Wednesday wrap

SEIU big at epicenter of Dem Pay-to-Play corruption ... Andy Stern, head of the nation's fastest-growing labor union, met with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich last fall around the time that federal prosecutors allege the governor was discussing ways to sell the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama for a lucrative union position. Mr. Stern, president of the 1.9-million-member Service Employees International Union, met with Gov. Blagojevich on Nov. 3, the day before Mr. Obama was elected. Tom Balanoff, who is head of SEIU in Illinois, also attended the meeting. Mr. Balanoff was previously identified as an unnamed SEIU official in a complaint brought by the U.S. attorney's office against the governor. This is the first indication that Mr. Stern had met with the Illinois governor during the period under investigation. (online.wsj.com)

SEIU's Andy Stern stamps out union democracy ... On Thursday, January 8, a group of 70 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) officials will join a conference call, set up in Washington, D.C., to decide the fate of 150,000 members of United Healthcare Workers-West, SEIU's third-largest affiliate. Among the actions the SEIU International Executive Board (IEB) may take is transferring 65,000 long-term care workers in California, against their will, from UHW into a new statewide entity with officers appointed by SEIU President Andy Stern. Either on this call or during a meeting January 20., Stern's board may also approve a headquarters take-over of UHW's remaining 85,000 members. This would be accomplished via a Stern-imposed trusteeship that would replace all UHW elected leaders and further obliterate their local, one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic in SEIU. ... At a time when unions are urging Congress to pass an Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), to aid union organizing and bargaining, there will be much damaging publicity for all of labor. It will highlight the fact that most SEIU members in California no longer have the right to choose what local they're in or who represents them. Already anti-EFCA groups have run full-page ads in major newspapers playing up SEIU's role in foisting Gov. Rod Blagojevich on the now unappreciative citizens of Illinois. When and if Stern pulls the trigger on UHW, UnionFacts.com and similar management front groups will have a propaganda field day displaying the corpse of workers' rights within SEIU. (mrzine.monthlyreview.org)

Related video:
SEIU-UHW workers oppose Andy Stern

More pro-union friends of Bam tainted by Pay-to-Play ... The Democratic donor at the center of a federal pay-to-play probe in New Mexico contributed heavily to Gov. Ed Rendell's campaigns and made $600,000 from a lucrative no-bid contract with a state agency. David Rubin's company, CDR Financial Products, also was linked to the City Hall corruption scandal - winning one city deal just after furnishing $14,000 worth of Super Bowl tickets to powerbroker Ronald A. White. The new details about the Beverly Hills, Calif., company, which specializes in the complex business of swap derivatives, came two days after New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew his name as President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for commerce secretary. (philly.com)

Details emerge on latest Dem Pay-to-Play scandal ... A prominent businessman caught up in a grand jury probe whose political donations ended any role for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in the Obama administration also was a generous contributor in support of the president-elect. David Rubin gave $26,200 to the Democratic Party on Sept. 19 and $2,300 to Barack Obama's campaign on Sept. 30, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission. Last February, Rubin gave another $1,000 to Obama's campaign. Rubin and his company donated $100,000 in 2003-2004 to the political committees of Richardson. The contributions came both before and after Rubin's company won a state contract in New Mexico to help finance $1.4 billion for highway and transportation projects, a contract that brought $1.5 million in business for the company, CDR Financial Products ... On Sept. 17, two days before the donation to the DNC, Rubin was on a list of participants in an $11 million Hollywood fundraiser on behalf of Obama, which also included numerous celebrities. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jeffrey Katzenberg were among the hundreds of luminaries, according to Entertainment Weekly. (foxnews.com)

Garden State's budget obstacle: Pay-to-Play ... Republicans in the Legislature believe the first step to getting our economy on track is to solve our state’s budget problems. Only by eliminating wasteful spending, reducing our state’s debt burden and ending pay-to-play at all levels of government will we be in a position to provide the tax relief our economy needs to thrive. Republicans have a Common Sense Plan for an Affordable New Jersey that cuts government spending, provides tax relief, enacts regulatory reforms and expands economic incentives to attract new, high-paying jobs. (njbiz.com)

Bam's Big Government Adventure Revealed ... In Washington this week, President-elect Obama called on Congress to create 3 million jobs over the next two years – “more than 80 percent of them in the private sector.” Republicans on Capitol Hill did a little quick math: That means 20 percent, or some 600,000 new jobs, will be in the public sector. That would boost the ranks of federal employees by a third, they said, none too pleased about the prospect of a “big government” revival. “The federal government is bloated, inefficient, and spends too much of your hard-earned money,” said Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa, in a statement. Some 600,000 new government jobs “will only add to the waste, fraud, and abuse coming out of Washington, D.C., and fail to provide a true economic stimulus.” But that calculus leaves out a key phrase that Obama transition officials insist is part of the president-elect’s plan: to create “or save” 3 million jobs. “The vast majority of government jobs will be state and local jobs being saved,” said one official, speaking on background. ... But the jobs the Obama team aims to support in the public sector aren’t brand new federal jobs, aides say. They’re mainly existing state and local jobs, threatened by worsening state budget woes. (features.csmonitor.com)

Card-Check: More than a petition signature ... A recent letter says the “union card check” is only a “petition.” How do they get that “petition” up? I know unions. A 15-year-old runaway, I found work at a steel plant making 100-pound artillery shells, working 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. Union membership mandatory, dues 10 percent of pay. Over lunch, I groused about the dues. Oops, wrong guy, the union steward; called me a scab. He had the foreman under his thumb. New assignment: Pull red-hot shells from a furnace, apply a clamp and hook them on a chain moving overhead. It kept me on a dead run all night. One night I handled 800 shells. Do the math; 40 tons of hot steel lifted overhead. The day shift had three men on that job. Another night, the line mysteriously went down, except for my job. The whole shift gathered around me, staring, arms akimbo. Too innocent and naïve to catch on, I only wondered why nobody pitched in like they would back on the farm. People who would work a scrawny kid to death, or scare him to death, will have real fun activities to get that “petition” signed. The worker can’t just walk away; they know him. (blueridgenow.com)

Job-Killers take aim at disinterested Wal-Mart, McDonalds workers ... It's not hard to imagine the intimidation workers would be subject to when they're offered cards to sign. And it's not as if nonunion workers are clamoring to join a union but are afraid of management reprisals if they do. By more than a 3-to-1 margin, polls show, workers say they don't want to be part of organized labor. Less well-known but just as harmful as the gross violation of privacy is a provision in the bill that authorizes government arbitrators to set the terms of the initial contract if the union and management can't agree on a deal. At that point, workers have lost all control over the conditions of their employment. Should card check be passed and signed, organized labor, using the new law like a nightstick, would aim directly at the low-price nonunion retailers that save consumers millions — like Wal-Mart. Should those companies become unionized, prices would be forced up so management could afford the inevitably expanded payrolls. (investors.com)

Labor-Dems to fix freedom of contract ... Fasten your seat belts. Beginning this week, the newly seated Congress is steering toward a major rewrite of the nation’s employment law rule book. The U.S. House is expected to vote on, and probably pass, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act — two bills that would make it easier for workers to fight pay discrimination. As debate moves to the Senate, though, we probably will witness a collision of business leaders decrying an assault on capitalism versus advocates touting much-needed empowerment for working Americans. “U.S. capitalism is under threat,” said Randel Johnson, vice president of labor policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has vowed to work vigorously to defeat both bills in the Senate. (kansascity.com)

Bam's Labor-Dems: It's all about kickbacks ... The story of the withdraw of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as commerce secretary for the Obama Administration appears at root to be about contracting gone bad. Investigators are looking into whether contractors had to pay-to-play -- in other words, provide kickbacks in some form to get state contracts. Such corruption is as old as the hills. But we've been hearing about it a lot in Iraq, etc. etc. The focus of the Richardson investigation has an added twist: It involves interest rate swaps, a financial transaction that municipalities across the land have used for many years to earn money on temporarily idle money raised through bonds. (voices.washingtonpost.com)

Labor bigs' bail-out demands exposed ... When the Obama administration takes over, Big Labor will likely seek its own bail-out from the government. But rather than basing its plea on flawed business decisions that, left uncorrected, will have a catastrophic effect on the nation's economy, Big Labor will argue that it should get something in return for the $400 million it invested in the political campaign. The Obama administration - and a Congress that was a huge beneficiary of Big Labor's support - must be careful, however, that the "pay-back" will not make it more difficult for American businesses to function in this highly volatile and complex world. Four issues in particular must be watched. Three of them are at the top of Big Labor's list of demands, and the fourth is a much-needed overhaul of a law that is critically outdated. This overhaul, unfortunately, is likely to be ignored for lack of an advocate unless the business community meets the challenge. (metrocorpcounsel.com)

Ohio unionist backs worker-choice ... We need the folks in Columbus to clear the path to better days by getting themselves out of the way and eliminating the burdensome laws that are a hindrance to economic viability. That is why I would like to continue advocating positive changes in the Buckeye State by suggesting the adoption of right-to-work laws. What are right-to-work laws? They are laws that secure the right of employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union. Before anyone starts thinking that this is an anti-union article, I will point out that my parents were lifelong union members. I grew up in a union home and unions were good to me as a kid. I respect what unions have done in the past to promote a better life for those they represent. But individuals should not be forced to support a union if they don't want to. So, while I am not anti-union, I definitely do not believe in forced unionism or what is otherwise known as the "closed shop" union concept. (timesgazette.com)

International Collectivism

The New Left Exposed ... Bernard-Henri Lévy's new book ("Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism") is annoying as a memoir but, when carefully read and pieced together, devastating as an indictment. Getting there will require the reader's determination. Take the time to get past stylistic self-indulgence, forgive some hyperbole, patch up a few logical gaps, and what's left is still essential reading. It uncloaks the most disturbing political trend of our time: the rise of a new absolutist ideology, one that is global, anti-liberal, anti-American, anti-Semitic, and pro-Islamofascist, and despite being irreligious is also—and this will require explanation—anti-secular. (telospress.com)

Pro-terror Latin Leftist backs Hamas, Iran ... Venezuela has ordered Israeli ambassador Shlomo Cohen and part of his staff to leave the country. The measure comes after President Hugo Chávez accused the Israeli government of genocide. He said he considers Israel a pawn of the United States. Mr Chávez called on the Israeli people to oppose government policies. As a reprisal, Israel has ordered the Venezuelan envoy to leave the country immediately. (radionetherlands.nl)

The dangers of a demogogue depicted as a savior of the poor ... The true nature of Mr. Chávez's rule -- as opposed to the fairy-tale version we so often hear -- is neatly presented in "The Threat Closer to Home," and the authors' narrative is heavily footnoted. (I must quibble with one of their claims, however. Messrs. Schoen and Rowan say that The Wall Street Journal editorial board, in 2003, "upbraided" Jack Kemp for his business relationship with the Chávez government. In fact, the editorial board did not declare itself on the subject; Mr. Kemp was taken to task in a column I wrote for the Journal.) America must act to oppose Mr. Chavez, the authors go on to say, but they do not suggest the sorts of steps that would go to the heart of his power: e.g. ending the "war on drugs" or stopping the devaluation of the U.S. dollar. No, what the authors have in mind starts with ... contrition. The U.S., you see, has harmed Venezuela over the years with Cold War intervention, corporate dominance and cultural arrogance. "We are largely unaware," Messrs. Schoen and Rowan write, "of how Latin Americans at home feel about our government's overbearing influence in the wrong ways." (And yet, a few pages later, we are told that America has a 70% approval rating among Venezuelans.) The U.S. might be forgiven, the authors say, if we were to institute something they call The Alliance of the Americas, an effort that would "invest in the tools of wealth creation for the 200 million poor people of Latin America." In such a way, inequality will end, Venezuelans will become productive and the lion will lay down with the lamb. (online.wsj.com)
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