Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

NLRB nominations made, Chamber of Commerce objects

08.11.09

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

NLRB nominations made, Chamber of Commerce objects

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 14th- The Obama Administration announced on July 9th that it had sent to the United States Senate the nominiations of Craig Becker, Mark Gaston Pearce, and Brian Hayes to be members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC. If confirmed by the Senate, the NLRB would have a full complement of five members for the first time since December 7th, 2007. The sitting members are Chairman Wilma Liebman and Member Peter Schaumber.

On April 24th, President Obama announced his intention to nominate labor law attorney’s Craig Becker and Mark Gaston Pearce for the two vacant Democratic seats on the NLRB. The intent to nominate Mr. Hayes to fill the vacant Republican seat was announced shortly before the nominations were sent to the Senate.

Mr. Hayes currently serves as the Republican Labor Policy Director for the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Mr. Hayes’s term would expire on December 16th, 2012. Mr. Pearce, in private practice with a Buffalo, New York law firm, would have a term ending August 27th, 2013. Mr. Becker, Associate General Counsel of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), would have a term ending December 16th, 2014.
Chairman Liebman’s term expires on August 27th, 2011, and member Schaumber’s term ends August 27th, 2010. By tradition, three of the five NLRB seats are filled by individuals of the same political party of the President in office.

According to the NLRB, Mr. Hayes was in private practice for more than twenty-five years. His practice was devoted exclusively to representing management clients in all aspects of labor and employment law. He has represented employers in scores of cases before the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and various state fair employment practice agencies. He has served as chief trial counsel in the full range of employment claims in both state and Federal courts.

Mr. Hayes also has extensive experience in negotiating labor contracts on behalf of management clients, as well as representing clients in arbitrations, mediations and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.

Before entering private practice, Mr. Hayes clerked for the Chief Judge of the National Labor Relations Board and thereafter served as Counsel to the Chairman of the NLRB.

Meanwhile, the United States Chamber of Commerce announced on July 27th, the organization is urging the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to hold a hearing on the nomination of Mr. Becker to the NLRB.

In a letter sent by the organizations Executive Vice President for Government Relations, R. Bruce Josten, the Chamber cited concern over what the business group stated was Becker’s “out-the-mainstream” views on the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

Specifically, the Chamber of Commerce cited public writings in which Becker states that employers have no legitimate role to play when their employees are targeted by a labor union organizing campaign.

The Chamber of Commerce cited an article Mr. Becker wrote in the Minnesota Law Review that he believes, “employers should be stripped of any legally cognizable interest in their employees’ election of representatives.”

Unions Receive Increasingly Scary Threats Of Violence For Town Hall Participation

08.10.09

Unions Receive Increasingly Scary Threats Of Violence For Town Hall Participation

by Sam Stein

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/08/unions-receive-increasing_n_254704.html

Union officials continued to receive a barrage of threats on Friday evening and into Saturday punctuated by warnings that if organizers were sent to counter-demonstrate at health care town halls they would be met with violence.

An official with the AFL-CIO, a federation of labor organizations, passed on what he described as a “pretty direct threat” to those union hands who were showing up to balance out anti-Obama demonstrations being waged at local Democratic forums.

“I will be going to a local town hall this weekend, all you union members BEWARE!” an emailer wrote at 9:40 Saturday morning. “We will be waiting for you. better make sure you have arrangements with your local ER. today is the day when the goon meets the gun. see you there.”

The email was first sent to the media-watching organization Newshounds before being passed to Eddie Vale, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO. The IP address used to post the email was traced back to Georgia.

The AFL-CIO isn’t the only labor organization to be on the receiving end of threats of violence. During a day in which a woman called up its national office threatening to use her Second Amendment rights should her First Amendment rights be repressed, officials at the Service Employees International Union continued to be deluged with emails and phone calls with ominous undertones.

An official with the SEIU said she had received 50 such emails, including the following one, which was edited to make suitable for publication.

You socialist f## s have the nerve to say stop the violence at the town hall meetings when they weren’t violent until you p## ies showed up because your n## ## leader obama said to?????? When we have ours in Racine, Wi, I want you there. I want one of your little b## ## to put his hands on this Marine. I want one of you to look or talk to me wrong. I’ll be the last thing your ignorant faux body guards will remember for a very long time. You can f## ing guarantee that.
The escalating language and threats have caused union officials to grow increasingly worried about the possibility of serious violence at these town hall gatherings. On Thursday, a scuffle broke out outside a town hall in St. Louis, resulting in the arrest of an SEIU official and the injury of several participants. That same evening a near riot erupted in Tampa Bay after union hands tried to prevent an overflowing crowd from storming a town hall gathering.

Lawmakers, too, are feeling the heat to keep these forums civil. Though some are hosting events that don’t allow for interruptions. A reader initialed B.W. offered this summary of a town hall he attended in Plymouth, Indiana, with Rep. Joe Donnelly, (D-Ind.):

“Instead of addressing the crowd and taking questions, his staff had every one fill out a card with a number and he met with people face to face,” the reader wrote. “There were more people than time but at least 32 people spoke directly to him out of earshot of the rest of the crowd. The event had people with differing views on health care but remained very respectful. It was encouraging.”

UPDATE: A Donnelly aide writes in to say that the type of event the congressman hosted is called a “Congress on your Corner” event. It allows for brief one-on-one exchanges between the congressman and his constituents and is a popular forum among the freshmen and sophomore classes in the House.

WhiteHouse.gov/RealityCheck

08.10.09

Anyone that’s watched the news in the past few days knows that health insurance reform is a hot topic and that rumors and scare tactics have only increased as more people engage with the issue. Given a lot of the outrageous claims floating around, it s time to make sure everyone knows the facts about the security and stability you get with health insurance reform.

That s why we ve launched a new online resource http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/RealityCheck to help you separate fact from fiction and share the truth about health insurance reform. Here’s a few of the reality check videos you can find on the site:
CEA Chair Christina Romer details how health insurance reform will impact small businesses.
Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes tackles a nasty rumor about euthanasia and clearly describes how reform helps families.
Matt Flavin, the White House’s Director of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy, clears the air about Veteran’s benefits.
Kavita Patel, M.D., a doctor serving in the White House’s Office of Public Engagement, explains that health care rationing is happening right now and how reform gives control back to patients and doctors.
Bob Kocher, M.D., a doctor serving on the National Economic Council, debunks the myth that health insurance reform will be financed by cutting Medicare benefits.
There’s more information and a number of online tools you can use to spread the truth among your family, friends and other social networks. Take a look:

We knew going into this effort that accomplishing comprehensive health insurance reform wasn’t going to be easy. Achieving real change never is. The entrenched interests that benefit from the status quo always use their influence in Washington to try and keep things just as they are.

But don’t be misled. We know the status quo is unsustainable. If we do nothing, millions more Americans will be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions, or see their coverage suddenly dropped if they become seriously ill. Out-of-pocket expenses will continue to soar, and more and more families and businesses will be forced to deal with health insurance costs they can t afford.

That’s the reality.

Americans deserve better. You deserve a health care system that works as well for you as it does for the status quo; one you can depend on that won’t deny you coverage when you need it most or charge you crippling out-of-pocket co-pays. Health insurance reform means guaranteeing the health care security and stability you deserve.

President Barack Obama promised he’d bring change to Washington and fix our broken, unsustainable health insurance system. You can help deliver that change. Visit http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/RealityCheck, get the facts and spread the truth. The stakes are just too high to do nothing.

Thank you,
David

David Axelrod
Senior Advisor to the President

Split of merged unions leads to disarray

08.09.09

Split of merged unions leads to disarray
By Jane M. Von Bergen

Inquirer Staff Writer

In her hotel, with its glorious views of the Delaware River, Julie Coker, general manager of the Hyatt Regency, has a problem.

Two unions each claim to represent her workers.

When Coker deducts union dues from paychecks, where should she send them? When there are grievances, who should represent the workers? If there are layoffs, which union should she call?

“Mostly [unions] are fighting with management,” Coker said. “This time, they are fighting among themselves, so this is an unusual turn of events.”

In the world of labor management, Coker has what can only be described as a weird situation, and she is not the only one.

The resulting confusion practically demands a program to keep track of the different union locals, the national organizations, and the key players at all levels.

This same ball of confusion is rolling around hotels, stadiums, and school cafeterias all over Philadelphia and, in fact, around the nation. But it is particularly confusing here.

It is all because of a nasty divorce between two unions that merged in 2004. One was called UNITE, one was called HERE, and for reasons that seemed symbiotic at the time, it combined divergent trades in a headquarters building in New York.

The marriage did not even last five years.

Now the unhappy couple is fighting for custody of the members, their dues, and various assets in federal court in New York, and in front of the National Labor Relations Board.

Besides the soap opera aspects of this high-profile breakup, the dispute muddies labor’s image just as unions are gaining traction in Washington. In Philadelphia, where taxpayers have put a big bet on the hospitality sector as an economic driver, it is a distraction in a challenging economy.

Meanwhile, the battle for worker loyalty is nearly hand-to-hand - hotel by hotel, cafeteria by cafeteria, bar by bar.

“It is very unfortunate,” Hyatt’s Coker said. “Some of our employees were caught in the middle.”

Nationally, the battle has confused workers, including 7,400 in Philadelphia.

They work in the cafeterias of the city’s public schools, in hotels like the Hyatt or the Sheraton Center City, or at Lincoln Financial Field, Citizens Bank Park, and the Convention Center as employees of Aramark Corp.

Workers have been confronted with competing mailings, requests to sign petitions, and elections that seem unreliable. Allegations of fraud and intimidation abound.

Not surprisingly, employers are also confused.

Because of the dispute, the Philadelphia School District is no longer bargaining with the union local representing its 2,000 cafeteria workers.

The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board told the district to stop until the board can figure out which of the two rival groups should have custody of this disputed local. A hearing is set for Tuesday.

Aramark is escrowing union dues until the dust settles. One of the two unions filed criminal charges against the Philadelphia-based global food-services company last week, accusing it of “stealing” the money…….

(four pages more at the link below)

http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20090809_Split_of_merged_unions_leads_to_disarray.html?nlid=2514202

Right Wing site that posted my tag number shows no concern for my safety- Are they trying to instigate political violence against me?

08.08.09

Here is some communications that follow-up on the article below (the site link is posted at the end of the previous post and again is http://sbynews.blogspot.com/2009/08/report-from-rock-hall.html

3 Responses to “Obama-Allied Unions Threatened With Gun Violence For Town Hall Participation”
Administrator Says:

August 8th, 2009 at 4:43 pm e
I sent the site this email:

“I do not recall you asking my permission about posting my car license plates on the Internet since the Healthcare Reform Town Hall disrupters have a record of violence. Are you trying to make me a target of political violence?

Sincerely,

Stephen Crockett”

They responded:

“Were you parked in a public parking space.”

NOTICE THEY DID NOT RESPOND TO THE QUESTION!!!!

Administrator Says:

August 8th, 2009 at 4:47 pm e
They followed-up with this:

“If you believe I am in any way, shape or form trying to bring political violence upon you, you’re nuts. Secondly, have you looked at the bumper stickers on your vehicle???? How dare you ask ME if I’m trying to bring something upon you. Get a life. ”

Of course, stickers on my car sometimes get his kind of people to make obscene gestures but it is much different than posting them on a Far Right website. I do believe they are targeting me intentionally. A respectable site would have offered to block out the tag number.

Administrator Says:

August 8th, 2009 at 4:55 pm
They ended with this jewel:

“I am saving your suggestive messages. I will no longer reply to you and I’ll ask that you no longer send any messages to me. Have a great weekend. BYE “

## ## ## ## ## ## ## ##
EDITOR’S NOTE: I hope that my union brothers and sisters will assist my family in taking legal action against this Far Right website should I fall victim to political violence.

Obama-Allied Unions Threatened With Gun Violence For Town Hall Participation

08.08.09

Obama-Allied Unions Threatened With Gun Violence For Town Hall Participation

by Sam Stein

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/07/obama-allied-unions-threa_n_254204.html

One of the country’s largest unions has been hit by a wave of hostile calls and even death threats from people upset with its involvement in town-hall health care debates.

The Service Employers International Union was, as one aide put it, “deluged” with calls on Friday after several conservative media outlets accused the organization of trying to assault demonstrators who had showed up to protest Obama’s health care agenda. Making it even scarier for union employees, the address of the union’s St. Louis headquarters was mentioned on air by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

Callers who reached both the front desk and the communications department compared the union officials to Nazis, union aides say. On Twitter, organizers of the town hall protest urged people to take pictures and write down the license plate numbers of attending SEIU officials. More alarming than anything else, angry callers and protesters pledged to take up arms against the union.

“If ACORN/SEIU attends these meetings for disruptive purposes, and you have a license to carry….carry,” read one tweet.

“I suggest you tell your people to calm down, act like American citizens, and stop trying to repress people’s First Amendment rights,” one caller warned. “That, or you all are gonna come up against the Second Amendment.”

The union had actually put up a petition on Thursday for its organizers and members to attend these town hall events and “honor the long-standing American tradition of town hall meetings and public forums to allow citizens to participate in our democracy.” Things got a bit hairy during the evening, however, when the SEIU helped turn away people at a forum in Tampa Bay, Florida, and a near riot ensued. Similarly, in St. Louis, an SEIU staffer was arrested after a scuffle ensued with protesters at a town hall event with Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.).

The SEIU wasn’t the only Obama ally receiving threats on Friday. An official of the AFL-CIO, which has pledged to counter conservative protests at these town hall events across the country, said that union received angry emails throughout the day as well ## mostly accusations that it was promoting communism and socialism.

## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## -

A Right-Wing site in Maryland posted photos of my car covered with union stickers after I attended a Kratovil Town Hall event which I believe is a not very subtle suggestion to target me personally for harassment and/or political violence. Otherwise, they could have shot the sides…. only the sides do not show my license plates! They did not have my permission but frankly I am not afraid of the crazy Right!

http://sbynews.blogspot.com/2009/08/report-from-rock-hall.html

Healthcare Astroturf exposes the corporate backing of the anti-healthcare reform movement

08.08.09

Keystone Progress has created a new blog to expose the corporate backing of the anti-healthcare reform movement. It’s called Healthcare Astroturf ( www.healthcareastroturf.com ).

We’ll be posting articles showing that the health insurance industry, corporate media, the Republican Party and wealthy donors are supporting the “Teabaggers” to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

These connections should be obvious, but the fact that the media continue to report the anti-reform rallies as spontaneous means that it’s important to put the connections on one website ( www.healthcareastroturf.com ).

Take a look, then do two things:

1) Send this email to everyone on your list, and

2) Send us any links you uncover so we can keep posting the connections. Email us at info@keystoneprogress.org The more links we uncover, the harder it will be for them to deny the corporate backing.

In Solidarity,

The Keystone Progress Team

www.keystoneprogress.org

Congressman Kratovil wins how ?

08.07.09

Congressman Kratovil wins how ?

Frank Kratovil of Maryland’s 1st Congressional District faces a very difficult re-election race because the district historically leans Republican. However Kratovil has a very effective secret weapon. It is an active and well-financed coalition from an element of the Republican Party mostly from the extreme Far Right wing of the Republican coalition. They are the “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall disrupters” you have been seeing on television and reading about in your local newspapers!

This group is not really representative of the typical Republican voters from sprawling Maryland 1st. Most Republicans I know from the dozen or so counties comprising the 1st Congressional District are relatively moderate and always reasonable.

They dislike taxes like everyone else. However, they believe government does on most occasions some things very well (like Social Security, the American military, Medicare, national parks, etc.)

The Republicans I know simply dismiss the nonsense about Obama not being born in America. Obama’s Hawaiian original birth certificates in all forms (long and short) have been made public. The birth announcement was published in the Hawaiian newspapers when he was born.

These local Republican voters would never deny other citizens their right to interact with their member of Congress just to score political points. This kind of rude behavior has never been tolerated by either major political party in recent memory. I have lived in the District for over 35 years.

Today, I had the opportunity to attend two Kratovil citizen contact events in my home county. Both were mobbed by “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters.” I honestly do not know what to call them. The majority of those at the events trying to disrupt them seem to fall into all 3 categories. Basically, the same people are involved in all 3 media stunts.

They make good copy for reporters because they are real wingnuts!!! It appears that crazy as a bedbug sells. Financing fake grassroots movements is a booming business since the Democrats won control of Congress and the White House. The usual Right Wing billionaires have been typically generous and now the health insurance industry has exploded the cash available. It does not take big bucks to rally the extreme Right so the organizing can be a very lucrative business. All you need is a near total lack of ethics or concern for your fellow American citizens. The sentiment being sold is a dressed-up version of “let them die” combined with “I got mine.”

For some strange reason, the wing-nuts seem to thing radical behavior strengthens their cause. They actually think they are a mass movement instead of a fringe political element. They are living in a fictional alternative reality where the vast majority of Americans oppose healthcare reform. All major polls state otherwise. The current system is clearly broken and most Americans know it is broken. There is little healthcare security outside Medicare for most Americans.

Kratovil handled both crowds with ease. He understands his District very well and is clearly in the political mainstream on almost every issue. Obama lost the 1st District by large margin while Kratovil won the same year!
Kratovil is both moderate and extremely personable. Charisma is a frequently over-used term in politics but Kratovil has it. The guy is reasonable, patriotic and caring. Although I wish he was a little more reliably Democratic in his voting record, I know his views are closer to the District’s majority than are mine. The man is smart, young and wise. He is also very patient man.

The tone and attitude of the vocal leadership of the “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters” made it clear they were there to disrupt. A couple of the signs at the second event were especially insulting. One sign read “I was once afraid of terrorists but now am afraid of our government.” The other read “Save America, Impeach Obama.” After reading them, I realized this people were far, far, far outside mainstream political thought.

The leadership was intentionally insulting, aggressive and angry. They disrupted answers over and over again. For some reason, about 50% of the crowd was holding identical copies of the same talking points and style directions- same font, some colors and same text! The guy clearing in charge at the first event told a staffer that he was from Howard County which is not part of the 1st Congressional District.

I only recognized a single person from Cecil County. He is a local Republican officeholder. It seems the vast majority of people in the crowd from Cecil County were supporters of Frank Kratovil which is not surprising. Kratovil did receive the endorsement of the previous moderate-conservative Republican Congressman in 2008! There is a huge and growing Republicans for Kratovil movement.

The trick for keeping this Congressional District is the nature of the extremist opponent State Senator Andy Harris. Harris is the most Far Right state legislator in Maryland. To be any worse, Harris would have to become the Maryland version of David Duke. Harris is not quite there. Even the majority of the “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters” are not quite there. A few seem to have made it there.

Kratovil certainly is catching a clear break from the nature and high visibility of wing-nut opponents! Having “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters” running around this very traditional district is keeping the Republicans for Kratovil from returning to the Republican column. Mainstream Republicans remain highly wary of “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters.”

Kratovil is clearly a fiscal conservative. Whatever internal Democratic opposition that might have normally arisen from the left over policy or votes has been muted because of the visibility of the “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters.” Even if Kratovil is not always a reliable Democratic vote, he certainly has the right enemies in the “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters.”

That crowd is closely identified with State Senator Harris. They are a scary bunch of wing-nuts. They do not help Harris but Harris still needs them. Without them Harris has almost no base.

After today, I am still not afraid of my government! Why? Because the “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters” are not running the government, I am not afraid. Because the “tea-baggers, Obama birthers and Healthcare Town Hall Disrupters” are who they are, I believe they will never be running our government. I trust the voters!

Written by Stephen Crockett (Cecil County resident, host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com and Editor of Mid-Atlantic Labor.com http://www.midatlanticlabor.com ). Mail: P.O. Box 283, Earleville, Maryland 21919. Email: demlabor@aol.com. Phone: 443-907-2367.

Bargaining Wins for Public Employees in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, Kentucky

08.06.09

Bargaining Wins for Public Employees in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, Kentucky

by Mike Hall, Aug 5, 2009

http://blog.aflcio.org/2009/08/05/bargaining-wins-for-public-employees-in-los-angeles-pennsylvania-kentucky/

Public employees across the country have been battling bruising attacks on their jobs and paychecks as cities and states sink into red ink. No more so than in California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger achieved through budget cuts what he couldn’t in state referendums voted down by voters in 2008, a drastic reduction in state services. Yet in Los Angeles, city workers—members of several unions—ratified a new contract that averts furloughs and layoffs. State employees in Pennsylvania and Kentucky also have good news after mobilizing successfully to protect their paychecks and turn back cuts in benefits.

The Los Angeles city budget, adopted in May, called for layoffs and 26 furlough days per worker—amounting to a 10 percent cut in services and pay for every city program and every worker. Since then, members of the Coalition of LA City Unions in Los Angeles overwhelmingly approved a new contract with the city that preserves city services and avoids layoffs and furloughs. The new agreement will save more than half a billion dollars over the next three years, primarily through a retirement incentive program and delays in scheduled wage increases.

Says Cheryl Parisi, chair of the Coalition and Executive Director of AFSCME Council 36:

All along, we were determined to find a better way for L.A., and we’ve done it.

The unions in the coalition include AFSCME, Los Angeles/Orange County Building & Construction Trades Council, Operating Engineers (IUOE), SEIU, the Laborers (LIUNA), the Teamsters (IBT).

AFSCME members also were successful in Pennsylvania, after some 77,000 state workers played the role of hostages in July as Gov. Edward Rendell (D) and the legislature could not come to a budget agreement by the July 1 deadline. Without a budget, workers were told they either would not get paid or would receive just partial pay starting July 17 and continuing until a budget was passed.

But on July 28, after the employees had received short paychecks and faced a payless August, more than 2,000 state employees, most of them members of AFSCME Council 13, rallied at the Capitol in Harrisburg and demanded an end to “payless paydays.”

Speaking at the rally, Lasheba Dillard, a single parent of four children and a member of AFSCME Local 2534, pleaded with the legislature to quickly act.

On behalf of my family and everyone in this situation. Please pass the budget now!

The next day, Rendell announced he would sign a bridge budget covering workers’ salaries and other items, while a full budget agreement was still being hashed out. It passed Aug. 3 and Rendell signed it earlier today. It includes funds for regular and retroactive pay.In Kentucky, state employees were facing the loss of as many as five paid holidays under a proposal by Gov. Steve Beshear (D), as that state deals with a budget deficit. Those savings, says David Warrick, executive director of AFSCME Council 62, would be just a tiny drop in the state’s deficit bucket—but a major hardship for many workers .

The savings he would get—little over $10 million—sounds like a lot of money, but when you’re talking about a $1 billion deficit, it doesn’t make much difference.

But the $300 to $600 workers would lose would be a major difference, says April Tidwell, a state child protection and permanency worker.

I don’t get a holiday from paying my bills. The governor needs to look somewhere else.

With the legislature debating the cutbacks, union members mobilized and, in just 10 days, sent 2,000 e-mail messages and made 500 phone calls to lawmakers. Many sacrificed personal or vacation time to lobby lawmakers directly. The House and Senate dropped the governor’s holiday pay-cut plan.

Unions To Take On Conservative Groups Health Care Town Halls

08.06.09

Unions To Take On Conservative Groups Health Care Town Halls

by Sam Stein

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/06/unions-to-take-on-conserv_n_252720.html

The nation’s largest federation of labor organizations has promised to directly engage with boisterous conservative protesters at Democratic town halls during the August recess.

In a memo sent out on Thursday, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney outlined the blueprint for how the union conglomerate would step up recess activities on health care reform and other topics pertinent to the labor community. The document makes clear that Obama allies view the town hall forums as ground zero of the health care debate. It also uses the specter of the infamous 2000 recount “Brooks Brothers” protest to rally its members to the administration’s side.

“The principal battleground in the campaign will be town hall meetings and other gatherings with members of Congress in their home districts,” reads the memo. “We want your help to organize major union participation to counter the right-wing “Tea-Party Patriots” who will try to disrupt those meetings, as they’ve been trying to do to meetings for the last month. …

(Remember the hooligans - many of them Republican Congressional staff - who harassed Florida vote counters in 2000? We can’t let that happen again!).”

A showdown between unions and grassroots conservative organizations could make for an August full of fireworks, with even more dysfunctional town hall meetings. The AFL-CIO is planning to target 50 “high priority districts,” in addition to organizing telephone town hall gatherings.

But while the union conglomerate seems poised to flex its political muscle on Obama’s behalf, it may find some friction on the policy front. Detailed in Sweeney’s memo are certain legislative priorities that are clearly at odds with what seems likely to be produced in the Senate Finance Committee’s compromise bill.

Sweeney describes it as a “requirement that ALL employers ‘pay or play,’” that the final bill have “a robust public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers and drive down health costs,” and that the legislation contain “relief for company/union funds providing pre-Medicare retiree coverage, and no taxation of health benefits!”

The AFL-CIO also promises to “Redouble our efforts on Capitol Hill against taxation of benefits OF ANY KIND, for including ALL businesses in the requirement to provide coverage, and for a robust public health insurance plan option.”

According to reports on Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee is considering compromise legislation that will contain no public option for insurance and would tax health-care benefits of the most generous plans.

UPDATE: AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Richard Trumka sends out a scathing statement about the town halls, hitting on Sweeney’s themes and calling the events corporate funded.

Every American has the inalienable right to participate in our democratic process. Our politics is passionate, heartfelt and often loud ## as was the founding of our nation. But that is not what the corporate-funded mobs are engaging in when they show up to disrupt town halls held by members of Congress.

Major health care reform is closer than ever to passage and it is no secret that special interests want to weaken or block it. These mobs are not there to participate. As their own strategy memo states, they have been sent by their corporate and lobbyist bankrollers to disrupt, heckle and block meaningful debate. This is a desperation move, meant to slow the momentum for change.

Mob rule is not democracy. People have a democratic right to express themselves and our elected leaders have a right to hear from their constituents ## not organized thugs whose sole purpose is to shut down the conversation and attempt to scare our leaders into inaction

We call on the insurance companies, the lobbyists and the Republican leaders who are cheering them on to halt these ‘Brooks Brothers Riot’ tactics. Health care is a crucial issue and everyone - on all sides of the issue - deserves to be heard.

Expanding our website service area to include West Virginia

08.06.09

At the suggestion of Clem Guttata, we are going to expand our news & views coverage area to include West Virginia.

You can help by emailing relevant information to demlabor@aol.com.

New Jersey Learns About the Real Chris Christie

08.06.09

http://blog.aflcio.org/2009/08/04/new-jersey-learns-about-the-real-chris-christie/

New Jersey Learns About the Real Chris Christie

by Seth Michaels, Aug 4, 2009

As the critical governor’s race approaches this fall, the New Jersey State AFL-CIO has launched a new website, The Real Chris Christie, to take a closer look at the Republican challenger and where he stands on key issues.

Chris Christie, who got a political appointment as a U.S. attorney after raising more than $350,000 for George W. Bush, is running as a ”reformer,” but voters need to know what Christie would do as governor. Where does he stand on the critical issues facing New Jersey?

The Real Chris Christie looks past the rhetoric and examines where Christie stands on critical issues like the economy, health care, education and workers’ rights, as well as ethical issues and his long-standing support of Bush.

Here are some important facts available at The Real Chris Christie:

Christie wants to cut corporate tax rates at the expense of critical health, education and housing programs for working families.

Christie is proposing changes to health care that would allow insurance companies to deny claims and refuse to cover preventative care like mammograms.

Christie opposes funding for pre-K programs for young children.

Christie opposes paid medical leave for workers, project labor agreements and collective bargaining.

Christie has awarded no-bid contracts to friends and political allies.

Visit The Real Chris Christie to find out more. It’s an important resource as we approach the Nov. 3 election.

Virginians Prefer Welfare to Work? Ally of Gov. Candidate Says So

08.06.09

http://blog.aflcio.org/2009/08/04/virginians-prefer-welfare-to-work-ally-of-gov-candidate-says-so/

Virginians Prefer Welfare to Work? Ally of Gov. Candidate Says So

by Seth Michaels, Aug 4, 2009

In a meeting with Republicans on Thursday, Virginia Republican Party Chairman Pat Mullins—a key ally of gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell—audaciously claimed that Virginia businesses are closing because Virginians “preferred welfare to work.”

As the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports, in a conversation with Republican leaders in western Virginia, Mullins claimed a Wise County insurance company closed two offices because it couldn’t recruit enough employees from a local community college. Mullins contended it was because Virginians would rather be on welfare than get a job.

What news has Mullins been reading? Is this the kind of cluelessness Virginia can expect from Republican leaders?

Virginia’s workers are demanding an apology from Mullins and McDonnell. Mullins’ comments are an insult to hard-working Virginians who are facing the toughest economic crisis in decades—a crisis brought about by stagnant wages, disappearing jobs and rapidly rising inequality.

According to the Recorder, Mullins made another absurd claim. Although the nation’s economic crisis resulted from eight years of Bush administration mismanagement, he had this to say to Virginia voters:

If you’re not better off now than you were eight years ago, you had better vote Republican straight ticket.

Mullins is flat-wrong about Virginia’s workers. Virginia voters are sick of this out-of-touch attitude toward the economy, and they chose change last year. They need leaders who are going to work to fix the economic crisis, not dismiss it.

New Registered Apprenticeship Grants for the State of Maryland

08.06.09

Congrats to these building trades for their successful grant awards from DoL.

Marianne Kreitner, Director

Constituent Services

US Senator Barbara A. Mikulski

The U.S. Department of Labor today awarded $6,499,992 to assist national industry and employer associations and labor-management organizations in advancing Registered Apprenticeship through the development of innovative programs that utilize an updated 21st century Registered Apprenticeship framework.

The state of Maryland has been awarded the following:

Grantee
Headquarters
Grant Amount

Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Association of the United States and Canada
Beltsville, MD
$622,562

Finishing Trades Institute
Hanover, MD
$622,757

United Association of Journeyman and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada
Annapolis, MD
$624,300

The National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee
Upper Marlboro, MD
$614,943

International Masonry Institute
Bowie, MD
$545,149

Registered Apprenticeship is an ‘earn while you learn’ model that provides a combination of on-the-job learning and related classroom instruction in which workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects of a highly skilled occupation. Apprenticeship programs are sponsored by joint employer and labor groups, individual employers, and/or employer associations. Currently the Registered Apprenticeship system includes a network of approximately 30,000 program sponsors nationwide, offering nearly 1,000 different career opportunities.

The grants will fund the development and adaptation of innovative national apprenticeship guideline standards that incorporate competency-based progression or hybrid-style progression (a combination of traditional time-based programs and competency-based models). Funds will also be available to support the development and use of interim credentials to track an apprentice’s skill progression; as well as the use of technology-based learning to provide related technical instruction. Funds will also be used to support partnerships with the workforce and education communities. Finally, funds are also available to train staff, apprenticeship instructors and members on these revised and innovative program designs

For more information on Registered Apprenticeship and the array of Department of Labor training and employment programs visit www.doleta.gov. For more information contact:

Adri Jayaratne

Senior Legislative Officer

Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs

U.S. Department of Labor

P: (202) 693-4600

F: (202) 693-4644

E: jayaratne.adri@dol.gov

Incoming AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka vows tougher labor politics

08.04.09

Incoming AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka vows tougher labor politics

By JONATHAN MARTIN & JEANNE CUMMINGS

Richard Trumka admits that unions were outmaneuvered on a key element of the Employee Free Choice Act — a bill making it easier for workers to organize.

But the all-but-certain incoming president of the AFL-CIO says that legislative black eye will also carry a price — and warns that the business community and both parties ought to prepare for a more aggressive brand of labor politics once he’s in charge.

“[We] could have done a lot of things,” Trumka said in an interview with POLITICO, acknowledging that unions did not do enough to combat the business community’s portrayal of organized labor’s top legislative priority as merely an attempt to strip workers of the right to a private ballot in union elections.

“But we didn’t, and we are where we are.”

Beefy, blunt and with an accent that bears more than a trace of his western Pennsylvania roots, Trumka’s philosophical assessment about the bill known as EFCA could have just as easily been applied to the broader labor movement.

With domestic manufacturing a shadow of what it was, union membership has plummeted. And as if a decline in dues wasn’t enough of a threat, labor has been beset by high-level feuding and turf warfare in recent with years, when a significant group of unions broke from the national AFL-CIO and created their own federation, Change to Win.

It’s against this depressing backdrop that the unopposed Trumka is expected to take over the federation in September.

Now the AFL-CIO’s Secretary-Treasurer, the No. 2 slot, Trumka is unapologetically old-school labor in his view of corporate America. Like his father — whose picture dominates an office full of photographs — he worked in a coal mine. He rode to the presidency of the United Mine Workers as a reformer who wanted to democratize a fractured union and made a name for himself as a hardball player not afraid to do battle with equally tough coal companies.

He has served in his current post since 1995, when he ran on the same ticket with current AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, who is retiring, and was widely seen as being groomed to take over the federation.

Now 59 and poised to finally be organized labor’s de facto leader, Trumka says unions ceded too much to the political parties, and he intends to bolster labor’s voice.

“We’ll stake out a clear position when it comes to the economy … and we’ll stick to that position,” he said. “We’ll support those people that do support it, and we’ll oppose those people that don’t … whether they’re Democrat or Republican.”

In a sign that he won’t be afraid to anger some elements of the liberal coalition, Trumka doesn’t hesitate when asked about backing one recent Democratic convert, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter.

Trumka, who keeps a farm and still votes in his native state, said confidently that Specter will “be there” with labor on the union organizing bill and will likely have the support of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO in a potential Democratic primary next year.

“I think he’ll probably be endorsed and win the primary,” Trumka said.

The labor leader offered high praise tempered with some concern about the advisers President Barack Obama has surrounded himself with.

Asked if Obama is a labor president, Trumka said: “I think he’s been very sensitive and been good to workers, absolutely. He comes from a workers’ point of view. His background is that way.”

But what of the president’s retreat from the tough-on-trade policies he espoused during the heated Democratic primary? Where did that candidate go?

“I think he’s still over there,” Trumka said. “I think some people around him probably would like to see him move.”

And who would that be? “Some of his economic advisers,” Trumka said, acknowledging that he’s referring to National Economic Council Director and free-trader Lawrence Summers along with unnamed others…..

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0809/25717.html#ixzz0NCzsE4SR

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0809/25717.html#ixzz0NCzKlYhY

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

08.02.09

Hi there,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to write your letter now:

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

Thank you.

Blue Dog Compromises: A War On the Middle Class?

08.01.09

Blue Dog Compromises: A War On the Middle Class?

by RJ Eskow- Consultant, Writer, Health Analyst

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rj-eskow/blue-dog-compromises-a-wa_b_248311.html

It’s hard to analyze the compromises coming from Blue Dog Democrats without concluding that, intentionally or not, they add up to a financial assault on working families. Every concession rings with the sound of middle-class Americans being dinged financially.

Ding! That’s the sound of lower-income working Americans losing what remained of their subsidy for purchasing health insurance. They’ve raised the bar1 so that people making $31,200 will no longer get any help with their premiums. Neither will parents trying to raise a family of four on $63,000. That means families without employer-based coverage will have to come up with the money for health insurance (currently $12,000 per year) or face a government penalty.

But how many Americans will have employer-sponsored coverage? Ding! That’s the sound of more people losing that chance, as Blue Dogs raise the minimum payroll requirement for employers from $500,000 to $750,000. 86% of small businesses will now be exempt from any mandate. Small businesses have been the engine of economic growth and recovery.

But wait. At least some of these uninsured folks will be able to buy into a public option, right? (That is, if the Blue Dogs’ soul mates in the Senate don’t kill it altogether.) Won’t the public option be more affordable than those high-cost private insurance plans?

Ding! That’s the sound of the Blue Dogs eviscerating the cost-cutting potential of the public plan by refusing to allow it to use Medicare rates with providers, even for the conservative three-year period contemplated by earlier drafts of the bill. What does that mean for uninsured working Americans? Their lowest-cost option is going to cost a lot more if the Blue Dogs get their way.

This particular initiative has a historical parallel. It’s similar to the Republicans’ refusal to let Medicare use its buying power to bargain on pharmaceutical costs.

What about the luckier middle class types, the ones that do get health insurance through their employers? Well, there’s a lot of talk that they’ll be facing a new financial burden when Congress starts taxing health benefits (although the income levels at which that will happen are still being debated). Why? Because supposedly some people are getting “Cadillac plans.” Look a little closer, however, and you usually find that they’re just priced like Cadillacs. It’s not that they’re generous (certainly not by Medicare or European standards). More often than not, those $40,000 plans you hear about are costly because they’re covering sicker people.

Ding! Congress may begin taxing these benefits, if the Blue Dogs have their way. That’s a regressive tax, one that’s based on behavioral logic that seems questionable at best to me. Taxing the wealthiest Americans on truly luxurious plans (say, ones with concierge medicine features) would be reasonable … if we could trust Congress to stop there. Sadly, we can’t.

Where didn’t the Blue Dogs and Rep. Waxman (my representative) compromise? Here’s where: They didn’t ease up on the mandate for individuals to obtain health insurance coverage. They made it easier for employers not to offer it, and they found several ways to make it more expensive, but they didn’t give a break to the working people - mostly blue-collar working people - who will be hit the hardest by their much-vaunted compromises.

That would be the same blue-collar voters that proved so vital to the Democrats’ electoral victories in 2008. You don’t have to believe in the supernatural to believe that sometime soon Democrats could face some bad karma - the electoral kind - for their indifference to the needs of their constituents. In this debate, the progressives aren’t just being idealistic. They’re being pragmatic. Their plans have a greater likelihood of helping people who need it - and as a result, of helping their party in the years to come.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Hear that? It’s the sound of the disaffected middle class in 2012 if the Blue Dogs have their way. Already alienated by big payouts to wealthy Wall Street bankers, they’re counting up their new financial burdens … and taking a second look at the Republican Party.
______________

1 From 300% to 400% of the Federal poverty level.

RJ Eskow blogs when he can at:

A Night Light
The Sentinel Effect: Healthcare Blog

Website: Eskow and Associates

Follow RJ Eskow on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rjeskow

Health Care Realities

08.01.09

Health Care Realities

By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: July 30, 2009

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/31/opinion/31krugman.html?_r=1

At a recent town hall meeting, a man stood up and told Representative Bob Inglis to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.” The congressman, a Republican from South Carolina, tried to explain that Medicare is already a government program — but the voter, Mr. Inglis said, “wasn’t having any of it.”

It’s a funny story — but it illustrates the extent to which health reform must climb a wall of misinformation. It’s not just that many Americans don’t understand what President Obama is proposing; many people don’t understand the way American health care works right now. They don’t understand, in particular, that getting the government involved in health care wouldn’t be a radical step: the government is already deeply involved, even in private insurance.

And that government involvement is the only reason our system works at all.

The key thing you need to know about health care is that it depends crucially on insurance. You don’t know when or whether you’ll need treatment — but if you do, treatment can be extremely expensive, well beyond what most people can pay out of pocket. Triple coronary bypasses, not routine doctor’s visits, are where the real money is, so insurance is essential.

Yet private markets for health insurance, left to their own devices, work very badly: insurers deny as many claims as possible, and they also try to avoid covering people who are likely to need care. Horror stories are legion: the insurance company that refused to pay for urgently needed cancer surgery because of questions about the patient’s acne treatment; the healthy young woman denied coverage because she briefly saw a psychologist after breaking up with her boyfriend.

And in their efforts to avoid “medical losses,” the industry term for paying medical bills, insurers spend much of the money taken in through premiums not on medical treatment, but on “underwriting” — screening out people likely to make insurance claims. In the individual insurance market, where people buy insurance directly rather than getting it through their employers, so much money goes into underwriting and other expenses that only around 70 cents of each premium dollar actually goes to care.

Still, most Americans do have health insurance, and are reasonably satisfied with it. How is that possible, when insurance markets work so badly? The answer is government intervention.

Most obviously, the government directly provides insurance via Medicare and other programs. Before Medicare was established, more than 40 percent of elderly Americans lacked any kind of health insurance. Today, Medicare — which is, by the way, one of those “single payer” systems conservatives love to demonize — covers everyone 65 and older. And surveys show that Medicare recipients are much more satisfied with their coverage than Americans with private insurance.

Still, most Americans under 65 do have some form of private insurance. The vast majority, however, don’t buy it directly: they get it through their employers. There’s a big tax advantage to doing it that way, since employer contributions to health care aren’t considered taxable income. But to get that tax advantage employers have to follow a number of rules; roughly speaking, they can’t discriminate based on pre-existing medical conditions or restrict benefits to highly paid employees.

And it’s thanks to these rules that employment-based insurance more or less works, at least in the sense that horror stories are a lot less common than they are in the individual insurance market.

So here’s the bottom line: if you currently have decent health insurance, thank the government. It’s true that if you’re young and healthy, with nothing in your medical history that could possibly have raised red flags with corporate accountants, you might have been able to get insurance without government intervention. But time and chance happen to us all, and the only reason you have a reasonable prospect of still having insurance coverage when you need it is the large role the government already plays.

Which brings us to the current debate over reform.

Right-wing opponents of reform would have you believe that President Obama is a wild-eyed socialist, attacking the free market. But unregulated markets don’t work for health care — never have, never will. To the extent we have a working health care system at all right now it’s only because the government covers the elderly, while a combination of regulation and tax subsidies makes it possible for many, but not all, nonelderly Americans to get decent private coverage.

Now Mr. Obama basically proposes using additional regulation and subsidies to make decent insurance available to all of us. That’s not radical; it’s as American as, well, Medicare.

Teamsters Union Local 773 files complaints against employer

08.01.09

Teamsters Union Local 773 files complaints against employer

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

BETHLEHEM, July 6th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 773 has filed multiple complaints against an employer alleging the company violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

On June 29th and June 30th, Local 773 filed Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges against Americold Bethlehem. Local 773 also filed a ULP on April 14th alleging the employer violated the NLRAct during the organizing campaign the union was conducting.

On February 20th, Local 773 filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia, requesting the agency conduct a election to determine if approximately 215 full-time and regular part-time forklift operators, cleaners, maintenance, inventory control, cycle counter, and line leaders workers of the food products warehouse operated by the company on Brodhead Road in Bethlehem wanted to be union represented.

The workers voted 118 against unionizing to 70 being represented by Local 773 on March 31st. However, the union believed company officials violated the NLRAct during the compaign.

The union filed a ULP on February 17th and amended their complaint on April 14th, which alleged the Employer, through its representatives, beginningNovember 1st, 2008 had engaged in unlawful conduct against Union organizers and pro-Union employees.

The ULP filed on June 29th, alleges the Employer through its representatives, in a leaflet distributed on or about March 27th, 2009, threatened employees with loss of benefits if they selected the Union.

The complaint filed on June 30th alleges the Employer, through its representatives, has engaged in the following unlawful conduct:
• During captive audience meetings, threatening and interrogating employees on account of their Union activities.

• On or about March 27th, 2009, Employer Representative Dan Frasetto condoned anti-Union employee vandalism by blaming the conduct in response to employees who wore pro-Union t-shirts and told an employee that having a union would result in a loss of employee benefits.

• During February 2009, General Manager Charles Harrison and Human Resources Manager Sheila Persing interrogated an employee about the employee’s Union activities and told the employee they were not allowed to talk about Union activities on company time.

Classes held until August 20th for fourteen youths that are enrolled in pre-apprentice program

08.01.09

Classes held until August 20th for fourteen youths that are enrolled in pre-apprentice program

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, July 22nd- There are fourteen youths enrolled for the summer in the new pre-apprenticeship program in the Lehigh Valley. On May 29th, unions affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley participated with a press conference at the Career Link on Union Boulevard in Allentown to announce the program.

The labor federation together with United Community Services sponsors the program that began on June 22nd. The program is funded by the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board and the headquarters and classrooms are located at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 375 building on Liberty Street in Allentown.

The program is funded through Pennsylvania’s allocation from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The state received $7,111,200 in May 2009 to help workers who lost their jobs. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds will help states provide career training, job search, relocation assistance to workers, and laid-off workers support.

According to William Newhard, President of the labor federation, eligible youths from the Lehigh Valley are in a program that gives both acadenic preparation and work experiences to enter the building trades apprenticeship programs.

There are 20 local unions affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley, which represents workers employed within the construction trade industry.

William Dorward, Area Marketing Representative of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association Union Local 19, which represents employees which installs duct work for heating and air conditioning and metal roofs within the construction industry, told the newspaper a pre-apprenticeship program in the Reading area is very successful. Mr. Dorward said the Reading program was established more than five years ago. He would like the program to be held every year in the Lehigh Valley. “I would like to see it keep going.”

Youths will spend the summer getting acquainted with the building trades apprenticeship programs, visit their training sites and get an opportunity to learn on several work sites. Journeymen construction workers will assist the youth in getting to know all about construction and construction unions. Additionally, the youth will study math, construction safety, and building trades work readiness. The pre-apprenticeship program mirrors a real apprenticeship program by providing an opportunity to earn and learn. Pre-apprenticeship requirements will be the same as real apprenticeship requirement.

Vicki Henshaw, who has worked in the Lehigh Valley within youth social services for many years directs the program. She said classes will end on August 20th and are held Monday to Thursday, 9:00 am to 1:30 pm.