Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

How McCain Lost in Pennsylvania

04.27.08

New York Times
April 27, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

How McCain Lost in Pennsylvania
By FRANK RICH

IT’S a nightmare. It’s the Bataan Death March. It’s mutually assured Armageddon. “Both of them are already losing the general to John McCain,” declared a Newsweek columnist last month, predicting that the election “may already be over” by the time the Democrats anoint a nominee.

Not so fast. If we’ve learned any new rule in the 2008 campaign, it’s this: Once our news culture sets a story in stone, chances are it will crumble. But first it must be recycled louder and louder 24/7, as if sheer repetition will transmute conventional wisdom into reality.

When the Pennsylvania returns rained down Tuesday night, the narrative became clear fast. The Democrats’ exit polls spelled disaster: Some 25 percent of the primary voters said they would defect to Mr. McCain or not vote at all if Barack Obama were the nominee. How could the party possibly survive this bitter, perhaps race-based civil war?

But as the doomsday alarm grew shrill, few noticed that on this same day in Pennsylvania, 27 percent of Republican primary voters didn’t just tell pollsters they would defect from their party’s standard-bearer; they went to the polls, gas prices be damned, to vote against Mr. McCain. Though ignored by every channel I surfed, there actually was a G.O.P. primary on Tuesday, open only to registered Republicans. And while it was superfluous in determining that party’s nominee, 220,000 Pennsylvania Republicans (out of their total turnout of 807,000) were moved to cast ballots for Mike Huckabee or, more numerously, Ron Paul. That’s more voters than the margin (215,000) that separated Hillary Clinton and Mr. Obama.

Those antiwar Paul voters are all potential defectors to the Democrats in November. Mr. Huckabee’s religious conservatives, who rejected Mr. McCain throughout the primary season, might also bolt or stay home. Given that the Democratic ticket beat Bush-Cheney in Pennsylvania by 205,000 votes in 2000 and 144,000 votes in 2004, these are 220,000 voters the G.O.P. can ill-afford to lose. Especially since there are now a million more registered Democrats than Republicans in Pennsylvania. (These figures don’t even include independents, who couldn’t vote in either primary on Tuesday and have been migrating toward the Democrats since 2006.)

For such a bitterly divided party, the Democrats hardly show signs of clinical depression. The last debate, however dumb, had the most viewers of any so far. The rise in turnout and new voters is all on the Democratic side. Even before its deathbed transfusion of new donations, the Clinton campaign trounced the McCain campaign in fund-raising by 2.5 to 1. (The Obama-McCain ratio is 3 to 1.)

On Tuesday, a Democrat won the first round of a special Congressional election in Mississippi, even though the national G.O.P. outspent the Democrats by more than double and President Bush carried this previously safe Republican district by 25 percentage points in 2004. A Gallup poll last week found Mr. Bush’s national disapproval rating the worst (69 percent) for any president in Gallup’s entire 70-year history. For all his (and Mr. McCain’s) persistent sightings of “victory” in Iraq, the percentage of Americans calling the war a mistake (63) also set a new record.

“I’m thrilled to be anywhere with high ratings,” Mr. Bush joked on Monday night, when he popped up like Waldo on the NBC game show “Deal or No Deal” to root for an Army captain who was a contestant. But it turns out that not even cash giveaways to veterans can induce Americans to set eyes on this president. “Deal or No Deal” drew an audience 19 percent below its season average. The best deal for Mr. McCain would be for Mr. Bush to disappear into the witness protection program.

But surely, it could be argued, the mud in the Democratic race will be as much a drag on that party’s eventual nominee as the incumbent president is on the G.O.P. ticket. The counterargument, advanced by Mrs. Clinton in justifying her “kitchen sink” attacks on Mr. Obama, is that the Democrats are better off being tested now by raising all the issues the Republicans will. It’s a fair point. The Wright, Rezko, Ayers, “bittergate” and flag-pin firestorms will all be revived by the opposition come fall. Voters should indeed see how Mr. Obama deals with them, just as Democrats also need to gauge how the flash points of race and gender will play out in the crunch.

The flaw in Mrs. Clinton’s refrain is her claim that she, unlike her challenger, has already been so fully vetted that her candidacy can offer no more unpleasant surprises. “I have a lot of baggage, and everybody has rummaged through it for years,” she says. Perhaps the delusion that she has a get-out-of-scandal-free card comes from her unexpected endorsement from Richard Mellon Scaife, the nutty Pittsburgh newspaper publisher who once spent a fortune trying to implicate the Clintons in the “murder” of Vince Foster. Or perhaps she thinks Fox News will call off the dogs now that her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, is appearing in network promos endorsing its “fair and balanced” shtick.

But the incessant praise for Mrs. Clinton’s resilience as a candidate by Karl Rove, Pat Buchanan and William Bennett reveals just how eager they are to take her on. The dealings of the Bill Clinton post-presidency, barely alluded to by Mr. Obama in his own halting bouts of negative campaigning, have simply been put on hold while the Democrats slug it out. Close observers of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post and Fox News can already read Rupert Murdoch’s tea leaves, and not just those from China. “Clinton Foundation Secrets” was the title of The Journal’s lead editorial on Friday profiling a rogues’ gallery of shady donors.

Mrs. Clinton’s supporters would argue that she’s so battle-tested she could fend it all off. She’s unlikely to get the chance. For all the nail-biting suspense being ginned up, the probable denouement remains unchanged. When the primary juggernaut finally ends — following picturesque day trips to Puerto Rico and Guam — the superdelegates will likely succumb to the math of Mr. Obama’s virtually insurmountable pledged-delegate total.

There’s also a way that two super-superdelegates, the duo on the Democrats’ last winning ticket, could trigger a faster finale. Bill Clinton could do so by undermining his wife once more with another ill-timed, red-faced eruption. Al Gore could possibly do so with a well-timed endorsement before his party gets mired in yet another Florida recount.

There’s only one way this can end badly, no matter how long it lasts. That would be if the loser, whoever it is, turns sore and fails to rally his or her troops around the winner. It’s all about “the way the loser loses,” as the Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel, who is neutral in the race, likes to say. While the Clintons are capable of such kamikaze narcissism, their selfish desire to preserve their own political future, if not the party’s, may be a powerful check on those impulses.

On the way to the finish line, the prolonged primary race, far from destroying the Democratic candidates, may do more insidious damage to the Republican nominee, lulling his campaign into an unjustified complacency. The Democrats should “take their time — don’t rush,” the McCain aide Mark Salter joked last week. Yet his candidate, as the conservative blogger Ross Douthat pointed out, keeps bumping up against a 45 percent ceiling in the polls even now, when the Democrats are ostensibly in ruins.

Mr. McCain is not only burdened with the most despised president in his own 71-year lifetime, but he’s getting none of the seasoning that he, no less than the Democrats, needs to compete in the fall. Age is as much an issue as race and gender in this campaign. Mr. McCain will have to prove not merely that he can keep to the physical rigors of his schedule and fend off investigations of his ties to lobbyists and developers. He also must show he can think and speak fluently about the domestic issues that are gripping the country. Picture him debating either Democrat about health care, the mortgage crisis, stagnant middle-class wages, rice rationing at Costco. It’s not pretty.

Last week found Mr. McCain visiting economically stricken and “forgotten” communities (forgotten by Republicans, that is) in what his campaign bills as the “It’s Time for Action Tour.” It kicked off in Selma, Ala., a predominantly black town where he confirmed his maverick image by drawing an almost exclusively white audience.

The “action” the candidate outlined in the text of his speeches may strike many voters as running the gamut from inaction to inertia. Mr. McCain vowed that he would not “roll out a long list of policy initiatives.” (He can’t, given his long list of tax cuts.) He said he would not bring back lost jobs, lost wages or lost houses. But, as The Birmingham News reported, this stand against government bailouts for struggling Americans didn’t prevent his campaign from helping itself to free labor underwritten by taxpayers: inmates from a local jail were recruited to set up tables and chairs for a private fund-raiser.

The Democrats’ unending brawl may be supplying prime time with a goodly share of melodrama right now, but there will be laughter aplenty once the Republican campaign that’s not ready for prime time emerges from the wings.

Colombia: Trade union leader disappears

04.27.08

http://www.ituc-csi.org/spip.php?article2003

Brussels, 25 April 2008 : The ITUC has expressed its outrage and firm condemnation following the disappearance of Guillermo Rivera Fuquene, President of the Public Servants Union of Bogota (SINSRVPUB), affiliated to the CTC Colombia, and a civil servant in the Colombian Comptroller’s office. This is the latest in a long line of daily violations of fundamental workers’ rights in Colombia.

Rivera Fuquene disappeared on 22 April at 6.30 in the morning in the “El Tunal” district as he was leaving his house to take his young daughter to school. This event, which has taken place against a background of harassment, threats and attacks against trade union leaders, firmly belies the claims by the government of President Uribe that the situation of workers and trade union activists in Colombia is improving.

In a letter to President Uribe the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), adds its voice to that of its Colombian affiliates in expressing its outrage and condemnation of the disappearance. The ITUC demands that the authorities open investigations immediately and ensure the trade union leader, whose life is in serious danger, is found safe and sound.

“This climate of constant violence must end” stated Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the ITUC. “The workers of Colombia are crying out for the respect of their most basic rights, as enshrined in the fundamental ILO conventions ratified by Colombia.”

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The ITUC represents 168 million workers in 155 countries and territories and has 311 national affiliates.

For more information, please contact the ITUC Press Department on: +32 2 224 0204 or +32 476 621 018 .

Lehigh Valley (PA) MSA unemployment rate remains at 5.2 percent

04.27.08

May 2008, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Lehigh Valley MSA unemployment rate remains at 5.2 percent

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, April 13th- According to labor data provided by the Department of Labor and Industry, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged from the previous month at 5.2 percent. The MSA includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania and Warren County, New Jersey. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 4.8 percent.

Of the fourteen MSA’s in the state, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area has the fifth highest unemployment rate.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 4.9 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the month before. There are 313,000 Pennsylvania residents without jobs. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,345,000 with 6,032,000 employed. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 4.8 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous month. There are 7,381,000 residents nationally unemployed.

The Johnstown MSA has the highest unemployment rate in the state at 5.9 percent with the Williamsport MSA the second highest jobless rate at 5.8 percent. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the third highest unemployment rate in the state at 5.7 percent.

The Lancaster MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 3.7 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 3.8 percent with the State College MSA the third lowest at 3.9 percent.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest civilian labor force, workers between eighteen and sixty-five years old, in Pennsylvania at 416,800. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 2,958,500 with 140,900 residents not working. The Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest civilian labor force in the state at 1,199,100, with 58,400 residents unemployed.

Within the MSA, Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate at 6.5 percent, increasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month and increasing by one and two-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months before. Carbon County has 2,000 civilians not working within a labor force of 30,900, the smallest civilian labor force in the MSA.

Northampton County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 5.0 percent, decreasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month and increasing by eight-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Northampton County has 7,600 civilians without jobs, and a labor force of 150,500.

Lehigh County has a unemployment rate of 5.5 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month and increasing by one and four-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Lehigh County has 9,600 civilians not working, the most in the MSA, and a labor force of 175,500, the largest in the MSA.

Five new members appointed to the ERISA advisory council

04.27.08

May 2008, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Five new members appointed to the ERISA advisory council

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, April 14th- The United States Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao announced on April 9th, the appointment of five new members to the leadership for the 2008 Advisory Council on Employee Welfare and Pension Benefit Plans, also known as the ERISA Advisory Council.

The fifteen member council provides advice on policies and regulations affecting employee benefit plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Members are selected by the secretary of labor and appointed to serve three-year terms.

The new appointees and their council positions are: David Evangelista of Stony Point, New York, representing the accounting industry; Sanford Koeppel of Iselin, New Jersey, representing the insurance industry; Mary Nell Billings of Memphis, Tennessee, representing employers; Marc LeBlanc of Alexandria, Virginia, representing employee organizations; and Kevin Wiggins of Clarksburg, West Virginia, representing the general public.

Marc LeBlanc is the fund administrator and general counsel of the Sheet Metal Workers International Union National Pension Fund, who oversees the management of the unions’ investment portfolio, supervises service providers, and directs compliance with reporting, disclosure and other legal requirements.

The ERISA Advisory Council announced on April 10th, the first 2008 meeting of the council will be held on May 6th in Washington, DC.

At the meeting the five new council members will be sworn in, new council leadership will be introduced, the assistant secretary of the Employee Benefits Security Administration will provide an update on agenda issues, and the council will select topics to be addressed in 2008.

David Evangelista is a CPA and a principal with MSPC Certified Public Accountants and Advisors, where he manages and supervises audits, reviews and compilations, and represents employee benefit plan clients in the public and private sectors.

Sanford Koepple is vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs at Prudential Financial with responsibility for all retirement security issues. Previously, he served as the lead attorney of the firm’s legal department dealing with employee benefits and the ERISA practice.

Mary Nell Billings is manager of retirement plans, government and strategic planning at FedEx Corporation, where she is responsible for governance, compliance, strategic design and employee commuications for all FedEx domestic qualified and nonqualified retirement plans.

Kevin Wiggins is an ERISA attorney at the lawfirm of Jackson Kelly PLLC. He has represented employers in ERISA litigation.

Labor Secretary Chao is the longest serving cabinet member of President George W. Bush. She is also the wife of Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell.

APWU amends charge filed against DHL Express Inc.

04.27.08

May 2008, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

APWU amends charge filed against DHL Express Inc.

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, April 10th- In the previous edition of the newspaper it was reported the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia alleging DHL Express Inc. violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct) by discharging two employees of the company, however, the newspaper has learned the union “amended” their charge against the company.

In a story published exclusively in the April edition of the newspaper, it was reported the APWU, which represents workers employed by the United States Postal Service, filed on March 10th, 2008 with the NLRB, a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge alleging DHL fired two employees after participating in union activity.

According to the charge, obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Information Act, “On or about February 4th, 2008, the employer fired employee Delvin Pena for engaging in protected, concerted activity in an effort to discourage other employees from exercising their right to self organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”

Also, on or about March 5th, 2008 the employer fired Norma Flores for engaging in protected concerted activity in an effort to discourage other employees from exercising their right to form a union, alleges the charge.

DHL Express Inc. is a global package delivery system and operates a facility on Nestle Way in Breinigsville.

The NLRB conducted a representation election at the facility in September, 2007, to determine if approximately 400 DHL workers wanted to be represented by the APWU. The employees voted 217 against becoming union members to 135 for union representation. The union is attempting to organize the DHL system nationwide. The union filed other charges against the company while attempting to organize their workers. APWU filed numerous ULP’s against DHL alleging the company violated the NLRAct by conducting a anti-union campaign which included hiring a labor consultant that specializes in attempting to keep labor unions from representing employers workers.

According to the amended charge, file with the NLRB on April 8th and obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Informationa Act, the name of Norma Flores no longer appears on the complaint.

The charge now states on or about February 4th, 2008, the employer discharge employee Delvin Pena for engaging in protected, concerted activity in an effort to discourage other employees from exercising their right to self-organization to form, join, or assist a labor organization.

According to the complaint, the charge was filed on behalf of Mr. Pena by Daniel Henderson, Union Organizer for the APWU in Allentown.

The ULP alleges Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and (3) of the National Labor Relations Act was violated by DHL representatives. Daniel Arrends, the company’s Human Relations Manager is named as the employer representative on the complaint.

ULP’s are amended when circumstances for the charge have changed or when new information is available that warrants the charge be altered.

Dispute between SEIU and AFL-CIO affiliate growing

04.27.08

May 2008, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Dispute between SEIU and AFL-CIO affiliate growing

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, April 15th- The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Association (CNA/NNOC) are engaged in a dispute with each other over jurisdiction and legislative agenda issues.

The SEIU is not affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation and is affiliated with the Change-to-Win (CtW) labor federation. The SEIU is the largest union in the nation with 1.9 million members.

The CNA is affiliated with the AFL-CIO and has 80,000 members and has grown by more than 375 percent during the past ten years. The CNA represents mostly workers employed within the healthcare industry while the SEIU represents workers employed within social services, government and the healthcare industry.

In the Lehigh Valley, the SEIU represents workers employed in government and social services but does not represent employees in the healthcare industry.

The CNA did not represent any workers in Pennsylvania until March when the union announced the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) Union would join the CNA. The union does not have members in the Lehigh Valley, but does represent nurses in the Philadelphia, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton areas.

PASNAP was not affiliated with either the AFL-CIO or the CtW labor federations prior to merging with the California Nurses Association.

Recently, both the SEIU and the CNA have provided information to the newspaper explaining their position regarding the dispute between the two unions. Both unions requested the newspaper report on this story, normally internal matters of disagreement between members of the labor community are not published.

According to the SEIU, the CNA has interfered several times with their organizing efforts including recently in California, Nevada and Ohio. More than 800 SEIU members traveled to Dearborn Michigan, where CNA Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro was scheduled to speak on April 11th, to protest the CNA. The SEIU stated Ms. DeMoro cancelled at the last minute because of their protest.

The CNA responded to the SEIU by condemning the union for targeting their leaders and members alleging they are being intimidated and stalked at home and work by the SEIU.

On March 24th SEIU President Andrew Stern sent a letter to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, who once served as President of the SEIU, calling for the labor federation leader to intervene and resolve the problem between the two unions. Mr. Stern in his letter provides several examples of AFL-CIO affiliated unions, including the CNA, alleging they have conducted anti-SEIU activities attempting to remove the union as the employees bargaining representative.

Despite the SEIU not being affiliated with the AFL-CIO, under a agreement between the CtW labor federation and the AFL-CIO, CtW unions can join local AFL-CIO labor federations through a “Solidarity Charter.” Under the program, any union receiving a Solidarity Charter would not be “raided” by a AFL-CIO affiliated union. According to the letter, provided by Mr. Stern’s Washington DC office, which was received by the newspaper without request, the SEIU alleges the AFL-CIO have not enforced the anti-raiding understanding in the Solidarity Charter agreement.

Mr. Stern ask President Sweeney in the March 24th letter, if the Solidarity Charters prohibit both AFL-CIO affiliates and SEIU affiliates who have received Solidarity Charters from raiding each other.

Unions show strength in winning representation elections involving healthcare industry workers

04.27.08

May 2008, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Unions show strength in winning representation elections involving healthcare industry workers

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, March 18th- The number of representation petitions filed and elections held across all industries declined in 2007, according to data from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
However, unions were successful in organizing healthcare industry workers the data shows.

Unions won 72 precent of representation elections conducted by the NLRB in healthcare in 2007, versus a union win rate of 62 percent in non-healthcare industries.

The data shows the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) had a 79 percent win percentage, the California Nurses Association (CNA) had a 80 percent win percentage and various state nurses associations had a 83 percent win percentage in 2007.

The states with the highest number of representation petitions filed in healthcare in 2007 include California, Illinious, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Washington. Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon and Puerto Rico were the states and territories with the largest percentage increase in representation election petition filings.

Meanwhile, on March 29th, RN’s at Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital in northwest Houston Texas, voted 119 to 111 to affiliate with the California Nurses Association in a representation election conducted by the NLRB. The union became the first in Texas to win union collective bargaining rights.

The union won the right to bargain for nearly 300 RN’s at the hospital.

The CNA has grown by more than 375 percent during the past ten years. The union has gained more than 30,000 new members since 2001 and has 80,000 members in all fifty states.

In Pennsylvania unions were successful in organizing workers employed within the healthcare industry. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) won the right to represent nurses employed at the Pocono Medical Center in Mornoe County and the CNA was voted in as the bargaining representative for RN’s employed at CMC Hospital in Scranton.