Saturday wrap

Secret-ballot elections unnecessary under socialism ... The United States is in the forefront of efforts to spread democracy abroad. Yet one of the most fundamental tenets of democracy is at risk in America today: the secret ballot. From its very founding the United States has been an example to the world. A republic established among empires, America has long represented the democratic ideal. Fundamental to democracy is the use of secret ballots. For people to freely vote their conscience, they must know that their vote will remain private. They must know that they will not be subject to retaliation because of the choices they make at the ballot box. This is democracy 101. It has long set America and other democracies apart from autocracies and dictatorships. After all, the Soviet Union held elections. But it did not matter how people voted, and anyone foolish enough to vote freely would have been found out. Yet presently we are debating whether to keep secret ballots in America. (realclearpolitics.com)

Gibbs: The Card-Check debate is over ... "Congressman Miller and Senator Harkin made a choice: they chose to stand with union bosses in Washington, D.C. and turn their backs on the nation's biggest job creators - small-business owners and their employees," said Katie Packer, executive director of the Workforce Fairness Institute, a business-sponsored group in a statement. The fight could sharpen growing divisions in Democratic ranks between liberals and moderates, especially fiscally conservative Blue Dogs leery of spending proposals in Obama's budget. Conservative House Democrats are reportedly getting weak-kneed and want the Senate to go first to see whether Democrats can clear the 60-vote filibuster-proof threshold before they are forced to take a stand. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has called the labor bill "a priority of the administration's, as we talked about in the campaign." (sfgate.com)

Obama puts U.S. on path to pro-union demosclerosis ... Barack Obama apparently wishes to give to American trades union leaders the kinds of powers that British union bosses possessed before the great Thatcher reforms of the 1980s. And, amazingly, the Republicans, who naturally oppose the move, seem unaware of the British historical precedents. The ironically titled Employment Free Choice Act (which embodies the policy commonly known as "card check") would effectively abolish trade union members' right to a secret ballot. Those of you old enough to remember the Great British Industrial Wars of the 1970s and 80s will recall that the intimidation of workers by union convenors was enormously helped by the tradition of calling strikes on the basis of a public show of hands (or the holding up of cards). One of Margaret Thatcher's most significant progressive moves in her modernisation of industrial relations was the statutory requirement for a secret ballot for all union members, which allowed individual workers to defy their bullying leaders without fear of recrimination (or worse). (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)

Trouble in Andy Stern's SEIU Paradise ... The board of labor union Unite Here voted Friday to bolt from union federation Change to Win, which Unite Here helped found in 2005, and to rejoin the AFL-CIO. The Unite Here board accused the giant Service Employees International Union, another Change to Win member, of interfering in Unite Here's internal affairs. Representatives of laundry and garment workers who are members of Unite Here are seeking to separate from the rest of the union, which represents hospitality workers. That would undo the 2004 merger that created Unite Here. Andy Stern, president of the SEIU, has invited the laundry and garment workers to join his union. But SEIU officials deny any interference, saying they had also invited Unite Here's hospitality division to join the union. "We've been clear that we respect their decision-making process," said SEIU spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette. Change to Win officials declined to comment. Unite Here, the SEIU and five other international unions formed Change to Win when they left the AFL-CIO, citing what they described as a lack of commitment by the older group to organize new members. (latimes.com)

U.S. workers eye relocating to Mexico ... If consistency is really the hobgoblin of little minds, then Hilda Solis and George Miller must be America's top ghostbusters. They think the secret ballot is the cornerstone of democracy, except for American workers deciding whether to join a labor union. Miller is the U.S. House's chief sponsor of the Orwellianly named Employee Free Choice Act, a bill much-coveted by labor unions that would do away with secret-ballot voting when they're trying to organize a company work force. And Solis, a former congresswoman from Southern California who is President Barack Obama's newly confirmed labor secretary, is the act's chief cheerleader. Oddly enough, Miller and Solis used to think secret ballots were the very lifeblood of democracy. In 2001, introducing himself as someone "deeply concerned with international labor standards," Miller wrote Mexican officials urging them to allow workers to vote on unionization with secret ballots. "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," Miller wrote, adding that the practice "will help bring real democracy to the Mexican workplace." (The American workplace, I guess, is quite another matter.) (democratandchronicle.com)

Free lunch: Dems feast on the rich ... The Obama Kool-Aiders are great at promises, but less skilled in simple math. They remind me of a former acquaintance who railed against those Bush tax cuts "for the wealthy." She didn't get a reduction on her income tax that particular year and was quite indignant about it. I then explained to her that she was not paying any federal income taxes whatsoever. She still wanted to be included in the tax cuts. I started to explain that if one pays no taxes but expects a "tax cut," we used to call that welfare. Instead, I just gave up. Where ignorance is bliss ... In reality, the Bush tax cuts helped a great many taxpayers, the vast majority of whom were not wealthy. His per-child tax credits put real dollars in the pockets of hard-working families. Those dollars spent a lot better among the working middle class than Obama's thus-far false promises. "The real Obama has stood up and lived up to his ranking as the most left-wing member of the Senate," Buchanan wrote last week. Some of us who've actually tracked the Illinois Democrat's voting record (present!) are not surprised. American ingenuity and productivity has been replaced by the proverbial free lunch. Bon appetit. (timesgazette.com)

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-ACORN

Rep. Barney Frank placed on Dirty Money Watch ... WHO: Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA). WHAT: Frank received the following dirty money: Communication Workers of America (PAC) $2,000 in 2008 cycle, $1,000 in 2006 cycle. Boilermakers Union (PAC) $1,000 in 2008. American Federation of Government Employees (PAC) $1,000 in 2006. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (PAC) $10,000 in 2008 cycle; $2,500 in 2006 cycle. WHY IT'S DIRTY: At least eight members, including officers, of these four unions have been convicted since 2001 of felonies ranging from embezzlement, falsifying official reports to government, mail fraud and conspiracy. WILL FRANK GIVE IT BACK? Frank did not respond to a phone call and email message seeking a response. (dcexaminer.com)

Illinois Dems: Ban free speech to make P2P union-only ... The Illinois Reform Commission's latest meeting will focus on the issue of pay-to-play corruption in state contracts. The panel will hear from several experts, including one of the top investigators in the case against former Gov. George Ryan, who's now in prison on federal corruption charges. The witnesses also include a former state official who was pressured to steer contracts to vendors. Commission members say they're hoping the information gathered at the hearing will lead them to aggressive reforms on Illinois' procurement process and that it will help prevent corruption. The public hearing will be held at the Chicago Bar Association, starting at 1:30 p.m. (wifr.com)

Pelosi preserves exta-constitutional automatic annual raises for elite D.C. Kleptocrats ... Congress' automatic pay raises are in little immediate danger of being scrapped for good, even with the economy slumping and millions of Americans unemployed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday would not commit to holding a vote on a bill to do away with the annual cost-of-living increases. She pointed out that Congress recognized the economic crisis by voting this week to skip next year's raise. In so doing, though, lawmakers defeated a Senate measure to abolish the automatic pay hikes and force them into the deep discomfort of casting actual votes to give themselves raises. The nation's founders set up the system to make congressional pay raises inherently difficult for those who would receive them. The Constitution requires Congress to set its own pay and be accountable to voters every few years during elections. Congress has raised its own pay in stand-alone bills more than two dozen times, according to the Congressional Research Service. But in 1989, it passed a law providing for annual cost-of-living adjustments unless Congress votes otherwise. (dcexaminer.com)

Big City newspapers dragged down by omnipotent News Union ... As the Employees Free Choice Act is debated in Congress, some wonder why it is only in government that unionization is growing stronger. According to a study of unions and the American workplace by Professor Barry Hirsch, unionized companies not only suffer lower profits but lower investment in physical and tangible capital and slower growth. As a result, unionized firms lose market share to nonunionized firms, both domestic and foreign. This is borne out by the fact that in manufacturing virtually all the job losses between 1973 and 2006 occurred among unionized workers. During the recent recession, the companies with the most serious trouble is found in those having the most heavily unionized work forces. Two examples are the Big Three automakers and big city newspapers. For the automakers, the cost of labor has been 50% higher than costs for nonunion, foreign-owned auto companies. The unions have literally priced the employers out of the market. (examiner.com)

Biden announces bailout for rail workers' union ... Vice President Joe Biden, once a regular rail commuter, says the $1.3 billion for Amtrak in the economic stimulus package will go toward long-overdue projects. Speaking Friday at Union Station, Biden said $105 million will be spent to replace a 100-year-old Connecticut bridge on Amtrak's heavily traveled Northeast corridor. Another $82 million will be used to replace old rail cars and put them back into service. The national passenger railroad, long criticized for its reliance on government subsidies, has strong support from the Obama administration. As a senator, Biden commuted on Amtrak for decades between his home in Wilmington, Del., and Washington. (dcexaminer.com)

D.C. union organizers ignore local preferences ... As tough as things are for most North Carolinians, it's truly amazing that the Federal government may soon make matters worse. No, I'm not writing about the supposed "economic bailout package." I am talking about something woefully mislabeled as the "Employee Free Choice Act" (EFCA). This Federal legislation is before the U.S. Congress right now and threatens to undermine the integrity of our State's and Nation's struggling workforce, as well as strip workers of their basic rights to privacy and self-representation. If passed, the Act would remove an employee's right to a secret ballot in union-organizing elections. A fundamental principle of our democracy is that votes are private choices. In political elections, secret ballots ensure that voters can choose candidates who truly represent them, not simply the candidates whom their friends or neighbors want them to support. As North Carolinians we cherish this freedom, but when it comes to union organizing, many members of Congress want to take the secret ballot from all workers. (starnewsonline.com)

Obama appointment of unionist exposes EFCA arbitration trap ... Linda A. Puchala, Nominee for Member, National Mediation Board. Linda A. Puchala is currently the Sr. Mediator (ADR) and the Associate Director of Alternative Dispute Resolution Services at the National Mediation Board. She joined the National Mediation Board in May 1999, as a Mediator, working on both airline and railroad cases. In her current capacity, Puchala directs the Board's ADR training programs, develops and maintains the training curriculum, and delivers training to interested parties. She also remains active as a mediator in airline and railroad cases, and she conducts facilitation and grievance mediation. Prior to joining the Board, Puchala had over 30 years of experience in Labor Relations, including work as International President of the Association of Flight Attendants, CWA, AFL-CIO, and Staff Director, Michigan State Employees Association, AFSCME, AFL-CIO. Puchala holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Cleary University in Howell, Michigan. (whitehouse.gov)

Overspending forces dues hit on AFSCME in labor-state ... But Multnomah County (OR) can't avoid letting workers go. Its finances are worse because it serves more people and provides services other counties don't, and it has relied heavily on one-time money to pay for programs that have remained once the funding for them went away. Friday's layoffs hit as the county braces to lose hundreds of jobs when commissioners balance a budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in July. The county must figure out how to absorb an expected $45 million funding gap. "This is illustrative of the kind of hard reductions that we're going to be forced to take," County Chairman Ted Wheeler said. (oregonlive.com)

Gov't union caregivers walk out on elderly ... About 60 staff members at a long-term care facility in Medicine Hat walked off the job yesterday. The workers failed to reach an agreement with Calgary-based employer AgeCare Communities of Care and Wellness. Dale Perry, a negotiator with the Alberta Union of Public Employees, says 85 per cent of the membership rejected a final offer from the employer. AgeCare spokesman Lorne Robertson says a contingency plan would be implemented, but refused to give details. Salaries, benefits, vacation entitlements and weekend premiums are the main issues in the dispute. (inews880.com)

Sick New Prog humor exposed ... In a moment when he thought that the microphones were turned off, new U.S. President Barack Obama accidentally refererd to ACORN as "My Brown Shirts." When he realized that his microphone was still on, Obama told the media present that thy would forget his words and not report on them. The statement, however, had already gone out live. Under Adolf Hitler in Germany, the Brown Shirts were known as the S.A. (Sturnabteilung), the assualt detachement of the Nazi party. The word "Sturnabteilung" translates as "Storm troopers." In the American presidential campaign and election of 2008, ACORN got into trouble for allegations of voter registration fraud, strong arm tactics, and issues of conflict of interest. They were also the largest contributor to the Obama campaign and will receive one of the largest bail out checks. In a related news story, ACORN announced that they will be forming local militias to see that the government bail out money will be properly distrubuted. Uniforms for these militias will be brown. (thespoof.com)

International Collectivism

Russian bombers OK'd for bases in Venezuela, Cuba ... A Russian Air Force chief said Saturday that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has offered an island as a temporary base for strategic Russian bombers, the Interfax news agency reported. The chief of staff of Russia's long range aviation, Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev, also said Cuba could be used to base the aircraft, Interfax reported. Zhikharev said Chávez had offered "a whole island with an airdrome, which we can use as a temporary base for strategic bombers," the agency reported. "If there is a corresponding political decision, then the use of the island ... by the Russian Air Force is possible." Interfax reported he said earlier that Cuba has air bases with four or five runways long enough for the huge bombers and could be used to host the long-range planes. Two Russian bombers landed in Venezuela last year in what experts said was the first Western Hemisphere touchdown of Russian military craft since the end of the Cold War. Cuba has never permanently hosted Russian or Soviet strategic aircraft. But Soviet short-range bombers often made stopovers there during the Cold War. Russia resumed long-range bomber patrols in 2007 after a 15-year hiatus. (google.com)

Chávez upgrades Venezuelan socialism to Communism ... Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez says communes should become an integral part of production processes in his South American country. During a ceremony to open a Cacique Tiuna housing development commune in Coche, Venezuela, the president applauded communities that share all common properties, work and resources, El Universal reported Thursday. "Here a commune has been born, the people are becoming the owners," Chávez said Wednesday. Chávez added businesses, such as the rice processing plants that failed to meet regulated product prices, should serve the "national interest" or face potential government intervention. "Businesses should be subject to the national interest," he said. "The more they pick a fight with me, the more I advance." (upi.com)

ACORN's Wade Rathke in El Salvador to fix tomorrow's election for CNN Marxist ... After a raucous presidential campaign, the candidate of El Salvador's left-wing former guerrilla movement has a chance to oust the right-wing ruling party for the first time in two decades, a shift that government backers say would threaten the Central American nation's economy and its relationship with the United States. If voters opt for the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) in Sunday's election, El Salvador also would expand Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's regional influence, said loyalists to the ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance, known by the Spanish acronym ARENA. Chávez is courting the FMLN. He's pumped 30 million gallons of discounted oil since 2007 to 20 FMLN mayors, who say that the support is strengthening democracy by empowering the poor. "The more revolution, the more democracy," said Carlos Ruiz, an ex-guerrilla mayor and the vice president of ALBA Petroleos de El Salvador, a joint oil venture with Venezuela. "The FMLN has ties to the FARC (Colombian guerrilla movement), Venezuela and Iran. They're not friends with the United States," said ARENA candidate Rodrigo Avila, who's trailing the FMLN's Mauricio Funes in most polls. Fans of Funes say that the former TV journalist is a fresh face in Salvadoran politics, while Funes himself argues that ARENA loyalists are stuck in the past and don't realize that the FMLN has "evolved'' from the Marxist guerrilla movement that spun into a political party 17 years ago. (mcclatchydc.com)

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