Tuesday wrap

Why union organizers use force, oppression ... Union members tend to believe that most workers want to join a labor union. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 47% of union members hold that view while only 18% disagree. But those who don’t belong to a union hold a different perspective. By a 56% to 14% margin, they believe that most workers do not want to belong to a union. As for personal preference, only nine percent (9%) of non-union workers would like to join a union. Eighty-one percent (81%) would not. Even among those who are worried about losing their jobs in the near future, only nine percent (9%) would like to join a union. There is also no difference in a desire for union membership between those whose firms are hiring and those who are laying people off. All together, 24% of workers either belong to a union or would like to do so. At the same time, 59% of workers belong to the investor class and own at least $5,000 worth of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. (rasmussenreports.com)

Government shields unionism from extinction ... What do the Big Three automakers, big city newspapers and the U.S. Postal Service have in common? All are hemorrhaging money, all are in danger of insolvency...and all are unionized. In this deep downturn, most sectors of the U.S. economy are suffering, but a common thread among those in the deepest trouble is their heavily unionized work forces. That's an inconvenient truth that needs to be acknowledged as Congress prepares to consider legislation that would make it dramatically easier for unions to organize in the American workplace — the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act. Studies show that while unionization can raise worker productivity, it typically raises wages and benefits even faster. Restrictive workplace rules, gold-plated health and pension plans, and inflexible hiring and firing rules add to the burden on employers, and cut into employer profitability. In a major study of unions and the American workplace, Professor Barry Hirsch of Georgia State University found that unionized companies suffered not only lower profits but lower investment in physical and intangible capital and slower growth. As a result, unionized firms tend to lose market share to nonunionized firms, whether foreign or domestic. Companies can survive unionization as long as every other competitor faces the same "tax," or if markets are not competitive at all. This is why government is the only area where unionization has been growing. But in a dynamic, open and competitive market, unionization can be a killer. In manufacturing, virtually all the job losses between 1973 and 2006 occurred among unionized workers. (hawaiireporter.com)

How to get rid of government unions ... In the first ruling of its kind, a bankruptcy judge held the city of Vallejo, Calif. has the authority to void its existing union contracts in its effort to reorganize, holding public workers do not enjoy the same protections Congress gave union workers at private companies. Municipal bankruptcy is so rare that no judge had yet ruled on whether Congressional reforms in the 1990s that required companies to provide worker protections before attempting to dissolve union contracts also applied to public workers' union contracts. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael McManus held March 13 that when Congress enacted 11 U.S.C. sec. 1113 to limit companies from outright rejection of union contracts it limited it to Chapter 11 bankruptcies. By failing to extend the limits to Chapter 9, which covers municipal bankruptcy, McManus said cities have broader latitude to break existing union pacts, In re City of Vallejo, 08-26813-A-9 (E. Dist. Calif.) "This will have a huge effect nationwide if it is upheld," said Kelly Woodruff, of Farella, Braun & Martel in San Francisco, representing the firefighters and electrical workers unions. Woodruff said the unions would certainly appeal if the city ultimately voids the existing contracts with the two unions. "And I think we have a good chance of success," she said. "My understanding is that a lot of cities are watching this and particularly this motion," said Woodruff. "If the city of Vallejo succeeds in using bankruptcy to void union contracts I am sure others will follow," she said. Vallejo attorney Norman C. Hile of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe's Sacramento, Calif. office said, "This is a decision that is somewhat groundbreaking." "There are a number of other cities and government entities watching it very closely," he said, but declined to speculate on whether others would take the step Vallejo took of seeking bankruptcy protection. The decision will be particularly important to cities with large unfunded pension liabilities, according to James Spiotto, of Chapman & Cutler in Chicago and a specialist in municipal bankruptcy who helped advise the Senate Judiciary Committee on Chapter 9 reforms. (law.com)

Obama frets about anti-socialist backlash ... With a few notable exceptions, the national media has ignored the tax revolt movement against the porkulus package, omni-pork spending bill, and bottomless bailouts that began in Seattle on President’s Day; continued in Denver on the day of the Generational Theft Act signing; spread to Mesa AZ during President Obama’s massive mortgage entitlement push; spurred protest in Overland Park KS; and evolved into the Tea Party movement across the country. But local politicians and local newspapers/TV are definitely on notice. Thousands of folks converging in places like St. Louis (1,500), Greenville (2,000), Fullerton (est. 15,000), and Cincinnati (5,000) are getting harder to ignore. And now, it seems, word is getting around in Washington. The White House, the NYTimes (which has mocked the tax revolters) tells us, is worried about a populist backlash against bailout-mania. Naw. Really? (michellemalkin.com)

SEIU to stage counter-protests v. oppressive capitalism ... The giant Service Employees International Union is riding the AIG-Citigroup anger wave by organizing protests in 35 states at the offices of financial institutions that have behaved badly after taking government bailout bucks. A draft of the release that's about to go out: "On Thursday, March 19, thousands of Americans will take part in actions in 35 states at the offices of major banks whose behavior before and since the government bailout epitomize an era of CEO and corporate excess at the expense of broader prosperity that has weakened the economy. As many as 10,000 working people are expected to participate in the first coordinated national public protests since the federal bank bailouts began." UPDATE: Institutions that will be protested include JPMorgan Chase, BofA, Citigroup, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs. (politico.com)

Alinskyite Team Obama goes ugly ... But Obama and his campaign brain trust of David Axelrod, David Plouffe, Robert Gibbs and Rahm Emanuel are nothing if not shrewd public opinion manipulators. As Politico’s Mike Allen reported over the weekend, they have a new strategy designed to shift attention away from “the charges of big spending [that] could stick to the president.” To re-direct public attention, the White House propagandists are peddling a new Big Lie – that Republicans always say no but never offer an alternative to the president’s $3.6 trillion budget proposal, with its historic deficits and generational theft on a grandiose scale. This is exactly what you would expect from a White House run by people who read Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals,” including number 13: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it.” In other words, Obama's White House is unleashing tactics that go beyond negative to ugly. (dcexaminer.com)

Bonus links:
Summary of Saul Alinsky's 'Rules for Radicals'
• More Saul Alinsky stories: here
'Rules for Radicals' at amazon.com

Objects to President Alinsky ... Is President Barack Obama leading this nation down the primrose path to socialism? The more notorious mentors from his formative years have already been exposed. Perhaps one of the most influential ones, however, has hardly been mentioned. That is Saul Alinsky. Obama enrolled in Alinsky's school in Chicago, where he taught concepts to community groups that he had learned there. In his recent presidential campaign he mimicked the slogan for "change" that Alinisky had coined in an earlier campaign of his own. Alinsky's meaning of change was for the type of radical socialist redistribution of wealth that a committed communist would embrace. Is that the kind of change that Obama is advocating now? I did not serve in the Navy during World War II more than 64 years ago as a teenager, along with the thousands of other veterans of my generation, to silently watch our current way of life fade into oblivion. The Obama administration is spending this country into bankruptcy. Is socialism going to rise from the ashes? (islandpacket.com)

Big Labor in huge desert dues fight ... The AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation, and the Service Employees International Union, the nation’s largest union, announced Monday the creation of the Gaming Workers Council, a coalition of unions dedicated to organizing workers in the gaming industry. The group’s immediate goal: apply pressure to casino management in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, where dealers have been bargaining for first contracts for more than a year. The unions organizing dealers, the United Auto Workers and the Transport Workers Union, joined in the announcement as founding members of the council. They said they need additional resources because employers are bargaining in bad faith and dragging out negotiations, claims management denies. But conspicuous in its absence was Unite Here, the international union of casino and hotel workers with robust locals in those two cities, including the Culinary Union here. By its own count, the union represents nearly half of all workers in the American gaming industry. In Las Vegas, the Culinary represents 60,000 workers up and down the Strip and downtown. The gaming council’s organizers couldn’t explain Unite Here’s absence but insisted they wanted the union’s help. Elizabeth Bunn, secretary-treasurer of the United Auto Workers, said organizers had extended invitations to “a number of unions.” Still, she said, it was unclear whether organizers had reached out to the casino workers union. The slight, intentional or not, did not escape the attention of Unite Here. (lasvegassun.com)

Obama poisons the Middle Class ... Should this bill be enacted, union recruiters will have to persuade only a slim majority of a company's workforce to sign cards; then, organized labor will be in its shop. An owner will have no opportunity to present counterarguments because there will be no election process. Secret-ballot elections are part of the fabric of our democracy; this bill shreds them. It also allows the government to step in and impose contract terms and conditions that will be binding for two years. None of the parties involved will have any input. The EFCA is a thinly veiled 'card check' law that would force workers into unions they do not want and force them to pay union dues. In today's economy, that is unconscionable. Sens. Webb and Warner need to hear from us now. There is no free choice in this act. (hamptonroads.com)

Veep: IAFF serves nation's naked self-interest ... Democrats on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue promised one of their staunchest union allies that they would tick off many items on the latter’s legislative wish list. From collective bargaining rights to improved funding for the Agriculture Department’s efforts to fight forest fires, firefighters heard most of what they want Congress to pursue in the coming session. A variety of administration officials and congressional Democrats addressed the International Association of Fire Fighters annual convention on Monday and lavished praise on their longtime supporters. Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told attendees they believe the Senate will take up a bill granting collective bargaining rights to firefighters, a measure that passed the House in the 110th Congress. “This is your new government taking bold action to ensure that as a community of firefighters you are as strong as possible. It’s in our nation’s own naked self-interest,” Biden said of the measure. Napolitano, Pelosi, Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) also pointed to increased funding for the SAFER and Fire acts — two measures designed to aim grants at local fire departments for new equipment and staff — which has risen by $95 million over two years. Already this year, the stimulus legislation included $210 million earmarked for fire station construction and hundreds of millions more designed to keep firefighters on payrolls across the country. Lieberman pledged to bring up the Firefighter Fatality Reduction Act, a measure aimed at improving standards that backers say would reduce the number of firefighter deaths around the country each year, and the Federal Firefighter Fairness Act, which would make legal the assumption that certain diseases a firefighter may contract are job-related. Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said his department needed more money to fight forest fires and to maintain its equipment, which includes the largest non-defense government air fleet in the country. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) also addressed firefighters Monday. (thehill.com)

SEIU protesters target oppressive software cash-machine ... Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 6 demonstrated at Microsoft's Redmond campus for a second day Monday. Their gripe is not with the software giant but with a subcontractor, SBM Site Services of Sacramento, Calif., which was awarded the custodial contract in December to clean buildings at the corporate campus. Since then, SBM has reduced the number of workers on the contract to 300. Jessica Berg, a spokesperson, said the company has laid off only 10 workers. The SEIU agrees that there are about 300 workers on the contract now, but says that represents a reduction of 60 jobs from the previous subcontractor, ABM Janitorial Services. Fred Prockiw, an organizer with Local 6, said ABM employed about 360 people for the same workload. A representative of ABM could not immediately be reached. The remaining employees say they're being asked to make up the slack. "The workload's too much," said Dirk Koteles, 56, who picks up trash and sweeps Microsoft's parking garages for $12.50 an hour, plus medical benefits. "They won't give us overtime to do all this extra stuff. They expect us to get everything done in eight hours." (blog.seattletimes.nwsource.com)

WSJ credits Big Labor shock troops ... In the Obama revolution, unions are the vanguard force. Contrary to promises of moderation, the Administration has so far sided firmly with the union left. On the day after the Inauguration, the Department of Labor stopped the implementation of new union financial disclosure rules that provide greater transparency about union finances. A fortnight on the job, President Obama issued four executive orders, on federal contracting and political spending, demanded by Big Labor. Mr. Obama this month endorsed card check and vowed that it "will pass." In Euro-terms, a "social market economy" offers state-provided health care, generous unemployment benefits, long holidays, various job protections and a prominent role for unions. Sounds good, you might say. But consider that the Europeans have spent the past two decades struggling to wean themselves off entitlements that are a huge drain on the overall economy. These welfare states leech off the productive parts of the economy through onerous taxes, debt and regulations. Everyone ends up paying. Consider just one measure: the tax wedge, the share of labor costs that never reaches an employee's wallet but goes straight to state coffers. In Belgium, Germany and France, the tax wedge is around 50%; in America, it was 30% in 2007. (See the nearby table.) Not coincidentally, salaries and job opportunities are better here, especially for the least-skilled. The Obama budget, universal health care and now the union-revival effort known as the Employee Free Choice Act would steer America toward the Continent. That's good for the unions, but not for the public good. (online.wsj.com)

Rahmbo: Rules? What Rules? ... "Reconciliation" is proving a divisive word on Capitol Hill, where it could trigger one of the biggest partisan brawls of the year. Despite growing complaints from Republicans and even some Democrats, the Obama administration and congressional leaders are refusing to rule out bypassing regular legislative rules to push through some of their top policy priorities, including health care and energy reform, and avoid Republican stalling tactics. "I really do hope we follow the regular order around here," said Sen. Mark L. Pryor, a centrist Democrat from Arkansas. Courtly, soft-spoken Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, told the Dow Jones News Service there would be "unholy hell unleashed" if the Obama health care package were tacked onto the budget bill. Though budget reconciliation bills cannot be filibustered, they are subject in the Senate to the so-called "Byrd rule," which allows opponents to move to strike provisions that do not have a direct impact on government spending. Policy provisions of the Clinton health plan were stripped from a budget bill in 1993 because of Byrd rule problems. Ominously for the Obama White House, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat who gave his name to the rule in the mid-1970s, was one of the eight Democratic senators to sign the letter protesting the use of the reconciliation process for the energy reform package. (washingtontimes.com)

Hoffa takes on democracy ... In a desperate attempt to shift attention away from the fact that the card check scheme pushed by Big Labor and its allies on Capitol Hill would strip away worker privacy and make workers vulnerable to threats of intimidation and coercion, Mr. Hoffa, who has been elected by the Teamsters' secret ballot system three times, asked "since when is the secret ballot a basic tenet of democracy?" The CDW ad campaign juxtaposes Hoffa's comments on the card check debate with the American people's overwhelming support of the secret ballot. A poll conducted in January for CDW found that 82 percent of likely voters believe a worker's vote in a union organizing election should be kept private; 86 percent believe a secret ballot election is the best way to protect the individual rights of workers. Only 11 percent support the card check scheme that would make the votes of workers public to their employers, co-workers and union organizers. "The Teamsters were right to agree to use the secret ballot in 1989," said Brian Worth, with the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace. "It cleaned up mob-related corruption and made the union more accountable to rank and file workers. I'm assuming Mr. Hoffa is not in favor of taking away the secret ballot from his members. I just don't understand how he can justify stripping it away from the millions of American workers who don't belong to his union." (sev.prnewswire.com)

Unions don't need Dem bailout after all ... The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that membership in Illinois unions totaled 939,000 last year. That’s 16.6 percent of the state’s workforce, up 2.1 percent from 2007. Nationwide, according to the bureau, union ranks edged up in 2007 and 2008—their first expansions in decades. Larry Spivak, regional director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31, says the economy has helped unions recruit. SPIVAK: People for the first time have a voice in their work, their conditions, their wages. And that’s what people realize that they’ve been denied. ROPER: They say that they’re having a very, very difficult time organizing workers. Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Roper says the union growth belies arguments for a federal bill, the Employee Free Choice Act, that would make labor organizing easier. (wbez.org)

SEIU's Andy Stern downgrades organizing, pads D.C. lobbying budget ... So as discussed before, SEIU laid off all Organizer 1's (mostly organizers with a year to two years experience) in the past couple of weeks, as well as staff in admin, communications and other roles. The International staff were given 30 days notice and one month's severance pay. But Perez hears that at the same time, the Change that Works campaign (SEIU's effort on EFCA and healthcare reform) just hired 40 temporary staffers to be employed through August. SEIU held a training for the new intake in Washington D.C. last week, on the same day that UUR were doing a sticker-up action out in the field. (perezstern.blogspot.com)

GOP to worship at the Big Labor altar? ... No segment of the population has lost more by the agendas of the liberal constituencies of the Democratic Party than the black population. The teachers' unions, environmental fanatics and the ACLU are just some of the groups to whose interests blacks have been sacrificed wholesale. Lousy education and high crime rates in the ghettos, and unaffordable housing elsewhere with building restrictions, are devastating prices to pay for liberalism. Yet the Republicans have never articulated that argument, and their opportunism in trying to get black votes by becoming imitation Democrats has failed miserably for decades on end. (ibdeditorials.com)

Union victims get organized ... The National Restaurant Association will offer a free members-only webinar on the Employee Free Choice Act at 2 p.m. Eastern, March 18. This so-called "card-check" process would replace private-ballot union elections. Card check would let unions organize in a workplace if a simple majority of employees sign a card. Register for this free National Restaurant Association members-only webinar and find out how to get involved today. (smartbrief.com)

Secret ballots protect workers' rights ... As a concerned citizen for the small business owner, I am stunned to learn that so many Senators are willing to vote to eliminate the secret ballot in union elections in order to satisfy union bosses. Special interests should not trump the rights of small business owners and their employees. Americans should be very concerned about the potential passing of the so-called “Employee Free Choice Act.” Small business owners across this country have plenty of burdens to contend with. Rising fuel costs, rising insurance costs and global competition are making it extremely difficult for them to stay afloat. They certainly don’t need the additional challenges that would be brought upon them by the so-called “Employee Free Choice Act.” If passed, S.1041, which should be entitled the “Employees FORCED Choice Act,” would completely upend the employer-employee balance within small businesses and replace it with intimidation, coercion, Washington-style bureaucracy and paranoia. Under the bill, union bosses and organizers could repeatedly press workers to sign union cards until they reached a mere majority. The rest of the employees wouldn’t even get to cast a vote. For anyone who cares about a democratic workplace, with a secret ballot, this is a travesty and a gross violation of workers’ rights. (marionstar.com)

International Collectivism

Chávez greets El Salvador's CNN Marxist president-elect ... Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on Monday congratulated fellow-leftist Mauricio Funes for his historic win a day earlier in El Salvador's presidential election. In a statement issued by the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, Chávez described the electoral victory as 'unobjectionable and resounding,' and offered Funes his assistance. The result 'consolidates the historic current that has risen across Latin America and the Caribbean in this first decade of the 21st century,' Chávez said, noting the region's swing to the left. 'The Salvadoran people did not waver, they took a step forward and showed their clarity and courage, to defeat a campaign of lies, rubbish and manipulations,' he said of allegations that a Funes victory would bring on communism. (monstersandcritics.com)

Russian bombers welcome in Venezuela

Leftist Latin strongman centralizes power ... Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has threatened governors who resist a new law that allows the executive branch to assume power previously given to the regions. Chavez said he will arrest governors who resist the law, outlined in the Organic Law on Decentralization, El Universal reported Monday. He has already ordered military officials to take over the key seaports of Puerto Cabello, Porlamar and Maracaibo because the governor there, Henrique Salas Feo, has said he will flout the new law. "You would better have an army, buddy, because the Navy will go there. I do not know what you are going to do; you will go to jail, then. No authority here -- a mayor, governor, or whatever -- may oppose the Constitution and the Venezuelan law, otherwise he will be arrested," Chávez said. (timesoftheinternet.com)

Trotskyite Lula wows Obama ... Brazil also appears to be taking a leadership role vis-à-vis U.S. relations with other countries in the hemisphere. Lula said he would urge the U.S. to begin talks with Venezuela’s loquacious leader, Hugo Chávez, in which Brazil would act as a mediator, and to drop its embargo on Cuba. Indeed, there are high hopes—and expectations—for strengthening relations between Brazil and the U.S.—in part because of the similarities between the two leaders. Yet, there were some diplomatic hiccups—or slights?—in preparation for the meeting. When the White House announced the rescheduled meet and greet, they misspelled Lula’s name—putting Lula in quotes and spelled his first name as "Luis" and last name as "Ignacio." Sorry guys, no "s" or "g" in the Brazilian’s name. Nothing more to read into, and it probably speaks more about the understaffing at the White House, said one observer close to the parties. On Saturday, Obama said he was looking forward to visiting Brazil, but no date had been set for a trip. Obama even cracked a joke when asked if he also planned to visit the Amazon: "I would love a trip to the Amazon. I suspect that the Republican Party here would love to see me travel through the Amazon and maybe get lost." (americasquarterly.org)
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