Saturday wrap

SEIU bigs deploy roving anti-business thugs ... Local and out-of-town workers joined together in an informational picket outside a gathering of local business leaders designed to educate the business community about a pending card check law. The Chillicothe-Ross Chamber of Commerce sponsored the session and invited local business leaders to hear more about the law — which would make it easier for unions to organize in businesses. Members of the Service Employees International Union 1199 from Columbus joined local employees to picket outside the session, which was held at the Chillicothe Country Club. (chillicothegazette.com)

Clean Gov't Act: No-bid, No-P2P ... Amendment 54, which won narrow voter approval in spite of millions of dollars in union money put up against it, was just one of two statewide initiatives to be approved by voters in 2008, with eight others failing. The measure restricts the recipients of sole-source, also known as no-bid, government contracts of $100,000 or more from contributing to political candidates. It also required the creation of a searchable database of the recipients of such contracts. “In the age of pay-to-play, Rod Blagojevich and Bill Richardson, people are demanding greater government transparency,” said Tom Lucero, Amendment 54’s campaign manager and a University of Colorado regent. After Amendment 54 passed, critics alleged it unconstitutionally limited free speech by banning political contributions from officers of organizations holding no-bid contracts. While the Democrats' go-to attorney Mark Grueskin was among the opposition threatening litigation, no case has so far been filed. Political insiders expect to see one brought forth by the unions in 2009. “It may be a stampede to the courthouse," Grueskin told the Wall Street Journal in November. (facethestate.com)

Union-backed House Baron probed in earmark scandal ... Federal agents raided two small Pennsylvania defense contractors that were given millions of dollars in federal funding by Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the defense appropriations committee and one of the most powerful men in Congress. Kuchera Industries and Kuchera Defense Systems shut down for the day after the raid by officers from the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and an Internal Revenue Service criminal unit. In a statement Thursday night, the Pittsburgh U.S. attorney confirmed that offices in Windber, Johnstown and Summerhill were raided "as part of an ongoing investigation." A second federal official said that ties to lawmakers would be examined as part of the probe. (online.wsj.com)

Union-backed GOP strongman indicted ... Former New York Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno was indicted by a federal grand jury on felony charges related to allegations that he used his powerful position to help entities with business before the state that in return paid him $3.2 million in private consulting fees. The indictment alleged that Bruno received approximately $2 million from two financial services firms in payments that were essentially fees related to labor union benefit funds. While the unions frequently appeared before the state Legislature for business, Bruno reportedly solicited their benefit funds and took “discretionary official actions” which benefited them. “In required financial disclosure statements, and in other contexts, Bruno concealed the fact that he enriched himself by exploiting relationships with unions which benefited from the official actions of Bruno,” said Baxter. “For example, rather than reporting that he was paid for soliciting union benefit funds, Bruno misleadingly reported most of his income as fees for ‘consulting.’” (troyrecord.com)

'Unqualified' Solis placed on hold ... The confirmation of Rep. Hilda Solis, D-El Monte, as President Barack Obama's Labor secretary has been delayed because of Republican objections. Democrats have announced that a Republican senator is using a parliamentary procedure to delay Solis' confirmation, the Washington paper Congress Daily reported Friday. The anonymous hold - as the tactic is known - was placed because of Solis' support for "card check" legislation aimed at facilitating union organization and another bill regarding pay-discrimination, and for non-responsive answers during her confirmation hearing, according to GOP aides, the paper reported. (pasadenastarnews.com)

Labor-state unionist restrained ... A former Rathbone Precision Metals employee who pleaded guilty last year to criminal harassment and assault after painting a swastika at Rathbone's Park Street plant has been ordered to stay away from the business, its employees and their homes. State Attorney General Martha M. Coakley said this week her office has obtained a consent judgment in Hampden Superior Court that prohibits Marc B. Waite from threatening, intimidating or coercing employees at Rathbone, where he worked in 2005. "Each person has the right to work in a safe environment without being targeted by intimidating and threatening conduct," Coakley said. (masslive.com)

Badge of honor: SEIU's Balanoff gets P2P subpoena ... Others listed on the subpoena are people linked to the 76-page criminal complaint against Blagojevich, which does not identify anyone by name except the governor and his former chief of staff, John Harris, arrested the same day. They include first lady Patricia Blagojevich and her former employer, River Realty; former Blagojevich aides Lon Monk, John Wyma, Christopher Kelly and Doug Scofield; his brother and campaign manager Robert Blagojevich; Chicago Tribune owner Sam Zell; and Tom Balanoff, Illinois director of the Service Employees International Union. The federal complaint charges Blagojevich with trying to pressure the Tribune into firing unfriendly editorial writers and seeking a six-figure job with an activist group affiliated with SEIU. Prosecutors say he also discussed a better job for his wife. (pantagraph.com)

SEIU-Dem P2P: A complete surprise

Tom Balanoff ID's as SEIU-Dem P2P bagman ... Garin-Hart-Yang represents 12 senators, 18 House members and six governors, while Hart Research conducts public opinion polling for a number of major media organizations, according to the firm's website. The union organization that figures in the complaint, Change to Win, is a 6 million-member coalition of unions that was started in 2005. Its members include the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters and the United Farm Workers of America. Tom Balanoff, an official at SEIU's Local 1 in Chicago, has been identified as the SEIU official mentioned several times in the Blagojevich complaint, including being identified as "an emissary" for the appointment of Jarrett. SEIU is listed as a client of Peter D. Hart Research, which has conducted surveys for Change to Win, according to a union news release. (usatoday.com)

Congress gets down to business: Dems bail out union bigs, trial bar ... Business groups are talking about several labor-related issues they expect to come up, including allowing unions to organize workers without secret ballots, expanding the number of workers eligible for union membership and cases about fair pay. George O'Brien Jr., a shareholder with law firm Littler Mendelson's New Haven office, expects newly appointed members of the National Labor Relations Board will overturn some Bush-era rules, which themselves overturned some Clinton-era rules. For example, O'Brien believes a ruling that some LPNs and nurses were statutory supervisors and couldn't be in a union will be overturned. This, he said, would redraw the definition of a supervisor and would affect all employers. The Senate Friday passed the Fair Pay Restoration Act, which O'Brien expects Obama -- who co-sponsored the bill -- to sign. This will extend the time an employee has to file a complaint of pay discrimination and stems from a 2007 Supreme Court case involving Goodyear Tire & Rubber. O'Brien says this means businesses will have to defend actions that could have happened long ago. (connpost.com)

Ten Govs protest Congressional union thuggery ... Dear Senator Reid, Senator McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, and Representative Boehner: The “Employee Free Choice Act” is a highly controversial federal bill which seeks to fundamentally alter federal labor laws that run counter to long held traditions that have protected the privacy and security of American workers. We believe that America must maintain and encourage a competitive workforce. To keep America competitive, the federal government must protect the confidential nature of a worker’s vote. Some of the Act’s primary flaws include: - Violating the elections process that allows employees to choose whether they want union representation through a secret ballot. Currently, neither the union nor the employer knows how an employee votes. The proposed legislation would eliminate this important protection for employees — one supported by a recent poll that showed 75% of Americans believe that a free and impartial secret ballot election is the fairest way for workers to decide on union membership. - Imposing Contract Terms on Employers which are not actually requested by their workers. The National Labor Relations Board will be de facto authorized to force an employer to implement a collective bargaining agreement imposed by an arbitrator rather than through the long held tradition of unions working independently on an agreement between the employer and employees in order to secure their top priorities. Instead this bill will allow far removed union executives to insert their own priorities without prior consultation with the affected workers. This represents an unprecedented government intrusion on the right to bargain freely over working terms and conditions. We respectfully request that you join us in opposing this legislation and cast your vote against it. (nrtwc.org)

Forced-Choice Act compared to a union 'bailout' ... Milwaukee attorney Jon Levine spoke on Thursday at a forum to prime attendees on the impending legislation, which promises to be the most sweeping change in the national labor law in 75 years. "I personally view this as the union equivalent of a government bailout," Levine said. "It is a remarkably short piece of legislation that packs a remarkably large punch." A key element of the proposed new legislation is the ability of union organizers to obtain a consensus through a card-check provision, meaning individuals would be asked to sign a pledge card if they wished to form a union. Right now, employers don't have to recognize a union unless it receives support from a majority of employees voting by secret ballot. In addition, the EFCA provisions would mandate negotiations, requiring binding arbitration of first contracts. (postcrescent.com)

Dems set union goon squads on small business ... Local independent electrical contractors say the Employee Free Choice Act is inaptly named and is aimed at increasing union membership while jeopardizing their employees' rights to a democratic process. Larry Burmeister, regional director for the Independent Electrical Contractors Association, told local merit shop owners that it's time to get the word out a meeting Thursday night in Schererville. The proposed federal legislation, sometimes called "card check," that has been sitting under the radar is poised to resurface, Burmeister said. The legislation was cosponsored by President Barack Obama when he was a U.S. Senator in 2007. A news release from his office at the time said the law "will allow workers to form a union through majority sign-ups and card-checks." It also strengthens penalties against employers in violation. "We need to educate people on what this act really means. It's akin to giving the union power of attorney and giving away your rights," Burmeister said. He said the lack of a secret ballot can create undue pressure on employees. Also, he said, there are no limitations on ways unions could approach employees. "They could stop you in the grocery store," he said. (nwi.com)

Organized Labor bailout-P2P could be costly ... Interestingly, the Obama White House website is silent on organized labor's No. 1 wish-list item, card check. The aim of the bill is to effectively abolish secret ballot unionization elections and to make unions bargaining agents once a majority of employees can be persuaded—or bludgeoned—into signing cards. There's dueling polling evidence on whether this will be popular (Marc Ambinder has the numbers and the wording of the pollsters' questions). I thought it might be worthwhile to look back in history to see what the partisan reaction was to one wave of unionization, that which followed the sit-in strikes of 1937. The sit-ins were illegal, but Democratic governors in Michigan and Ohio refused to enforce court orders that workers vacate plants, and so auto and steel companies caved in and recognized the new CIO autoworkers and steelworkers unions as bargaining agents. The 1938 off-year elections were the first chance voters had to respond to this. And they responded quite negatively: Democrats lost 81 House seats, though given the huge margins they had won in 1936 and the fact that Democrats held almost every Southern seat, the House remained in Democratic control. (usnews.com)

P2P lobbyists set to devour Bam's 'stimulus' ... As Congress and President Barack Obama move closer to devising a federal fiscal stimulus package, Washington's lobbyists and many of their benefactors in Congress have ramped up efforts to make sure that their clients and preferred constituents get a piece of the action. As the proposed volume of spending on that package has risen from the earlier $300 billion to $825 billion, these efforts have intensified, and more have joined in the money scramble. Indeed, not since late 2001, after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon unleashed an unprecedented business, local government, and lobbyist assault on the federal bud­get, has there been such a fiscal feeding frenzy chomp­ing its way through the halls of Congress--and through the pockets of America's beleaguered tax­payers. Members of Congress and the President should do whatever they can to make sure that the players in this revival of the Beggar's Opera are not rewarded. Perhaps typical of the frenzy underway after 9/11 was the approach taken by Representative Jim Moran (D-VA), who exclaimed in the aftermath of the terror­ist attack, "It's an open grab bag, so let's grab." (speroforum.com)

News Union layoff log ... * Voice of San Diego is reporting that another 50 employees will be laid off at the Union-Tribune. The paper has been a prominent victim of the area’s cratering economy, having already laid off 15% of its employees a year ago and staging another buyout since then. The U-T has also been for sale for the past six months. While several local investors have expressed interest, no one has written a check yet. * The Mason City (Ia.) Globe Gazette has laid off nine full-time employees and will leave six open positions vacant. No word on how large the total staff is. * Lee Enterprises-owned River Valley Newspaper Group, which includes two dailies and eight weeklies in Wisconsin, has cut 10 positions across the company. * The Traverse City (Mich.) Record-Eagle has cut the equivalent of eight positions from a staff of unspecified size. * The Peoria Journal Star is laying off an unspecified number of employees part of a plan to reposition the paper. Asked for a quote, publisher Ken Mauser delivers one of the most vapid comments of this new year: “Like many companies operating in today’s business environment, change will be inevitable and necessary to position our business for the future.” A blogger at Illinoize says 11 people lost their jobs. (newspaperdeathwatch.com)

Teamsters face big dues hit ... Harley-Davidson Inc. said Friday it will cut 1,100 jobs over two years, close some facilities and consolidate others as it grapples with a slowdown in motorcycle sales. The Milwaukee-based company also reported its fourth-quarter profit fell nearly 60 percent, and said it is slashing motorcycle shipments in 2009 to cope with reduced demand. The iconic motorcycle maker said it will consolidate two engine and transmission plants in Milwaukee into its facility in Menomonee Falls, Wis. It will shrink its paint and frame operations in its York, Pa., plant and close its distribution facility in Franklin, Wis., whose duties will be handled by a third party. In an interview, Ziemer said about 650 of the cuts will be in Wisconsin, while more than 400 jobs will be lost at its facility in York, where its transportation operation is also based. About 85 cuts will be made at the company's motorcycle plant in Kansas City, Mo., he said. (dcexaminer.com)

Gov't unions defend Columbus, OH

Foreign unionists demand U.S. Job-Killer Act ... Yesterday at the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C., union leaders from 45 different countries met with AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and representatives of U.S. union organizations to discuss the union movement in the United States and the need to work together to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s an exciting chance for global cooperation in the fight to preserve workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life. (blog.aflcio.org)

International Collectivism

Leading Latin leftist threatens students with violent repression ... Thousands of opponents and supporters of President Hugo Chávez took to the streets Friday as demonstrations heated up ahead of a divisive referendum in February on ending presidential term limits. Chavez opponents, including many university students, marched peacefully against a constitutional amendment that would let the president run for re-election in 2012 and indefinitely thereafter. Red-clad Chavez supporters demonstrated elsewhere in Caracas chanting "Ooh, Ah! Chávez isn't going away!" Chávez told thousands of supporters in Caracas they will "knock out the squalid bourgeoisie" in the Feb. 15 vote. The president repeated an order to police to put down student protesters if they break any laws: "Whoever blocks a road will swallow lots of (tear) gas." (kansas.com)

Chávez apes Fidel: Bam is OK ... Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez considers that the new President of the United States, Barack Obama, is a man with good intentions. The Venezuelan leader made his remarks in the neighborhood 23 de Enero in western Caracas, where he was giving a workshop on electoral machinery to the followers of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). "Now, he is the new President of the United States. I think it is worth giving him some time. The reflections of Fidel are very wise. Obama is a man with good intentions. He has shut by decree the prison of Guantánamo; he has banned torture. This is a very important signal." (english.eluniversal.com)

Morales takes over Chaco ... Bolivia's President Evo Morales nationalized the Chaco oil company, managed by Anglo-Argentine Panamerican Energy. "Little by little, we are taking back our companies," Morales said in Chaco's offices in the central town of Entre Rios, after signing the nationalization decree on Friday. The leftwing president has had his government take over several companies in Bolivia's important gas and oil industry, as well as others in telecoms and mining, since taking power in 2005. The nationalization of Chaco took place just two days before a referendum on a new constitution Morales has championed. (google.com)

Too little, too late: The People slowly lose faith in Bolivian socialist ... Nicolas Noa was once a die-hard supporter of Bolivian President Evo Morales, a fellow Aymara Indian, but now his small businesses are in trouble and on Sunday he will vote against Morales' bid to change the constitution so he can run for re-election. In December, Noa's two businesses -- importing used cars from Japan and making clothes for the U.S. market -- suffered severe blows and he blames the socialist president's trade policies, which he calls foolish. "Evo has screwed small artisans. We've lost faith in him," Noa, 32, said inside his makeshift factory that produces colorful sweaters, scarves and hats made from alpaca wool. "I'm going to vote 'no' on the constitution. People have lost enthusiasm." Morales' is expected to win voters' support for the new constitution but the frustration felt by Noa and others shows the country's first indigenous president, who took power three years ago, may be losing ground. He won 67 percent support in a recall vote last August yet polls say only 55 percent back his constitution, which would give greater voice to the indigenous majority and tighten the state's grip on the economy. (javno.com)
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