Friday wrap

Unions dealt setback in lawsuit against anti-corruption measure ... Today the state attorney general’s office confirmed a report published this morning in The Colorado Independent that Attorney General John Suthers met with proponents of Amendment 54 — the “clean government” constitutional amendment passed as a ballot initiative last November — and that he agrees with them that the initiative does not unduly infringe upon expression. Deputy Attorney General Geoffrey Blue writes: "We did meet with the proponents and discussed the measure. We agree with them that it is constitutionally defensible: that whatever limits it puts on expression are not unconstitutional under current doctrine. We do believe that Amendment 54 does not infringe upon the rights of family members to make contributions so long as they are not acting as a conduit for a person holding a no-bid contact." (coloradoindependent.com)

SEIU militants demand more money from labor-state lawmakers ... Nearly 700 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members and their families flooded the State Capitol building in Springfield (IL) Thursday as they lobbied lawmakers to support their cause. They're pushing bills currently before lawmakers that would ensure funding for health insurance for nursing home employees. (wgil.com)

U.S. Organizer-in-Chief Gets Right To Work

D.C. union organizers exploit workers' ignorance ... Despite millions of dollars already spent on both sides of the issue, three-quarters of Americans are completely in the dark over the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a law touted by labor unions and political supporters as a way to increase unionization and improve the lives of middle-class America. And American workers are sharply divided over its merits, according to the latest national poll by the Employment Law Alliance (ELA). Hirschfeld, whose San Francisco-based firm, Curiale Hirschfeld Kraemer LLP represents many Fortune 500 companies said, “Many of our clients are concerned about the possibility this legislation may become law, so they are putting plans in place right now to educate their employees about union authorization card drives and to urge them to think carefully about whether they support union representation before signing one of those cards. They are taking nothing for granted, including that their employees understand the EFCA, which the poll clearly shows is not the case.” (finance.yahoo.com)

Obama Nation: We are all cowards now ... Attorney General Eric Holder, who is Black, gave a speech to the staff at the Justice Department the other day marking Black History Month. As part of his remarks he said: "Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards." (cnsnews.com)

Big Labor uses EFCA to set fascistic binding arbitration trap ... Labor officials and their Democratic allies in Congress might compromise on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA or "Card Check") to abolish secret ballots in union representation elections in exchange for passage of a new compulsory arbitration system. Under Card Check, companies would have to recognize a union when 50 percent-plus-one employees sign cards supporting the action. Current law requires a union representation election in which all employees are guaranteed a secret ballot. With attention focused on the secret ballot issue, however, Stefan Gleason of the National Right to Work Committee worries that a possible compromise enable Democrats to also "ram through" arbitration measures that would have dire economic consequences. "For the government to come in and impose contracts on the private sector is probably unconstitutional but that's what would happen with this bill," Gleason said. "Under so-called binding arbitration, a union can come in with totally unreasonable demands and force an impasse and allow the government to step in. EFCA will result in totally uneconomic contracts that are implemented and imposed on business." (dcexaminer.com)

Small business sector girds for union goon squads ... The truth is small business owners work for a living. They do the books, but they also sweep up and take out the trash. They're struggling with everything from higher fuel costs to finding--and keeping--affordable health insurance. Small business owners take pride in the work they do and in treating their employees fairly. They're not making piles of money, but they believe in taking care of the people who work for them. If Big Labor and some members of Congress have their way, these small businesses--and the people who work for them--would have unions shoved down their throats. If the unions and federal bureaucrats get to decide how much a small business pays its employees and what benefits it gives them, small business owners are going to have to make some tough decisions. They're going to have to decide whether they can afford to grow. They're going to have to decide whether they can afford to add jobs. They're going to have to decide whether they can even afford to stay in business. (marshalltribune.com)

Florida Legislature lays down challenge to D.C. union-organizers ... Hoping to head off a controversial organized-labor bill in Congress, two Republican legislators today introduced a constitutional amendment that would require secret ballots in union elections. But the Florida AFL-CIO said the pending "Employee Free Choice Act" — a top priority of organized labor in Congress — poses no threat to workers' rights to open elections. The state labor federation said the proposed constitutional amendment was really an attempt by large corporations to keep an advantage in union-representation elections. State Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, and House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach, called a news conference to announce their proposal to guarantee secret balloting in labor-organization votes. Without the amendment (HJR 1013), Hasner and Richter said employees could be pressured by their bosses, or by union organizers, to vote for or against representation. "The ability to privately make a choice removes the influence of intimidation," said Richter. "All citizens should be able to express their decision without fear of retribution." Hasner predicted easy passage for the amendment, which requires a three-fifths vote by the House and Senate and a 60 percent majority in a 2010 statewide referendum. "This is not an anti-union bill," said Hasner. "Harassment and intimidation are wrong, whether they come from aunion boss or a management boss. With a secret ballot, you're the boss." (news-press.com)

Police organizers use ugly secret ballot to gain Teamster recognition ... For more than a year teamsters union representatives have been fighting for Panama City police officers to choose whether they wanted union representation. Thursday those officers finally got their chance. Panama City Police Department officials say Thursday's union election didn't turn out quite as they had hoped. "Disappointed today but most important thing was the officers had the right to choose on what they wanted to do," said John Van Etten, Panama City Police Chief. 63 of the 66 eligible police officers cast ballots. When the votes came in 46 of them favored representation by the teamsters union local 991. Although the process took more than a year, union reps say it was well worth the wait. (wjhg.com)

Unionists to picket oppressive employers' informational meeting ... The Chamber of Commerce of Sandusky County is sponsoring an Educational Seminar on the Employee Free Choice Act at 8 a.m. March 6 at Terra Vue at Terra State Community College. Registration and a Continental breakfast will be from 8:30 to 10 a.m. The presentation will be given by Attorney James B. Yates from Eastman and Smith Ltd. The seminar is free for members of the Chamber of Commerce of Sandusky County and $150 for non-members. (thenews-messenger.com)

D.C. organizers to force Blue Dogs to heel ... Last week, at the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce headquarters, chamber officials briefed nearly 100 members of a coalition opposing card check about their efforts to lobby members of Arkansas congressional delegation. According to individuals who attended the meeting, they were encouraged by what they heard, especially what was relayed to them regarding conversations between chamber officials and 1st District Congressman Marion Berry, a Democrat. An official informed the group that Berry recently had told him that he thought the bill was a piece of junk and that he only voted for it because he knew then-President Bush would veto it. The official then told the group that Berry recounted to him a recent discussion the Blue Dogs had with House Democratic leadership. According to Berry, the Blue Dogs told House leadership that card check wasn’t a free vote for them anymore and that their constituents were giving them a lot of grief over the issue. The Blue Dogs strongly urged House leadership not to bring this bill back up on the House floor until the Senate had passed something first, because they look like idiots for continuing to pass it and then it dying in the Senate. The official claimed that Berry had ensured him that this time around, the business community had stepped up its game and he was hearing from a lot of people in his district about how bad this bill really was. I contacted Berry’s office last week and asked his press secretary to verify the congressman’s conversations with state chamber officials. Tuesday, Berry’s office responded saying the congressman doesn’t discuss conversations about private meetings with Arkansans. (arkansasnews.com)

Anti-capitalists at the gate ... Within days of receiving $25 billion in federal bailout money--paid for with your tax dollars--Bank of America hosted a conference call of corporate executives and conservatives to strategize about how to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Corporations have declared war on EFCA because of both its specific provisions and the symbolic role it could play in revitalizing the labor movement. If EFCA passes, union recognition by employers would be automatic whenever 50 percent plus one of workers in a given workplace sign union cards--which is why the process is often referred to as "card check." The legislation would also provide for greater penalties for companies that violate workers' right to organize. President Barack Obama has said he would sign EFCA into law. The legislation could play a role similar to Section 7(a) of President Franklin Roosevelt's National Recovery Act, which enshrined into federal law the right to organize and buoyed the formation of mass industrial unions. Labor organizers seized the moment to argue that "the president wants you to join the union." The class-conscious members of America's corporate elite have no intention of repeating this experience. (socialistworker.org)

Related video: Socialist unions update

We don't need no stinkin' Card-Check debate ... TPM alum Greg reported yesterday that Blue Dog Democrats had convinced House leaders to let the Senate go first on the Employee Free Choice Act, the labor movement's central legislative priority this year. The conservative Blue Dogs' lack of love for the EFCA -- dubbed the "card-check" bill by GOP critics -- is no secret on Capitol Hill and even in Arkansas, where one columnist wrote yesterday that one prominent Blue Dog was reassuring local business leaders about slowing progress on the measure. But have the Blue Dogs truly convinced House leaders to hold off on EFCA? I asked the House Education and Labor Committee, where Chairman George Miller (D-CA) has yet to even introduce this year's version of the EFCA bill, and got a short, to-the-point answer: "No decision has been made on legislative strategy for the Employee Free Choice Act." (talkingpointsmemo.com)

Porkulus-funded, union-backed fraud group threatens civil disobedience ... On Thursday, Chavez joined the group ACORN to call for a temporary end to foreclosures. Group members say they’re willing to risk arrest by establishing what they call “foreclosure-free zones” to physically stop the foreclosure process. “We want to fix this problem. We are willing to go to any means necessary,” Pennie Saldivar of ACORN said. (txcn.com)

P2P Porkulus overexposed: The more we know, the less we like it ... Though already signed into law, support for President Obama's stimulus package has steadily eroded as more facts continue to surface. Loaded with pork projects and half-measures, the public is justifiably weary of this near-$1 trillion plan, since it neither adequately funds job-creating programs, nor sufficiently cuts small business taxes to promote growth. The president claims his goal is to create jobs and spur economic development. Fair enough. Yet, how can you defend a $54 billion no-strings bailout for states that mismanaged their own finances? Can anyone honestly support a $2 billion giveaway to ACORN-affiliated groups for "neighborhood stabilization" programs in legislation this important? Perhaps they believed a public crying for "someone to do something" wouldn't care about details so long as "something" was passed? (dailyrecord.com)

'Guardian of Worker Freedom' speaks out against Porkulus ... Rep. Bachmann, who was slated to speak about the yet-to-be-proposed Employee Free Choice Act - better known as the “Card Check Bill” in political circles, instead turned most of her attention to the stimulus bill, which was approved by Congress over the weekend and Obama signed into law Tuesday, as Bachmann visited Monticello. “With the creation of 19 programs in this bill, we can expect to spend more than $3.7 trillion over the next decade,” Bachmann said. “That’s just a portion of the programs supported by this package. We learned long ago you can’t spend your way out of a bad economy. But that’s what we’re trying to do.(monticellotimes.com)

P2P Porkulus lures anti-conservative GOP Govs ... Unlike in Congress where Obama struggled to win any measurable Republican support, several high profile governors -- including Charlie Crist (Fla.) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Calif.) -- have been supportive of the plan, creating something of a riff with other high profile governors who have adamantly opposed the legislation and threatened to refuse (before backing off) all of the federal dollars in the bill. Obama will almost certainly seek to make inroads among the Republican governors while solidifying support for the plan among the Democratic chief executives. That outreach will be complicated by a seven-figure national cable ad buy set to hit airwaves today that attacks the stimulus plan as "billions wasted on pork and pet projects." The ad campaign is being funded by the American Issues Project, a conservative-aligned outside group that was somewhat active during the 2008 presidential campaign. (washingtonpost.com)

P2P experts populate Executive Branch ... Washington lobbyist Christine Varney is poised to take her third pass through the revolving door of lobbying and government with her nomination by President Barack Obama to be his administration’s top antitrust enforcer. Also, on Thursday, Obama nominated Derek Douglas, a former lobbyist for the firm of O’Melveny & Myers and Center for American Progress, as special assistant on urban affairs. As with most of the at least 14 former lobbyists nominated or hired by Obama, Varney and Douglas appear to be not covered by his executive order restricting the official activities of former lobbyists. Obama’s first executive order forbade appointees who have served as registered lobbyists to “participate in any particular matter on which [they] lobbied within the two years before the date of my appointment” or “participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls.” (dcexaminer.com)

Governator leads GOP lambs to slaughter ... While tensions are rising between President Obama and Congressional Republicans, California's Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he is eager for more opportunities to partner with Obama on big issues like health care and energy. He's also got some advice for the new president about building inclusive "post-partisan" coalitions. Schwarzenegger is positioned to become perhaps Obama's most important Republican ally. He was among the most prominent GOP governors who backed the economic recovery plan that cleared Congress with support from no Republicans in the House and just three in the Senate. And Schwarzenegger has advanced his own state-level initiatives on health reform, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting alternative energy that closely track Obama's campaign proposals. (theatlantic.com)

International Collectivism

Barack for life? ... On the surface, Chávez's referendum to lift all term limits — which he won 55% to 45% — had the lifelike look of democracy. And if it were only about votes, it might be true. In reality, Sunday's referendum, Venezuela's 14th since 1998, wasn't about voice and choice. It was a manipulative maneuver using voters' fear, exhaustion and capacity to be bought to make Chávez president for life in an elected dictatorship. That's why the Obama administration's praise for this phony facade of democracy was dispiriting: "We congratulate the civic and participatory spirit of the millions of Venezuelans who exercised their democratic right to vote," a State Department spokesman said, breaking past policy of not commenting on Venezuela's referenda. Although he noted "troubling reports of intimidation" of voters, he called the referendum "fully consistent with the democratic process" and high-mindedly urged Venezuelan officials to "focus on governing democratically." The trouble with these courtesies is that the "governing-democratically" horse left the barn long ago, and the current praise gives Chávez legitimacy. After being driven bonkers by the silent treatment of the Bush administration, this was what he wanted. But not if he had to govern democratically to get it. (ibdeditorials.com)

Ortega apes Chávez, Putin ... Later this year Daniel Ortega will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the revolution that toppled the notorious American-backed dictatorship of the Somoza family and brought his left-wing Sandinista movement to power. Though Mr Ortega is once again president, as he was in the 1980s, in other ways Nicaraguan politics have changed radically. Most of his fellow revolutionary leaders have left the Sandinista Party and are now in opposition. And Mr Ortega is well on the way to establishing an autocracy, albeit a bankrupt one, in cahoots with former somocistas. The next step, opponents fear, will be to get the assembly to vote for a constitutional reform that would allow Mr Ortega, like his friend Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, to stand for re-election. Or it might involve adopting a semi-parliamentary system in which Mr Alemán would run for president but Mr Ortega would cling to power as prime minister. (economist.com)

Venezuela unbridles its socialist monarch ... Facing the prospect President Hugo Chávez's final elected term in office, the Venezuelan people voted to approve a referendum that gave the leader the opportunity to rule their country for life. The passage effectively removes the previous restrictions that placed term limits on elected officials. Despite a flurry of protests and staunch opposition to the proposal, Chávez is now slated to stay in power beyond 2012, when he will be up for re-election. Apparently, Chávez thought the people needed a little more "convincing" after they defeated a similar proposal just around 15 months prior. Chávez said unlimited terms will give him more time to implement a socialist revolution. This is obviously a very viable strategy since it has historically worked so well for Cuba and Soviet Russia. (tcudailyskiff.com)

Socialist cocaine seized ... A British couple have been arrested in Venezuela accused of trying to smuggle three suitcases of cocaine back into Britain. Paul and Laura Makin, from Birkenhead, Merseyside, were arrested at the airport on Isla Margarita, off the Venezuelan coast, after allegedly being found with 23.7kg worth of the class A drug in their luggage – estimated to be worth around £1.2 million. Reports today suggest the British couple could now lose custody of their four young children and face years in prison. (inthenews.co.uk)

Russian Labor Bigs emerge as potent political force ... Russia's worn-out Dissenters opposition movement may soon give way to an emerging force that is likely to take centre stage amid growing discontent, since the public is getting too few answers from both the government and its opponents. Labour unions are likely to find the most support among the electorate, since many people have lost their jobs and have been struggling since the start of the crisis. Reluctant to take a political stance up till now, the unions have begun making political demands and are now voicing their willingness to consider linking up with opposition groups. (mnweekly.ru)
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