Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Card Check legislation still not scheduled to be introduced for vote in U.S. Congress

07.22.09

Card Check legislation still not scheduled to be introduced for vote in U.S. Congress

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 6th- The lobbying in Washington DC and across the United States between business groups and the labor community is continuing over the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)/Card Check legislation.

EFCA would allow employees to sign authorization cards seeking union representation and recognizing the union 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) to conduct an secret ballot election the agency will do so.

The law if passed would also establish a system of mediation and arbitration that would apply to an employer and union that are unable to agree on their first contract. The legislation passed the House of Representatives in 2008 but failed in the Senate.

Pennsylvania United States Senator Arlen Specter has switched political parties from Republican to Democratic but maintains he will not vote for the labor supported Employee Free Choice Act legislation in 2009, unless changes are made to the bill. Mr. Specter supported the legislation in 2008 but on March 24th, announced he would not support the passage of EFCA in 2009 but would reconsider when the economy returns to normalcy.

The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC has mobilized union members and their families requesting them to contact their legislators in Washington asking them to support the legislation, including Senator Specter who’s vote will be crucial if EFCAct is to be implemented.

The AFL-CIO has also conducted several forums in the region to discuss why the legislation would be beneficial to the working people.

George George, a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Union Branch 115 in Wilkes-Barre, was released by his job at the United States Postal Service (USPS) to help mobilize union members and organize EFCAct community events.

The United States Chamber of Commerce and several business groups, including Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and McDonald’s Restaurants, have spent millions of dollars in advertising and lobbying to defeat the legislation.

The legislation was expected to be introduced in the United States Congress in early 2009, but because of a threatened Republican filibuster in the Senate, the bill is being withheld until changes are made and there is enough votes to pass the legislation.

Under Senate rules, at least 60 Senator votes are needed to override a filibuster which would allow the legislation to be voted on by the full-Senate. 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.

Where’s the Controversy? 75% of the American People Support Majority Signup as Part of the Employee Free Choice Act

07.21.09

http://www.americansunitedforchange.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Lauren Weiner, 202-470-5870 or Jeremy Funk, 202-470-5878

DATE: July 21, 2009

Americans United for Change: “Majority Signup is Central to Labor Law Reform and Rebuilding Our Economy”

Where’s the Controversy? 75% of the American People Support Majority Signup as Part of the Employee Free Choice Act

Three-quarters (75%) of adults favor allowing employees to have a union once a majority of employees in a workplace sign authorization cards indicating that they want to form a union, including 44% who strongly support the idea. Just 20% of adults oppose majority sign-up. [Hart Research Associates, 1/8/09]

Washington D.C. – Americans United for Change issued the following statement on the heels of recent reports that a version of the Employee Free Choice Act in the Senate may not include majority sign-up provisions.

Tom McMahon, Acting Executive Director, Americans United for Change: “The jury is in on the Employee Free Choice Act with seventy-five percent of the American public behind labor reform that specifically includes allowing employees to form a union through majority signup. As negotiations on the Employee Free Choice Act continue in Congress, Members need only look at public opinion to realize the only controversy over majority signup is being fabricated by a vocal, well financed, factually challenged minority led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Corporate powerhouses like Wal-Mart. There’s no debate among the American people that the system is badly broken for the 60 million workers who would form a union tomorrow if only given the chance – a system that allows big business and Corporate America to routinely harass, intimidate and even fire workers who try to form a union and bargain for better pay, benefits and retirement security. These Corporate special interests will continue to say or do anything to keep the system broken, but when three-quarters of the American people agree majority signup is central to labor reform and building a strong economic foundation for our disappearing middle-class, Congress really doesn’t have to listen.”

Democrats Drop Key Part of Bill to Assist Unions

07.17.09

Democrats Drop Key Part of Bill to Assist Unions

By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
Published: July 16, 2009

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/17/business/17union.html?_r=2&th&emc=th

A half-dozen senators friendly to labor have decided to drop a central provision of a bill that would have made it easier to organize workers.

The so-called card-check provision — which senators decided to scrap to help secure a filibuster-proof 60 votes — would have required employers to recognize a union as soon as a majority of workers signed cards saying they wanted a union. Currently, employers can insist on a secret-ballot election, a higher hurdle for unions.

The abandonment of card check was another example of the power of moderate Democrats to constrain their party’s more liberal legislative efforts. Though the Democrats have a 60-40 vote advantage in the Senate, and President Obama supports the measure, several moderate Democrats opposed the card-check provision as undemocratic.

In its place, several Senate and labor officials said, the revised bill would require shorter unionization campaigns and faster elections.

While disappointed with the failure of card check, union leaders argued this would still be an important victory because it would give companies less time to press workers to vote against unionizing.

Some business leaders hailed the dropping of card check, while others called the move a partial triumph because the bill still contained provisions they oppose.

The card-check provision was so central to the legislation that it was known as “the card-check bill.” Labor had called the bill its No. 1 objective, and both labor and business deployed their largest, most expensive lobbying campaigns ever in the battle over it.

“This is a very emotional issue,” said Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Republican turned Democrat who had been lobbied heavily by both sides. “I cannot remember an issue this emotional in all my years in the Senate.”

Several moderate Democrats, including Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, have voiced opposition to card check, convinced that elections were a fairer way for workers to unionize. They were swayed partly by business’s vigorous campaign, arguing that card check would remove confidentiality from unionization drives and enable union organizers to bully workers into signing union cards.

Though some details remain to be worked out, under the expected revisions, union elections would have to be held within five or 10 days after 30 percent of workers signed cards favoring having a union. Currently, the campaigns often run two months.

To further address labor’s concerns that the election process is tilted in favor of employers, key senators are considering several measures. One would require employers to give union organizers access to company property. Another would bar employers from requiring workers to attend anti-union sessions that labor supporters deride as “captive audience meetings.”

Labor unions have pushed aggressively to enact the bill — formally, the Employee Free Choice Act. They view it as essential to reverse labor’s long decline. Just 7.6 percent of private-sector workers belong to unions, one-fifth the rate of a half-century ago.

Several union leaders interviewed took the senators’ move in stride. One top union official, who insisted on anonymity because lawmakers and labor leaders have agreed not to discuss the status of the bill, said, “Even if card check is jettisoned to political realities, I don’t think people should be despondent over that because labor law reform can take different shapes.”

While voicing confidence they have the 60 votes to pass the revised bill, labor leaders acknowledged an additional hurdle: two powerful Democrats, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, are seriously ill.

“This bill will bring about dramatic changes, even if card check has fallen away,” said an A.F.L.-C.I.O. official who insisted on anonymity.

The official said the revised bill achieves the three things organized labor has been seeking.

“Our goals,” the official said, “have always been letting employees have a real choice, having real penalties against employers who break the law in fighting unions, and having some form of binding arbitration to prevent employers from dragging their feet forever to prevent reaching a contract.”

Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, a senior member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has led a group of six Democrats who have worked closely with labor to revamp the bill. The other senators are Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Charles E. Schumer of New York, and Mr. Specter.

Labor leaders voiced confidence that if Mr. Pryor backed the compromise, Ms. Lincoln and other moderates would do likewise.

Union leaders argue that under current law, unionization elections are often unfair because, they say, employers have a huge opportunity to intimidate and pressure workers during the lengthy campaigns that precede the unionization vote.

Business leaders say the current system is fair, asserting that unions lose so many elections because workers oppose paying union dues and do not feel they need unions to represent them.

Corporate lobbyists have indicated they would oppose fast elections, arguing that such a provision would deny employers ample opportunity to educate employees about the downside of unionizing, such as strikes and union dues.

Labor leaders counter that employers will have plenty of opportunity to fight unionization, noting that many companies begin plying employees with anti-union information the day they are hired.

Business also opposes the bill’s provisions to have binding arbitration if an employer fails to reach a contract with a new union. Companies argue it would be wrong for government-designated arbitrators to dictate what a company’s wages and benefits should be.

“Binding arbitration is an absolute nonstarter for us,” said Mark McKinnon, a spokesman for the Workforce Fairness Institute, a business group opposing the bill. “We see it as a hostile act to have arbitrators telling businesses what they have to do.”

Several union officials said that once the senators’ revisions became public, some union presidents who are card-check enthusiasts might attack the changes, call for scrapping the revisions and demand an up-or-down Senate vote on a bill with card check.

Kate Cyrul, a spokeswoman for Mr. Harkin, declined to discuss details of the bill. “Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to,” she said.

Union officials have urged the White House and Senate leaders to schedule a vote this month. But Senate leaders have told labor that the Senate is so preoccupied with health care legislation that September would be the earliest time to take up the pro-union legislation.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Any Senate Democrat who forced this dramatic weakening of the Employee Free Choice Act should not receive a dime of campaign money from any union member, union organization or any Democratic officeholder or potential candidate who ever hopes to receive labor support. This should apply to general elections and primaries. No exceptions.

Union activists should encorage primary opponents to these Senate Democratic incumbents. It is time to make the SOB’s pay for their betrayal of working Americans!

Labor Groups to Press Obama on Health Care and a Second Stimulus Effort

07.09.09

Labor Groups to Press Obama on Health Care and a Second Stimulus Effort
By Steven Greenhouse

When President Obama meets with a dozen union presidents next Monday, the plan is to focus on their shared goals, not their differences.

One key item, administration officials and union leaders say, will be health-care reform and how to assure Congress enacts universal coverage.

But several labor leaders said that with unemployment nearing 15 million, they plan to urge the president to push for a second stimulus package — something that has stirred quite a bit of controversy lately. Administration officials, including most recently Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr, and Democratic lawmakers haven’t closed the door to that possibility but have counseled patience in monitoring the effects of the current $787 billion stimulus.

“There are a lot of issues of common interest to the administration and to the folks who will be in the room,” said Nate Tamarin, an associate White House political director. “The fact is that this is a group of leaders who individually and as a group are important to us.”

The meeting will include John J. Sweeney, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., Anna Burger, president of the rival Change to Win labor federation, and Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest labor union, which is not in either federation.

Union leaders say they will tell the president that their organizations will do what they can to win passage of universal health coverage, preferably with the public option that many Republicans oppose.

“It does not take a lot of ask for the labor movement to be supportive of health-care reform and to be supportive of the public option,” said Patrick Gaspard, the White House political director. “There are a lot of shared interests between them and the president’s goals on health-care reform.”

He added, “It’s more of a conversation about how to get there.”

At the meeting, Mr. Obama will underline his concerns about the troubled economy and discuss what the administration is doing to fix it, White House officials said.

“You can expect that the president is really going to try to focus some portion of the conversation on the economy and job growth,” Mr. Gaspard said. “We all know where we’re headed with unemployment. Obviously the folks around the table have an acute interest in the economy, and the president wants to hear from them about what basically needs to happen to grow the economy and to stabilize the middle class right now.”

Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the labor leaders would of course want to discuss the card check bill legislation that would make it easier to unionize workers. That legislation is stalled, with opposition preventing Democratic senators from acquiring the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster…..

(Click on link below to read the rest of this article)

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/labor-groups-to-press-obama-on-health-care-and-a-second-stimulus-effort/?nl=pol&emc=pola2

Whose Country is it anyway? A political-economic oligarchy has taken over the United States of America

07.05.09

Whose Country is it anyway? A political-economic oligarchy has taken over the United States of America

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=KOZ20090704&articleId=14226

by Prof. John Kozy

A political-economic oligarchy has taken over the United States of America. This oligarchy has institutionalized a body of law that protects businesses at the expense of not only the common people but the nation itself.

CNN interviewed a person recently who was seriously burned when his vehicle burst into flames because a plastic brake-fluid reservoir ruptured. Having sued Chrysler, he was now concerned that its bankruptcy filing would enable Chrysler to avoid paying any damages. A CNN legal expert called this highly likely, since the main goal of reorganization in bankruptcy is preserving the company’s viability and that those creditors who could contribute most to attaining that goal would be compensated first while those involved in civil suits against the company would be placed lowest on the creditor list since compensating them would lessen the chances of the company’s surviving. This rational clearly implies that the preservation of companies is more important than the preservation of people. Of course, similar cases have been reported before. The claims of workers for unpaid wages have often been dismissed as have their contracts for benefits.

But there is an essential difference between a business that lends money or delivers products or services to another company and the employees who work for it. Business is an activity that supposedly involves risk. Employment is not. Neither is unknowingly buying a defective product. Workers and consumers do not extend credit to the companies they work for or buy products from. They are not in any normal sense of the word “creditors.” Yet that distinction is erased in bankruptcy proceedings which preserve companies at the public’s expense.

Of course, bankruptcy is not the only American practice that makes use of this principle. The current bailout policies of both the Federal Reserve and the Treasury make use of it. Again companies are being saved at the expense of the American people. America’s civil courts are notorious for favoring corporate defendants when sued by injured plaintiffs. Corporate profiteering is not only tolerated, it is often encouraged. The sordid records of both Halliburton and KBR are proof enough. Neither has suffered any serious consequences for their abysmal activities in Iraq while supplying services to the troops deployed there. Even worse, these companies continue to get additional contracts from the Department of State. “A former Army chaplain who later worked for Halliburton’s KBR unit . . . told Congress . . . ‘KBR came first, the soldiers came second.’” [http://www.halliburtonwatch.org/news/deyoung.html] Again, it’s companies first, people last. But Major General Smedley Butler made this point in 1935. [See http://www.scuttlebuttsmallchow.com/racket.html] And everyone is familiar with the influence corporate America has over the Congress through campaign contributions and lobbying. For instance, “the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has earmarked $20 million over two years to kill [card check].” [http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-card-check4-2009jun04,0,7195326.story?track=rss] Companies expect returns on their money, and preventing workers from unionizing offers huge returns. And on Thursday June 4, 2009 USA Today reported that, “Republicans strongly oppose a government run [healthcare] plan saying it would put private companies insuring millions of Americans out of business. ‘A government run plan would set artificially low prices that private insurers would have no way of competing with,’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, said . . . .” (Kentucky ranks fifth highest in the number of people with incomes below poverty. Why is he worried about the survival of insurers?)

The profound question is how can any of it be justified?

President Calvin Coolidge did say that the business of America is business and the American political class seems to have adopted this view, but the Constitution cannot be used to justify it. The word “business” in the sense of “commercial firm” occurs nowhere in it. Nowhere does the Constitution direct the government to even promote commerce or even defend private property. The Constitution is clear. It was established to promote just six goals: (1) form a more perfect union, (2) establish justice, (3) insure domestic tranquility, (4) provide for the common defense, (5) promote the general welfare, and (6) secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. Of course, the Constitution does not prohibit the government from promoting commerce or defending private property, but what happens when doing so conflicts with one or more of its six purposes? Shouldn’t any law that does that be unconstitutional? For instance, wouldn’t it be difficult the claim that a bankruptcy procedure that protects business and subordinates or dismisses the claims of workers and injured plaintiffs establishes justice? How can spending trillions of dollars to save financial institutions and other businesses whose very own actions brought down the global economy be construed as establishing justice or even promoting the general welfare when people are losing their incomes, their pensions, their health care, and even their homes? These actions clearly conflict with the Constitution’s stated goals. Shouldn’t they have been declared unconstitutional? Although the Constitution does provide people with the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, it does not clearly provide that right to organizations or corporations and it certainly does not provide to anyone the right to petition the government for special advantages. Yet that is what the Congress, even after its members swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, allows special interest groups to do. Where in the Constitution is there a justification for putting the people last?

How this situation could have arisen is a puzzle? Haven’t our elected officials, our justices, our legal scholars, our professors of Constitutional Law, or even our political scientists read the Constitution? Have they merely misunderstood it? Or have they simply chosen to disregard the preamble as though it had no bearing on its subsequent articles? Why have no astute lawyers brought actions on behalf of the people? Why indeed?

The answer is that a political-economic oligarchy has taken over the nation. This oligarchy has institutionalized a body of law that protects businesses at the expense of not only the common people but the nation itself. Businessmen have no loyalties. The Bank of International Settlements insures it, since it is not accountable to any national government. (See my piece, A Banker’ Economy, http://www.jkozy.com/A_Bankers__Economy.htm.) Thomas Jefferson knew it when he wrote, “Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gain.” Mayer Amschel Rothschild knew it when he said, “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes the laws.” William Henry Vanderbilt knew it when he said, “The public be damned.” Businesses know it when they use every possible ruse to avoid paying taxes, they know it when they offshore jobs and production, they know it when the engage in war profiteering, and they know it when they take no sides in wars, caring not an iota who emerges victorious. IBM, GM, Ford, Alcoa, Du Pont, Standard Oil, Chase Bank, J.P. Morgan, National City Bank, Guaranty, Bankers Trust, and American Express all knew it when they did business as usual with Germany during World War II. Prescott Bush knew it when he aided and abetted the financial backers of Adolf Hitler.

Yet somehow or other the people in our government, including the judiciary, do not seem to know it, and they have allowed and even abetted businesses that have no allegiance to any country to subvert the Constitution. Unfortunately, the Constitution does not define such action as treason.

America’s youthful students are regularly taught Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and are familiar with its peroration, “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” If that nation ever existed, it no longer does. And when Benjamin Franklin was asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” he answered, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” We haven’t. What we have ended up with is merely an Unpublic, an economic oligarchy that cares naught for either the nation or the public.

To argue that the United States of America is a failed state is not difficult. A nation that has the highest documented prison population in the world can hardly be described as domestically tranquil. A nation whose top one percent of the people have 46 percent of the wealth cannot by any stretch of the imagination be said to be enjoying general welfare (“generally true” means true for the most part with a few exceptions). A nation that spends as much on defense as the rest of the world combined and cannot control its borders, could not avert the attack on the World Trade Center, and can not win its recent major wars can not be described as providing for its common defense. How perfect the union is or whether justice usually prevails are matters of debate, and what blessings of liberty Americans enjoy that peoples in other advanced countries are denied is never stated. A nation that cannot fulfill its Constitution’s stated goals surely is a failed one. How else could failure be defined? By allowing people with no fastidious loyalty to the nation or its people to control it, by allowing them to disregard entirely the Constitution’s preamble, the nation could not avoid this failure. The prevailing economic system requires it.

Woody Guthrie sang, “This Land Is My Land, This Land Is Your Land,” but it isn’t. It was stolen a long time ago. Although it may have been “made for you and me,” people with absolutely no loyalty to this land now own it. It needs to be taken, not bought, back! America needs a new birth of freedom, it needs a government for the people, it needs a government that puts people first, but it won’t get one unless Americans come to realize just how immoral and vicious our economic system is.

John Kozy is a retired professor of philosophy and logic who blogs on social, political, and economic issues. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he spent 20 years as a university professor and another 20 years working as a writer. He has published a textbook in formal logic commercially, in academic journals and a small number of commercial magazines, and has written a number of guest editorials for newspapers. His on-line pieces can be found on http://www.jkozy.com/ and he can be emailed from that site’s homepage.

D.C. labor family mourns the loss of three in Metro tragedy; ATU decries rush to blame operator

06.27.09

http://www.examiner.com/x-2071-DC-Special-Interests-Examiner~y2009m6d25-DC-labor-family-mourns-the-loss-of-three-in-Metro-tragedy-ATU-decries-rush-to-blame-operator

by Ron Moore

It is at times like this when the term Family of Labor takes on a poignant meaning that cannot be defeated by the opponents of labor. While mourning the loss of three labor Sisters, ATU Local 689 member Jeanice McMillan, CWA member Mary Doolittle and SEIU 32BJ member Ana Fernandez, the responsibility to represent Metro union members must not be neglected.

Shamelessly, the anti-union Drudge Report suggested that “texting” by the operator may be a contributing factor on its headline page while the actual story made no mention of texting. Attempts to determine causation and ensure the safety of workers and riders will take months of careful investigation and first reports indicate management not operator failure. But to reflexively blame management is unfair so early in the investigation.

In response to the tragedy Warren S. George, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, issued the following statement:

“On behalf of the entire International Union, I offer my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of our fallen member, Jeanise McMillan, and all of those who lost loved ones as a result of this tragedy.

“With regard to the accident, I think it is unfair and unacceptable to speculate that the ATU operator may have been in any way responsible for the incident. Until a fair and thorough investigation is completed there will be no basis for statements implying that anyone or anything is to blame for the accident.

“The International fully supports [Washington, DC’s Local 689] President Jackie Jeter’s call for honesty and a full disclosure of the facts during the investigation.”

It is at times like this when the rallying cry Don’t Mourn Organize motivates the Family of Labor as members who will march today for health care for all, in support of Iranian freedom fighters and union leaders and lobby for the Employee Free Choice Act. It is a poignant reminder that a strong labor movement is the most effective way to build a strong community.

For additional information about supporting the families of those lost go the Community Services Agency of the Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO donation site. http://partners.guidestar.org/controller/searchResults.gs?action_donateReport=1&partner=networkforgood&ein=52-1718506

American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations conduct forum on labor legislation

06.16.09

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

American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations conduct forum on labor legislation

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

DUNMORE, May 30th- The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation held a community event on May 20th, at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union District Council 87 building in Dunmore to raise awareness for the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct)/Card Check legislation.

The event was scheduled to be attended by local political leaders, religious and academic community leaders, business leaders and representatives of organized labor. However, most failed to attend.

Pennsylvania State Representative, (121st Legislative District) Eddie Day Pashinski was the only elected official to attend. State Representative Kevin Murphy (133rd Legislative District), someone representing Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, Reverend Patrick Sullivan and several local business leaders who made the prior commitment to attend were absent.

The forum was attended by approximately 25 union members. Discussed was examples of why EFCAct needs to be passed.

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

The law if passed would also establish a system of mediation and arbitration that would apply to an employer and union that are unable to agree to their first contract. Currently, an employer can “stall” at the bargaining table and after one year the union could be removed as the employees representative.

According to Mike Milz, spokeman for the Northeastern Area Labor Federation (AFL), passage of EFCAct, would level the playing field for workers seeking to form a union and bargain collectively.

Building Trades Unions conduct Legislative Conference

06.16.09

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

Building Trades Unions conduct Legislative Conference

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, May 22nd- The Building and Construction Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC, held their annual Legislative Conference between May 18th and 20th at the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC.

The conference was attended by Mark H. Ayers, President of the Building and Construction Trades Department, and Hilda Solis, the United States Secretary of Labor.

Roughly 3,000 state and local building trades leaders participated in the conference for three days which key legislative issues were discussed.The theme for this year’s conference was “One Country. One Purpose. One Movement.”

According to Tom Owens, spokesman for the Building and Construction Trades Department, on May 18th, the delegates traveled to Capitol Hill for an afternoon of intense lobbying on several issues of importance to the construction industry and the members of the labor federation.

The issues included: The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct), also known as Card Check; the Davis-Bacon Act; Health Care Reform; Clean Energy/Climate Change Legislation and Visa Reform.

Mr. Owens stated this years event marked an important milestone, as the Department launches a brand revitalization and marketing effort that is constructed upon the essence of the affiliated unions. The effort, which will be rolled out over the course of this year, will seek to eliminate the negative perceptions and stereotypes that have occupied the minds of owners, contractors, lawmakers, the media, and the general public by “telling the new, 21st century story of North America’s Building Trades Unions and how we dedicated to being more customer centric and committed to becoming a value-added partner for owners and contractors all across the continent,” said Mr. Owens.

Around 1,000 Building Trades Union delegates fanned out across Capitol Hill on May 19th, seeking to ramp up the pressure on wavering lawmakers to lobby members of Congress on the importance of the passage of EFCAct.

Mr. Owens stated the Employee Free Choice Act, would enable all working people in all industries, to bargain for better benefits, wages and working condititions by restoring workers’ freedom to choose for themselves whether to join a union. The legislation would allow for a union to be formed by employees signing cards authorizing union representation and guarantee that workers will be able to achieve a first time contract with their employers.

On May 19th, the participating delegates heard spirited appeals for action on EFCAct from AFL-CIO President John Sweeney; United States Independent Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders; United States House of Representatives Majority Whip James Clyburn; and Radio Personality Ed Schultz.

The Building and Construction Trades Department is an labor federation of 13 national and international unions that collectively represent 2.5 million skilled craft men and women in the United States and Canada.

The Scranton Building and Construction Trades Council in Lackawanna County and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council in Luzerne County are affiliated with the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department.

Corporations behind efforts to label Sotomayor ‘racist’

06.07.09

http://rawstory.com/08/news/2009/06/05/corporations-behind-efforts-to-label-sotomayor-racist/

Corporations behind efforts to label Sotomayor ‘racist’

By Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane

How corporations are buying the judiciary: Part I

Corporate interests posing as a grassroots conservative group are behind attacks on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, a RAW STORY investigation has found.

The Committee for Justice (CFJ), an astroturf group established by big business in July 2002 to create an appearance of popular support for President Bush’s judicial nominees, is now leading the effort to oppose the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court.

CFJ’s Executive Director Curt Levey has been sending out press releases and making media appearances to promote the theme that Sotomayor is racist and biased in her rulings, drawing his talking points largely from a speech in which she suggested that when it came to race and sex discrimination cases, it was possible that “a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences … would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

“It’s pretty disturbing,” Levey told The Hill. “It’s one thing to say that occasionally a judge will despite his or her best efforts to be impartial … allow occasional biases to cloud impartiality. But it’s almost like she’s proud that her biases and personal experiences will cloud her impartiality.”

CFJ was created at the urging of former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MO) – who has himself been plagued by allegations of racism. In 2002, as Senate Democrats stalled the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering to the Federal Court of Appeals over Pickering’s alleged racial insensitivity and opposition to abortion, Lott recruited C. Boyden Gray to create a fake grassroots organization to drum up support for Pickering’s confirmation.

Gray had been White House counsel during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, who threw a fundraising party for the new organization. Former Bush White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove was also involved in the group’s creation, and the lobbying firm of Barbour Griffith & Rogers — founded by Haley Barbour, who is now governor of Mississippi — took an active role in its fundraising.

Perhaps Gray’s strongest qualification to head CFJ was his background in the creation of “astroturf” organizations, such as the anti-tax group Citizens for a Sound Economy (now part of Freedom Works). These groups routinely solicit anonymous corporate donations, which are used to promote pro-business candidates and issues by running advertising campaigns designed to appeal to cultural conservatives. They also use their influence to oppose judges whom they feel to be too populist.

Soft money groups like the Committee for Justice are not bound by campaign finance laws as long as they restrict themselves to issues advertising and avoid endorsing political candidates. This allows them to pour an enormous amount of money into issues such as judicial nominations without revealing their funding sources.

And it allows them to posit arguments that elected Republicans have distanced themselves from – but which may strike a chord among the party’s conservative base.

“The only plausible explanation for Sotomayor’s selection is that the President was boxed in by demands from Hispanic and women’s groups that he pick one of their own,” the Committee for Justice declared in a May 27 release. “What else could explain his choice of a nominee who presents such a big target for conservatives and so clearly forces red state Democratic senators to choose between the values of their constituents and those of the nominee? Among the more obvious sore points for moderate Democrats are Sotomayor’s controversial rulings on Second Amendment rights (Maloney v. Cuomo), property rights (Didden v. Village of Port Chester), and racial preferences (Ricci v. DeStefano) – all issues that President Obama would love to avoid. With gay marriage sure to be a big issue no matter who he nominated, it is hard to believe that Obama would have chosen to focus attention on three more issues that cut the GOP’s way unless he felt backed into a corner.”

Committee for Justice – A big business cut-out

Following the campaign for Pickering — who was eventually given a recess appointment by Bush but was never confirmed by the Senate — CFJ went on to support other ultra-conservative Court of Appeals nominees, including former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, Miguel Estrada, and Janice Rogers-Brown. In all these cases, the CFJ campaigns invoked cultural issues — claiming, for example, that opposition to Pryor was based on anti-Catholic prejudice and that Estrada’s opponents were anti-Hispanic — but the real objective was to move pro-business judges onto the courts.

At the peak of the Pryor confirmation battle in November 2003, Mother Jones ran an article titled “The Making of the Corporate Judiciary: How big business is quietly funding a judicial revolution in the nation’s courts.”

The cultural issues surrounding Pryor “obscured the most important factor in Pryor’s swift rise from Mobile, Alabama, to the national stage: his longtime courting of corporate America,” the article averred. “‘The business community must be engaged heavily in the election process as it affects legal and judicial offices,’ Pryor told business leaders in 1999, after refusing to join other attorneys general in lawsuits against the tobacco and gun industries.”

“Since 1998, major corporations — Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and the insurance giant AIG, to name a few — have spent more than $100 million through front groups to remake courts that have long been a refuge for wronged consumers and employees,” it continued. “At the same time, corporate lobbyists have blitzed state legislators with tort-reform proposals, overseeing the passage of new laws in 24 states over the past year alone.”

The corporate agenda intensifies

In the course of the 2004 presidential campaign, corporate funding became increasingly significant. The corporate front group Progress for America — in which Gray was also a principal figure — did much to insure Bush’s narrow victory with its lavish advertising campaigns. After the election, PFA pushed for Social Security privatization and also launched a multimillion dollar campaign to press for the confirmation of Bush’s most controversial judicial nominees. By November 2005, it was being described by the New York Times as “an unofficial extension of the White House.”

Not only had the corporations become more influential over the political process than ever before, but their agenda had grown more ambitious. It now extended beyond merely promoting pro-business judges and passing “tort reform” legislation that made it more difficult for workers and consumers to seek recourse in the courts and included such major financial wish-list items as Social Security privatization and the deregulation which made possible the subprime mortgage crisis. The leading donor to Progress for America was Dawn Arnall, head of the Ameriquest Capital Corporation, which was the country’s largest subprime lender until its collapse in 2007.

The Committee for Justice also did its part in promoting the corporate agenda. In July 2005, when John Roberts was nominated to the Supreme Court, the conservative National Review frankly praised him for his pro-business stance and described the Committee for Justice explicitly as a group created to promote pro-business candidates.

In an article titled “A Supreme Pick For Business: John Roberts is right for growth and the economy,” conservative economist and TV host Larry Kudlow wrote:

C. Boyden Gray, the key organizer of a business coalition that weighed in on the White House nominating process, told me Roberts believes that “government intrusion should be limited.” In other words, in the economic area, Roberts is “likely to take the view that government should get out of the way and not pick the winners and losers; that government should work to level the playing field and trust markets to get the job done.”

Gray, who is also a former lawyer for George H. W. Bush, created an infrastructure to offset the special-interest groups on the left. He was asked to do this by Sen. Trent Lott, with a particular view toward representing business in judicial choices. “Judicial appointments are not all about social issues,” he says, “nor should they be.” He’s right. Believe it or not, roughly 40 percent of Supreme Court cases are now related to business and the economy.

Gray’s Committee for Justice includes Stan Anderson, the legal advisor to the Chamber of Commerce, John Engler, the president of the National Association of Manufacturers, Frank Keating, president of the American Council of Life Insurers, and Connie Mack, the former Senator and pro-growth advocate. This is the first time in anyone’s memory that business has entered the judicial fray, and Judge Roberts was their first choice.

Stan Anderson, better known by his full name of Stanton B. Anderson, provides an interesting link between CFJ and the US Chamber of Commerce, which has also been actively involved in promoting corporate interests, creating pro-business groups, and helping pro-business judges find their way into the federal and state judiciary.

Described in 2006 as a “longtime Bush family ally,” Anderson began his political career in the 1960’s as a director of the Young Republican National Federation. He then worked in the Nixon administration, served as a deputy assistant secretary of state under Henry Kissinger, and was active in the 1980 Reagan campaign. Rather than joining the Reagan administration, however, he focused during the 1980’s on serving as a US lobbyist for powerful Japanese corporations – benefiting, according to author Joseph Trento, from a business relationship with Korean influence-peddler Tongsun Park.

Anderson established the Center for International Private Enterprise on behalf of the US Chamber of Commerce in 1983. In recent years, he has worked even more closely with the Chamber, first as an outside counsel and since 2003 as executive vice president and chief legal office. During that time, he has been involved in setting up many of the Chamber’s operations, such as the founding of a pro-business newspaper in Illinois in 2005.

The Chamber has also been one of the strongest opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make union organizing easier, but which businesses are resisting as a threat to competitiveness.

O’Brien Legislative Dinner conducted and Mayor John Callahan indicates he may challenge Dent

06.07.09

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

O’Brien Legislative Dinner conducted and Mayor John Callahan indicates he may challenge Dent

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

BETHLEHEM, May 2nd- The United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 2599, East Lehigh Street in Bethlehem, held their annual Edward O’Brien Legislative Dinner/Dance on May 2nd at the Steelworkers Union Hall.

Approximately 110 people attended the event which included USW union officers, political candidates, elected officials, political party officers and union leaders from the Lehigh Valley.

Mr. O’Brien was twice the Democratic Party nominee for the United States House of Representatives 15th Legislative District seat. He was defeat by Republican Pat Toomey, who has indicated he wants to become the Republican party nominee in 2010 for the Pennsylvania United States Senate seat. Democrat Arlen Specter, who recently switch from Republican to Democratic, currently hold the seat and has indicated will seek another six-year term in 2010.

Edward O’Brien first joined the United Steelworkers Union Local 2598 in 1964, and served in many positions within the union, both locally and with the International Union.

The participants were welcomed by Local 2599 President Jerry Green, and Guest Speakers Bob McAuliffe, USW Rapid Response Coordinator; Don Cunningham, Lehigh County Executive Director and John Callahan, the Mayor of Bethlehem made remarks.

Democratic State Representative 122nd Legislative District and Speaker of the House Keith McCall was the main speaker at this years event.

Mayor John Callahan, indicated he is seriously considering challenging Republican 15th Legislative District Congressman Charles Dent in the 2010 election. Mr. Dent is currently serving a third two-term in Washington after defeating Democratic candidate Sam Bennett in 2008. The 15th Legislative District includes Lehigh and Northampton Counties.

“I’m taking a serious look at it. My decision will be announced soon,” said Mr. Callahan.

Mr. Callahan, 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. “I won’t drag this thing out. If I decide to run, I will announce within several weeks,” added Mr. Callahan.

The 15th Legislative Congressional District has been held by a Republican for six terms, three under Mr. Toomey and now three by Mr. Dent.

Mr. Dent’s labor voting record percentage over the past two years has decreased considerably. He voting against increasing the federal minimum wage in January 2007 and voted against passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct)/Card Check legislation in 2008. The legislation passed in the House of Representatives 241-185 but failed in the Senate. The labor community has made passage of the legislation a priority in the 2009 legislative session.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: It is my intention to support the candidacy of Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan if he decides to run. I urge all union members in the 15th Congressional District to contact Mayor Callahan and express your support for a Congressional bid.

Great article from the Union News!

Building Trades Unions conduct Legislative Conference

06.07.09

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

Building Trades Unions conduct Legislative Conference

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, May 22nd- The Building and Construction Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington, DC, held their annual Legislative Conference between May 18th and 20th at the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC.

The conference was attended by Mark H. Ayers, President of the Building and Construction Trades Department, and Hilda Solis, the United States Secretary of Labor.

Roughly 3,000 state and local building trades leaders participated in the conference for three days which key legislative issues were discussed.The theme for this year’s conference was “One Country. One Purpose. One Movement.”

According to Tom Owens, spokesman for the Building and Construction Trades Department, on May 18th, the delegates traveled to Capitol Hill for an afternoon of intense lobbying on several issues of importance to the construction industry and the members of the labor federation.

The issues included: The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct), also known as Card Ckeck; the Davis-Bacon Act; Health Care Reform; Clean Energy/Climate Change Legislation and Visa Reform.

Mr. Owens stated this years event marked an important milestone, as the Department launches a brand revitalization and marketing effort that is constructed upon the essence of the affiliated unions. The effort, which will be rolled out over the course of this year, will seek to eliminate the negative perceptions and stereotypes that have occupied the minds of owners, contractors, lawmakers, the media, and the general public by “telling the new, 21st century story of North America’s Building Trades Unions and how we dedicated to being more customer centric and committed to becoming a value-added partner for owners and contractors all across the continent,” said Mr. Owens.

Around 1,000 Building Trades Union delegates fanned out across Capitol Hill on May 19th, seeking to ramp up the pressure on wavering lawmakers to lobby members of Congress on the importance of the passage of EFCAct.

Mr. Owens stated the Employee Free Choice Act, would enable all working people in all industries, to bargain for better benefits, wages and working condititions by restoring workers’ freedom to choose for themselves whether to join a union. The legislation would allow for a union to be formed by employees signing cards authorizing union representation and guarantee that workers will be able to achieve a first time contract with their employers.

On May 19th, the participating delegates heard spirited appeals for action on EFCAct from AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, United States Independent Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, United States House of Representatives Majority Whip James Clyburn, and Radio Personality Ed Schultz.

The Building and Construction Trades Department is an labor federation of 13 national and international unions that collectively represent 2.5 million skilled craft men and women in the United States and Canada.

The Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley, Liberty Street in Allentown, is affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Department. There are 20 local unions that represent workers throughout the Lehigh Valley affiliated with the labor organization.

American Income Life Insurance CEO & President Roger Smith fights for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act

06.04.09

President and CEO, American Income Life Insurance and National Income Life Insurance Company endorses Employee Free Choice Act & heads supportive business coalition

June 4th, 2009
Dear Stephen,

As the president and CEO of American Income Life Insurance and National Income Life Insurance Company, I run a company with more than 4,000 employees and associates, and I firmly believe the Employee Free Choice Act is critical to turning around our economy and rebuilding our middle class.

More than 1,000 business leaders like me have publicly endorsed the Employee Free Choice Act, but that is not enough because actions speak louder than words.

I realized I needed to organize responsible, worker-friendly business leaders in support of the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s amazing what some of my fellow CEOs are willing to say in an effort to stop this important piece of legislation, and it was time to fight back.

A group of us have formed a new coalition, Business Leaders for a Fair Economy, to make it clear that it’s possible to be both pro-business and pro-worker. We are a national group of employers, entrepreneurs and business leaders who understand that good jobs that pay well create demand for the goods and services we provide. We support the Employee Free Choice Act as an integral part of our nation’s economic recovery.

I’m honored to be a part of this great new coalition and to serve with my fellow committee members, Darren Horndasch, president of Wisconsin Vision, and Diana Ortiz, president and CEO of Ortiz Enterprises LLC and Ortiz Accounting and Tax Services.

As CEOs, we are challenging other responsible business leaders to support this landmark legislation because we know what is good for workers is good for business.

Thank you,

Roger Smith

Chair, Business Leaders for a Fair Economy
President and CEO, American Income Life Insurance and National Income Life Insurance Company

P.S. Marc Laitin at the AFL-CIO wanted to make sure I reminded you to call your senators and tell them about this new organization. Help amplify our voices today. Here are the numbers for your senators:

Sen. Carper at (202) 224-2441
Sen. Kaufman at (202) 224-5042

U.S. Chamber of Commerce spending millions to defeat EFCA

06.02.09

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

U.S. Chamber of Commerce spending millions to defeat EFCA

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, May 28th- The United States Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC, has proudly announced the organization launched a $1 million TV ad blitz in five states to block the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct)/Card Check, legislation.

The business group on April 14th launched the TV ads in Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Virginia. The organization inaccurately states in a letter sent to the newspaper the EFCAct legislation would “eliminate workers’ private vote when deciding whether or not to form a union, allow the federal government to set wages and working conditions and impose one-sided penalties on employers.”

The Chamber of Commerce also began running radio ads during the week of April 14th in Alaska and South Dakota, opposing the legislation. “These ads send the message that Card Check is fundamentally hostile to Main Street values and jobs. Grassroots opposition reflected in these ads is changing minds on Capitol Hill, as evidence by increasing bipartisan resistance to the bill,” said Steven Law, the United States Chamber of Commerce chief legal officer.

The organization cited Democratic Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln’s decision to oppose advancing the EFCA as an example of the bipartisan resistance of the legislation.

The correspondence to the newspaper states the bill will need 60 votes to advance in the United States Senate and the announcements of opposition by Senator Lincoln and Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Arlen Specter “have left the bill’s future clouded.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations.

The organization sent a letter to Congress in March outlining what they called “how provisions of the EFCAct contradict the principles of international labor law as defined by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

They repeated the false claim the legislation would eliminate secret ballot union election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Under EFCAct, if at least one-third of the employees sign authorization cards requesting for the National Labor Relations Board to conduct an secret ballot election the agency will do so.

Reaching Out to the College Community

05.31.09

I believe that Democratic organizations, progressive groups and labor unions need to increase their outreach efforts aimed at American colleges and universities. Campuses provide a very large percentage of campaign volunteers. They are the source of nearly all future opinion-makers including journalists, book authors, officeholders, business leaders and policy experts!

Generating a better understanding of progressive policies and politics early can only strengthen the prospects for progressive change over the next few generations. Organizing potential activists while in college and educating them should not be an “on and off” effort centered around Presidential election cycles.

The effort should not rely on students seeking out organizations like the College Democrats, ACLU or the AFL-CIO. The organizations should be seeking out students to engage with in a systematic way. Civil Liberties groups, environmentalists, civil rights organizations, campaign reform advocates, peace groups, human rights activists, etc should all be mounting issue awareness campaigns, recruiting and organizing activities on almost every American campus.

Professional marketing and promotional services devoted to the college market are available. I own and manage College Marketing.com http://www.CollegeMarketing.com which offers a diverse mix of public relations, advertising and promotional services.

As host of Democratic Talk Radio and Editor of Mid-Atlantic Labor.com, I understand the progressive political community. I want to see it effectively reach the vast majority of American college students with our messages.

If you represent a progressive organization or labor union, I might be able to help you grow your exposure on college campuses locally, regionally or nationally. We can promote the growth of organizations. We can help potential candidates get their campaign messages to college students and academics.

We can promote issue advocacy messages. Trade policy, healthcare, labor laws, the Fairness Doctrine in broadcasting, clean elections, taxation, employment, poverty, energy policy, foreign policy and almost any specific policy position can benefit from postering college bulletin boards, distributing flyers or placing ads in college newspapers with targeted messages. Many more customized creative public relations efforts can be executed by College Marketing.com.

We can increase traffic to blogs and political web sites. We can help drive book sales or subscriptions to progressive magazines or newpapers. We can promote music and movies with progressive content. We can motivate students to lobby.

You will not have to rely on volunteers who may or may not properly execute your projects. Your professional staff will not be diverted from their other important activities. You will have professional expertise with decades of experience in reaching the college community with advertising, promotional and public relations campaigns.

Your effort can reach a large number of campuses if desired or be scaled much smaller based solely on your needs. All of our efforts are customized to meet your specific campaign needs. Costs will usually be very, very reasonable.

Please call me at 443-907-2367 or email me at demlabor@aol.com to discuss your needs and how we can help meet them.

In solidarity,

Stephen Crockett

Battling Over Employee Free Choice

05.30.09

Battling Over Employee Free Choice
The fate of labor’s top legislative priority is in the Senate’s hands.

By David Moberg

http://inthesetimes.com/article/4450/battling_over_employee_free_choice/

On March 9, supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act carry money bags at a rally in Layfaette Square in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who has proposed making it illegal for union organizers to visit workers’ homes without prior consent, will likely face a progressive primary challenge in the Fall.

When Congress votes on the Employee Free Choice Act, it will decide not only whether workers will be able to organize unions more easily and whether America will build a stronger economy based on shared prosperity. It will also decide how democratic America will be.

The fate of the proposed legislation hinges on a few senators under intense pressure from corporations. But labor leaders remain optimistic that the legislation will pass—most likely with some tweaks.

“We’re definitely in a tough fight,” says Stewart Acuff, assistant to AFL-CIO president John Sweeney. “This is the largest grassroots campaign in labor history. We’re going to play it out as hard and strong as we can.”

The legislation, a top union priority supported by President Obama, would provide legal recognition of a union at a workplace if a majority of workers signed statements of support. Now, even if a huge majority of workers sign union cards, employers can demand that the National Labor Relations Board hold an election, giving the company and anti-union consultants time to bully employees into voting against unionization.

The bill would also stiffen penalties for all-too-common employer violations of labor law—such as firing union supporters—and provide the option of mediation and arbitration of first contracts when employers balk at serious bargaining.

Business groups and their right-wing allies focus on claims the law would deny workers’ right to a secret ballot, which they portray as the hallmark of democracy. But businesses clearly oppose the bill not for any alleged democratic shortcomings but because they oppose unions. In doing so, they oppose freedom of association, a bedrock democratic principle.

Minority rule
Workers can join political or community groups at will, without secret ballots, but can only form unions without a ballot if the boss agrees. Most employers make union elections as much a free and democratic expression of workers’ views as North Korea’s secret ballots.

The congressional process of deciding on the legislation is a little more democratic, but still deeply flawed. A solid majority in the House voted for EFCA in 2007, but while a majority in the Senate would now, supporters need 60 votes for cloture, or ending debate. With the recent defection of Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party (and assuming Al Franken becomes Minnesota’s new senator), Democrats and independent supporters will number 60. That means Dems will in theory have the votes needed to end an inevitable EFCA filibuster.

But in March, Specter, who co-sponsored EFCA in 2007, said he would no longer support cloture on the bill, reiterating this point when he announced his party switch in April. And Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), from the home state of notoriously anti-union Wal-Mart and Tyson Foods, said she would not support EFCA in its current form because it is too “divisive.”

Both senators face re-election next year. Running on the Democratic ticket, even with Obama’s promised support, Specter could face a significant progressive primary challenge. Specter’s switch is more likely to increase the likelihood of a compromise than win EFCA 60 votes. That could leave labor a tough choice between a stale half loaf today or a possible whole loaf in the next Congress.

Since the 40-plus senators now supporting a filibuster disproportionately come from less populated states, a tiny minority is undemocratically blocking expanded democracy for the majority.

In fact, a clear majority of Americans favor EFCA’s provisions, according to surveys by Hart Research. After pollsters described EFCA reforms, 73 percent of Americans surveyed supported it (including 69 percent in right-to-work states). Even when respondents heard the most potent arguments on both sides, strong—albeit smaller—majorities supported EFCA by margins of about 19 percent.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a shadowy network of front groups have kept most businesses—even those who accepted majority sign-up to recognize a union—toeing a hard line against the bill.

But some small business owners around the country have spoken out for EFCA as good for business and the economy. “We need a strong working middle class or my business will suffer,” says Darren Horndash, owner of the 33-store Wisconsin Vision optical chain. He says his unionized employees’ loyal performance helps retain customers.

Corporate opponents claim widespread unionizing will shut down businesses and cost jobs, but a new study by the Economic Policy Institute concludes that “the biggest fear voiced by employer groups regarding unionization—that it will inevitably drive them out of business—has no evidentiary basis.”

And a new Center for Economic and Policy Research study, led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Thomas Kochan, argues that unions are associated with high-performance workplaces yielding 15 to 30 percent “performance premiums” in efficiency, quality, employee engagement and profitability.

Cracks in the monolith?
One group of big companies—partly unionized Costco and staunchly anti-union Whole Foods and Starbucks—has broken with the hard-line Chamber of Commerce. The companies have proposed quicker elections, before which unions and business would both have access to workers. But it opposes majority sign-up and arbitration, and also proposes a new right of employers to initiate union decertification. While unacceptable to unions, the group’s proposal shows cracks in the corporate monolith.

Unions are keeping up the fight for EFCA as proposed, but they acknowledge changes may be needed to win over 60 senators. If Lincoln and Specter can be persuaded to help end a filibuster, they’re confident all other Democrats will as well.

“Taking steps to rebalance the playing field was always going to be tough,” says Change to Win Executive Director Chris Chafe. “But we’re still in a strong position to achieve major labor law reform … It will look a great deal like [EFCA].”

Some changes—such as designing sign-up cards that explicitly give workers the choice of an election or immediate approval of the union or lengthening the time before arbitration can be requested—would not seriously compromise the legislation. But many proposals, including one from Specter that would bar union organizers from visiting workers’ homes without prior consent, would tilt the playing field even more against unions.

Likely proposals to mandate elections within a short time—say, five to 10 days after a union petition—are problematic, even if unions got equal access to workers. “It takes a short time for employers to poison the well,” one organizer explained. Indeed, the fundamental problem is that employer speech in a workplace is inherently coercive, since the boss has power over a worker’s job.

“We are weighing a bunch of options, but the last thing we want to do is make the mistake of the other side and bully or threaten people,” AFL-CIO’s Acuff says. “It doesn’t work well, but it also points out what we’re trying to stop—the bullying and intimidation every day in the workplace.”

A Tough Fight
Unions have maintained a steady push for EFCA, including more than 400 actions during Congress’ spring break. They’ve mobilized non-union supporters and given prominent roles to workers with personal stories to tell, like Colorado electrician Dan Luevano.

In 2005 Luevano and most of his fellow workers at Ries Electric near Denver asked their boss to recognize the Electrical Workers as their union to help resolve problems. The boss called everyone in and threatened to fire them if they voted for a union. Luevano said he would, and the next workday he was fired. Though the National Labor Relations Board reinstated him, his boss isolated him and cut his hours while continuing to violate labor laws by fighting the union.

Luevano eventually left Ries Electric for a union firm. But he has told his story in community forums and interviews, and in congressional hearings and meetings with Colorado senators.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I went through,” he says. “I’m not a professional lobbyist, just a working person, trying to make life better for my co-workers and our families.” By doing so, Luevano is also trying to make America better—and more democratic. It’s a tough fight.

GET INVOLVED:
Employee Free Choice Act-oriented websites:
One Million Strong petition http://www.freechoiceact.org/page/s/araw
AFL-CIO petition http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/passefca_II
American Rights at Work http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/employee-free-choice-act/
SEIU: The Battle for EFCA Heats Up http://www.seiu.org/employeefreechoice/

Help In These Times publish more articles like this. Donate today! https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=2959
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David Moberg, a senior editor of In These Times, has been on the staff of the magazine since it began publishing. Before joining In These Times, he completed his work for a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Chicago and worked for Newsweek. Recently he has received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Nation Institute for research on the new global economy.

Come support the Employee Free Choice Act, Wed., June 3 in Philadelphia

05.30.09

Dear Activist,

The Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce is actively working to prevent you and others from having your rights on the job by publicly opposing the Employee Free Choice Act.

Join us on June 3rd at 5 pm sharp at the corner of Broad and Walnut St. (the Bellevue Hotel) to tell the Chamber of Commerce board members and their Young Professionals Network to stop opposing this important reform.

The U.S Chamber of Commerce and Big Business allies have fought against:

The eight-hour workday for women

Child labor laws

The Family and Medical Leave Act

The Voting Rights Act

Raising Americans with Disability Act access standards

Overtime payments for millions of workers through reforms of the Fair Labor Standards Act

OSHA ergonomics regulations that would protect workers from occupational injuries

Increases in the minimum wage

Living wages

Now they’ve added the Employee Free Choice Act to the list.

“Our top priority is preventing the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.” - U.S. Chamber of Commerce website

Big Business and their Chambers of Commerce are demanding bailouts and tax breaks while laying off workers and paying big bonuses.

They’ve also launched an anti-worker propaganda campaign, funding front groups to spread lies about the Employee Free Choice Act, pretending to care about worker privacy. The Chamber earmarked $20 million in 2008 and 2009 alone to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act.

No surprise. These corporate interests oppose everything from the minimum wage to safety rules to family leave and unemployment compensation.

Suddenly corporations care about worker privacy. Yeah, Right.

It’s plain as day: workers are struggling in this country. Today’s workplaces are tilted in favor of lavishly-paid CEOs who get golden parachutes while working families struggle to get by. When workers attempt to improve their lives by associating with their co-workers to bargain collectively with their employers, they are often met by immoral, illegal and intentional resistance.

The Employee Free Choice Act, a bill now in Congress, will help to level the playing field for workers. The bill will give workers a fair and direct path to form unions through majority sign-up, help employees secure a contract with their employer in a reasonable period of time, and toughen penalties against employers who violate their workers’ rights.

With a free choice, working people can bargain for better pay, health care and pensions and build a better life themselves and their families.

Unionized workers have more job security, earn 30% more than their non-union counterparts, and are much more likely to have health benefits, short-term disability insurance, life insurance, and pensions. More than half of all U.S. workers, more than 60 million, say they would join a union if they could. But illegal threats and a broken legal process prevent workers from organizing and negotiating for better lives.

It’s simple. Corporations like the current rules, which let them get away with illegal firing and intimidation, to block worker justice and maintain their profits.

“A majority of my coworkers at the museum have signed up to join the union that we created, but we know that we probably can’t have one. The company has already used illegal intimidation to punish our supporters. The Employee Free Choice Act is the only thing that will give workers a fair chance at being able to exercise our rights on the job.” Thomas Robinson, AlliedBarton Security Guard.
##

Eduardo Soriano-Castillo

Philadelphia Jobs With Justice

1315 Spruce St. Room 331

Philadelphia, PA 19107

Field Organizer

http://www.phillyjwj.blogspot.com

w 215-670-5857

Card Check and Gut Check

05.15.09

Card Check and Gut Check
By Harold Meyerson
Thursday, May 14, 2009

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/13/AR2009051303016.html

If our nation was governed by business’s version of democratic choice, we would hold elections to determine the winner, but nearly half the time the incumbent would remain in power even if he lost.

In its campaign to derail the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), business has fearlessly depicted itself as the defender of elections and the secret ballot as well as the foe of the dread “card check” ## the process, championed by unions and included within EFCA, that would allow workers to sign union affiliation cards rather than compelling them to go through a ratification election in which harassment and firings of workers are all too common.

But the kind of democratic choice that business favors is choice without consequence ## a position made clear by its opposition to the other key component of EFCA: binding arbitration between company and union if they’ve been unable to agree on a contract within 120 days of a union winning the election. A study of first-contract negotiations by John-Paul Ferguson and Thomas A. Kochan of MIT’s Sloan School of Management makes clear why such arbitration is needed. After surveying 22,000 unionization campaigns between 1999 and 2004, the authors found that even after a majority of workers voted for a union, they actually reached a contractual agreement with management (which is currently under no legal obligation to come to an agreement) only 56 percent of the time.

Heads, management wins. Tails, the employees lose.

It’s a lovely system for businesses that don’t want to pay higher wages or accord their workers some rights, and they’ve been fighting hard to keep it that way. They’ve managed for now to cow some cowable Democratic senators, which is why Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin, who is trying to steer EFCA through the Senate, is negotiating with a number of his colleagues. “It’s a moving target,” Harkin says.

That it’s moving at all is the result of Arlen Specter’s hop from Republican to Democratic ranks, which has compelled Specter to look to his left instead of his right to see where his next opponent is coming from. Just as the threat of defeat in next year’s Republican primary concentrated Specter’s mind and sped him out of the GOP, so the threat of a union-backed opponent in the Democratic primary ## spurred by Democrats’ bewilderment and anger at Specter’s post-conversion opposition to the president’s budget, his cheering on the spectral candidacy of Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman and his opposition to card check ## has prodded Specter to find some middle ground on reforming labor law. (It takes a rare talent to alienate not just the party you’re leaving but also the party you’re joining, yet Specter’s been up to the task.)

Labor, Harkin and his fellow liberals are willing to make changes to EFCA to win the support of their Democratic colleagues, so long as those changes don’t perpetuate management’s ability to avoid unionization by threatening workers and refusing to negotiate contracts. Accordingly, the scramble is underway for modifications to card check and binding arbitration that still meet labor’s goals.

Rather than give the arbitrator the right to impose a contract, some senators, Specter among them, have expressed interest in a form of arbitration used in baseball to settle contract disputes. In a baseball arbitration, the union and management submit their proposed contracts to the arbitrator, who tries to get them to narrow their differences, asks for their final offers and chooses the one he finds more reasonable.

Among the suggested alternatives to card check are proposals to shorten the currently open-ended period between the request for election and the actual vote (today, management can stall a vote almost indefinitely) and to allow workers to vote by mailing their ballots to the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, which (like absentee voting) would preserve the secret ballot but enable workers to escape the regimen of threats they often encounter in the weeks preceding an election.

If, after all the negotiations, Harkin and the unions conclude that the only bill that’s enactable in this congressional session is too watered down to protect workers trying to unionize, they would, understandably enough, not want it to go forward. In that case, why don’t the Democrats just put the original bill ## card check, binding arbitration and all ## to a vote and see which of their members choose to go on record against protecting those workers? If Specter and his fellow waverers wish to avoid that vote and the wrath it would incur among their onetime union backers, they’d do well to support the alternative provisions that restore Americans’ rights in the workplace.

meyersonh@washpost.com

Senator Robert Casey speaks to delegates at the Carpenters Union gathering in Scranton

05.12.09

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

Senator Robert Casey speaks to delegates at the Carpenters Union gathering in Scranton

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

SCRANTON, April 8th- The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Union Local 645 in Scranton hosted the quarterly delegates meeting at the Radisson Hotel in Scranton on April 3rd and 4th. Approximately 100 delegates of the Greater Pennsylvania Regional Council of Carpenters attended, which Local 645 is affiliated. The delegates were representing the 60 counties of Pennsylvania the council covers. The council represents more than 13,000 Carpenters Union members throughout those counties.

The guest speaker at the event was Scranton native Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey Jr., who spoke to the group and answered questions from the union members for more than an hour. Mr. Casey touched on topics such as the Recovery Act and the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct).

Drew Simpson, Northeast Coordinator of Local 645, stated the union was pleased to host the event, and many in attendance were from the western part of the state and had never visited Northeastern Pennsylvania. The union delegates were given a walking tour of the city and dined in union built establishments. Also, a presentation regarding regional union history was given to the delegates by Local 645.

Local 645 is located on Pear Street in South Scranton and was formed when Local 261 in Scranton, Local 514 in Wilkes-Barre and Local 76 in Hazleton was merged around eight years ago.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce spending millions to defeat EFCA

05.12.09

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

U.S. Chamber of Commerce spending millions to defeat EFCA

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, April 28th- The United States Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC, has proudly announced the organization launched a $1 million TV ad blitz in five states to block the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct)/Card Check, legislation.

The business group on April 14th launched the TV ads in Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Virginia. The organization inaccurately states in a letter sent to the newspaper the EFCAct legislation would “eliminate workers’ private vote when deciding whether or not to form a union, allow the federal government to set wages and working conditions and impose one-sided penalties on employers.”

The Chamber of Commerce also began running radio ads during the week of April 14th in Alaska and South Dakota, opposing the legislation. “These ads send the message that Card Check is fundamentally hostile to Main Street values and jobs. Grassroots opposition reflected in these ads is changing minds on Capitol Hill, as evidence by increasing bipartisan resistance to the bill,” said Steven Law, the United States Chamber of Commerce chief legal officer.

The organization cited Democratic Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln’s decision to oppose advancing the EFCA as an example of the bipartisan resistance of the legislation.

The correspondence to the newspaper states the bill will need 60 votes to advance in the United States Senate and the announcements of opposition by Senator Lincoln and Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Arlen Specter “have left the bill’s future clouded.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations.

The organization sent a letter to Congress in March outlining what they called “how provisions of the EFCAct contradict the principles of international labor law as defined by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

They repeated the false claim the legislation would eliminate secret ballot union election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Under EFCAct, if at least one-third of the employees sign authorization cards requesting for the National Labor Relations Board to conduct an secret ballot election the agency will do so.

Trumka: Specter Must Earn Labor’s Support

05.05.09

Trumka: Specter Must Earn Labor’s Support

by Tula Connell, May 4, 2009

http://blog.aflcio.org/2009/05/04/trumka-specter-must-earn-labors-support/

ABC’s ”Top Line” featured a great interview today with AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka. Discussing Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter’s switch last week from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, Trumka said the union movement would not support him in next year’s elections if he votes against the Employee Free Choice Act.

Specter has said the move to the Democratic Party does not change his opposition to the legislation to level the playing field for workers seeking to form unions. Said Trumka:

If a candidate isn’t good for workers, we won’t be there. If they are good for workers, we will be there regardless of their party. I mean, we supported Arlen Specter—and he was a Republican—because he was good for what was happening. He was good for our members at that time.

Click here http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/2009/05/abc-news-rick-k.html to read more about today’s interview and see the video.