and California, the states with the nation's largest budget deficits, the biggest unionized public-employee labor forces and, consequently, the most heated labor battles. (washingtontimes.com)

Workers seek constitutional protection from Congress ... Clint Bolick of the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute, a conservative think-tank that recently thumped Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office, is one of the board members for Save Our Secret Ballots and wrote the proposed language for the constitutional amendment. It's just two sentences -- the first, short and innocuous, and the second, a lawyer's dream: "The right of individuals to vote by secret ballot is fundamental. Where state or federal law requires elections for public office or public votes on initiatives or referenda, or designations or authorizations of employee representation, the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot shall be guaranteed." (blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com)

NYT: Unions paid Barack, now expect him to play ... Unions are looking to Barack Obama and rising economic anxiety to reverse organized labor's long slide. Through three decades of decline, union leaders have been predicting a renaissance that has not come. But labor invested more than $300 million to help elect Obama and enlarge the Democratic majority in Congress, and it expects both to enact legislation that will make it easier for millions of workers to unionize. (newsobserver.com)

States smack down SEIU-style Pay-to-Play ... A growing number of states, including some with reputations for corrupt politics, are restricting no-bid contracts and banning “pay to play” politics. South Dakotans turned down such tighter restrictions on Nov. 4, when they voted against Initiated Measure 10. While a national summary of states’ no-bid contract laws could not be found, at least nine states now limit “pay to play,” restricting campaign contributions from government contractors. These include seven (Connecticut, South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Hawaii and New Jersey) that the Public Citizen consumer advocacy organization found in 2007-2008, plus Illinois and Colorado, which have new laws just taking effect now. (rapidcityjournal.com)

Pay-to-Play alive and well in South Dakota ... What some critics might try to call “pay-to-play” contracts are simply good business deals that operate separate and apart from political contributions, Gov. Mike Rounds says. A review by the Rapid City Journal found many South Dakota companies that get contracts, often without competitive bids, also made donations to the governor. Some of the most prominent contracts are with law firms that provide legal services to state agencies through no-bid contracts. A Pierre law firm — May, Adam, Gerdes & Thompson — has a $350,000 no-bid contract to provide the state with legal services in tort cases. The firm donated $18,500 to Rounds’ 2006 re-election campaign. A former partner in the firm, Neil Fulton, donated an additional $3,000. He was named Rounds’ chief of staff last year. A Sioux Falls advertising agency, Lawrence & Schiller, has received million of dollars in no-bid state contracts during Rounds’ terms while donating thousands to his campaign. “I would hope pay-to-play is not taking place here,” said Lee Breard of Pierre, a state government reform activist. “But I will let the taxpayers of South Dakota draw their own conclusions.” (mitchellrepublic.com)

Pay-to-Play corrupts West Virginia justice ... Ohio County Circuit Judge Ronald Wilson on Monday decided four attorneys will share $3.9 million for their work on an antitrust lawsuit brought against Visa and MasterCard. Two West Virginia attorneys - Teresa Toriseva of Wheeling and Guy R. Bucci of Charleston - will share the legal fees with attorneys George W. Sampson of Seattle and Jonathan W. Cuneo of Washington, D.C. All four were hired as special assistant attorneys general by West Virginia Attorney General Darrel McGraw. Throughout the lawsuit period, Steve Cohen, executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, has repeatedly questioned why McGraw hires outside attorneys to try cases - particularly attorneys who have donated to his political campaigns - rather than use the legal staff in his office to handle litigation. In response to Wilson's ruling, Cohen said, "We commend Judge Wilson for raising the yellow flag when Darrell McGraw's campaign contributors had their hand out for millions of dollars in public funds. Ultimately, though, the system remains broken when there is no accountability for the work performed. The attorney general's seemingly pay-to-play deals cry out for reform." (theintelligencer.net)

Blago, SEIU's Balanoff tried to beat the clock ... Since 2000, the Service Employees International Union gave Blagojevich’s campaign $1.8 million; the Laborers Unions chipped in more than $1.4 million; and the Illinois Federation of Teachers donated more than $1.2 million. In January, campaign donation restrictions in Illinois will get considerably tighter. A new law will go into effect that’s designed to curb “pay-to-play” deals, like the ones Blagojevich is accused of orchestrating. The law will prohibit companies that do business with the state from giving money to state officers who oversee their bids or contracts. The new law is one reason Blagojevich stepped up his fundraising in the last few months, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said at a Chicago press conference while announcing the charges last week. The charging documents say Blagojevich is believed to have wanted to raise $2.5 million from state contractors for his campaign before the pay-to-play law took effect. (stateline.org)

Job-Killer Act a loser ... Perhaps a little more money and a little more political power is all union leaders want, however. After all, consolidating and increasing their own power is becoming more important to union leaders than representing their members. Unfortunately, passage will result in employees having less free choice, while unions have less government oversight against corruption. That is hardly likely to spark much economic recovery. (djournal.com)

Disgraceful Specter abandons worker-choice ... The nation's most powerful labor unions have been lobbying heavily for a law, misleadingly named the Employee Free Choice Act, that would take away workers' basic rights to a secret-ballot vote on union representation. It would allow unions to organize through a poorly regulated "card-check" process instead. Many politicians have been falsely characterizing the card-check law as an essential part of an economic-recovery program. In reality, it would deepen the recession. (philly.com)

New group mobilizes against pro-union fascism ... A new coalition is targeting at least five states with proposed constitutional amendments requiring that union elections be conducted by secret ballots. The effort being launched Tuesday by Save Our Secret Ballot is a business-backed backlash against union-supported legislation in Congress that would abolish the power of employers to demand worker elections before recognizing unions. The group said it plans initiative efforts in Arizona, Arkansas and Missouri and will work through legislatures to refer similar measures to the ballot in Nevada and Utah. Additional states could be added to the campaign in coming weeks, said Tim Mooney, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based political consultant who is one of the directors of Save Our Secret Ballot. (kansascity.com)

States act to preempt federal Card-Check ... I got a news release today from a national outfit springing out of the right-wing Goldwater Institute and calling itself Save Our Secret Ballot, or SOS, you see. What it exists to attempt is to pre-empt any labor card check legislation at the federal law by getting states to amend their constitutions to require secret ballots on union votes. Its news release lists state Sen. Gilbert Baker, Republican of Conway and incoming Joint Budget chairman, on its national advisory board. This news release says groups are being formed in a few states, Arkansas among them, for citizen petitions to get such amendments on the next general election ballot. (arkansasnews.com)

Show Me state fights against union thuggery ... Sen. John Loudon will unveil a campaign Tuesday to preserve the requirement for secret-ballot elections to certify labor bargaining units. Loudon’s group, which calls itself Missouri Save Our Secret Ballot, plans to present petitions to the secretary of state to change the state constitution. The goal is to exempt Missouri from a controversial measure pending in Congress. (stltoday.com)

SEIU takes labor-state Dem Gov. to court ... Gov. Christine Gregoire is facing another lawsuit from notable political supporters over her decision to skip agreed-to raises and benefits for government workers. Gregoire, a Democrat, was sued Monday by a local branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 775, which represents about 25,000 home-health-care workers in Washington state. The union objects to Gregoire's recently released budget proposal, which didn't include more than $26.8 million in raises, benefits and training money for workers represented by SEIU 775. The SEIU lawsuit asks the state Supreme Court to compel Gregoire to withdraw her existing budget plan and submit a new one that pays for the home-care workers' contract. (seattletimes.nwsource.com)

International Collectivism

Wealthy foreign collectivist friend-of-Bam leaves trail of economic destruction ... The exchange rate crisis of the Ukrainian currency has led many media sources to blame Hungarian-born speculative investor George Soros for the turmoil. The slump began shortly after he met Ukraine's Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Soros's name is popping up more and more frequently in local media sources, which suspect the financial guru may have engineered an assault on the Ukrainian hryvna similar to the Black Wednesday attack that had broken the Bank of England back in 1992. (portfolio.hu)

Latins look beyond capitalism ... In response to the G20 Summit in Washington D.C. last month, Chavez established an equivalent, the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas) Summit in Caracas, Venezuela on November 26th. This 6-member group consisting of Venezuela (2004), Cuba (2004), Bolivia (2006), Nicaragua (2007), Dominica (2008), and its most recent member Honduras (2008), represents an alternative vision to neoliberal economics, one with a socialist agenda in trade relations attempting to re-embed 'the social' back into economic and political relations in the region. This ad hoc meeting was a response to the discontent expressed by many Latin American nations to the lack of representation from poorer nations in the G20 summit. It was also an attempt to confirm the notion that neoliberalism is at its end, a remark expressed by Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega during the Summit, who called the crisis as the 'funeral of Capitalism', naming ALBA as 'an alternative model of development'. (upsidedownworld.org)

Nationwide teachers strike set ... According to the teachers’ Union, January 19, 2009 will see all teachers on the Government’s payroll go on strike to press for a salary increment. The Knut’s Secretary General Lawrence Majali blamed what he called the “insensitivity of Government negotiators” for the failure of the talks. Addressing a news conference at the Knut headquarters in Nairobi, Mr Majali said the go-slow by teachers was inevitable “if only to show the Government that the Union was serious.” “We have ceded a lot of ground, but the Government is still pushing us down... enough is enough,” Mr Majali said. (nation.co.ke)
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