Wednesday wrap

Strikers' jobless benefits to be paid by employers ... The New Jersey Supreme Court continues to make decisions that, to me, run against all logic. They ruled against capital borrowing without voter approval (a constitutionally proper decision), but at the same moment OK'd a big proposal by Gov. Jon S. Corzine for capital borrowing without voter approval. Unbelievable! They allowed U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli to quit his re-election campaign after the statutory deadline for quitting had expired. His opponent, Doug Forrester, had spent $10 million in an anti-Torricelli campaign that all pollsters predicted would have been successful. Thanks to shamefully bad Jersey justice, Forrester's spending was totally wasted, wiped out as he was forced at the last minute to run against a different, well-known opponent in Frank Lautenberg. Last month, the courts messed up again. Our high court ruled, 6 to 1, that hospital strikers could be paid out of the unemployment compensation fund for picketing. This is a fund primarily paid for by employers to assist workers who are involuntarily unemployed. Involuntary is the key word. Strikes are not involuntary events. Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto, in his dissent, called the decision "perverse" and further said awarding unemployment benefits to striking nurses "upends the common sense notion that striking employees have left their employment voluntarily and, hence, should be disqualified from unemployment compensation benefits." (mycentraljersey.com)

AT&T union thugs slapped with ULP ... Responding to employee reports across America of union intimidation, a national organization announced today that it will provide free legal assistance to AT&T Mobility employees who are threatened with fines for exercising their right to go to their jobs during an imminent national strike. Communication Workers of America (CWA) union officials may order 20,000 AT&T employees to abandon their jobs at any moment. Numerous employees across America have contacted National Right to Work Foundation attorneys for advice after being falsely informed that they have no right to resign from formal union membership and will face hefty fines as union members if they choose to do their jobs during the strike. Foundation attorneys have already helped two New Jersey AT&T employees file unfair labor practice charges against the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1101 union for this misconduct. (news.yahoo.com)

Union democracy is over-rated ... The Obama administration will make every effort to pass a key piece of pro-union legislation. The bill has a misleading label: The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). In the interest of truth in advertising, the bill should be called, “The Employee Intimidation Act.” Why? Because one of the features of the EFCA, should it become law, would be to do away with traditional secret-ballot elections which are now used to determine whether or not employees in an enterprise want to be represented by a union. (frontpagemagazine.com)

Utah seeks to blunt D.C. union organizers ... Utahns may get to vote next year on whether to ensure that company unionization elections are conducted by secret ballot. The House Business and Labor Committee, by an 8-5 vote, on Tuesday passed out a resolution, HJR8, that proposes to amend the Utah Constitution to provide for secret ballots for "elections under state or federal law for public office, on an initiative or referendum or to designate or authorize employee representation." The resolution would force a statewide vote on the matter in 2010, and, if passed by voters, the measure would take effect Jan. 1, 2011. Supporters contended that secret ballots would lessen or eliminate intimidation or pressure by company officials and union representatives. "What is more fundamental and essential than the individual freedom to cast a secret ballot without a corporate boss or a union boss looking over your shoulder?" asked the resolution's sponsor, Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman. (deseretnews.com)

Shameless Dems prosecute secret ballot double-standard ... The irony doesn't stop there. Some of the legislation's most ardent supporters have spoken passionately in favor of secret-ballot elections—but only when it serves their interests. Take, for example, a 2001 letter sent to Mexican officials by Rep. George Miller of California, sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act. Before a union election in Mexico, Miller and other congressional Democrats wrote, "We understand that the secret ballot is allowed for, but not required, by Mexican labor law. However, we feel that the secret ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they might not otherwise choose." Or consider a 2001 NLRB brief filed by the AFL-CIO. In it, the labor organization defended the use of a secret ballot in union decertification elections—in which employees choose whether to opt out of a union—stating that a secret ballot "provides the surest means of avoiding decisions which are the result of group pressures and not individual decisions." Or how about the words of Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York, when she refused to identify whom she would support in an internal Democratic contest last year to determine the chairmanship of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee? She noted, "It's a secret ballot, thank the Lord." Such doublespeak underscores what is really at play here. This legislation is not about workers' rights. It's about meeting the demands of special-interest allies who helped Democrats take control of Washington. As middle-class Americans face growing challenges at work and at home, we need both parties working together on their behalf—not one party working to complicate their lives even further by ending the fundamental right to privacy in the workplace. (usnews.com)

Bam's unethical Labor pick twists in the wind ... But they are still exploring the congresswoman’s ties to a pro-union organization, and a vote on her nomination has yet to be scheduled. To highlight the problems are not Solis’, the White House has provided the committee with documents showing that Sayyad and Solis filed their tax returns separately. And Sayyad is reportedly contesting the tax liens as well, according to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah.). “Those two reasons are why I don’t think they should be particularly held against her,” Hatch told Politico, who supports the nomination. “I like her and she should have this opportunity as far as I can see.” Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), ranking member on the committee, has not taken a position on the nomination and said Tuesday that the panel was still waiting for additional information from Solis. Solis has angered some Republicans’ on the panel for deflecting questions on her positions over controversial “card-check” legislation, which would make it easier for workers to unionize, and for whether she supports maintaining right-to-work laws that prohibit forcing workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Still, there is one last issue that could influence the HELP committee’s upcoming vote. The committee is waiting for additional information about her role as an unpaid board member and treasurer for the pro-union group American Rights at Work, while she was a member of the House. Isakson said they are reviewing whether her role in an organization lobbying Congress violated campaign finance rules, “which I think would just come back to hurt her if we didn’t get that out and cleared out one way or another.” (politico.com)

Multi-state SEIU extortion deal claims workers' rights ... Palatine-based Addus HealthCare signed a national agreement with the Service Employees International Union on Tuesday. The contract covers 10,000 Addus home care workers in 11 states through July 31, 2010. It includes an agreement that Addus and the union work collaboratively to expand Addus' business and provide quality services. It also requires that Addus remain neutral in SEIU organizing campaigns, and that the union and company agree to a schedule and standards for organizing new Addus branch offices. The standards include giving the union access to new branch offices and agreement that the union won't strike or picket for union recognition. (suntimes.com)

Union militants advance in California ... According to the Springfield, Va.-based National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation Inc. (NRWLDEF), the charges target a so-called “Election Procedures Agreement” (EPA) formulated by Tenet officials and the CNA at Hahnemann University Hospital, which they say bypasses employees’ legal rights. NRWLDEF states that CNA organizers have successfully obtained monopoly bargaining privileges at a Houston-area health-care facility under similarly controversial circumstances. The charges list multiple violations of employee rights, all designed to make it more difficult for employees to resist the CNA’s professional union organizers. Foundation attorneys have reason to believe that the agreement signed by Tenet and the CNA subverts the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) role in supervising unionization elections and bypasses key employee protections. Although the agreement calls for the NLRB to count ballots and “certify” the union, it circumvents all government oversight procedures during the actual election. The unfair labor practice charges also allege that Tenet officials provided CNA operatives with unlawful organizing assistance in violation of federal statutes. Under the agreement, Tenet managers are gagged from responding to employee questions about the CNA, and nurses who oppose unionization are forbidden from using Tenet facilities to express their views. Outside union organizers, on the other hand, are given free reign to push for a union presence. “California union militants, with the assistance of complicit Tenet officials, are attempting force unwilling nurses into union ranks,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “We’ve seen this scheme before, and it’s flat out illegal. What isn’t yet clear is exactly what Tenet received in exchange for helping union officials gain access to hundreds of thousands of dollars in union dues.” (thebulletin.us)

UAW strike funds run short, federal infusion looms ... Employees at Reilly Plating Co. said they have been locked out of their jobs while managers do the work. The employees at the metal finishing company, 17760 Clarann, have been on strike since late November. The employees’ union, United Auto Workers Local 174, and the company have been seeking a new contract. State and federal mediators have been brought in to help with negotiations. Union President John Zimmick said the company wants to take away benefits and won’t budge an inch. "It’s a flat-out attempt to get rid of the union,” he said. In the meantime, about 10 supervisors are doing the company’s work, he said. Some employees have gone to the state unemployment office, but aren’t receiving benefits. They do receive $200 a week in strike pay from the union, plus health benefits. “That’s no kind of money,” Jaggers said.(thenewsherald.com)

Obama Administration unconcerned about union-dues embezzlement epidemic ... A former pension benefit manager for a Bridgeton union was indicted on federal charges of embezzling money, U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway said Tuesday. Harry Keil, 50, of St. Charles, created false invoices to steal $55,000 while working as the administrative manager of pension and health and welfare funds for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 9 in Bridgeton, according to the indictment. Some of the payments were made to his personal bank accounts and loans, the indictment alleges. (stlouis.bizjournals.com)

Bam: It's all about me ... Three weeks after being sworn in, President Barack Obama acknowledged in plain terms Tuesday that his prospects for winning a second term may depend on the whether he can revive the nation’s plummeting economy. “I’m not going to make any excuses,” Obama said at a town hall meeting here, in perhaps the most pivotal political state in America. “If stuff hasn’t worked, if people don’t feel like I’ve led the country in the right direction then you’ll have a new president.” (politico.com)

Obama: Economic illiterate or shrewd collectivist organizer? ... In a sign that may reveal much about the current deal-making environment in Washington, House speaker Nancy Pelosi has outmaneuvered the Obama Administration in the design of the massive $827 billion so-called Economic Stimulus Package. With the collusion of three moderate Republican Senators - Collins, Snowe and Specter - Pelosi may succeed in steering President Obama into supporting a package with which he may secretly disagree. Despite the Presidential rhetoric of change, the Pelosi plan is Washington at its most habitual. Her version is a massive, pork-laden monster. Tilted heavily towards consumption, only 10 percent of the bill is allocated toward the infrastructure spending that the President talked about so frequently during the campaign. President Obama initially favored a middle-way. It was to be based on massive public spending, but specifically on infrastructure. Far from restoring the economy to health, the 'pork-barrel' Pelosi plan will likely force the U.S. economy into the catastrophe of acute stagflation and decline, with grave long-term repercussions at home and abroad. (news.goldseek.com)

AFSCME: Collectivism is the only option

Bam weighs first pardon ... Federal prosecutors on Monday asked a judge to revoke D.C. Councilman Marion Barry’s probation and put the former mayor in jail for yet again not filing his tax returns. Prosecutors allege Barry willfully failed to file his 2007 tax returns. The Ward 8 council member is coming to the end of a three-year probationary period for failing to file federal or D.C. returns from 1999 to 2004 — two charges to which he pleaded guilty in 2005. “The tax filing status of a public servant is a matter of legitimate public interest,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Zeno in a filing with the U.S. District Court for D.C. “It is not acceptable for any citizen to shirk a basic civil duty, let alone a former Mayor and a current City Councilman who has been responsible in the past and continues to be responsible for spending public funds collected from District of Columbia taxpayers.” (dcexaminer.com)

Veep's Middle Class Task Force already making a difference ... I'm told old friends, Joe Biden and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, had a good private meeting yesterday, one of many meetings the vice president and senior administration officials have been having and will have with top labor leaders. (If the labor movement wasn't so atomized they might have all gone in together.) "No real news coming out of the meeting," one person with knowledge of the session said. "It was more of a general, and ongoing discussion. They discussed a whole variety of things," and part of a continuing and ongoing dialogue" between Labor and the Obama White House. Among the topics discussed were the Employee Free Choice Act, which the administration has assured labor leaders it still wants to push for in late Spring, and the nomination of Hilda Solis to be Labor Secretary. Republicans seem to be softening in their opposition to Solis but it now looks like there won't be a committee vote on her nomination until after Congressional recess, February 23rd, making it likely to be the last cabinet seat to be filled. (tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com)

News Union hack backs forced-tribute over worker-choice ... Bob Lewis, AP: Despite decades of state law banning compulsory union membership, Republicans took an important step Tuesday toward welding the anti-labor provisions into the state Constitution. The House voted 56-43 to advance Del. Chris Saxman's resolution to the Senate, the first in a 21-month series of hurdles the measure must clear to become part of Virginia's 233-year-old Bill of Rights. Saxman, a Republican and owner of a bottled water company in Staunton, said the bill arose from federal union card-check legislation. That bill, now before Congress, would let workers form a union by signing a card of petition instead of holding secret ballot elections. Labor leaders say the card-signing method makes it easier to get enough votes to form a union. Saxman said the state's right-to-work law is essential to economic development in business-friendly Virginia, and developments in Congress threaten it. "I'm sorry if what the federal government is doing is bringing this issue to the fore, but I am very concerned about what could happen here," Saxman said. Virginia's right-to-work law dates to 1950, reflecting historic anti-union sentiment in most of the state. (wtop.com)

Forced-labor unionism protected by Montana lawmakers ... A new attempt to ban compulsory union membership in Montana was quickly rejected in a Senate committee. The so-called "Right to Work" legislation comes up nearly every legislative session, and was again on the plate this year. But state Sen. Greg Hinkle didn't have any better luck than his predecessors in pushing his bill, which would allow workers in union shops to reject union membership. The Senate Business and Labor Committee tabled the measure 7-4 Tuesday, just minutes after holding a hearing on the plan. Supporters say workers should have the right to decline union membership. (abcmontana.com)

Baseball union official sided with Big Brother over players ... The revelation that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003 has had a ripple effect on baseball's players union, raising questions about what Gene Orza, its chief operating officer, did or did not do in 2003 and 2004. Several baseball officials said Monday that the Major League Baseball Players Association had the right to have the tests destroyed after the 2003 season, but did not do so. According to the 2002 collective bargaining agreement, the tests should have been destroyed after the 2003 season. The baseball officials said the understanding was that it was Orza's responsibility to have the tests destroyed. The baseball officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be publicly identified criticizing Orza. (iht.com)

International Collectivism

Do not disturb: Famous pro-democracy unionist non-grata in Venezuela ... President Hugo Chávez said Tuesday that Lech Walesa will be barred from entering Venezuela if the Nobel Peace Prize laureate attempts to come to lend his support to opposition groups. Anti-Chávez university students invited Walesa to a pro-democracy conference last year, but the former Polish leader did not attend. The Warsaw-based Lech Walesa Institute said at the time that Walesa decided to skip the event after Poland's foreign ministry informed him that Venezuela could not guarantee his security. Chávez instructed authorities on Tuesday to ensure that Walesa does not enter Venezuela, which is preparing for a Feb. 15 referendum on a proposal to lift term limits for all elected officials. Chávez made the comment after an interviewer suggested that Walesa had received a new invitation. (google.com)

U.S. extends olive branch to Nepalese communists ... United States Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Richard Boucher arrived in Nepali capital Kathmandu Wednesday afternoon. During his two-day visit, Boucher will meet President Ram BaranYadav, Prime Minister Prachanda and Foreign Minister Upendra Yadavamong others. Boucher is the most senior US official visiting Nepal after the establishment of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)-led government last year. (news.xinhuanet.com)
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