Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Report shows differences between U.S. and Canada labor laws

09.10.12

SEPTEMBER 2012 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Report shows differences between U.S. and Canada labor laws

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 29th- A new report released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research offered an explaination in why unionization in the United States has been on the decline since the 1960’s.

While many reasons have been given to explain the drop in the rate of workers represented by labor organizations, the report released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research highlights the roles that employer opposition to labor unions and weak labor laws have played in the decline.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research is a Washington, DC based left-leaning economic think-tank that reviews economic and social issues that effect working people’s lives.

The report, “Protecting Fundamental Labor Rights: Lessons from Canada for the United States,” begins with a comparison of the current state of organized labor in the United States and Canada. It notes that from the 1920’s to around 1960, Canada and the United States had approximately the same percentage of unionized worker rates. However, in 1960, the two began to diverge. As of 2011, the unionization rate in Canada stood at 29.7 percent, while the unionization rate in the United States was less than half that at 11.8 percent.

The report then goes on to look at the legal process for forming labor unions and how impasses in contract negotiations are handled in both countries, reaching the conclusion that these institutional factors help to explain much of the difference in unionization rates.

While in Canada and the United States both have elections as one route to forming labor unions, Canadian workers in several provinces also have the much faster option of card-check certification. Under card-check, once a majority of employees sign cards in support of unionization, an employer is required by law to recognize their union.

However, in the United States unless an employer voluntarily recognized a union, workers must first file a petition showing support for unionization and then vote to unionize in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) before an employer is required to recognized their union.

As of 2011, the median amount of time between the petition to form a union and the election was 38 days, and it often extends far beyond. During this time, United States employers often engage in anti-union campaigns, committing illegal acts such as threatening to close the workplace or threatening to and/or fire workers, to discourage them from voting to form a union. In fact, workers were illegally fired in about 30 percent of certification elections in 2007.

The report suggest it is worth nothing that union decertification in Canada was no more common in periods where card-check certification was in place than at other times. Opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct), which would have brought card-check to the United States, argued that the process would allow unions to “bulldoze” workers into signing cards, leaving them with union representation even when they didn’t really want it. However, the fact decertification was no more prevalent under card-check than it was under mandatory elections in Canada shows that this has not been a problem.

In closing, the report notes that even after a union has been certified, negotiations for a first-time contract is a much more difficult prospect in the United States than in Canada.

Though required by law under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct) to negotiate with workers “in good faith” to obtain a contract, some employers have never reached an agreement with the union. The failure to get a first-time contract often leads to the union being decertified. In Canada, “first contract arbritration” mandates that if bargaining for a first-time contract has come to an impasse or if certain conditions have been met, there is a mediation procedure to reach a mutual agreement. Should that fail, arbitration will lead to a legally binding contract agreement.

During 2012 political season the labor community will be active

12.29.11

NOVEMBER 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

During 2012 political season the labor community will be active

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, November 10th- The labor community will be active during 2012 in what promises to be an interesting political year.

Democratic United States Senator from Pennsylvania Robert Casey Jr., a Scranton native, will definitively face a Republican opponent, with at least nine Republican’s so-far declaring their candidacy for the opportunity to challenge Mr. Casey’s re-election bid.

Five years ago Mr. Casey defeated Incumbent Republican right-wing Senator Rick Santorum, who is currently running for President of the United States. Senator terms are for six years.

In 2010 conservative Republican Pat Toomey defeated Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak for the other Pennsylvania Senatorial seat. Mr. Toomey is a Lehigh Valley resident and formerly represented the region in the United States House of Representatives.

Mr. Casey is one of ten Democratic Senators that are on the “endangered list” for re-election in 2012 according to Newsweek magazine.

Senator Casey has supported legislation important to the labor community in his first term in Washington, including voting to increase the federal minimum wage, voted for passage of the failed attempt of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct)Card Check legislation, voted in favor of extending unemployment benefits, and voted against the pending trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama. The Obama administration supports the trade agreements, which will likely cost American jobs.

Mr. Casey stated Pennsylvania has lost 300,000 jobs since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was implemented in 1993 despite the projected new jobs increases. NAFTA was signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton and was passed by the Democratic controlled House of Representatives.

On October 12th in rapid succession, the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the trade pacts, which will lower or eliminate trade tarriffs.

The trade agreements were supported by many Democratic legislators that have in the past, received labor support and have promised to support “pro-labor” legislation.

Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent (Republican-15th Legislative District) voted for passage of the trade agreements.

NAFTA was recently criticized by three leaders of Mexico’s independent labor union’s. The labor leaders stated that Mexican workers lives have not improved because of NAFTA, and in fact the livelihoods of Mexican workers have seen an increase in violent acts against unions because taxpayers dollars are being used to bust unions in Mexico.

President Barack Obama will attempt to gain a second four-year term in 2012.

Mr. Obama has failed to deliver during his first term on much of the proposed labor legislation that was discussed during the 2008 political campaign.

Recently the labor community opposed the three free trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama that Mr. Obama supported. Also, the EFCAct/Card Check legislation was never even voted on in the Democratic controlled United States Senate in 2009.

Despite the failure of the Obama Administation to pass “pro-labor” legislation and his support for the free trade agreements, the labor community will likely support his re-election bid, mainly because the Republican party is currently extremely anti-union

Obama has lost my support for 2012 over Colombia “Free Trade” deal

04.08.11

This is a deal breaker for me. I will not vote for nor support Obama for President in 2012.

I like Obama personally and supported him because I thought he would support progressive, pro-worker policies on a consistent basis.

Instead, Obama has grown increasing “Republican-lite” in policy terms.

Obama supports the so-called “free trade” deals with both South Korea and Colombia. He failed to push for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. He failed to get us fully out of either Iraq or Afghanistan. He did not push for investigations or prosecutions for anyone from the Bush regime for their many violations of federal law. He has supported budget cuts during a recession that severely hurt poor, working class and middle class Americans. He did not veto continued Bush-era tax cuts for those making over a million dollars a year. He continues to push for nuclear power.

Obama did not push for single-payer, universal healthcare. He should have insisted on at least the “public option.”

I vote on policy positions and actions….. not feelings or promises.

I will support a Democratic challenger if a progressive one arises. If not, I will only be working on state legislators, Governors, U.S House and Senate races.

Sincerely,

Stephen Crockett

Editor, Mid-Atlantic Labor.com
Host, Democratic Talk Radio

Congressman Charlie Dent defeats labor supported John Callahan

11.13.10

NOVEMBER 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Congressman Charlie Dent defeats labor supported John Callahan

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, November 5th- Incumbent House of Representative Charlie Dent (Republican-15th Legislative District) defeated Bethlehem Democratic Mayor John Callahan and Independent candidate Jake Towne on November 2nd and will begin a fourth two-year term in Washington, DC in Janaury.

According to unofficial election results, Mr. Dent defeated Mr. Callahan by more than 14 percentage points and Mr. Towne by 37 percentage points.

The Republican party has won the right to represent the Lehigh Valley in the nation’s capitol in the last seven elections. Republican candidate for the United States Senate Pat Toomey defeated the labor supported Democratic nominee Joe Sestak on election day and will represent Pennsylvania in Washington beginning in January. Mr. Toomey held the 15th Legislative seat for three terms before Mr. Dent.

Mr. Callahan received the endorsement of the Pennsylvania American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Harrisburg after he submitted the labor federation’s election questionnaire. Mr. Callahan stated on the questionnaire, if elected he would support the labor community.

The newspaper attempted to interview Mr. Callahan during the campaign, however, he did not respond to our numerous request and his campaign staff was unco-operative leading-up to November 2nd.

Mr. Dent’s labor voting record has decreased each term since first being elected. During his first two-year term in Washington, Mr. Dent supported labor legislation 35 percent of the time. In 2007 his labor voting record dropped to 27 percent and now is below 20 percent. Mr. Toomey’s labor voting record was around 7 percent when he decided not to seek a fourth term.

Congressman Dent voted against HR 7321, the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act that provided loans to the American automakers including General Motors and Chrysler. Because of the loans, both companies have survived and still employ thousands of workers including members of the United Auto Workers of America (UAW) Union.

Mr. Dent stated in November 2009 he opposed the legislation because it “failed to implement the reforms that domestic automakers must embrace to ensure limits on executive compensation, and additional substantial concessions by the UAW members.” However, since the legislation was passed General Motors has repaid the loans from the federal government and Chrysler financial situation has improved.

Mr. Dent voted against the Employee Free Choice Act/Card Check (EFCAct). Also, Congressman Dent voted against raising the federal minimum wage and funding extentions of unemployment benefits for American workers that have been without jobs for an extended period.

Jerry Green, President of the United Steelworkers of America (UAW) Union Local 2599 in Bethlehem, is disappointed Mr. Dent won and has seen a change in his attitude toward the labor community during the past several terms and not for the better.

Congressional candidate John Callahan endorsed by Pennsylvania AFL-CIO

08.31.10

SEPTEMBER 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Congressional candidate John Callahan endorsed by Pennsylvania AFL-CIO

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, August 17th- The United States House of Representatives (15th Legislative District) Democratic candidate, Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, has received the endorsement of the Pennsylvania State American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Harrisburg for the November election. Mr. Callahan and Independent candidate Jake Towne are challenging incumbent Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.

In the Primary election in May, Mr. Dent defeated fellow Republican Matt Benol while Mr. Callahan had no challengers.

Mr. Dent is seeking a fourth two-year term in representing the Lehigh Valley in Washington, DC. Mr. Dent’s labor voting record has decreased each term since first being elected. He voted against raising the minimum wage, voted against providing loans to the American automobile makers and voted against the Employee Free Choice Act/Card Check (EFCAct).

AFL-CIO delegates met on August 12th and announced Mr. Callahan was endorsed by the labor federation for the November election.

The newspaper previously reported Mr. Callahan summitted a AFL-CIO candidate questionnaire indicating he would support the labor community if elected.

According to the questionnaire, Mr. Callahan would vote for passage of EFCAct.

He would also oppose a national “right-to-work” bill that would prohibit unionized workers and their employers from voluntarily agreeing to “union security” contract language. He vowed to support the raising of the federal minimum wage and automatic adjustments on an annual basis of the mimimum wage.

EFCA’s Dead, but Fear of It Still Driving Anti-Worker Measures

08.24.10

EFCA’s Dead, but Fear of It Still Driving Anti-Worker Measures

By Mike Elk

IN THESE TIMES article link

Months after Arizona politicians passed S.B. 1070, the controversial and now delayed immigration law, the right wingers are going on the attack against not just hispanic workers, but all workers.

Earlier this month, Gov. Jan Brewer called a special session of the legislature into session to put an anti-union amendment on the November ballot. If voters approve the measure, it would block any charges to labor law made by federal passage of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

Eight other states have similar measures on their respective ballots that aim to do the same thing. For a variety reasons, many legal scholars question whether these measures are even constitutional—one reason being that Congress never actually passed the Employee Free Choice Act. In fact, early this month the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that as crafted, the amendment is illegal.

Beyond that obvious obstacle, the larger question is: Why would big business and its Republican allies in the Arizona legislature want to push the measure if card check (as EFCA was often referred to) is already dead? Answer: They want to crush the ability of organized labor to shape the overall political agenda.

They want to beat up labor so badly that they will never push for EFCA again. The Chamber of Commerce keeps pushing against the bill because they want to push unions back into making concessions on weakening current law. We have already seen the success of Big Business to change the political dynamic by its ability to stop the routine nomination of Craig Becker to the NLRB.

Organized labor spent tens of millions of dollars to fight for EFCA, and it got nothing in the way of labor law reform in return. Instead, labor’s defeat and the loss of the public narrative about the role of unions have created political openings for big business to go on the attack against labor.

If labor had passed even a compromised version of the Employee Free Choice Act, we would have never had the problems over appointing Democrats to the National Labor Relations Board. Instead, Democrats fumbled on offensive and labor finds itself on the defensive once again.

Big Business was able to so successfully tar and feather labor that now we are seeing dramatic changes in the way the public views labor. As a result, the popularity of U.S. unions is at a 70-year low—a Pew survey this year showed that unions had a favorability rating of 41 percent, down dramatically from 58 percent in 2007.

Public employees and their pension funds are under attack all over the country as a result of the negative public narrative against unions. The public hysteria against union is so high that even labor’s allies and its own union members are turning against organized labor.

The person helping to lead the attack against unions in New Jersey is an Ironworkers union leader himself, Democratic State Senate President Stephen Sweeney. Sweeney was quoted in the New York Times saying “I’m a labor leader, but I’m also elected to do right by all the people in the state of New Jersey, and not just union members.”

Let the example of Sweeney serve as a stern lesson to the labor leaders who stayed silent and made a deal with Rahm Emanuel to wait to push EFCA until after healthcare “reform” passed. If you don’t stand up to the corporate interests and their political allies, you will be forced to sit down and work on their side. Any time you don’t take advantage of even a small opportunity to win, your opponents will turn it into an even greater defeat.

As one of my mentors, legendary DC press man Toby Chaudhuri, is famous for saying, “If you’re not winning, you’re losing. If you’re not defining yourselves, your opponents are defining you.” Labor’s defeat on EFCA has allowed Big Business to increasingly define organized labor’s power, and the public’s perception of it.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: I advise readers to check out this article at the original IN THESE TIMES link. It has many embedded links not reproduced here.

Unionists, Environmentalists, Progressives Need to Take Over Democratic Party

06.11.10

Unionists, Environmentalists, Progressives Need to Take Over Democratic Party

It is time to purge the corporatists from the Democratic power structure. The real work of the Democratic Party is done by grassroots activists. These activists are the Democratic Party. They should run it at every level.

This conclusion has become clear in the aftermath of tainted Blanche Lincoln primary victory in Arkansas. It took massive voter disenfranchisement and the intervention of both former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama for Lincoln to squeak out a victory.

Obama still has not learned that the Obama Movement that put him in the White House was not really about Obama. It was about a set of progressive policies that constituted “change we can believe in.”

Former President Clinton started the process of going Republican-lite and selling out parts of the Democratic base around specific policy issues. Union members and American workers were shafted by the false promises surrounding “so-called free trade deals.” Poor Americans really suffered from some aspects of his welfare reform ideas. Deregulation helped create media consolidation that gave the corporations excessive control of public policy discussions and American politics.

Hilary Clinton was the driving force behind the most progressive policy goal of the Clinton Presidency which was the failed attempt at healthcare reform. America would have been a much better place if she had been President instead of Bill Clinton. One note of caution in her background was her position at one point on the Wal-Mart Board but her overall political history is solidly progressive.

President Clinton was not a bad on corporate issues as Reagan or both of the Bushes but he was pretty bad for a Democrat. He was not as bad as Senator Blanche Lincoln. Lincoln received more campaign money from Big Oil than any other Senator regardless of political party. She was the leading force in blocking the public option in healthcare reform.

Blanche Lincoln stopped the Employee Free Choice Act from even getting debated on the floor of the US Senate. She has a terrible record on trade policy, environmental protections, tax policy and deregulation. Blanche Lincoln has proven herself the most “corporatist” Senator in the relatively small “corporatist” wing of the Democratic Party.

Union activists, progressives and environmentalists are the majority of foot soldiers that go to battle for Democratic candidates at every level in every community of the nation. Along with civil rights leaders, civil libertarians, peace activists and the progressive Internet community, these activists give more money to elect Democrats than every corporation combined.

The corporations make the big donations and control the mainstream media but their values are really more Republican than Democratic. They value money over people. They value money over traditional American values. They value money over American patriotism. They value money over ethics, honesty and decency. Their values are directly at odds with the core values of the Democratic base.

We need to return to the values of FDR and the New Deal. We need to capture every Democratic Party office and drive out the corporatists. The Democratic Party is a much better institution because we drove out the Southern racist faction (and the northern one) and we need to do the same with the corporatists.

Obama needs to decide if he is going to the leader of this effort or an obstacle. If he elects to be an obstacle, he will not get a second term. If he joins in this populist effort, he might go down in history as an equal to our greatest American President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

With or without Obama, we need to take over every local Democratic Committee, every Democratic club and elect our “real Democrats” to public office. Government is not our enemy as long as it has not been captured by corporations. The US Constitution says we “the people” are the government. Corporations are not people despite the radical Right Wing Supreme Court rulings.

The Tea Party crowd has been captured and in some cases created by corporate forces. They cannot be the populist engine for “change you can believe in” but you and your friends can be that populist engine. Get angry, get active and fight corporatism regardless of political party.

Written by Stephen Crockett (host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com and Editor of Mid-Atlantic Labor.com http://www.midatlanticlabor.com) . Mail: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702. Email: demlabor@aol.com. Phone: 443-907-2367.

Feel free to publish without prior approval.

Lessons for Obama from the Arkansas and Pennsylvania Democratic Primaries

05.19.10

Lessons for Obama from the Arkansas and Pennsylvania Democratic Primaries

The Obama White House hopefully will learn something about Obama 2008 winning coalition from the 2010 Democratic Primary Elections in Arkansas and Pennsylvania. The media needs to learn this same basic lesson. The Obama Movement was never just about Obama. It was about change… real change. While Obama gives a great speech and the Obama loves to hear him talk, they want real actions that they can believe in and they want it now!

Of course, the Obama movement is not really radical. However, it does want to see fundamental reforms in our political and economic system. The Obama White House has been unwilling to get out in front of the Obama Movement on almost every issue. Conservative and corporate forces within the Obama White House have effectively held back the pace of reforms and often have completely defeated them. The Obama Movement wants more! If they do not get more and soon then Obama will no longer be the leader of the Obama Movement.

Sestak won in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate race because labor activists and the local Democratic Party leaders did not follow Obama’s endorsement of Specter although their top leadership did. The grassroots refused. They were joined by some unions and essentially all progressive organizations at every level. Minority voters simply did not vote in large numbers. The Obama Movement effectively backed Sestak or stayed home for the most part. Obama cannot take the Obama Movement down paths outside their core values.

Specter was not the kind of leader the Obama Movement wanted. Sestak was and is a different story.

Sestak loves labor. Specter needed labor. The grassroots of the labor movement understood the difference.

Sestak wants to end needless wars and wants to curb excessive corporate power. He is certainly not anti-business but he does seem more focused on Main Street than serving Wall Street. The Republican in the race, Pat Toomey, is widely considered a complete tool of Wall Street and with good reason. Toomey effectively ran the Right Wing billionaires political entity known as the Club for Growth. He will not look good running against a tough military man with a devotion to mainstream middle class values.

I believe that Specter would have lost to Toomey. I believe Sestak will soundly defeat Toomey! Sestak is both a realist and an economic populist. He is honest and hardworking almost to a fault. The contrast with Toomey will be very clear in November.

Blanche Lincoln has voted with the Republicans often. She has blocked important legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act. Only since getting an effective Democratic challenger did she start voting more often for the kind of change desired by the Obama Movement.

Lincoln did not deserve the support of Obama based on her voting record. She still does not deserve his support in the run-off. Obama’s core supporters will hold this misplaced support against Obama for a long time to come.

Obama should have stayed out of the race in both Pennsylvania and Arkansas. The American people like and respect Obama but want Obama to act more aggressively to check excessive corporate power. Opposing progressive or reform Democratic challengers only makes Obama weaker.

The Obama Movement activists want Obama to aggressively push legislation to limit the damage from the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. Obama should push legislation requiring that all shareholders should have to approve in a vote before any money from the corporate treasury gets spent on elections or politics. Corporate executives should not be able spend corporate funds on politics if even one shareholder disagrees. The executives are spending other people’s money.

All publicly traded corporations should be required to give at least 20% of the Board of Director seats to elected representatives of their employees. Obama should push that legislation.

Obama should get out and start a nationwide voter education effort to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. It is time to make unionization elections truly democratic instead of jokes rigged in favor of corporations. Workers need a much bigger say in the economy and a bigger slice of the economic pie. Obama should support legislative limits on corporate executive salaries. Corporate executives should be removed completely from the election process for members of the Board of Directors.

Obama should push legislation to break up the largest banks, modify or repeal unfair “so-called free trade deals”, hold oil companies fully responsible for economic damages from oil spills without financial limits, appoint more aggressive regulators and judges, tax imports and start repealing decades of tax breaks for international corporations.

Every hint of going “corporate Republican-lite” upsets the Obama Movement. Obama needs to remember his base. Obama should look hard at making some staff changes and policy shifts in a more Democratic reform direction. He should compromise less with his enemies and remember his real friends.

The media should stop drinking the Republican Right “tea” kool-aid! The Tea Party Republicans are not economic populists nor anti-corporate. If Obama learns the lesson of these two elections, he can lead the Democratic Party in a real economic populist reform direction. This is what the Obama Movement wants and is the key to victory in 2010.

Written by Stephen Crockett (host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com and Editor of Mid-Atlantic Labor.com http://www.midatlanticlabor.com) . Mail: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702. Phone: 443-907-2367. Email: demlabor@aol.com.

Feel free to publish or reprint at no charge without prior approval.

Labor Unions May Have To Abandon Obama to Beat Corporate America

05.16.10

Published by AlterNet / Written By Mike Elk

Labor Unions May Have To Abandon Obama to Beat Corporate America

Labor unions need to start fighting their battles in the workplace, not on Capitol Hill.
May 13, 2010 |

As president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka is emerging as the voice of an increasingly irrelevant labor movement. As unionized work sinks to only 7 percent of the private sector, the labor movement is losing its influence within the Democratic Party. To revitalize labor, Trumka must not only challenge Democratic leaders, but wage political battles outside the bounds of party politics by bringing labor back to its working-class activist roots.

The failure of President Barack Obama to make a major push on the Employee Free Choice Act ## let alone give even a single speech dedicated to the topic ## is a telling sign of organized labor’s declining momentum inside the Beltway. As Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson noted in February, “For American labor, year one of Barack Obama’s presidency has been close to an unmitigated disaster.” Labor ranks so low on the president’s list of priorities that a new generation of Obama activists is now planning for a political environment altogether devoid of the labor movement….

Read more at:

AlterNet article link
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Mike Elk is a third-generation union organizer who writes for Campaign for America’s Future. He previously worked for the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE).

UAW optimistic about growth as economy revives

04.15.10

UAW optimistic about growth as economy revives

BY BRENT SNAVELY
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

http://www.freep.com/article/20100415/BUSINESS01/4150401/1207/Business0104/UAW-optimistic-about-growth-as-economy-revives

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said Wednesday that he is hopeful the UAW can reverse its declining membership as the economy recovers and the nation’s labor laws are changed.

Gettelfinger said industry sales are off to a good start in April and he believes that Ford, General Motors and Chrysler and the industry at large are on a path to recovery.

“We’re right on the verge of having 12 million in vehicle sales” for 2010, Gettelfinger said during a speech at Wayne State University. That would be a big improvement from 10.4 million in 2009, the U.S. industry’s lowest sales in nearly 30 years.

Gettelfinger, whose second and final term ends in June, has guided the union through a retrenchment during which membership fell to 355,191, a post-World War II low.

He is both praised and blamed for convincing UAW members to accept concessions on contracts the union fought for decades to win in an effort to prevent General Motors and Chrysler from failing.

Many Americans still want to join unions, Gettelfinger said, but U.S. laws make it difficult to organize. Employers can delay certification votes and even threaten workers with recriminations or even firing.

In 2007, he said 58,000 U.S. workers voted to join a union. Two years later, 37% of those workers were still without a labor contract with their employer.

The proposed Employee Free Choice Act would allow a union to be certified to bargain with an employer if it collects signatures from a majority of the workers.

However, James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said Wednesday that passing the legislation, commonly known as card check, will be difficult because Republicans can block the bill unless the Democrats have 60 votes in the U.S. Senate. After Massachusetts voters elected Republican Scott Brown to succeed the late Democrat Ted Kennedy, Democrats can count on only 59 votes in the Senate.

Contact BRENT SNAVELY: 313-222-6512 or bsnavely@freepress.com

Corey O’Brien pledges to support labor community if elected

02.15.10

FEBRUARY 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Corey O’Brien pledges to support labor community if elected

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 4th- Lackawanna County Majority Democratic Commissioner Corey O’Brien is attempting to gain the support of the labor community which in the past supported incumbent United States House of Representative Paul Kanjorski (11th Legislative District). Mr. O’Brien is challenging Mr. Kanjorski for their party nomination in May. Mr. Kanjorski is serving a 13th term in Washington, DC.

“We are not writing-off organized labor to Mr. O’Brien. Congressman Kanjorski has one of the best labor voting records in Washington. He has supported labor’s agenda, and will continue to do so,” said Ed Mitchell, Mr. Kanjorski’s media consultant.

Justin Carroll, O’Brien for Congress Campaign Manager, told the newspaper several unions have contributed to his campaign that in the past supported Mr. Kanjorski. Mr. Carroll also stated the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Union Local 329 in Scranton endorsed Mr. O’Brien over Mr. Kanjorski.

Mr. Carroll stated both the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters International Union Local 524 in Scranton and the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen International Union (BAC) Local 5 in Harrisburg have given funds to Mr. O’Brien’s campaign. “We are cutting into Mr. Kanjorski’s base. If elected Corey will be a strong voice for labor in Washington. Also, he will be accessible to the labor community, something Mr. Kanjorski is not,” said Mr. Carroll.

Mr. Carroll said the labor community will have Mr. O’Brien’s cell phone number and will even be able to call him on the floor of the House of Representatives if they have any questions or any problems.

The newspaper contacted several labor leaders throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania including unions that represent construction workers, government employees and industrial workers but most did not want to be interviewed on the record about the Primary Election on May 11th.

John Gatto, Assistant Business Manager of the Painters and Allied Trades International Union (IUPAT) District Council 21, Drums, stated what several of the labor leaders told the newspaper, Mr. Kanjorski’s labor voting record should not be ignored when union members vote in the May Primary Election. “Corey has been a supporter of us, but you can’t just forget Paul’s labor voting record,” said Mr. Gatto.

Mr. Kanjorski voted to increase the federal minimum wage in January 2007 and voted for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct) legislation in 2008. The Employee Free Choice Act legislation passed in the House of Representatives 241-185 but failed in the United States Senate. The labor community made passage of the legislation a priority in the 2009 legislative session but it stalled in the Senate.

Mr. Mitchell said Corey O’Brien’s pledge to support organized labor in Washington if elected means nothing because Congressman Kanjorski is already one of the most labor progressive votes in the nation’s capitol.

“He has voted to support the working people for more than two decades. He has fought against the conservative anti-union agenda. The labor community has been able to count on his vote,” added Mr. Mitchell.

Unions bash Democrats, warn of political fallout

02.11.10

Unions bash Democrats, warn of political fallout

By JAMES HOHMANN

Labor groups are furious with the Democrats they helped put in office — and are threatening to stay home this fall when Democratic incumbents will need their help fending off Republican challengers.

The Senate’s failure to confirm labor lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board was just the latest blow, but the frustrations have been building for months.

“Here’s labor getting thrown under the bus again,” said John Gage, the national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 600,000 workers. “It’s really frustrating for labor, and a lot of union people are thinking: We put out big time in money and volunteers and support. And it seems like the little things that could have been aren’t being done.”

The 52-33 vote on Becker — who needed 60 to be confirmed — really set labor unions on edge, but the list of setbacks is growing.

The so-called “card check” bill that would make it easier to unionize employees has gone nowhere. A pro-union Transportation Security Administration nominee quit before he even got a confirmation vote. And even though unions got a sweetheart deal to keep their health plans tax-free under the Senate health care bill, that bill has collapsed, leaving unions exposed again.

Union leaders warn that the Democrats’ lackluster performance in power is sapping the morale of activists going into the midterm elections.

“Right now if we don’t get positive changes to the agenda, we’re going to have a hard time getting members out to work,” said United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard, in an interview.

“There’s no use pretending any longer.”

The biggest threat, of course, is apathy from a Democratic constituency that has a history of mobilizing for elections.

“You’re just not going to be able to go to our membership in the November elections and say, ‘Come on, let’s do it again. Look at what the Democratic administration has done for us!’” Gage said. “People are going to say, ‘Huh? What have the Democrats done for us?’”

Kim Freeman Brown, the executive director of a D.C.-based nonprofit called American Rights at Work, acknowledged “frustration” with the lack of movement.

“I implore Congress to listen to the voice of their constituents who want change, and so far we haven’t delivered good enough on that promise,” she said. “To the degree that we don’t address these real bread-and-butter issues, we will have failed America’s workers.”

Gage warned that Democrats will struggle to energize blue-collar voters if they don’t score a few victories soon. Union leaders say they will closely watch as a new “jobs bill” emerges to see if it includes more labor-friendly provisions or tax cuts for small businesses.

When you talk to labor officials these days, much of their animus is directed at Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who helped filibuster Becker’s confirmation.

“Ben Nelson has got principles until you buy him off,” Gerard said. …….

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0210/32781.html#ixzz0fFAlz6FN

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0210/32781.html#ixzz0fFAm1qx9

Under Obama, labor should have made more progress

02.10.10

Under Obama, labor should have made more progress

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/09/AR2010020902465.html

For American labor, year one of Barack Obama’s presidency has been close to an unmitigated disaster.

Labor’s primary priority ## the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) ## died when the Democrats lost their 60-vote majority in the Senate. Labor’s normal priority ## a functioning National Labor Relations Board ## also seems out of reach, with Republicans on Tuesday blocking the appointment of Obama nominee Craig Becker (that’s why Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown scurried down to Washington last week to take his seat). Other key legislation for which labor has lobbied, including health-care reform and financial regulations, languishes in the Senate.

For the unions, the Senate’s inability to pass EFCA is devastating and galling. Democratic senators had developed a compromise proposal that would have jettisoned the controversial “card check” process ## by which unions could be organized without a secret ballot ## in favor of expediting the election process (so that management couldn’t delay for months, or even years, employees’ votes on whether to unionize) and stiffening the penalties for violating the rules that govern election conduct.

The compromise had a shot at winning all 60 Democratic votes. The unions, which spent more than $300 million in the 2008 elections on Democrats’ behalf, wanted a vote on EFCA last year, but Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asked them to wait until health reform had passed. (Their requests for confirmation votes on NLRB appointees were similarly delayed.)

By my count, this marks the fourth time in the past half-century that labor’s efforts to strengthen workers’ ability to organize have been deferred by the Democratic presidents and the heavily Democratic Congresses they supported. In 1965, about the only piece of Great Society legislation not enacted was the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act provision that gave states the power to block unions from claiming as members all the employees in workplaces where they had won contracts. In 1979, as American management was beginning to invest heavily in union-busting endeavors, the first effort to reform labor law failed to win cloture in the Senate by one vote as President Jimmy Carter stood idly by. In 1994, President Bill Clinton responded to a similar labor-backed effort by appointing a commission to recommend changes in labor law to the next Congress ## which turned out to be run by Newt Gingrich. And last year, by asking his labor supporters to wait, Obama ensured ## unintentionally, of course ## that the next effort to revive organizing must wait until the next overwhelmingly Democratic Congress.

Meanwhile, the percentage of American workers in unions steadily declines. During the 1965 effort, more than 30 percent of private-sector workers belonged to unions. In 1979, the share was 21 percent; in 1994, 11 percent; and in 2009, just 7.2 percent. When the next chance to rewrite labor law comes around, the rate of private-sector unionization could be down to trace elements.

What will life be like in an America with almost no private-sector unions or collective bargaining? We had a glimpse of that during George W. Bush’s presidency, in which the unionization rate was already so low that median household incomes declined even as gross domestic product rose. It’s also apparent that a deunionized private sector won’t readily support ## politically or economically ## a unionized or expansive public sector. In 1960, when California Gov. Pat Brown created the nation’s foremost public sector ## the greatest university systems, freeways and aqueducts ## it was paid for by the nation’s most vibrant, and one of its most highly unionized, private-sector economies. California’s private sector is nowhere near as vibrant or unionized today ## a major reason its public sector is crumbling.

In a deunionized America, it’s not clear who, if anyone, will fund campaigns such as those the unions funded this year, for universal health care and financial regulation. It’s also not clear who, if anyone, will persuade working-class whites to vote Democratic. (Over the past half-century, white male union members have voted Democratic at a rate 20 percentage points higher than their nonunion counterparts.)

No nation has ever been home to a middle-class majority absent a sizable labor movement. In their failure to advance labor’s prospects, the Democrats condemn themselves to a future of fewer Democratic voters and their nation to a future of mass downward mobility.

* * *

American workers suffered a loss of a different kind Friday with the death of Beth Shulman from complications of a brain tumor. In her 2003 book, “The Betrayal of Work,” and throughout her life, Beth eloquently championed the interests of the tens of millions of Americans who barely make enough to get by. Her voice, and her warmth, will be missed.

meyersonh@washpost.com

No More Senate Super Majority Illusion

01.20.10

No More Senate Super Majority Illusion

There is very little upside to the election of a Republican Far Right Senator to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) for Democrats, progressives and reformers. My list is very short: (1) everyone should now understand that we never had a real workable Senate Super Majority to begin with despite all the media hype, (2) watering-down progressive legislation has now been shown to produce electoral defeat for Democrats and (3) Democratic candidates at all levels can now clearly see that they will suffer if Democratic House and Senate members do not start acting more aggressively in opposition to Republican actions and spin.

The Senate Democrats should never let Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) caucus with them. Lieberman was rejected by Connecticut Democrats at the polls. He was not elected as a Democrat. He often opposes the Democratic legislative agenda in the Senate. Lieberman supports and campaigns for Republicans. Letting Lieberman join the Democratic caucus raised unrealistic expectations without adding his vote behind the legislation Democrats were trying to pass! For Democrats, the fictional 60th Senate Democratic member illusion was a “lose, lose” proposition.

Of course, some elected Democratic Senators remain unreliable votes. Neither Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) nor Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) are guaranteed yes votes on most progressive legislative issues. It is obvious that relying on a 60 member Super Majority to pass legislation is and always will be a mistake. A simple majority vote of Senate members can reduce the number of Senators it takes to end a filibuster. I suggest moving to 55 instead of the current 60, as a reasonable compromise, unless Senate Republicans stop threatening to filibuster everything Democrats want to do in terms of passing laws and budgets. Ending filibusters entirely would be a better approach.

Watering-down healthcare reform left the Democratic base discouraged for basically nothing in return. Republicans remain devoted to defeating all real healthcare reforms. Corporate Democrats filled the Senate version full of compromises that left independents unhappy with the results. If we had no filibuster threat, the Senate could have given us a much better product to sell to the voting public.

Republicans can be counted on to do everything possible to disrupt debate and progress on legislation in the Senate. It pays for them. It helped defeat great Democratic candidates in state and local elections in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia in 2009. With the election of Scott Brown to the Senate in January 2010, the Republicans smell blood. Their shark instincts are in full attack mode.

Republican tactics and spin make bipartisan compromise basically impossible! It is time to tell the public to forget it and why!

Democrats should never have let the idea that “Obama and the Democrats own the economy” to gain traction. Anyone with even a little bit of honest understanding of how an economy operates should have been responding to every statement along this line. Our message should have been that the Republican economic train-wreck started about 30 years ago and would take at least 2 full Presidential terms to fix. This answer is good politics and actually true. Obama should have been publicly attacking Republican efforts to undermine his agenda as attacks on the American middle class designed to benefit greedy corporations. It would have been good politics and is true! There is still time to correct our messaging.

Every local Democratic officeholder and/or candidate in America needs to put pressure on Senate Democrats to move aggressively to pass legislation with a real economic populist approach. Local Democrats should demand an end to the filibuster blackmail. It is time to move to regulate and tax imported manufactured goods. Bring our factory jobs back home. Pass the Employee Free Choice Act without watering it down. Raise taxes on the wealthy. Pass a second stimulus bill. Regulate abuses on Wall Street including executive pay at publicly traded corporations.

Make economic populism the core principle behind our Democratic Party. Show we are not the “Republican-lite” alternative. Be aggressive, forceful and brave. Be winners! Be real Democrats!

Written by Stephen Crockett (host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com and Editor of Mid-Atlantic Labor.com http://www.midatlanticlabor.com ). Phone: 443-907-2367. Email: demlabor@aol.com. Mail: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702.

Feel free to publish or reprint in full without prior approval.

United States Chamber of Commerce challenges labor law

01.09.10

January 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

United States Chamber of Commerce challenges labor law

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 27th- The United States Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit on December 22nd alleging that a new State of Oregon law is unconstitutional because it is too pro-union.

The business organization jointly filed the lawsuit with Associated Oregon Industries and is arguing a new Oregon law “unconstitutionally eliminates an employer’s right to conduct mandatory meetings with employees to rebut union rhetoric and provide information about drawbacks of a unionized workplace.”

“Organzized labor hasn’t been able to muster the votes or the public support to pass Card Check, so they’ve moved on to “Plan B” to muzzle employers during union organizing drives. Just like Card Check, this law flies in the face of the country’s democratic values,” said Steven Law, chief legal officer and general counsel for the business organization.

Oregon is the first state in the nation to pass such a law that would prohibit employers from conducting mandatory meetings with their employees during union organizing campaigns. The Oregon legislation is modeled after language in the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct) legislation that is currently being held-up in Washington, DC.

The United States Chamber of Commerce told the newspaper the federal law pre-empts the Oregon law, which runs counter to fifty years of federal protection for employers’ right to hold mandatory meetings to rebut labor leaders’ rhetoric about unionizing. The business organization lawsuit also alleges the law violates employers’ speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The legislation became law on January 1st, 2010.

The law, known as SB 519, and the case is Associated Oregon Industries and Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Brad Avakian and Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 296.

“This legislation is organized labor’s first salvo in an apparent state-by state assault on federally protected employer speech,” said Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the United States Chamber of Commerce public policy labor firm.

Organized labor has urgued for decades that the conducting of mandatory meetings with workers by employers during organizing campaigns were unfair because all employees must attend or face being discipline or termination.

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan meets with Building Trade Unions to discuss 2010 campaign

10.03.09

October 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan meets with Building Trade Unions to discuss 2010 campaign

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, September 4th- Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan will challenge incumbent Republican United States House of Representative for the 15th Legislative District Charlie Dent in 2010 and Mr. Callahan wants labor support.

Mr. Callahan, a Democrat, who is seeking re-election as Bethlehem Mayor this year but has no challengers, stated local and national Democrats believe he would be a formidable challenger to Mr. Dent.

Congressman Dent is currently serving a third two-year term in Washington, DC. He defeated Democratic challenger Sam Bennett last year. The 15th Legislative District includes Lehigh and Northampton Counties.

“He is a great candidate. I’m looking forward to the campaign,” said Joe Long, Chairman of the Northampton County Democratic Committee and a retired member of the United Auto Workers of America (UAW).

On September 1st the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley held a strategy session with Mr. Callahan at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 375 building on Liberty Street in Allentown. The event was attended by leaders of the construction trades unions and several labor leaders from the Lehigh Valley. The Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley has 20 local unions affiliated with the labor federation. The unions represent workers employed within the building and construction industry.

Kenneth Kraft, Assistant Business Manager of the Painters and Allied Trades Union District Council 21, stated a good line of communication between the labor community and the campaign will be necessary if Mr. Callahan is to defeat Congressman Dent.

The 15th Congressional District seat has been held by a Republican for six consecutive terms. Pat Toomey represented the Lehigh Valley in Washington for six years and did not seek a fourth two-year term in 2004. Mr. Toomey has announced he will seek the Republican nomination for the United States Senate in 2010. The seat is currently occuppied by Democrat Arlen Specter. Mr. Specter has already announced he will seek another six-year term in 2010.

The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Washington tabulates the voting record of legislators toward legislation important to the working people. Since being in the United States Congress, Mr. Dent’s voting record has dropped every year.

According to the review of the report card of the legislators by the newspaper, Mr. Dent in 2006 had nearly a 35 percent labor voting record. However, it dropped to 27 percent in 2007 and is now below 20 percent. In 2009, Mr. Dent failed to support federal “bridge loans” to General Motors and Chrysler, which was important to the UAW.

In 2008 Mr. Dent voted against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)/Card Check legislation. The Congressman also voted against the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, which raised the federal minimum wage in three steps to $7.25 per hour.

Specter to Support Cloture on Card Check

08.16.09

Specter to Support Cloture on Card Check

By Matthew Murray
Roll Call Staff

http://www.rollcall.com/news/37775-1.html

Recent party switcher Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) will vote to cut off debate on a forthcoming Employee Free Choice Act compromise, the lawmaker confirmed Friday following his appearance at the Netroots Nation convention in Pittsburgh.

“I expect the cloture vote to occur on a modified version of the [EFCA] legislation,” Specter said in a statement. “And I will support that cloture vote.”

Specter’s pledge to support a yet-to-be-introduced “card check” compromise, which is still being negotiated, comes after he told the crowd that he supports having up-or-down votes — without explicitly naming the EFCA compromise legislation.

Specter said he generally expects “to support [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid [D-Nev.] on a bill he wants to bring up,” before citing his vote last Congress on previous card-check legislation.

“That was illustrated by when there were 49 Republican Senators a couple of years ago and the Employee Free Choice Act came up [and] I was the sole Republican who voted for cloture, so we could take up the bill,” Specter said. “Legislation ought to be considered by the Senate.”

Specter’s announcement comes as he faces a bloody 2010 primary fight against Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), who is running to the ideological left of the five-term Senator and questioning his Democratic bona fides.

Before Specter bolted the GOP in April, he had said he would not support the card-check bill this Congress, saying during a highly publicized floor speech on March 24 that he would not cast the deciding vote to cut off debate on the contentious legislation

“The problems of the recession would make this a particularly bad time to enact the Employee Free Choice Act. Employers understandably complain that adding such a burden would result in further job losses,” Specter said on the Senate floor earlier this year. “Knowing that I will not support cloture on this bill, Senators may choose to move on and amend the [National Labor Relations Act] as I have suggested or otherwise. This announcement should end the rumor mill that I have made some deal for my political advantage.”

He later softened his stance on the bill, saying he would be open to a compromise on the measure that makes it easier for employees to join unions.

Earlier this summer, Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) began a series of closed-door negotiations with fence-sitters like Specter and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), whose home state is headquarters to the massive nonunionized retailer Wal-Mart.

The business community expressed concern Friday with Specter’s announcement, as well as with how a potential compromise deal is being hatched.

“We’re very concerned with the comments made by Sen. Specter,” said Keith Smith, director of employment and labor policy at the National Association of Manufacturers. “It’s very concerning that such a jobs-killing piece of legislation is being hatched out through these nontransparent discussions with a small group of Senators.

“Of all the discussion items that we’ve seen, the provisions of a potential alternative version of this bill are just as onerous as the current provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act itself,” he added.

While the business community fumed in the wake of Specter’s announcement, a labor coalition spokesman said in an e-mail that “clearly it’s a positive sign.”

“The Senator is heeding the calls of working families who want to see real labor law reform this year so the economy can work for everyone,” American Rights at Work spokesman Josh Goldstein said.

EFCAct legislation does not include card-check provision

08.15.09

August 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

EFCAct legislation does not include card-check provision

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 1st- The main provision wanted by labor unions has been dropped from the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)/Card Check legislation that will be likely be introduced in the United States Congress after their summer recess.

The legislation was passed by the House of Representatives in 2008, with both Congressman Chris Carney (Democrat-10th District) and Congressman Paul Kanjorski (Democrat-11 District) voting in favor. However, the legislation failed in the Senate with Pennsylvania Senator’s Robert Casey Jr. (Democrat) and Arlen Specter (Republican) voting for the bill. Mr. Specter has since changed his party affiliation to Democrat but announced on March 24th, 2009 would not support the legislation.

Under the prior EFCA legislation, employees would be allowed to sign authorization cards seeking union representation and the union would be recognized when a majority of cards are signed. However, under the legislation if thirty percent or more of the employees sign authorization cards requesting for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) conduct an secret ballot election the agency will do so.

Labor groups, including the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC, and business groups, including the United States Chamber of Commerce, Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and McDonald’s Restaurants that opposed the legislation, spent millions of dollars in advertising and lobbying attempting to influence legislators on the EFCA.

The AFL-CIO mobilized union members and their families across the nation requesting them to contact their legislators asking them to support the legislation, including Senator Specter. Under Senate rules, at least 60 Senator votes are needed to force a vote on the legislation by the full-Senate.

On July 16th, the Senate negotiators dropped the card-check provision of the legislation. However, the revised legislation would require shorter unionization campaigns, faster elections, and a mediation system should the parties fail to reach an agreement within 120 days.

The Chamber of Commerce and business groups, which opposes the legislation, are now attacking the revised legislation by stressing how damaging they believe arbitration will be to employers.

The legislation is expected to easily pass in the House of Representatives where only a majority vote is needed. President Obama stated he would sign the measure should it reach his desk.

SEIU petition to keep majority sign-up in Employee Free Choice Act

08.02.09

Hi there,

I wanted to write you about the recent news about the Employee Free Choice Act. The New York Times reported that the Senate is considering dropping majority sign-up from the Employee Free Choice Act.

I just signed a petition to Congress in support of majority sign-up. Can you please add you name?

http://action.seiu.org/page/s/majoritysignup

Majority sign-up is based on a simple idea: if a majority of workers say they want a union, they should get a union. It’s the best way to make sure workers have a free and fair choice to join a union without intimidation or harassment.

We see that Wall St. is back to business as usual. Bank of America and Citigroup posted billions in profits today. Goldman Sachs made $38 million a day in the last three months, and is set to pay out record bonuses.

Corporate greed alive and well, despite billions in bailouts. Meanwhile, unemployment is still rising, and many working people are still struggling to get by in the rough economy.

Congress needs to support majority sign-up. Working people need to see who supports giving employees a truly free choice, and who supports letting greedy corporations make choices for their workers.

Click here to write your letter now:

http://action.seiu.org/page/s/majoritysignup

Thank you.

Why All Progressives, Democrats, Unionists and Reformers Should Join ACORN

07.28.09

Why All Progressives, Democrats, Unionists and Reformers Should Join ACORN

We are all familiar with the highly partisan and blatantly dishonest attacks on the low and moderate income advocacy group ACORN that dominated Fox News election coverage last Fall. Republican Right Wing partisans have remained loyal to their absurd talking points after the November election and continue to intentionally spread lies about the ACORN organization that all progressives, Democrats, labor activists and reformers should actively refute. These politically-motivated attacks on ACORN are based on two ridiculous ideas.

The first ridiculous idea is that this relatively small group of relatively poor individuals somehow is responsible for the mortgage crisis and the collapse of the economy. After decades of Reagan-Bush Republican mismanagement, Wall Street greed, assaults on unionized labor, unsound tax policies, unfair trade policies, disastrous healthcare policies, runaway corporate corruption, huge sweetheart government contracts going to Republican connected corporations and absurd financial deregulation, we need to understand that the structure of our economy needs serious fundamental reform. Reagan-Bush Republicanism ruled the market economically and politically to create the economic crisis.

The economic collapse has many more serious fundamental causes than just the collapse of the mortgage market. Income inequality, speculation, ending anti-usury laws, not enforcing anti-monopoly laws and excessive credit card debt can be added to the previous list of root causes underlining the current economic crisis. The Republican Right bears most of the responsibility for this situation. ACORN bears none!

First of all, sub-prime mortgages did not create the mortgage crisis. The notable economist Paul Krugman has debunked this Republican myth very effectively. The mortgage crisis has been spread across all income levels. Foreclosures are not limited just too poor people.

ACORN has never issued any mortgages nor has it pressured lenders to issue high-rate, unaffordable loans to poor and middle class Americans. Instead, for over a decade, ACORN has been the national leader in the fight against predatory lending.

The roots of the mortgage foreclosure problem are in the deregulation of the financial sector of our economy. Readers can find an excellent article outlining this situation, The Conservative Origins of the Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis by John Atlas and Peter Dreier http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=the_conservative_origins_of_the_subprime_mortgage_crisis. The article effectively refutes most of the Republican talking points on the root causes of the mortgage meltdown.

Secondly, ACORN has never been involved in election fraud. ACORN never tried to rig any election. The accusations are both false and politically-motivated in the extreme. The FBI investigation of ACORN for voter fraud so widely publicized during the election does not appear to exist. Every state and local investigation has proven ACORN to be innocent of any wrong-doing!

Every informed political person knows that voter registration forms once signed cannot be legally discarded even if the organization collecting them suspects fraud. It is a crime to discard those registration forms. ACORN has a policy of trying to verify the validity of voter registration forms and bundling suspect forms together before turning them in to election offices. ACORN is not required by law to do this extra step but voluntarily does so to help local election offices prevent voter registration fraud.

The real reason that the Republican Right has smeared ACORN on the voter registration issue is that ACORN helped register upward of 1.3 million new voters during the 2008 election cycle. The majority of these voters were low and moderate income Americans. Since they are low and moderate income voters, they tend to support Democrats more than Republicans. Everyone knows that the Republican Party supports the economic interests of the Super Wealthy and international corporations over those of poor and moderate income Americans.

Voter suppression targeting low and moderate income Americans by Republican operatives have been documented in almost every state in the nation in recent elections. The attacks on ACORN were designed to support legal action attempting to keep low and moderate income citizens from voting. Republican lawyers filed lawsuits in dozens of states as part of this effort during the 2008 elections with a special emphasis being placed on swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. The lawsuits failed basically everywhere because they lacked any merit or validity.

However, the illegitimate Republican lawsuits attacking ACORN were effective propaganda tools in keeping the hardcore Republican partisans fired-up and motivated during the election. These false attacks are still being used to keep the ever-shrinking Republican base motivated to fight the Obama economic recovery agenda. ACORN has lobbied hard in favor of much of this legislative agenda. It is easy to understand the Republican attacks if you read ACORN: The Bogeyman in the GOP Closet http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bertha-lewis/acorn-the-bogeyman-in-the_b_162138.html .

When the attacks on ACORN began, I joined ACORN and became strongly involved in their political action, lobbying and community organizing activities. While ACORN consists of mainly poor and moderate income people, they accept anyone regardless of income who cares about the issues that impact poor and moderate income Americans.

ACORN is an important ally of progressives, Democrats, labor unions and reformers everywhere. ACORN is a strong supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act. They are fighting foreclosures and predatory lending. ACORN fights hard for equality before the law. ACORN helps bring millions of new voters into the political process. They fight to make our economy work for all Americans and not just the economic elite. ACORN is good for American Democracy.

Every progressive, Democrat, union activist and reformer in America should seriously consider showing their support by joining ACORN and becoming actively engaged in their efforts. You can join ACORN by contacting your local ACORN office or signing up via their website at http://www.acorn.org/.

Written by Stephen Crockett (Host, Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com and Editor, Mid-Atlantic Labor.com http://www.midatlanticlabor.com). Mail: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702. Email: demlabor@aol.com. Phone: 443-907-2367.

Feel free to publish or re-print without prior approval as a Democratic Voices column, OpEd, Letter to the Editor, guest editorial or as a flyer.