Friday wrap

SEIU's Andy Stern: The Anti-Prog ... "We think Stern is going to endanger the entire progressive agenda," said John Borsos, vice president of United Healthcare Workers West, an SEIU division that represents 150,000 nurses, orderlies, and other healthcare workers. "Now is the time for the labor movement to be united around a democratic, energized labor movement. But it's got to be done in a way that's principled, that doesn't sacrifice the rights of workers, or of consumers." (blogs.sfweekly.com)

Pelosi set to rig U.S. labor market for union bigs, as promised ... Unlike President George W. Bush, who issued veto threats against both measures last year, Obama has embraced them. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was "very excited" about leading off the new Congress with the labor rights issues ... The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is a response to a 2007 Supreme Court decision that made it more difficult to sue over past pay discrimination. The other bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act, would strengthen the 1963 Equal Pay Act that requires equal pay for equal work. Both passed the House in the last session of Congress but failed to clear the Senate. Senate Democrats, who also fortified their majority in the November elections, fell three votes short of stopping a GOP-led filibuster of the Ledbetter bill in April. Obama made a rare diversion from the campaign trail to speak on the Senate floor in support of the bill. His rival at the time, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., also interrupted her campaign to return to the Senate for the vote. (wbt.com)

Andy Stern throws socialist workers under the political corruption bus ... If the electronic vote set for January 9 goes according to the plan of SEIU President Andrew Stern, the union's International Executive Board (IEB) will begin dismantling UHW. The vote comes more than a year and a half after the UHW leaders challenged Stern's efforts to concentrate union power in his hands and pursue collaboration with employers. According to Stern, unions should be more centralized, Stern says, so their leadership can focus more on finessing reforms from employers and politicians. Stern declared on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation program: "I think [labor union power] comes from its ability to participate in the political process and to change America in issues that we've been talking about, like health care." (socialistworker.org)

Sanford: Borrowed stimulus worsens America's problems ... Amity Shlaes' book, "The Forgotten Man" chronicles the real history of the Depression, and it shows the consequence of pulling money from the private sector to fund large public projects. Few people know that it was Hoover, not Roosevelt, who initiated the practice of piling up big deficits to support huge public-works projects like the San Francisco Bay Bridge, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, or the Hoover Dam. History also shows that the Depression was prolonged and worsened by raising taxes and limiting free trade. Depression-era policies of expanding labor union power and increasing spending did little to improve the economy, as we had nearly 20 percent unemployment in 1939 — 10 years after the stock market crash. In short, if government spending was the key to preventing recessions, then we'd never have one since increasing spending is often the default response from Washington when times are tough. (charleston.net)

Meet the new boss ... U.S. Representative Hilda Solis (D) of California is the choice for Secretary of Labor. She believes all American workers should be unionized and gladly championed the Employee Free Choice Act making open voting a lawful means of establishing a unionized company. She voted against NAFTA, CAFTA, the bi-lateral free trade agreement between Columbia and the U.S., and the Peruvian Free Trade proposal. Her selection earned praise from the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations. She is a close friend of Nancy Pelosi and was sponsored by Barbara Boxer for her run for the U.S. House. Her view of immigration reform proposes amnesty and citizenship for illegal folks already here and working. She holds a lifetime “liberal quotient” rating of 100% from Americans for Democratic Action. (wilsoncountynews.com)

New Dem Senator denies Pay-to-Play ... But Burris assured us "there was certainly no pay to play involved because I don't have no money." Poor Roland Burris. Turned away (so far) by the Senate, picked on by the press and no money to boot. It's good that being a U.S. senator pays a salary of $169,300. Of course, when he becomes a senator, Burris will have to give up the $70,000 in compensation he's been taking home every year just for serving on the board of directors of Inland Real Estate Corp. Then again, he will continue to collect his $118,000 annual pension from the State of Illinois. That's right, 118,000 smackers, more than he made as attorney general, thanks to the state's taxpayer-supported pension plan. I'm afraid he'll have to give up whatever six-figure retainer he's been collecting as a lawyer with the Milwaukee law firm of Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan, which has enjoyed a big bump in its Illinois bond counsel work since Burris came aboard in 2007 as a rainmaker for government business. But surely this will create more opportunities than ever for his son, Roland II, as is traditional for U.S. senators. At least Burris won't have to hustle any more business for his lobbying firm, Burris & Lebed Consulting, which a few years back was even trying to help the Ho-Chunk Nation slip a casino into Hoffman Estates. Poor Roland Burris. I'll bet he'll miss that money, too. (suntimes.com)

Pay-to-Play for kids decried ... And so another school system is about to commit institutional extortion, ready to perpetuate the fraud of pay-to-play. This time in the People's Republic of East Lyme (CT). (Sigh). Pay-to-play is a cop out. It's easy money, especially in a place like the People's Republic, where they'll pay as sure as they'll snivel. It's just that pay-to-play has no place in any school system. It targets sports over other “extracurricular” activities, as if there's more intrinsic value in blowing into a tuba than spiking a volleyball. And in many places, its application is akin to the kid who sees what it takes for the lifeguard to blow the whistle: push and poke and prod until the townsfolk are enraged enough to generate more budget support. Cute tactic. Except that it's extortion. (theday.com)

The Nation: Blame organized labor for U.S. socialism ... "Historically, unionization basically created the middle class," says economist James Galbraith. "First, by its direct effect on the wages and benefits of unionized workers; second, by its indirect effect on the wages of workers who weren't unionized; and third, by the impact unions had on the creation of the social institutions that underpin the middle class, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid--the very structures of the New Deal and the Great Society." (thenation.com)

Big Labor food fight threatens agenda to destroy U.S. capitalism ... The stakes are high for the AFL-CIO, which is nearing a change in leadership. President John Sweeney, 74 years old, is expected to step down this fall. Among those expected to vie for that title are Terry O'Sullivan, head of the Laborers International Union of North America, and Richard Trumka, secretary treasurer of the AFL-CIO. Another issue to be worked out involves how much power big unions will have in the unified AFL-CIO in determining labor priorities. The presidents of 12 unions representing most unionized workers in the country met Wednesday at the headquarters of the United Food and Commercial Workers in Washington to discuss how to bring back together the breakaway group, which consists of seven unions called Change to Win, with five million members, and the AFL-CIO, with 10 million members. (online.wsj.com)

Teamsters Pay-to-Play deal for Twinkies stumbles ... The $600 million financing agreement needed to help Interstate Bakeries Corp. emerge from bankruptcy appears to be in trouble. The company on Wednesday got court approval to hire a law firm to take whatever action is required to enforce “the legally binding commitments of the parties” that agreed to finance Interstate after it emerged from bankruptcy. The Kansas City-based baking giant, which has been in bankruptcy for more than four years, agreed to pay a $250,000 retainer plus expenses to New York law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP to be its “special litigation and conflicts counsel.” The maker of Wonder Bread and Twinkies faces a Feb. 9 deadline to get the deal done. That is when its so-called debtor-in-possession financing is slated to end. David White, a spokesman for the Teamsters, which played a part in getting Ripplewood to make a financial commitment, said Thursday that “IBC has not yet emerged from bankruptcy because it is still working out financing details with GE.” White said the Teamsters didn’t know anything about the specifics of the negotiations. (kansascity.com)

Disgraced Teamster organizer pleads down ... Former Metro police lieutenant and labor union organizer Calvin Hullett has pleaded guilty to a variety of charges Tuesday, the same the day his trial in federal court began. Hullett was working as a national organizer for the Teamsters when he was arrested in the summer of 2007 on charges he broke into a youth camp run by the rival Fraternal Order of Police and installed surveillance equipment, purchased with Teamsters funds. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in March 2008 on charges of embezzlement from a labor organization, conspiracy to commit embezzlement, identity theft and bribery. He pleaded guilty Tuesday to the conspiracy and identity theft charges. (wkrn.com)

Al Gore: Pro-Jobs or Pro-Teamsters? ... The document lays down the plan for the company's annual shareholders' meeting, which is scheduled for February 25th at 10 AM Pacific time, inside Building 4 of the Cupertino headquarters. Investors are being asked to re-elect Apple's current board of directors, which aside from CEO Steve Jobs includes seven others such as Al Gore and Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Apple has also detailed three shareholder proposals to be voted on, beginning with a Teamsters request a semi-annual report detailing policies and activities related involving political contributions. The union complains that while it can tell that Apple has spent at least $460,000 of company money on politics since 2002, it is unknown how much money may be going toward trade groups used for lobbying or other efforts. Other proposals include a push for more universal and affordable corporate healthcare policies, as well as a motion calling for more comprehensive environmental reports on par with companies like Dell and IBM. Apple's board is urging people to reject all three proposals however, on the basis that it already does plenty in each regard and that extra efforts would be a waste of time and money. (macnn.com)

Government workers want rid of union ... The 17 Reynoldsburg (OH) employees who are members of the United Steel Workers of America have filed a petition with the State Employment Relations Board to hold a decertification election. There is no scheduled date for the vote to take place yet, but Mayor Brad McCloud said it could happen as soon as February. "The decertification election does not mean the city's 17 union members will decertify, since two attempts have been made since 2006, but the possibility still exists," city attorney Jed Hood said. The employees work in the water/wastewater division, the street division and the parks and recreation department, excluding clerical employees. (thisweeknews.com)

Playing hardball with AFSCME ... Macomb County commissioners laid off 10 employees Thursday, making good on a promise to cut workers every month until unions cut $10 million from their pension and health care benefits. Commissioners voted 22-3 to lay off secretaries, clerks, two Health Department employees and the assistant director of the Senior Services Department. "They are putting the lives of their members on the line by not making concessions," Commissioner Don Brown, R-Washington Township, said of union leaders. "We can no longer afford their pension and health care costs." Union leaders lashed out, accusing commissioners of damaging employees' lives while negotiations were reaching a resolution. "We have put the money on the table to help the county," said Ellen Keith, chief negotiator for the county's largest union, the 900-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Local 411. "The layoffs clearly are not on our backs." (freep.com)

Iowa: Gov't-unions out-of-step ... Most state union employees are asking Iowa taxpayers to boost their salaries by 5 percent in each of the next two years. One union, the Judicial Public Professional and Maintenance Employees, is asking for 10 percent in each of the next two years. In addition, some unions are seeking extra pay for certain professional milestones or merit steps for job longevity and other career advancements, a state report obtained by The Des Moines Register shows. Some of the requests include double salary for overtime, increases in sick leave and vacation time, adding Christmas Eve as a paid holiday, and bumping up hourly shift differential payments for members of the State Police Officers Council union from 90 cents to $2 an hour. The state has responded, in most cases, with a zero percent counteroffer. (desmoinesregister.com)

Gov't union big guilty of embezzlement, awaits wrist-slap ... A former treasurer for New York's largest state and municipal workers' union says she is guilty of embezzling at least $16,000. Carol Bruno pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court and agreed to pay restitution to the Civil Service Employee Association. The 53-year-old Albany woman now faces up to a year in federal prison and a fine of up to $10,000. She's free on bond until her sentencing on May 6. Authorities accused Bruno of embezzling $40,000 from CSEA's Region IV accounts over a two-year period beginning in March 2004. (newsday.com)

News Unions: We're not gonna take it! ... As the owners at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis continue to make their case for huge contract concessions, a growing number of workers are making their voices heard. They don't like it. Opposition is intense among production workers who are facing wage cuts up to 42 percent. But there is criticism of the concessions coming from all the unions. Doug Rzeszutek, a 29-year pressman and Teamster member at the Star Tribune, said he had two kids in college. "How are they going to finish college if dad has to take a huge pay cut?" he asked. "I think the mood is growing among the workers that ‘no concessions' is the right way to go," said Rick Sather, a newspaper driver and Teamster for 30 years. Many workers at the Heritage building, the newspaper's production facility, have been wearing "No Concessions" buttons and stickers ... David Chanen, Newspaper Guild unit co-chair, said, "The company's initial proposal, which was presented at a meeting last Friday, was again considered to be unacceptable and would do serious damage to the current contract which was just ratified in July. "The concessions included taking away merit pay and barring it in the future to specific pay scales, arbitrarily taking away merit pay from newsroom employees, taking away overtime pay to workers in supervisory positions and freezing the pension and pay." (workdayminnesota.org)

News Union stares down dark tunnel ... Quoting an unnamed source, KING-TV reported Thursday night that the newspaper's owner, The Hearst Corp., planned to put the P-I up for sale soon, setting the stage for its closure in the next few months. The P-I's managing editor said he knew of no such plans. A Hearst spokesman in New York did not return calls, pages or e-mails. Executives at The Seattle Times, which has partnered for 25 years with Hearst and the P-I in a federally sanctioned joint-operating agreement (JOA), said they did not know if the report was true. "I'm stunned," Times Publisher Frank Blethen said in a newsroom hallway, declining further comment. The union that represents workers at the P-I and The Times said it had received no information about a sale or closure. "Just about every newspaper in America is on life support right now. So while nothing would surprise me, we don't have any indication that an announcement about the sale or closure of the P-I is imminent," said Liz Brown, administrative officer for the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild.(seattletimes.nwsource.com)

News Union takes sad dues hit in Chicago ... Sun-Times Media Group Inc. plans to close 12 weekly newspapers in suburban Chicago and has asked its union employees to take a cut in compensation as part of cost-cutting measures brought on by declining advertising revenue. The company, which operates the Chicago-Sun Times, also wants to lay off up to 15 employees in suburban newsrooms, a union official told Crain's Chicago Business for a story on its Web site Thursday. "I'm very sad, on so many levels," Lynne Stiefel, who chairs the Chicago guild unit that represents newsrooms for the company's Pioneer Press group, told the paper. "It's people losing their jobs, but you are also talking about residents losing access to information about their communities." (chicagotribune.com)

Carpenters union takes another dues hit ... The gloomy housing market struck again Thursday as Andersen Corp. announced that it is permanently reducing its Bayport workforce by 50 people and temporarily laying off 400 others at the plant during the first quarter. Employees were told Thursday afternoon that they could depart immediately and get paid for two weeks of service before their severance kicks in, spokeswoman Maureen McDonough said. The layoffs, the fifth set of staff reductions for the giant windows and door maker since January 2007, are signposts of the cratering housing market. (startribune.com)

Union-backed fraud group continues fight for 'affordable housing' ... The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) today laid out its 2009 agenda of activities to spur mortgage industry reform and stem the current foreclosure crisis in the U.S. ACORN's Chief Organizer, Bertha Lewis, was joined by several leaders from the organization to challenge the banks and government to change for the better. "A mandatory 90-day moratorium on foreclosures will give our members across the nation time to work with families and banks to modify these oppressive mortgages already in place," said Ms. Lewis. Over the course of the next six weeks, ACORN will deploy its "Stop the Foreclosures Now" campaign to aggressively act against the unfair consequences of many years of predatory lending to keep families in their homes. (news.prnewswire.com)

AFL-CIO revealed

International Collectivism

Latin Leftist earns international praise ... Hundreds of Jordanians, some of them carrying flowers, demonstrated outside the Venezuelan embassy Thursday to thank Caracas for severing ties with Israel in protest over the high casualty toll of civilians in the ongoing attack on the Gaza Strip. The participants chanted slogans and raised placards praising the step taken by President Hugo Chávez and urging Arab countries with diplomatic ties with the Jewish state to follow Venezuela's lead. (topnews.in)

Iran cozies up to Cuba ... Cuban President Raul Castro expressed confidence in building stronger ties with Iran, after a meeting with a special envoy of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, local media reported Thursday ... Mezharabian said Iran has increased its credit to Cuba for the purchase of transport equipment to 686 million dollars. About 212 million dollars of this has already been used to buy 830 freight and passenger railway carriages. In talks with the Iranian envoy, Castro expressed 'the condemnation of the Cuban people and government of the Israeli aggression against Gaza,' Granma reported. (monstersandcritics.com)

Hamas In Their Own Voices

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