Tuesday wrap

Andy Stern's American Dream at Harvard: Union bigs to rescue U.S. from inequality ... Labor unions will have an integral role in pulling the country out of its economic slump, Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern told about 70 students and labor activists at Harvard's John F. Kennedy Law Auditorium Thursday. “I understand that people wonder about union ideology,” Stern said. “The punch line is this: they work. As a distributive force in this economy, they work. If there are any other ways to [solve the economic crisis], I dare someone to step forward.” There are three ways to distribute wealth equally, Stern said. The first two, increasing worker productivity to increase salaries and using government intervention to equalize worker benefits, are unreliable, Stern said. The third and most reliable way is unions. “During the years 1935 to 1945, the Great Depression was followed by a post war boom,” he said. “Combined with a tripling of union members, the standard for workers doubled in one decade. That was good work.” Stern said President Barack Obama is an advocate for workers’ rights and an asset for positive union changes. “Obama knows we need shared prosperity, not just growth,” Stern said. Stern said he continues his work on behalf of workers every day because of his belief in the American dream. (dailyfreepress.com)

Stern's SEIU organizers look out for #1 ... A power struggle has broken out at SEIU Local 888, the union that represents thousands of city, state and university workers. The “Bring Back Our Union” coalition is opposing president Susana Segat, who critics say has grown out of touch at a time when many government and nonprofit institutions are struggling amid a severe recession and budget cuts. “(Members) basically feel abandoned,” said Bruce T. Boccardy, who challenged Segat three years ago and is once again waging a compaign against her during the latest round of voting. About 9,000 members of Local 888 began voting yesterday for a new chief. A final vote count is not expected until late this month. The Service Employees International Union local represents about 400 Boston City Hall workers, 400 city public-health employees, 400 non-teacher school employees and 400 Boston Police Department civilian personnel, said Boccardy. Boccardy, who blasted union leaders for recently giving themselves pay raises, said the union has “become notorious for lack of transparency.” (bostonherald.com)

Key Dem: Obama agenda divides, distracts ... U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln on Monday said she will not support the Employee Free Choice Act in its current form, another major setback for the federal legislation aimed at making union organizing easier. Lincoln, D-Arkansas, had said previously she was undecided, but that she didn't think the legislation was immediately necessary. Her tone was more direct Monday when she spoke to the Political Animals Club at the governor's mansion in Little Rock. "I cannot support that bill. I cannot support it in its current form," Lincoln told those gathered for the luncheon. "I may not have said that as clearly before, but I'm saying it now." "It is one of those issues that creates great division, as well as distraction, at a time when we need all hands on deck," Lincoln said. "We have got to have our eyes focused on what we are doing, and I believe that now more than ever before, in terms of this economy and turning our country around." President Barack Obama has said he's backing the bill. (pbcommercial.com)

Obama's NLRB smacks down workers' complaint v. misappropriation of funds ... Union workers in Chicago are complaining funds raised during a six-day sit-in that garnered national attention were diverted from their intended use. Rebuffed by the National Labor Relations Board, members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America plan to take their complaints to the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Chi-Town Daily News reported Monday. Workers said funds raised the during the sit-in -- staged in December after Republic Windows and Doors unexpectedly closed its plant -- were meant to support workers displaced by the closing. The union's leadership said the charges were unfounded. "UE is a democratic union. Workers decide by a vote how to use our funds and we have voted to use our resources to get people back to work. In addition to monthly financial reports, all members are welcome to review our books if they have questions," said Armando Robles, president of UE Local 1110 and a maintenance mechanic at the factory. (upi.com)

Gov't union P2P: McAuliffe aided by hard-left front-group ... Other groups that have donated large amounts in the governor's race include the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and the Firefighters Interested in Registration and Education. They contributed a total of $475,000 to Democrat Terry McAuliffe. "Terry's proud to have the support of working men and women across Virginia, including members of AFSCME and fire fighters,'' said Lis Smith, McAuliffe's spokeswoman. The Democratic Governors Association gave $100,000 to a political action committee, Common Sense Virginia, which formed to oppose McDonnell. The group plans to officially launch on Thursday. Yoni Cohen, press secretary for Common Sense Virginia, said the group will work "to educate Virginians on Bob McDonnell's real record of working on behalf of right wing, special interest groups and big corporations." (washingtonpost.com)

Unions move in on NCAA champs

Radical Caucus in Havana to huddle-cuddle with Castro Bros. ... President Raul Castro has welcomed US lawmakers in his first meeting with US officials since he took Cuba's helm last year, state media reported, ahead of potential dialogue with the United States. Castro, 77, welcomed the Americans -- seven Democrats from the US Congressional black caucus -- Monday in the name of his ailing elder brother, former president Fidel Castro, 82, a US nemesis for five decades. The US group had met Friday with National Assembly speaker Ricardo Alarcon, as delegation leader Representative Barbara Lee said the talks pointed to a change in the tone of relations between foes Havana and Washington. Lee said the group was hopeful US-Cuban relations would change for the better under US President Barack Obama. "That's why we're here," she said. (google.com)

U.S. plagued by community organizer shortage ... Pennsylvania ACORN is a chapter of ACORN, the largest low-to-moderate income membership organization in the country. We believe that Pennsylvania should belong to all the people – not just the wealthy and well-connected. We are an independent, multi-racial, progressive organization working through elections and legislative campaigns to advance issues important to poor, working and middle-class people. Current issues include: health care access, foreclosure and predatory lending, and education reform. PA ACORN is hiring an organizer to recruit & mobilize low and moderate income people to win on a variety of issue based legislative campaigns, including passing health care reform, stopping foreclosures, and increasing resources for local schools. The organizer will also be responsible for working with grassroot leaders to identify local issues for local campaigns. The organizer would work out of the Pennsylvania ACORN office in Philadelphia with daily travel to specific communities in targeted legislative districts, including Norristown, Upper Darby, & Chester City. Applicants must be able to demonstrate a commitment to social justice issues, strong work ethic, a commitment to indigenous grassroot leadership, and the ability to work both independently & as part of a team. Previous organizing experience, Spanish, and knowledge of voter databases is also helpful but not required. Starting salary is commensurate with experience and organizer must have valid drivers license and reliable vehicle. (philly1.com)

Media unable to scapegoat GOP for anti-socialist protests ... Organizers are planning a "Tax Day Tea Parties" in Newport News next week as part of a nationwide movement to protest government spending. The event, at the Oyster Point City Center fountain, is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 15, the deadline for paying federal income taxes. This event, and a similar one in Virginia Beach, are part of a nationwide "Tax Day Tea Party" organized and promoted by three conservative groups — Smart Girl Politics, Top Conservatives on Twitter, and the Dontgo Movement — to protest government spending and taxation. For info, go to www.taxdayteaparty.com. (dailypress.com)

MSM blog mentions Atlanta anti-socialist protest ... You’ve heard about these anti-tax Tea Party protests going on across the country on April 15, Income Tax Day. What you may not know is that the event planned for the state Capitol next Wednesday may be one of the largest in the country. The Atlanta event was running along modest lines until Sean Hannity, the Fox News provocateur, decided to broadcast his 9 p.m. show from the steps of the Capitol, according to Randy Lewis, one of the planners. Right now, a crowd in the neighborhood of 10,000 is expected. Several city blocks will be shut down — a difficult maneuver, given a Braves game at the same time. Lewis said there’s talk that country music singer John Rich will be there to sing his latest hit, “Shuttin’ Detroit Down.” No word on who will supply the hot water or the cups and saucers. (ajc.com)

Corrupt Teamster bigs on trial over typical union election fraud ... Two former union officers and an organizer for Teamsters Local 743 rigged a union election in 2004 by diverting secret ballots to family members and friends who weren't authorized to vote, a federal prosecutor told a jury Monday as their trial began. Richard Lopez, a secretary-treasurer at the time and a former president of the Chicago local, is charged with former Controller Thaddeus Bania and organizer David Rodriguez in a scheme to steal ballots. Assistant U.S. Atty. Nathalina Hudson said a slate trying to keep then-President Robert Walston in place for their own job security hatched the plan at a pancake house. Bania entered a union database and changed the addresses of some union members so ballots instead went to the homes of relatives and friends, Hudson said. Those involved in the scheme then sat "in assembly-line fashion and voted the ballots in favor of Robert Walston's Unity Slate," Hudson said. Walston's slate ended up stopping the election that October when it became apparent he would lose anyway. The Teamsters local is one of the largest in the country, representing more than 12,000 warehouse, of- fice, medical and service workers. (chicagotribune.com)

Dissident unionists resist fascistic SEIU crack-down ... Health care workers at Watsonville Community Hospital are taking sides in the dispute between their bargaining agent, Service Employees International Union, and National Union of Healthcare Workers, an upstart organization formed in January by leaders unhappy with SEIU. "An overwhelming majority of us have signed petitions to choose NUHW as our union," said Kermit Butch Cole, a surgery technician for 19 years. "We need a union we can trust, where we have a voice to stand up for ourselves and our patients." Cole, 65, said he received a letter Monday from SEIU asking him to resign his position as shop steward, a role he's had for 17 years. He's not about to go quietly. "SEIU has the right to remove me, but until they do, I'm the steward," he said, noting he was elected by co-workers. About 2,600 health care and government workers in Monterey County have filed similar petitions, which are being counted and verified. At least 30 percent of members must request the election. The national law firm Littler Mendelsohn, describing the situation as an "all-out battle," suggests employers in the health care field put effective mechanisms in place to respond to union conflicts to "weather the potential war of attrition." The dispute erupted in 2007 when Northern California union leader Sal Rosselli, who headed the 140,000-member United Healthcare Workers West criticized plans by SEIU national leader Andy Stern to move 65,000 long-term health care workers out of the organization headed by Rosselli. Rosselli resigned as SEIU vice president but remained president of UHW. SEIU accused UHW leaders of diverting dues. A former labor secretary brought in as a hearing officer found "financial malpractice" and SEIU placed the UHW in trusteeship Feb. 1, removing all the top leaders and naming replacements. Rosselli formed the new union, which claims workers at 62 locations have filed petitions seeking union elections. (santacruzsentinel.com)

Sen. Sherrod Brown placed on Dirty Money Watch ... WHO: Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as Card Check. WHAT: Sen. Brown received the following dirty money: Communication Workers of America (PAC) $10,000 in 2006 election cycle. Boilermakers Union (PAC) $2,000 in 2008 election cycle; $10,000 in 2006 election cycle. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (PAC) $10,000 in 2006 election cycle. American Federation of Government Employees (PAC) $2,000 in 2008 election cycle; $10,000 in 2006 election cycle. Service Employees International Union (PAC) $1,000 in 2008 election cycle; $5,000 in 2006 election cycle. Paper, Allied-Industrial Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (now part of U.S. Steelworkers of America) (PAC) $5,000 in 2008 election cycle; $10,000 in 2006 election cycle. PMA Group (PAC): $1,000 in 2008 election cycle. WHY IT’S DIRTY: At least eight members of these unions, including several division presidents, secretary-treasurers and business managers, have been convicted since 2001 of felonies ranging from embezzlement, falsifying official reports to government, mail fraud and conspiracy. At least 10 members of the Boilermakers and 14 IBEW members were among those convicted, while at least 30 members of the Paper, Allied-Industrial Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE) were convicted. The AFGE has had at least eight convictions and the SEIU has had at least nine convictions. The amounts embezzled ranged from $5,000 to more than $100,000. PMA Group (Paul Magliocchetti and Associates) was a defense lobbying group based in Washington D.C. and closely associated with Rep. John Murtha, D-PA. PMA’s former offices were raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) last year. In total, PMA Group's employees and its political action committee have given current members of Congress $3.4 million since 1989, with 79 percent of that going to Democrats, according to OpenSecrets.org. (washingtonexaminer.com)

Union-backed House Baron, comrade exposed ... Described as bright, blunt and ambitious, Mr. Magliocchetti left a post as a staff member for the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee more than 20 years ago and set up shop as PMA Group, which became the premier lobbyist for defense firms seeking billions in federal dollars. Last year alone, PMA's clients paid the firm $13.5 million to help them secure hundreds of millions in federal contracts. "It seems to me in our system, even Magliocchetti is innocent until he's proven guilty," said Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Johnstown. "I don't know the broadness of his contributions. I have no idea. I don't even follow most of the stories. To me the Justice Department will either investigate and convict him or they'll investigate and drop the investigation." Mr. Murtha, chairman of the powerful defense appropriations subcommittee, has worked closely with Mr. Magliocchetti and others from PMA. They represented roughly a dozen firms doing business in Mr. Murtha's Western Pennsylvania district -- a district to which Mr. Murtha has steered billions in federal dollars to build a defense and high-tech economy. Federal investigators are attempting to determine whether Mr. Magliocchetti passed money to friends and family to, in turn, pass it along to the re-election campaigns of various House members, a violation of the campaign finance laws. Two sources close to Mr. Magliocchetti and with access to details of the investigation said federal investigators also are taking a broader look at how contributions to appropriators were bundled, a practice that allows groups or businesses to assemble donors whose combined contributions allow them to give as a bloc while not exceeding the individual limit on campaign donations. Bundling, while not illegal, has come under growing criticism by reform groups who say it allows special interests to effectively negate the purpose of campaign donation limits. The sources also say investigators have asked general, unfocused questions about both Mr. Murtha, a longtime Magliocchetti friend, as well as U.S. Rep. Peter J. Visclosky, D-Indiana. Both Mr. Murtha and Mr. Visclosky were among the top three recipients of PMA-connected campaign dollars. (post-gazette.com)

Left points to NYT hypocrisy on Organized Labor ... Over the last few years, the New York Times ownership - through its editorial board - has supported, applauded and demanded efforts to force unions to happily shred contracts they negotiated and accept pay/benefits cuts (see here, and here for examples). Though the Times is billed as "liberal" for its positions on social issues, this anti-union stance has been part of its broader economic conservatism for years. And now, we see how that conservatism - at least with respect to union issues - may come from a more personal, self-interested place, rather than a principled ideological motive. Here's what I mean: "The New York Times Co. has threatened to shut The Boston Globe unless the newspaper's unions swiftly agree to $20 million in concessions, union leaders said yesterday. Executives from the Times Co. and Globe made the demands Thursday morning in an approximately 90-minute meeting with leaders of the newspaper's 13 unions, union officials said. The possible concessions include pay cuts [and] the end of pension contributions by the company ..." Objectivity in corporate-owned journalism is a myth - every corporation has a subjective, highly biased and extremely personal/parochial interest in conservative economics. The Times editorializing in support of shredding union contracts at a time it is trying to shred its own union contracts is a perfect example of that larger truth. (openleft.com)

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Job-Killing DINO ... U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., said Friday she dismisses “out of hand” an allegation by the state Republican Party that her support of union legislation is tied to her campaign contributions from labor groups. Herseth Sandlin is a co-sponsor of the House version of the legislation and voted for a previous version in 2007. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., did not vote on the 2007 legislation but is a co-sponsor of this year’s Senate version. Thune and Republican Gov. Mike Rounds oppose the legislation, as does former Sen. George McGovern, a Democrat. McGovern has said his opposition, which comes as a surprise to many, is rooted in the threat the legislation poses to the American ideal of a secret-ballot election. Lucas Lentsch, the executive director of the South Dakota Republican Party, added his voice to the fracas with his Thursday press release. “Herseth Sandlin is purposely undermining the fundamental American right to a secret ballot,” Lentsch said in the release, “simply because she needs to repay the union bosses for filling her campaign account.” The Web site OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan project of the Center For Responsive Politics, reports that Herseth Sandlin has received about $1 million in campaign contributions from labor-related political action committees during her congressional career. The site ranks the “labor” sector as her second-biggest contributor. (mitchellrepublic.com)

Union big embezzlers await wrist-slap ... A former Dundalk resident and union official was indicted on 13 counts of embezzlement and one count of conspiracy on Feb. 5, according to the U.S. State’s Attorney’s office. Former Walnut Avenue resident Paul S. Peters, 31, one-time president of the now-defunct Waterfront Guard Association Local 1852, was arrested in West Virginia on March 26, the same day the indictment against him and former union recording secretary Brian Armentrout, 32, of Dundalk was unsealed, according to U.S. State’s Attorney spokeswoman Marcia Murphy. Federal prosecutors allege that from January 2002 through September 2005 the two men embezzled over $300,000 from the union operating account and pension and welfare plans for personal use. If convicted, Peters could face a maximum sentence of 70 years and Armentrout could face 25 years. (dundalkeagle.com)

Union misconduct a myth ... In the past 60 years, there have been just 42 cases of union misconduct in organizing campaigns confirmed by the National Labor Relations Board. Less than one per year. Conversely, nearly 20,000 cases of corporate misconduct, known as unfair labor practices, are reported every year. And those are just the illegal acts. During a union drive, 92 percent of companies conduct forced, closed meetings to spread anti-union propaganda. Seventy-eight percent require that their supervisors hold one-on-one sessions with employees to discourage union support, and 75 percent spend big money on professional union avoidance consultants to defeat employee attempts to better their working conditions. (journalstar.com)

International Collectivism

Chávez gathers communistic Latin tyrants ... Venezuela will host a summit meeting of the Bolivarian Alternative for Our Americas (ALBA) on April 14 and 15 this month, announced President Hugo Chávez. In a telephone contact with Radio Nacional de Venezuela from Tokio, Japan, where Chávez started an official visit on Sunday, the Venezuelan leader said the meeting is very important as it will take place prior to the 5th Summit of the Americas. Chávez said that the occasion will be appropriate to discuss and adopt common positions that will be taken to Trinidad and Tobago, the venue for the Americas Summit, and he announced that he is going to introduce the issue of Cuba's isolation by the U.S blockade on the meeting's agenda. Attending the event will be heads of state Daniel Ortega, from Nicaragua; Manuel Zelaya, Honduras; Evo Morales, Bolivia, Dominica's prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit; a Cuban government official and Paraguay's President Fernando Lugo, who will participate as special guest, reports Prensa Latina. The Venezuelan president said: "if they want to continue with the same excluding rhetoric (about the blockade of Cuba), it will mean then that nothing has changed. Everything remains the same." Chávez stressed: "Cuban is a point of honor for the people of Latin America. We cannot accept that the U.S continues to ride roughshod over the peoples of our Americas." "Riding roughshod over Cuba is like riding roughshod over Venezuela and that will have to be stated in Trinidad and Tobago. Nobody will be able to shut us up," said Chávez. (cubaweb.cu)

Chávez honored in Belarus ... Venezuela plans to promote its ideas in Belarus with the help of Simón Bolívar Latin American culture centre, which is to open in Minsk soon. As informed by the press-service of Venezuelan Embassy, Nicolás Maduro Moro signed a corresponding resolution. “The aim of this institution is to promote and publicize socio-cultural values of Venezuela and other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean in Belarus,” the repot notes. The solemn opening ceremony of the centre is to take place on April 13. As we have informed, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez visited Belarus three times, the last visit took place in July 2008. Despite of the fact that Hugo Chávez arrived to Minsk for one day only, Belarusian authorities renamed one of Minks parks after Chávez’s idol, legendary Latin American revolutionary Simón Bolívar. Venezuelan leader was touched and promised to struggle against enemies of Belarus. “I have became affectionate with the Belarusian land, Belarusian nation, and I promise to stay the friend of this nation. We are fighting against one enemy. We should name it openly, it is American imperialism. We have been winning, we are winning, but there is a long battle expecting us,” Venezuelan president admitted. Alyaksandr Lukashenka decorated Chávez for his merit with the Order of the People's Friendship. (charter97.org)

Resurgent Communists use democracy ... The ruling Communist Party has retained power in the former Soviet republic of Moldova after an impressive victory in the parliamentary polls. After the counting of 95 per cent votes the pro-European Communist Party has bagged at least 60 seats in the 101-strong house, agencies reported from Moldovan capital Chisinau. Incumbent President Vladimir Voronin, who would step down after serving two consecutive terms, declared that the victory of the Communists led by him, reiterates the popular support for their programmes carried out during eight years of his rule. Voronin said after stepping down he would continue his political activities as a lawmaker, but the final decision would be in the hands of the Communist Party. (manoramaonline.com)

ACORN at work? Election fraud by Communists triggers violent protest ... Anti-communist protesters stormed Moldova's Parliament on Tuesday, hurling computers through shattered windows and setting fire to furniture in a violent demonstration against what they said were fraudulent elections. Police fired water cannons on the protesters, but were unable to stop them breaking into the Parliament and an adjacent presidential office. Chisinau Emergency Hospital doctor Iuri Baziluc said 30 police officers and protesters were injured in the clashes, which happened two days after the communists won re-election in one of Europe's poorest nations. The violence started after at least 10,000 protesters gathered outside the Parliament building, demanding new elections and shouting "Down with the Communists" and "Freedom, freedom." The mainly young crowd of protesters carrying European Union, Moldovan and Romanian flags, broke through police lines and a small number stormed the Parliament and the presidential office. (usatoday.com)
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