Why Are Businesses Sitting on the Sidelines?

The answer is very simple: government. The federal government needs to get out of the way and let businesses do what they do best, creating jobs and stimulating the economy. Government can do neither because it does not produce either products or services. Despite its good intentions and misguided political or social agendas, the federal government only serves to stifle economic investment and growth at the expense of taxpayers. Smaller government and less regulation are the answer as Government Overregulation Threatens Economic Growth.

Unfortunately, the current Administration continues to push its social agenda to the detriment of the very people who can turn the ship around. Although Worries Grow Over Jobs, Obama continues his Plan to Ease Way for Unions.  Most recently, the National Labor Relations Board and the Department of Labor launched a “joint attack” against employers (see NLRB and DOL Launch Joint Attack on Employer Rights, New Rule Proposed On Employers’ Use Of Union Consultants and Employers Criticize Proposal to Speed Union Votes).  Additionally, the Administration introduced legislation which has been dubbed ”The Latest Job Killer From the EPA,” an attempt to control ozone commissions under the cover of Climate Change.  These regulations are recognized as a “Death Penalty for Employees and Employers.” When presented with the fact that businesses are waiting to hire or expand operations due to regulatory uncertainties, President Obama only responds that “the business community always complains about regulation” (see President Obama: The Business Community Is Always Complaining About Regulation). Adding salt to the wound, he continues to support his radical appointees in the NLRB who, in turn, push his pro-labor agenda, providing yet another obstacle for business to overcome (see NLRB Pleases Unions By Strangling Economy). Although publicly Obama Urges Independent Agencies To Shed Burdensome Rules, his actions speak louder than his disingenuous words.

Most recently, the prolonged budget/debt limit fight, which was finally resolved, had been added to the mix. Big labor bosses found the proposal unacceptable (see Labor’s Discontent with Obama Surfaces Yet Again) seeing the crisis as an opportunity to push their agenda. The President, too, used the opportunity to attempt to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and businesses, as described in Obama’s Debt-Ceiling Opportunity. With all of this in mind, the question has to be framed Was the Debt Ceiling Used to Cover Gift Giving to Big Labor?  Obviously the combination of all of this is an attempt to foment class warfare, achieve his social justice agenda, solidify the big labor base (as Unions Rethink Support For Obama in 2012), and expand his base of Americans dependent on government support heading into the 2012 elections.

The Disappearing Recovery seems to fit right in line with the President’s long-term socialistic agenda and short-term election agenda, as witnessed by the fact that when Unemployment Goes Up, Obama Declares Victory. In both agendas, it is imperative that a majority of the people (voters) are dependent on government welfare, whether it is through union handouts, corporate subsidies, welfare, unemployment benefits or entitlement programs. Obama, in addition to his graceful rhetoric, is politically savvy, as described in Rule by Fiat, and understands he must develop dependency, as witnessed in the President’s Job Plan (Not). In short, he is a political animal dedicated to his cause and has managed to once again use debt ceiling sleight of hand to distract the American people from the economy, jobs and his true agenda.

Is it just coincidence this all occurred and was resolved right before Congress leaves on summer break and doesn’t reconvene until after Labor Day? I think not. After all, it puts the economy and stagnant job growth on the back burner for a month, provides the rogue NLRB an opportunity to further push through their regulatory agenda (see Card Check through Regulation vs. Legislation), allows an opportunity for Obama to reappoint Wilma Liebman, whom Congress has opposed, as head of the NLRB through a recess appointment, and allows the President to go back on the campaign trail starting with his August 4th $35,800/head Birthday Bash in Chicago. Nothing could be finer as his plan for re-election continues to develop at the expense of American business and the Americans it employs.

It is imperative all Americans understand that the fundamental difference between business and big government is tantamount to the difference between the free market and socialism.  Big government makes a living off spewing misleading statistics and producing nothing tangible except fomenting class warfare and breeding dependency. Businesses and the maligned wealthy live in a world of real numbers and produce tangible services and products, but most importantly jobs, which are the most critical component of a full economic recovery. Unfortunately, Ayn Rand was Right: Wealthy Are on Strike Against Obama and will continue to be until he wakes up or his defeated in November 2012. In the meantime we are doomed to continuing economic decline and rising unemployment.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Unions Continue Efforts to Suppress California Initiatives

We have already covered the recent statewide attack on initiatives in California by labor unions, but their offensive has just begun. In an earlier editorial posted on June 13th, entitled “California’s Legislature Continues to Propose Laws to Preserve Government Union Power,” we document no fewer than four bills submitted so far in 2011 by union-friendly politicians in the California legislature, all designed to curb the ability of grassroots organizations to put citizen initiatives on the ballot by making them far more expensive. But meanwhile there are local and statewide initiative campaigns already gathering signatures for measures that the unions consider a threat. Their counterattack is in process.

As documented in our editorial of July 28th entitled “SEIU Propaganda – Lies of Just Carelessness,” that organization has now organized their membership to send “Truth Squads” to wherever petition workers are set up to gather signatures from voters. In response to a particular statewide initiative, their “Think Before You Ink” flyer makes some claims that are quite misleading, if not completely false; that “out of state billionaires” are financing the initiative – not true, that “business interests already dominate political spending by a margin of 15 to 1 over organized labor” – not even close, and that “the initiative would take away our right to gather voluntary contributions to the Local 1000 political action fun” – also not true, in fact the opposite is the case.

A guest contributor to UnionWatch, Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association, added this post on August 1st “Latest Intimidation Tactic is a Public Relations Disaster for Unions,” referring to a current, union financed, statewide ad campaign making the preposterous claim that signing a petition puts the signer at risk of identity theft.

Apparently the will of the people is a threat to unions in California, because evidence of these efforts continues to surface. Here is a link to a new LA County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO website page “URGENT: We Need Your Help to Prevent a Deceptive Ballot Measure.” Apparently, more “truth squads” are being mobilized, as this excerpt indicates:

“If you’re out shopping this weekend and encounter a signature gatherer who is talking about “special interests” or “payroll deduction,” don’t sign the petition. Then help us ensure the public is getting the real story, call toll-free at 877-440-9585.

It’s critical that you call if you see a signature gatherer. We are counting on people like you to report the locations of signature gatherers so we can make sure people know the facts about this deceptive measure.”

In their internal emails, the unions are more blunt about their objectives and tactics. Here is an excerpt from an email sent by the SEIU Local 1000 to members – forwarded anonymously to our editorial staff – in reference to a petition drive in Sacramento county that would increase the competitiveness of the bidding process for government funded construction – lowering costs to taxpayers:

“FOC Signature Suppression “Spotter” Checklist—what you can do:

  1. Don’t sign the petition.
  2. Tell your colleagues, family, friends and neighbors not to sign the petition.
  3. Call 916.812.4023 – Bud McKinney or 916.812.4024 – Kevin Ferreira of the Sacramento Central Labor Council and give them the following information:
  • Store name and location with cross streets
  • Date and time
  • Number of signature gatherers
  • Gender of all signature gatherers
  • Signature gathering tactics (i.e. aggressive or false claims to reduce gas prices, child healthcare, etc.)
  • If the call is not answered, please leave a voicemail or send a text message.”

These tactics, apparently, are just beginning. It is interesting to note that the initiative process has always been something the unions themselves have turned to whenever the public sentiment could be aligned with their political agenda. But now that public sentiment is tipping in favor of reform, they are attacking the process and the participants.

Most union reformers are not entirely opposed to unions. If union membership were completely voluntary, if union members could easily and at any time refrain from having any portion of their dues used to engage in politics, and if unions, especially in the public sector, were more strictly regulated, there is a legitimate role for unions. In emerging economies, the need for labor unions is perhaps still quite urgent. In the United States, the role of unions has become more problematic.

Perhaps the biggest economic misunderstanding committed by most union supporters is their overemphasis on raising wages and benefits, and their underemphasis on exploring how instead to lower the cost of living for everyone. The rise of government unions, where there is no competitive check whatsoever on their demand for more government worker compensation and benefits, and their consistent agenda that calls for additional government programs and regulations requiring more government workers, imposes staggering costs on the rest of us. The public is beginning to realize this basic fact of political economy.

Latest Intimidation Tactic Is a Public Relations Disaster for Unions

There’s an old joke about the intimidation tactics of the Teamsters’ union. “How many Teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?” Answer: “Four — you gotta a problem with that?”

As much as we would like to think that labor unions have abandoned their threatening and often illegal behavior to get what they want, in the public sector things are only getting worse. It is only a matter of time until a jilted (and honest) public sector employee says “I coulda been a contender.”

The latest bit of thuggery is an advertising campaign launched by the unions to dissuade voters from exercising their rights to sign initiative petitions. As reported in several media outlets, a union-backed effort has created a website and begun running radio commercial under the name “Californians Against Identity Theft.” These scary ads warn that anyone who signs an initiative petition — frequently gathered in front of big box stores — runs the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.

Usually, even the most deceptive political ads have at least a grain of truth. But not here. There is no factual basis for the suggestion that signing a ballot petition would put one at risk for identity theft. Indeed, the signature data gathered by those who collect those signatures is prohibited by law from being disclosed. Interestingly, voter registration information (which consists of more data) is a matter of public record.

This latest thinly veiled effort at stopping initiatives they don’t like is backfiring badly on the labor groups responsible. From newspaper stories, the blogosphere and from good government groups, the verdict is that this union hack job is not only misguided, but will further erode the credibility of public sector unions in California.

Derek Cressman, western regional director for Common Cause (hardly a right wing anti-union group) said “It sounds like they’re trying to intimidate people from exercising what is a constitutional right” to sign a petition. In addition, the Sacramento Bee quotes Pedro Morillas, legislative director for the California Public Interest Research Group, as saying that “there is as much risk of identity theft involved in signing a petition as there is in being listed in the phone book.”

Turns out, after a little bit of sleuthing, that the state building trades union is one of the major funders of Californians Against Identity Theft. What a surprise. The group itself, Californians Against Identity Theft, has no connection whatsoever to any legitimate group created to protect consumers from identity theft. Nor does it appear that the group has registered as a campaign committee. Media efforts to get more information ran into stony silence by unions.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what motivates the union bosses for this latest scheme. As noted by the Sacramento Bee, “the timing of the ad launch raised questions about whether the campaign is a veiled attempt to derail one of several controversial proposals currently circulating petitions to qualify for the 2012 ballot, such as an Amazon-backed effort to overturn a new law requiring some Internet retailers to collect sales taxes on purchases made by Californians.” In addition, it is no secret that the unions are deathly afraid of the Stop Special Interest Money Now Act, also in circulation, that would reduce union political influence by prohibiting government entities from being the collection agents for unions for political funds from their members.

In any event, it is clear to us that the unions need to hire a new communications consultant. Instead of dissuading voters from exercising their constitutional rights to engage in the direct democracy rights of initiative, referendum and recall, the labor groups have brought even more unwanted attention to themselves for their overreaching, loutish behavior. (As if the pension scandals weren’t enough to drive public perception of public sector unions even lower).

Our advice to the union bosses — which, of course, they will ignore — is to argue the merits of these initiatives as warranted. If you think the Amazon referendum or any of the other measures in circulation reflect is bad public policy, say so. Don’t try to mislead people into thinking that their identities are at risk. The only thing at risk here is any notion that unions play by the rules.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -– California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

California’s Legislature Continues to Propose Laws to Preserve Union Power

The agenda of California’s union-controlled state politicians is to do whatever they can to increase the amount of tax revenue flowing into the government, and increase the amount of dues revenue flowing into the coffers of government worker unions. This isn’t news, and any law they pass can be appropriately viewed in this context. But beyond grasping for tax revenue ala AB 155, which imposes sales tax on internet purchases, or grasping for union dues revenue ala SB 104, which (vetoed this time) would have imposed unionization via “card check” on agricultural workers, California’s union-controlled legislature is enacting laws that will change the ground rules of politics and governance.

The purpose of these laws is to consolidate the power of public sector unions and ensure that government of the government workers, by the government workers, and for the government workers, will be the perpetual fate of California. As citizens awaken to the fact that government workers in California, on average, make twice as much money and work half as many hours in their careers as the taxpayers who support them, a seismic wave of reform sentiment gathers. To prepare for this tsunami, California’s government worker unions are building a seawall of regulations, many of them buried within budgets and unrelated new statutes. Here are just a few:

AB 114 – Dramatically reduces local financial control of school districts; prohibits layoffs; removes requirement for school districts to perform financial analysis to ensure they can balance their budgets. Here are a few articles providing more details about this grossly irresponsible legislation: “AB 114: A Blatant Attack on California’s Schools,” by Larry Sand, on July 12th, 2011, UnionWatch, “Stealth attack on California’s schools,” Editorial, July 8th, 2011, Los Angeles Times, “State law is stunning in its irresponsibility,” Editorial, July 2nd, San Diego Union Tribune.

AB 506 –  Restricts ability of municipalities to declare bankruptcy. Another bill moving through California’s state legislature will restrict the ability of local governments in California from declaring bankruptcy, which is virtually the only way they can get out from under literally tyrannical collective bargaining agreements. As reported on June 2nd by the Sacramento Bee, the bill has already passed the assembly “Assembly approves bill to slow local government bankruptcies.”

AB 455 –  Allows unions to appoint 50% of the members of personnel management boards for local governments and agencies. This bill is a perfect example of legislation that sounds innocuous, but has far reaching impact. Personnel management boards oversee the enforcement, modification, and interpretation of union negotiated work rules. From overtime benefits to staffing levels to job descriptions, having an unbiased board is essential in order to have any chance of reforming work rules that may hinder improving the efficiency and effectiveness of a public agency. Allowing the union to appoint 50% of the voting membership of these boards guarantees them veto power over any actions of these boards. This bill has been barely noticed by the media.

SB23-1X –  Grants local governments the power to raise taxes. This bill, which is undergoing legal scrutiny and will undergo many revisions, nonetheless aims to grant local governments to enact increases tax increases denied at the state level by the 2/3rds vote requirement. As reported on June 4th in the San Jose Mercury in an AP article entitled “Bill would grant local power to raise taxes,” this legislation “would allow a local government, county office of education and community colleges district to levy local personal income taxes up to 1 percent, vehicle taxes up to 1.35 percent, and up to $1 per pack of cigarettes.”

These four bills, respectively, will trample on local control over school district budgeting and staffing, effectively prevent local bankruptcies, assert union control over personnel management boards, and extend the option to local governments to collect income taxes. The purpose of these bills and many others is clear – to forestall an anticipated uprising of taxpayers against the most powerful special interest in California, public sector unions.

Over the past 20+ years, as California’s state and local governments have grown far faster than the rate of inflation and population increase, the one reliable defense left to taxpayers has been the citizen initiative process. But the initiative process is under attack. No fewer than four active bills are working their way to Governor Brown for signature. Here they are:

ACA 6 –  Prevents passage of initiatives that reduce tax revenues. According to bill sponsor Assemblyman Mike Gatto, ACA 6 “will require initiatives that spend money or create a new program or mandate to identify and specify the funding to pay for it.” The practical effect of this bill, which would require language in any initiative specifying a new source of tax revenue for any costs attendant to enforcing the initiative in excess of $5.0 million, would be to only allow initiatives onto the ballot that raised taxes. This law would leave the decision regarding the financial impact of a proposed initiative in the hands of the State Dept. of Finance, where they could anoint bills they favored, and subject the ones they don’t like to a slanted financial analysis, or, worse, delayed indefinitely in the limbo of an ongoing analysis.

SB 448 –  Forces circulators of initiative petitions to wear a button that tells whether they are paid or volunteer. Sponsored by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, SB 448 would require that people who collect signatures wear signs around their necks announcing whether they are a paid signature-gatherer or a volunteer signature-gatherer, and whether they are registered to vote.

SB 168 –  Bans ballot committees and individuals from paying people who circulate petitions for initiatives, referendums and recalls on the basis of the number of signatures they collect. Instead of paying signature gatherers based on their productivity, these workers would be required to receive an hourly wage. Equally troubling, they would be required to be hired as full time employees – an utterly impractical approach to what is seasonal, temporary work. The practical effect of this law will be to double or triple the cost of putting an initiative onto the ballot, which drives out the grassroots organizations but leaves intact the prerogatives of powerful special interests.

ACA 10 –  Would allow the Legislature to amend or repeal voter-initiated statutes after they have been in effect for four years. Again, the practical effect of this would be to force grassroots taxfighting organizations back into expensive initiative battles every four years, making it very difficult to implement lasting reforms.

Ultimately, what California’s union-dominated legislature is doing is nothing but a holding action. Restrictions on education budgeting and staffing decisions, as well as restrictions on the ability of municipalities to declare bankruptcy, are preempted by an even harder reality: Default. Stacking the membership of personnel management boards with union operatives, or enabling municipalities to raise taxes – along with evisceration of the initiative process – are all craven actions of a special interest that has overreached.

Union Dominated California Legislature Continues to Attack Initiative Process

California legislators — who seem unable to come up with an honest balanced budget, who always seek tax increases, and who won’t pass even modest reforms to the state’s unfunded pension system or to anything else, for that matter — want to blame the government’s problems on voters, rather than themselves.

Several bills, some of which are likely to pass, would gut the initiative and referendum process, or at least make that process far more burdensome.

The ultimate goal: eliminating the main vehicle Californians have to reform a government that will not be reformed by elected officials, thus leaving us completely at the mercy of legislators and the liberal interest groups that control them.

The biggest danger is ACA 6. According to bill sponsor Assemblyman Mike Gatto, ACA 6 “will require initiatives that spend money or create a new program or mandate to identify and specify the funding to pay for it.”

As he explains in a statement, “Too often, voters are snowed by slick campaign commercials into authorizing unfunded mandates that end up costing the state billions of dollars, in perpetuity.”

This sounds appealing until we look at the bill language: “This measure would prohibit an initiative measure that would result in a net increase in state or local government costs exceeding $5,000,000, other than costs attributable to the issuance, sale, or repayment of bonds, from being submitted to the electors or having any effect unless and until the legislative analyst and the director of finance jointly determine that the initiative measure provides for additional revenues in an amount that meets or exceeds the net increase in costs.”

Sabotaging Tax Cuts

Despite Gatto’s assurances to the contrary, it’s clear the bill could be applied to initiatives that would reduce taxes, given that such measures, such as Prop. 13, would result in a “net increase” in costs to state and local governments. Bonds are exempt, which means that these government-supported initiatives to increase taxes and spending get a pass while the people’s efforts to rein in government could be halted.

Proponents are being dishonest about its intent, explains the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association’s legislative director, David Wolfe, who said ACA 6′s goal is to eviscerate the initiative process.

“You’re going to rely on this?,” he said, pointing his finger at a nearby TV screen featuring a live legislative debate. The initiative process “is the only road to adopt constructive policy in this state.”

Wolfe worries that ACA 6 would give the Department of Finance the power to decide which initiatives go to ballot, thus leaving control over most initiatives in the hands of the governor’s office.

Another troubling measure would harass signature-gatherers. Sponsored by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, a Contra Costa Democrat closely aligned with the unions, SB 448 would require that people who collect signatures wear scarlet-letter-type signs around their necks announcing whether they are a paid signature-gatherer or a volunteer signature-gatherer, and whether they are registered to vote.

Other anti-initiative bills are circulating including one that would give the Legislature the power to amend or repeal voter-approved initiatives after four years.

This is part of a concerted effort championed by liberal think-tank “reformers” and editorialists who blame “ballot-box” budgeting for the state’s fiscal mess and by union organizers who understand that it’s far cheaper to buy legislators than it is to fight taxpayer-friendly initiative campaigns.

Their support for “reforms” uses populist language, but the goal is to make sure that only certain special interests can dominate policy in Sacramento.

“In 1911, California voters gave themselves a powerful tool —- the power to be a check on the corporate-controlled Legislature by directly passing or overturning laws by ballot initiative,” wrote Justine Sarver of the liberal Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, in a recent Sacramento Bee column. “A century later, however, California’s ballot measure system is broken. Initiatives have become a tool for special interests, usually corporations seeking larger profits, less regulation and lower taxes …”

Progressive Problems

There’s no doubt direct democracy has serious flaws. From an academic standpoint, I agree with conservative thinkers, such as William Voegeli of the Claremont Institute, who argues that “the results (of Progressive reforms) a century later cannot be what anyone who wishes democracy well had in mind. The state’s people are groaning under the weight of all the weapons they have been given to fight the interests.”

He quotes the thoughtful liberal writer Peter Schrag: “California has 7,000 overlapping and sometimes conflicting jurisdictions … each with its elected directors, supervisors, and other officials, a hyper-democracy that, even without local and state ballot measures, confounds the most diligent citizen.”

There’s irony in hearing modern-day Progressives such as Schrag, Sarver and DeSaulnier whine about the results of what their ideological forebears brought into existence. I would never design the system this way and if there were some way to undo a century of Progressive reforms, I would be for it. But my first reform would not eliminate the only tools the voters, whatever their flaws, have to check the government.

Californians, obviously, tilt to the left when they elect officials, as evidenced by the clean sweep by Democrats of the state’s constitutional offices and by the overwhelming majorities of Democrats in both houses of the Legislature.

But when it comes to direct democracy, California voters are surprisingly conservative, as they routinely pass measures designed to limit taxes and reform government. That’s why the left is targeting this process.

Even the legitimate concern about ballot-box budgeting is overblown.

For instance, the vast majority of the initiatives placed on the ballot are put there by the Legislature, explains Paul Jacob, president of the pro-initiative Citizens In Charge. “The people aren’t out of control,” he told me. “In reality, the Legislature is out of control.”

The last thing we need, then, is to give that same Legislature more power.

About the author: Steven Greenhut is the editor-in-chief of Cal Watchdog, an independent, Sacramento-based journalism venture providing original investigative reports and news stories covering California state government. Greenhut was deputy editor and columnist for The Orange County Register for 11 years. He is author of the new book, “Plunder! How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation.”

Obama Empowers Unions via Executive Orders

Just as the leopard cannot change its spots, President Obama cannot change his philosophical socialistic beliefs. It is amazing that close to 50% of the American public still cannot see past his thin veneer and continue to listen to his admittedly graceful rhetoric. Unfortunately, much as the spots are imbedded to the leopard, so too are Obama’s philosophical beliefs. The following two events clearly expose his willingness to deceive and his continued attempt to hide his true agenda to radically transform America into a socialistic and eventually totalitarian country.

The first of these events was Executive Order 13563, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review“. At first glance this appears to be a legitimate attempt to reign in government, but in fact it is nothing more than a disingenuous cover for the true agenda as expresses by the skepticism of business allies in Obama Launches Rule Review, Pledging to Spur Jobs, Growth and White House Embarks on Regulatory Overhaul.  As this Executive Order was being written, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), controlled by Obama’s recessed appointments Craig Becker and Mark Pierce,  proposed several regulation changes as described in  the following articles: National Labor Relations Board: Strong Arming for the Union Thugs, Steps Union-Free Employers Must Take Now in Response to the Pro-Union Agenda Currently Being Pursued at the NLRB, Union Bosses Go After Property Holders, Businesses & Girl Scouts and NLRB Proposed Workplace Notice Likely to Spark Uptick in Union Activity. It is evident that Obama is once again using sleight of hand to disguise what is transpiring behind the scenes.

Second, this past week two Obama appointees once again proposed rule changes to accomplish the agenda of Obama’s buddies in big labor, but who is pulling the strings… The Puppet or Puppeteer? The Department of Labor issued a rule requiring disclosure by companies of independent consultants providing communications on behalf of employers designed to persuade workers of organizing or collective bargaining rights (See New Rule Proposed On Employers’ Use Of Union Consultants). The rule inexplicably is designed to penalize employers while unions are not subject to the same rules. Two days later,  the rogue NLRB (see Americans: Beware of Rogue NLRB.) proposed a Plan to Ease Way for Unions through the reduction of the time period for elections following  a union petition from 42 days to 10 days or less. These rules will tilt the playing field in favor of unions, whether they are processing Corporate campaigns against companies (as related in The Devil at My Doorstep) or are attempting the traditional election route where employers, under new rules, would never have an opportunity to defend themselves or educate employees to the impending forced unionism as described in Obama’s Forced Unionization Program. All of this is taking place while the President is touting the debt ceiling crisis, Afghanistan troop withdrawal, and release of national oil reserves to ease fuel prices.

If people with open minds would remove the rose-colored glasses and earplugs and observe Obama’s  actions  instead of his rhetoric, it would be obvious to them that Obama has no intention of changing his ways and will continue to press his socialistic agenda through fiat. Recent events where the NLRB Shows Bias – Again are indicative of his agenda to suppress American freedoms under the cover of darkness.

Obama cannot help who he is, as described in He Is What He Despises. Indoctrinated by unions, his internal instinct and narcissism are much like the Gasping Dinosaurs,  and he will continue to advance his perverted agenda through the Net Neutrality End Run and EPA, see EPA to Set Modest Pace for Greenhouse Gas Standards); the Department of Labor, see Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act; Interpretation of the ‘‘Advice’’ Exemption; or through the NLRB, see National Labor Relations Board or NBLR – National Big Labor Resuscitation.  Like a leopard he can’t change his spots and his handlers will assure it will continue to be Unions versus Business Obama-Style resulting in continued high unemployment unless the American people take a stand against these attacks on personal freedoms and the free market system.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Michigan Enacts Municipal Union Reforms

Dissolving Governments in Michigan

New measures passed in Michigan will allow the state to dissolve governments, void union contracts, toss aside elected school-board members, close schools and authorize charter schools. Thankfully, those measures are being put to good use.

Please consider Using New Emergency Financial Manager Law, They Start Dissolving Governments in Michigan

In what is likely to be just the first of several dissolutions of democratically elected city governments and school boards in Michigan, the Emergency Financial Manager of Benton Harbor, Joseph Harris, just took away all authority from the city’s elected government.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED AS FOLLOWS:

1. Absent prior express written authorization and approval by the Emergency Manager, no City Board, Commission or Authority shall take any action for or on behalf of the City whatsoever other than:

i) Call a meeting to order.
ii) Approve of meeting minutes.
iii) Adjourn a meeting.

2. That all prior resolutions, or acts of any kind of the City in conflict herewith are and the same shall be, to the extent of such conflict, rescinded.

3. This order shall be effective immediately.

The author of that blog sees it differently than I do. “EmptyWheel” complains. I cheer.

When you are bankrupt you lose authority to a bankruptcy board. That bankruptcy board gets to make actions. As part of those actions, city officials who could not or did not do their job, lose their rights to govern.

How can that possibly be wrong?

In many instances elected officials cannot possibly do their jobs because of poor decisions made by their predecessors. For examples, many cities are cash-strapped because of untenable agreements on wages and benefits given to public unions.

Public unions typically will not negotiate, being the foolish entities they are. So bankruptcy and takeover is the solution.

Detroit Moves Against Public Unions

Benton Harbor is small-potatoes. Detroit is big-time. Moreover, Detroit is bankrupt and public unions are part of the reason. Thus, I am pleased to report Detroit Moves Against Unions

A new state law has emboldened the Detroit mayor and schools chief to take a more aggressive stance toward public unions as the city leaders try to mop up hundreds of millions of dollars in red ink.

Robert Bobb, the head of the Detroit Public Schools, late last week sent layoff notices to the district’s 5,466 salaried employees, including all of its teachers, a preliminary step in seeking broad work-force cuts to deal with lower enrollment.

Mr. Bobb, already an emergency financial manager for the struggling and shrinking public school system, is getting further authority under a measure signed into law March 17 that broadens state powers to intervene in the finances and governance of struggling municipalities and school districts. This could enable Mr. Bobb to void union contracts, sideline elected school-board members, close schools and authorize charter schools.

Mr. Bobb, appointed in 2009 by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm and retained by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, pledged last week to use those powers to deal decisively with the district’s $327 million shortfall and its educational deficiencies. Mr. Bobb raised the possibility of making unilateral changes to the collective-bargaining agreements signed with teachers less than two years ago.

He is also expected to target seniority rights that protect longtime teachers from layoffs and give them the ability to reject certain school placements.

Detroit Federation of Teachers officials called the initiative a poor idea, in part because nine of the schools slated for conversion to charter designation or closure were recently given new dispensation to relax work rules and haven’t had enough time to demonstrate their progress, they said.

I cheer Rick Snyder and anyone else willing to take public unions head on. Those unions are part of the problem (not all of it), and zero part of the solution.

As part of the solution (not all of it), we need national right-to-work laws, the scrapping of Davis-Bacon and all prevailing wage laws, and a complete end to collective bargaining of public unions.

About the author: Mike “Mish” Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for Sitka Pacific Capital Management. His top-rated global economics blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis offers insightful commentary every day of the week. He is also a contributing “professor” on Minyanville, a community site focused on economic and financial education. Every Thursday he does a podcast on HoweStreet and on an ad hoc basis he contributes to many other websites, including UnionWatch.

Firefighters Union Threatens Republicans

“Our political principles are pretty straightforward. We’ll support those that support us.”

This comes from Harold Schaitberger, President of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), as quoted earlier this week in a Huffington Post article entitled “Firefighters, Cops Warn Republicans [that] Anti-Union Stance Has Consequences.”

Since 82 cents out of every dollar of political contributions by the IAFF has historically gone to Democrats, this is a fairly empty threat. But it’s interesting to see what the primary principle is that governs this union: money and influence. Do what we say – or we will target you in the next election. Is this what the average firefighter wants from their union? Do 82% of firefighters vote Democratic? And why are firefighters and police, who wear badges and are sworn to protect the public, and who are paid by taxpayers, engaging in politics at all?

This rigged system, where unions extract money from taxpayers through union dues, then use it to elect the politicians who they negotiate with for raises and benefits, has led cities, counties and states throughout the U.S. to the brink of bankruptcy. In Costa Mesa, for example, the unwillingness of public employee unions to permit sufficient cuts to their compensation and benefits has led to painful layoffs of personnel. Meanwhile, the average firefighter in Costa Mesa makes $179,000 per year in total compensation, and the average police officer makes $174,000 per year. And these costs will increase dramatically if and when CalPERS decides to lower their projected rate of long-term investment earnings, and when cities begin to be required to pre-fund their retirement health-care obligations to employees.

Everyone knows that public safety personnel, who take risks every day to protect the rest of us, deserve to be paid a premium for their service. But when the average unionized public safety employee makes more than four times what the average private sector worker makes, and the result is layoffs of city workers, service cutbacks, and tax increases, something is terribly out of balance. Listen to this video by Harold Schaitberger entitled “The IAFF Fights Back Against Political Attacks.” As you listen, take note of the tremendous power his union wields, and multiply that by the many other public employee unions who have negotiated for government workers rates of compensation that, on average, are now twice what private sector workers earn.

Public worker union leaders like Harold Schaitberger may howl about “political attacks,” all they like, but it is their organizations who have overreached. It is these unions who have attacked the pockets of taxpayers, raided the budgets of good government liberals, and jeopardized the economic future of this country. Reformers who believe that public sector unions are special interests who have taken over our cities and states are not playing partisan politics. They have simply looked at the economic and political realities and concluded enough is enough.

Union Backed Miami Mayor Recalled

Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas were ousted in recall votes. Both voted for huge tax hikes that will saddle county taxpayers for years to come.

This should serve as a warning shot to union sympathizers that taxpayers have had enough.

Please consider Alvarez, Seijas trounced in Miami-Dade recall election

With almost all precincts reporting results, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas have been ousted from office.

Results from the recall election, including absentee and early votes, show a vast majority of voters, around 88 percent, want to kick out the two politicians.

Both politicians kept a low profile as results came in, but billionaire auto magnate Norman Braman, who championed the recall effort along with political action committee Miami Voice, celebrated with supporters at a news conference.

“Today is the first day of a new day for Miami-Dade County. County voters have demonstrated by their ballots that they are tired of unaccountable officials, of being ignored, and of being over-taxed in this very difficult recessionary time,” he said. “I say, ‘congratulations Miami-Dade voters!’”

“I knew the decision was not going to be popular,” Alvarez told WURN-Actualidad 1020 AM. Alvarez said his budget preserved “basic” services.

“If I had done what Mr. Braman wanted me to do…I would be facing a recall by the other people” whose funding for arts and social services was cut, Alvarez said.

Look at the self-serving arrogance of Alvarez’s statement. He was ousted 88-12 and has the gall to claim he would have faced a recall for making a different choice.

The New York Times reports Miami-Dade County Mayor Is Removed

Mayor Carlos Alvarez of Miami-Dade County was removed in a recall election on Tuesday as voters punished him for raising property taxes and increasing the salaries of his closest aides at the height of the recession.

Walking out of polling stations, irate voters said Mr. Alvarez’s greatest offense was his effrontery: Two years ago, with Miami sinking under foreclosures and a housing bust, he called on residents and county workers in a speech to brace themselves for “tough times.” But he gave his own top aides hefty raises, including his former chief of staff whose salary climbed to $206,783 from $185,484.

Last year, he pushed through a budget that raised property taxes for 40 percent of homeowners, despite plummeting property values, to avoid laying off firefighters and other public employees. Yet, most county workers are getting raises this year.

And then there is the car. The mayor shuttles around Miami in a sleek BMW 500i Gran Turismo, which taxpayers help subsidize.

The recall campaign was spearheaded by Norman Braman, a billionaire car dealer, philanthropist and onetime owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, who said he was outraged by the property tax increase and the “erosion in the quality of life” in Miami. Mr. Braman spent more than $1 million hiring consultants to collect signatures to call for the recall election. He collected 114,000, more than double the required number. A frequent guest on Spanish-language radio here, Mr. Braman, who does not speak Spanish, succeeded in energizing Hispanics who said they felt betrayed by their county mayor.

Voters favored removing the mayor by 88 percent to 12 percent.

About the author: Mike “Mish” Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for Sitka Pacific Capital Management. His top-rated global economics blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis offers insightful commentary every day of the week. He is also a contributing “professor” on Minyanville, a community site focused on economic and financial education. Every Thursday he does a podcast on HoweStreet and on an ad hoc basis he contributes to many other websites, including UnionWatch.

California Voters & Reforming Special Interests

UnionWatch has completed another survey of California voters to measure attitudes towards special interest politics, with an emphasis on the influence of big corporations and public employee unions. Here are the principal findings and conclusions. Interviews with 605 randomly selected individuals were conducted between February 27th and March 3rd, 2011. The margin of error associated with the results is +/- 4.0%.

General voter attitudes towards Sacramento and special interests:

  • 60% of voters believe “things in California have gotten off on the wrong track,” 21% believe “things in California are going in the right direction,” and 20% aren’t sure.
  • Asked to note the “top three” issues in California of most concern, the following top issues were selected: state government spending 40%, unemployment 38%, education 36%, health care 18%, state taxes 16%, crime 8%, the environment 5%.
  • 78% of voters believe “major changes” are needed in the way state government is run.

The survey found voter attitudes strongly in favor of reforming all special interests, evidenced by 81% of respondents agreeing with the following: “Corporations and unions are spending millions of dollars to get their way in Sacramento; we need to cut off campaign contributions so politicians will pay attention to the voters instead of catering to special interests.”

Surprisingly, California voters appeared quite open-minded about whether or not Republicans could fix the problem of special interests, shown by only 43% agreeing with, and 53% disagreeing with the following statement: “Corporations and Republicans can’t be trusted to write a proposal that would limit their own influence; this proposal is really about hurting the Democratic party by crippling labor unions who represent average working families.”

It is also interesting that even in California, a significant number of voters, 40%, believe that collective bargaining should be banned in the public sector. As the pie chart indicates, only 50% of California voters currently oppose banning collective bargaining for government workers.

Voter attitudes towards specific special interest reform options:

(1) A proposition to prohibit state and local governments from collecting union dues used for political purposes through paycheck withholding?

Favor 46%
Oppose 51%
Undecided 3%

(2) A proposition to ban all corporate and labor union contributions to candidates and political parties, and prohibit government employers from deducting from employees’ paychecks any amount used for political purposes?

Favor 65%
Oppose 31%
Undecided 4%

(3) A proposition to make all political contributions by government employees voluntary, and prohibit government employers from deducting from employees’ paycheck any amount used for political purposes?

Favor 75%
Oppose 23%
Undecided 2%

(4) A proposition to prohibit collective bargaining by labor unions on behalf of state and local public employees?

Favor 40%
Oppose 50%
Undecided 10%

To view the entire survey results, click here. To read about the earlier surveys, click here and here.

Examining Indiana’s Proposed Right to Work Laws

Recent polls indicate Americans are fed up with big labor’s schoolyard bully tactics and utilization of taxpayer money to support political candidates and union agendas. Additionally, Americans are tired of government deficits driven by public sector pay, overblown benefits, and restrictive work rules. Americans, including union rank and file members, are tired of big labor’s attempt to deprive them of freedom. They voiced their displeasure in last November’s election (see Union Members Not Happy with Their Leader’s Political Spending and Union Members Overwhelmingly Oppose Union Boss Political Spending on 2010 Midterm Elections). Now in states like Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana, recently elected officials have heard the people’s mandate and are proposing “right to work” legislation (“RTW”) that will provide each and every American the right to personally decide, without fearing the threat of reprisal, if they wish to be represented by a union. What could be more American than the freedom of choice?

Big labor would have you believe they have an altruistic mission to provide people the right to be represented in the workplace. If big labor was so concerned about peoples’ rights, why wouldn’t they be in favor of allowing each employee freedom of choice, as expressed by a non-union worker in a union company (see Republicans Didn’t Run When Democrats Were in Charge)? The simple answer is that big labor fears many will leave the union rolls because there is no intrinsic benefit to membership, resulting in the unions losing their coveted dues, which is the true objective. Why? Because these Gasping Dinosaurs are nearly extinct and they need membership dues to elect sympathetic politicians who in turn will pass laws or appoint members to the NLRB who will utilize their regulatory power to administer labor’s agenda, thereby forcing unionism on more public and private employees (see Card Check through Regulation vs. Legislation, Actions Speak Louder than Words). In return, big labor will pour more membership dues into sympathetic political coffers. It is simply a circulating money pump with big labor bosses and liberal politicians the big winners (see Union Power for Thee, But Not for Me).

RTW provides freedom of choice for employees and provides unions the opportunity to compete in a free market society without taxpayer or employee subsidies. See Steve Austin’s letter to the editor of Inside Indiana Business. At one point in history unions were necessary and beneficial; however they have hastened their own demise. Despite big labor’s claim to “protecting the middle class” it actually created an unsustainable system due to out-of-control wages and benefits in both the private and public sectors, which will ultimately hurt the people comprising its membership. The American Auto and Steel industries are perfect examples of unions’ destruction of viable industries and reduction of the very middle class jobs they claim to protect. Simply put, in private industry there are limits as to what the unions can obtain due to price competitiveness and the need for the companies to be profitable. Public sector unions, however, believe the coffer is limitless. Here is where they have made their mistake, as you can only tax the electorate so much before it rebels. When labor costs per person rise, the only logical response to avoid bankruptcy is reduction of the number of jobs. Hence decline in the number of middle class jobs in the auto and steel industries, and the current threat facing public teachers. It is a threat of the union’s own making.

Unions also claim that under RTW it is unfair that some people would benefit from union negotiations without paying union dues (see Should Workers Have to Pay Union Dues?). The question that must be asked, however, is why would so many people choose not to participate if they had a choice? If unions provided a viable service or product, employees would be more inclined to buy. However, unions rarely provide meaningful benefits such as job and/or safety training, and instead only emphasize growth for the sake of growth and ultimately money and power for big labor bosses. Union dues are viewed as a means to an end instead of an investment to improve the skills and safety of its membership. Unions would fare better if they spent more time developing products and services that would benefit both employees and employers. The typical response of labor unions is to lean solely on the excuse of employee “collective bargaining” rights. If they had a viable product or service, they would be able to attract enough employees to form a collective bargaining unit that was engaged instead of attempting to force unionism on people who are not interested. Unfortunately, the goal of big labor bosses is not to serve its members, but to impose socialism on the American public.

As Labor Supporters Plan More Rallies in Indiana, which are the same tactics the SEIU utilized against EMS as described in The Devil at My Doorstep, the GOP Retreats on Indiana Labor Law sacrificing the freedom of choice for over 70% of Indiana employees who support RTW (see Viewpoint Poll), the true opportunity for effective and beneficial union growth and triumph of the free market system.

Ultimately, it is an issue of the right to private property, one’s labor. This is a right for which politicians should become conversant. The right of private property is a triumph of Western Civilization, not just for those with property but especially for those who work hard to earn property. Our founding fathers designed a marvelous system that guarantees social and economic justice by establishing individual responsibility. We can only hope that our elected officials will wake up and protect our property rights before it is too late.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

There is no “Right” to Collective Bargaining

Protesters in Madison, Wis., and Columbus, Ohio, are defending the “right to collective bargaining.” Guess what? There is no right to collective bargaining. Collective bargaining is a legislated privilege given to unions by friendly lawmakers.

The federal courts have been very clear on this. A federal district court in North Carolina put it quite eloquently in a decision upholding the Tar Heel State’s law prohibiting public-sector bargaining, saying, “All citizens have the right to associate in groups to advocate their special interests to the government. It is something entirely different to grant any one interest group special status and access to the decision-making process.”

A law granting public-sector unions monopoly bargaining privileges gives a union, a special interest group, two bites at the apple. First, it uses its political clout to elect public officials. Then it negotiates with the very same officials.

When you consider that between 70 and 80 percent of all local government expenditures are personnel costs, you begin to get an idea of the magnitude of the power such laws give unions.

Not only is there no right to collective bargaining in public employment, it is wrong. Collective bargaining distorts and corrupts democratic government.

Collective bargaining is a process for employer-employee relations that was designed for the private sector. This process served as the model for the development of public-sector collective bargaining without taking into account the fundamental differences between the two sectors.

Government is inherently a monopoly. If you don’t like a decision of government, you can’t check with the competition to see whether you can get a decision more to your liking. Business, on the other hand, is competitive. If you don’t like the cars being made by one manufacturer, you can check with another to see whether you can find one you like better.

In business, the bottom line is dollars. No matter how politically popular a business decision might be, if it bankrupts the company it is a failure. In government, the bottom line is votes. No matter how financially ruinous a decision might be, if it gets you re-elected, it is a success.

More importantly, government is sovereign, while all other institutions in our society depend on free choice. Sovereignty is the right to use force to enforce decisions. We may not think about it in our everyday lives, but lurking in the background behind every government rule or regulation is the fact that government has the right and the power to use force to enforce it.

We might resent that when it comes to things like taxes, but we need it when it comes to things like murder and mayhem. A sovereign institution might choose to seek input from interested parties about a decision, but when the decision is made, it is the law.

How different this is from a typical public-sector bargaining situation which the union makes demands and those demands are backed up by the threat — whether legal or illegal — of a strike.

There is a consequence to this distortion. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2010, the total compensation costs of state and local government workers were 44 percent higher than private industry; pay was only 33 percent higher, but benefits cost 70 percent more.

Public-sector collective bargaining was a creature of the social revolution that took place in this nation in the ’60s and ’70s. It was the wrong thing to do, but unlike many other mistakes it created a very powerful institution that will fight furiously against any effort to repeal or reform it. That’s what’s happening now in Wisconsin and Ohio and in many different ways in states all around the nation.

David Denholm is president of the Public Service Research Foundation, a research and education organization that studies labor unions and their influence on public policy. This commentary first appeared on February 21, 2011 in The Washington Examiner and is published here with permission from the author.

California Voters & Public Sector Union Reform

UnionWatch recently commissioned a second survey of 800 voters in California to further explore public support for measures to rein in the power of public employee unions. Here are the principle findings and conclusions. The interviews were conducted between December 12th and December 16th, 2010. The margin of error associated with the results is +/- 3.5%.

General voter attitudes towards Sacramento, special interests, and unions:

  • 82% of voters believe “major changes” are need in the way state government is run.
  • 72% of voters believe public sector unions have more influence then they should because employees are forced to join and pay dues.
  • 69% believe public sector unions are a corrupting influence in politics because they elect the legislators who they negotiate with for benefits.
  • 69% agree with union critics who say it is a conflict of interest to have government collect dues on behalf of unions who use this money for campaign contributions to influence government decisions.
  • 68% believe we need to limit the undue influence of public sector unions which are a special interest in Sacramento.

Voter attitudes towards specific reform options:

(1) A proposition to prohibit state and local governments from collecting union dues used for political purposes through paycheck withholding. Dues used for political purposes like campaign contributions would have to be collected by public employee unions directly from union members.

Yes 58%
No 38%
Undecided 4%

(2) A proposition to control the process for special interests to fund their political projects, including campaign contributions of unions and corporations. Dues used for political purposes, would have to be collected by public employee unions directly from union members instead of paycheck withholding, and political spending by corporations would have to be approved by a vote of shareholders of the corporation.

Yes 70%
No 25%
Undecided 5%

(3) A proposition providing that membership in public employee unions is voluntary, that public employees who aren’t union members cannot be required to pay any fees to a union, and prohibiting state and local government from collecting dues or fees used for political purposes, such as campaign contributions on behalf of unions through paycheck withholding.

Yes 69%
No 27%
Undecided 4%

(4) A proposition requiring that public employee unions need to get the written consent of their members once a year to use any portion of their dues for political purposes, such as campaign contributions, and prohibiting state and local government from collecting dues used for political purposes on behalf of unions through paycheck withholding.

Yes 74%
No 24%
Undecided 2%

To view the entire survey results, click here. To read about the first voter survey, click here.

Tempest in a Seniority Teapot?

Does a recent court ruling in Los Angeles really signal the beginning of the end of an unjust teacher seniority system? Or does the decision amount to nothing more than a zero-sum game, favoring some at the expense of others?

A recent “landmark decision” in Los Angeles is said to have made inroads into the way staffing decisions are made in the city’s massive school district. In fact, some say the decision will have national ramifications. But are these claims valid?

When teachers lose their jobs due to layoffs, the state education code says that they must be done by seniority. Hence the last hired is the first fired. Typically, the lowest performing schools are the most impacted because they invariably have a much greater percentage of new hires.

This situation came to a head in 2009 when three Los Angeles Unified School District middle schools were particularly hard hit. “The three middle schools at issue, Samuel Gompers Middle School (‘Gompers’), John H. Liechty Middle School (‘Liechty’), and Edwin Markham Middle School (‘Markham’), are each ranked in the bottom 10% of schools in California in terms of academic performance. During a 2009 reduction in force (‘RIF’), LAUSD sent RIF notices to 60% of the teachers at Liechty, 48% of the teachers at Gompers, and 46% of the teachers at Markham. These figures are in contrast with the fact that LAUSD only sent notices to 17.9% of all of its teachers. The RIFs resulted in a large number of teacher vacancies at all three schools.”

When vacancies like these happen en masse, a school becomes destabilized because a revolving door of substitutes is called to fill the vacated classrooms. Finding this situation intolerable, the American Civil Liberties Union spun into action and filed a class action lawsuit.

Just last month, citing a part of the education code that says that a district may deviate from seniority (f)or purposes of maintaining or achieving compliance with constitutional requirements related to equal protection of the laws, Superior Judge William Highberger ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

The settlement “reached between the plaintiffs and LAUSD and the Mayor’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, protects students in up to 45 Targeted Schools in the unfortunate event of budget-based teacher layoffs and provides support and resources aimed at stabilizing and improving these schools, including retention incentives for teachers and principals. The Targeted Schools will be determined annually and will include 25 under-performing and difficult-to-staff schools that have suffered from staff retention issues yet are starting to make positive strides. In addition, up to 20 schools will be selected based on the likelihood that the school will be negatively and disproportionately affected by teacher turnover. To ensure that any impact from preserving teacher positions at the Targeted Schools is fairly distributed, the settlement provides that no school at or above the district-wide average of layoffs will be negatively affected.”

Many, like incoming LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, were thrilled, crowing that the decision was “historic.” Others claimed that it was the beginning of the end of seniority as a method of making staffing decisions.

Predictably, the teachers unions were outraged. “This settlement will do nothing to address the inequities suffered by our most at-risk students,” said United Teachers of Los Angeles Elementary Vice President Julie Washington. “It is a travesty that this settlement, by avoiding real solutions and exacerbating the problem, actually undermines the civil and constitutional rights of our students.”

New State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, who was the California Teachers Association’s choice for that position, toed the union line stating, “The ruling could hurt students by requiring them to be taught by inexperienced teachers rather than finding ways to bring in more experienced and arguably more effective teachers.”

But let’s take a step back and look at what really happened. Despite the winners’ elation, seniority has not been dismantled at all. This archaic way of deciding who stays and who goes is still very much with us. While the ruling does protect students at the lowest 45 performing schools, students at the rest of the 750 LAUSD campuses will still lose some excellent teachers only because they were the last hired.

Hence, the onerous seniority rules are still in force in about 95% of the district’s schools.

The winners: the children at the bottom performing schools who will not lose any teachers due to the seniority system.

The losers: the children at all the other district schools who will absorb the brunt of the decision.

Hardly a landmark decision in my book. But if it’s ultimately shown to be the first small but necessary step in the complete dismantling of a system that discriminates against good teachers and ultimately children, then I will happily reconsider my position.

Last week, I was invited to go on a national television program and explain my views on the ruling. The producer’s plan was to have a second party who would malign the judge’s decision and defend the union position which supports district-wide seniority. Interestingly, the segment was canceled because despite great efforts, no willing party could be found to take the union side. Apparently, many calls and emails to UTLA and CTA were not returned.

I can only assume that the unions know that promoting an unfair and child-unfriendly position would further erode their already dwindling public respect.

The other losers in this case: the teachers unions, who are starting to see their vise-like grip on public education very slowly beginning to slip away.

State Politics & Right-to-Work Laws

While much analysis has been forthcoming on the impact of the November 2010 election on the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, it is harder to get compiled information on how that election affected political control of 50 states. An excellent source for this much larger body of data comes from the American Legislative Exchange Council, who just released the report Political Profiles of State Legislatures 2011, which, when compared to their report from last year, Political Profiles of State Legislatures 2010, provides dramatic evidence of the changes wrought by the November election.

A brief summary of what November 2010 did to the political landscape of the 50 state legislatures is this: Before the election the Republicans controlled both houses of 16 state legislatures (counting Nebraska, which only has a Senate), the Democrats controlled both houses of 27 state legislatures, and 7 states had one party controlling each house. After the election the Republicans controlled both houses of 26 legislatures, the Democrats controlled both houses of 15 state legislatures, and 9 states had one party controlling each house. If you simply total up the number of state legislators affiliated with the major parties, in state senates the totals changed from 1,025-897 in favor of Democrats before the election to 1,023-889 in favor of Republicans afterward, and in state houses the totals changed from 3,023-2,354 in favor of Democrats before the election to 2,916-2,466 in favor of Republicans afterward

There was an equally dramatic shift in Governor’s races, changing from 26-24 in favor of Democrats before the November election, to 29-20 in favor of Republicans afterward (Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee is an independent).

The three tables below put the shift in America’s political landscape into a more detailed perspective, dividing the states into three groups; Republican controlled states, Democratic controlled states, and so-called “battleground” states. The tables and sub-tables progress, somewhat subjectively, in a progression from solidly Republican to solidly Democratic.


In the above table it can be seen that in ten states, with a total population of 40 million, there are not only Republican governors and Republican control of both houses, but in both legislative houses the Republicans hold a 2/3rds majority (Nebraska’s unicameral senate has 2/3rds of the legislators self-identifying as Republicans). In another eleven states, with a total population of 98 million, there are Republican governors and Republicans control both houses, with three state senates and one state assembly having 2/3rds Republican majorities. It is interesting to note that all of the ten most solidly Republican states are right-to-work states, and five of the eleven next most solidly Republican states are right-to-work states. It is also interesting to note that at least three of these states, Texas, Florida and Arizona, with combined populations totaling over 50 million, have substantial percentages of ethnic minorities. Probably the most significant factor on this table is the presence of the big industrial states of Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, totalling 34 million people, which have moved out of the battleground category – if not the solidly Democratic category – and come under the decisive control of Republican politicians.

The next table displays battleground states, where neither political party exercises clear dominance. These states are separated into two groups, the first with Republican governors, and the second with Democratic governors.


In the first group of eight states, totaling 33 million in population, four of the Republican governors have a Republican assembly and, with the exception of Alaska whose senate is split equally, a Democratic state senate. In the other four, the Republican governors confront a state legislature where both houses are Democratic. Five of these states are right-to-work states. The second group of eight states, totaling 52 million in population, have Democratic governors – with five of those governors confronting state legislatures where both houses are Republican. Only one of these states is a right-to-work state. Probably the most interesting battle ahead is New York, where a Republican senate faces off against an overwhelmingly Democratic assembly, with a Democratic governor whose positions on some issues are becoming, if not nonpartisan, emblematic of a schism developing between Democrats who are controlled by public sector unions who simply want to raise taxes, and those who are realistically trying to confront fiscal realities – and save their party – through reinventing social programs and reducing public employee compensation packages.

The next table shows those states remaining solidly under Democratic party control. Leading the list are the colossal states of California and Illinois, with a combined population of over 50 million people, and a colossal set of financial challenges.


If one compares the total population of states that have Democratic governors and 2/3rd majorities in both state houses, 15 million, with the total population of states that have Republican governors and 2/3rd majorities in both state houses, 40 million – and the total population of states that have Democratic governors and simple majorities in both state houses, 70 million, with the total population of states that have Republican governors and simple majorities in both state houses, nearly 100 million – the true size of the Republican victory last November can be readily apprehended – as well as what this portends for 2012.

Another interesting correlation – because it is nearly absolute, is the presence or absence of right-to-work laws in states that are either solidly Republican, 10 for 10, or solidly Democratic, 0 for 4. As one picks their way through the states in between these extremes the correlation continues to apply – the more Republican a state is, the more likely it is to be one of the 22 states who have right-to-work laws. A good source of information on right-to-work can be found on the Labor Union Report website in an article entitled “Advancing the Right to Work.” And if one wonders whether or not the presence of right-to-work laws is the cause or the effect of Republican political control in various states, it is helpful to consider precisely what these laws mean. Here is the definition of right-to-work, in summary:

A “Right-to-Work” state forbids workers from being fired for non-payment of union dues or fees.

A “Non-Right-to-Work” (or forced unionism) state, allows unions to negotiate contracts with companies that require union dues and/or fees to be paid. If a worker refuses to pay union dues or fees (often referred to as agency fees), or falls behind, the union can demand that the worker be fired from the company. The company, by contract, must comply and fire the worker.

Looking at these definitions in the light of day, it is difficult to understand what possible justification there is for forcing someone to join a union if they don’t want to. Compulsory unionism, especially in the public sector, provides unions with the ability to pretty much force their membership to pay union dues. In turn, union dues are used, especially in the public sector, to elect politicians who will create and expand government programs in order to increase the number of unionized government workers, as well as increase pay and benefits to government workers. In most states where Democrats still wield formidable control – New York, Illinois, and California – the source of their power is the absence of right-to-work laws combined with the power of public sector unions.

Ultimately, the solution to the financial crises facing state and local governments lies in how politicians and voters respond to the power of public sector unions. In this regard, the political landscape which has suddenly turned blue states into red states in unprecedented numbers could be short-lived. Because the Democrats themselves have realized their party is controlled by unions, especially public sector unions. They have realized that because they are paying unionized government workers total compensation packages that dwarf what ordinary private sector taxpayers can ever hope to make, there is no longer any money left to continue worthy social programs or infrastructure projects. How Democrats resolve this dilemma, that they have created a unionized government monster that is consuming the productive resources of this country for its own gain, instead of the public interest, yet this monster is the source of nearly all the money they have available for their political campaigns, is the key to what happens in American politics in the elections of 2012.

South Carolina Governor Confronts Unions

Congratulation go to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley who made comments about South Carolina being a right-to-work state, and in the process essentially told unions to go to hell. She was a bit more polite than that, but not by much.

Please consider Union sues over Haley’s remarks about Boeing plant

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is facing her first big lawsuit after saying the state would try to keep unions out of the Boeing Inc. plant in North Charleston.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Charleston by the International Association of Machinists and AFL-CIO asked for a court order telling Haley and her director of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to butt out and remain neutral in matters concerning union activities.

“There’s no secret I don’t like the unions,” Haley said when asked about the litigation. “We are a right-to-work state. I will do everything I can to defend the fact we are a right-to-work state. We are pro-business by nature. I want us to continue to be pro-business. If they don’t like what I said, I’m sorry, that’s how I feel.”

The lawsuit came after remarks Haley made last month as she nominated Catherine Templeton to run the state’s labor agency. She said Templeton’s union-fighting background would be helpful in state fights against the labor groups, particularly at Boeing.

“She is ready for the challenge,” Haley said at the time. “We’re going to fight the unions and I needed a partner to help me do it. She’s the right person to help me do it.”

For her part, Templeton said: “In my experience I have found there is not one company that operates more efficiently when you put another layer of bureaucracy in. … We will do everything we can to work with Boeing and make sure that their work force is taken care of, that they run efficiently and that we don’t add anything unnecessarily.”

Machinists union spokesman Frank Larkin told The Associated Press the lawsuit is an attempt to make sure workers’ constitutionally protected rights aren’t harmed by South Carolina’s governor. Larkin hadn’t seen another governor be so plainspoken.

“This is practically unprecedented for a state to be so clear and so overt,” Larkin said.

Meanwhile, the National Labor Relations Board has threatened a federal lawsuit against South Carolina, Arizona, South Dakota and Utah over constitutional amendments guaranteeing secret-ballot union elections. Unions want to also be able to organize workers through signature drives.

Illinois vs. South Carolina

South Carolina Governor Haley’s spokesman Rob Godfrey: “If the machinists are offended that the Governor doesn’t think unions are a good thing in South Carolina, they’re just going to have to get used to it.”

Illinois Governor Quinn Spokeswoman Marcelyn Love: “The temporary increase in the corporate income tax will help stabilize the budget, making Illinois more attractive to businesses.”

If you were a business owner which would you choose?

To make it simple, please consider Illinois’ First Tax Hike Victim: Jimmy John’s Founder to Move to Florida, Corporate Headquarters May Follow

National Labor Relations Board Supports Coercion

I salute South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. I also hope the National Labor Relations Board gets a much deserved kick in the ass. The only reason to not have secret ballots is so pro-union supporters can coerce and intimidate those who do not want to vote for union membership.

The only instance that I am not in favor of secret ballots regards to votes of lawmakers and other elected officials. The public has a right to know how their representatives vote on every bill.

What other reason than coercion can there possibly be for forcing votes to be in the open?

Of course coercion is nothing new by unions. They threaten, bully and bribe their way into power and want more every step of the way.

For more, please see Point of No Return; Fiscal Shell Games; Texas to Cut 8,000 Jobs; Deep Layoffs in NJ; Mayor Recall Vote in Miami; Oregon Workers’ Comp Bankruptcy

National Right-To-Work Laws

National right to work laws will end the grips unions have on states like Illinois, California, and New York, bankrupting them and hundreds of cities in the process.

About the author: Mike “Mish” Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for Sitka Pacific Capital Management. His top-rated global economics blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis offers insightful commentary every day of the week. He is also a contributing “professor” on Minyanville, a community site focused on economic and financial education. Every Thursday he does a podcast on HoweStreet and on an ad hoc basis he contributes to many other websites, including UnionWatch.

Explaining Right-to-Work Laws

There is an excellent summary of the definition of “right-to-work” vs. forced unionism, posted today, on the website Labor Union Report entitled “Fighting to Free Workers’ Paychecks from Union Bosses: Advancing the Right to Work.” Here they are:

“A “Right-to-Work” state that forbids workers from being fired for non-payment of union dues or fees.”

“A “Non-Right-to-Work” (or forced unionism) state, which allows unions to negotiate contracts with companies that require union dues and/or fees to be paid. If a worker refuses to pay union dues or fees (often referred to as agency fees), or falls behind, the union can demand that the worker be fired from the company. The company, by contract, must comply and fire the worker.”

When considering various approaches to reforming unions in the United States it is important to understand exactly what right-to-work means. Because right-to-work does NOT take away the right of unions to organize employees. It simply means that employees who don’t want to belong to a union don’t have to. It forces a union to be more accountable to their members. And it preserves the ability of people who don’t want to join unions from being excluded from job opportunities in unionized workplaces.

The article is worth reading in its entirety – a map is presented showing the 22 “right-to-work” states as well as the 28 “non-right-to-work” states. The non-right-to-work states include virtually the entire mid-west and northeastern U.S., as well as the west coast, plus Montana, Colorado and New Mexico. Data is presented showing the rate of job growth in right-to-work vs. non-right-to-work states.

The article closes with a quote from Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federal of Labor, who was a firm believer of freedom over compulsion:

“I want to urge devotion to the fundamentals of human liberty – the principles of voluntarism.  No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion. If we seek to force, we but tear apart that which, united, is invincible. . . . I want to say to you, men and women of the American labor movement, do not reject the cornerstone upon which labor’s structure has been built – but base your all upon voluntary principles…”

The Unique Problem of Public Sector Unions

An article in the Canada Free Press published earlier this week provides an extraordinarily articulate and passionate summary of the destructive power of public sector unions. To read the entire article, click on this aptly descriptive title “Who Will Protect the People from the Unions?” Rather than paraphrase author Steven Greenhouse’s inimitable prose, here are some highlights:

“It is often forgotten that one of the causes of the evolution of the modern American urban union was the lawless suppression of workers by Democratic party affiliated political machines, and yet it did not take so very long before the union became an outgrowth of that same political machine. And having wiped out nearly every independent industry with which it was associated, the only unions still surviving are those in control of either municipal services or state subsidized service providers, particularly in the medical field.”

“If the union began as a way to negotiate salaries and working conditions between employers and workers, the modern day union is often little more than governments and their union supporters bleeding the public dry in order to subsidize a political party and a union leadership that brings in the votes for that party.”

“The recent lethal work slowdown by union members in New York City during the blizzard or the multimillion dollar media blitzes by California unions for Jerry Brown and New Jersey teacher’s unions against Chris Christie is a harsh reminder of the utter greed and ruthlessness of the union’s last stand, their death grip on public services fed by taxpayer money. These stands have little to do with worker’s rights. They have next to nothing in common with the old union image of underpaid workers protesting outside of factories. It’s still about exploitation, but it’s about the exploitation of the public by a union-government political establishment.”

“When the union is isolated enough and the public is desperately trying to make ends meet, then the unions may lose. That’s what happened with the teacher’s union in New Jersey. But when the unions are big enough and feed off a huge membership that knows it has no choice but to vote union, and the unions are closely tied up with an entitlements dependent electorate, then the system may be irreparable. And that is what happened in California. You can’t fix a system like that, not without taking on millions of people who are robbing it blind. And that’s not an election, it’s a civil war.”

“In his own time as governor of New York and police commissioner of New York City, Theodore Roosevelt could not succeed in cleaning it up. And his many times removed cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt turned New York City’s corruption into a national standard with the New Deal. Together with Tammany Hall’s New York Senator Wagner, their National Labor Relations Act turned to compulsory unionization as a means of forcing workers into supporting the Democratic party, whether they wanted to or not. And by doing so, Wagner and FDR began the process of reclaiming the unions from the Communist party and organized crime, and integrating them into the nationwide structure of the Democratic party.”

“FDR and Wagner were both New York politicians with a ground floor view on how its dirty politics worked.  And the NLRB was not about worker representation, but about money and political power. It favored large unions with political affiliations, destroying small unions, and taking a Northeastern urban alliance between the political machine and the union bosses as its model. The workers were no longer being beaten by goons hired by their employers and the political machine’s police. Now they were being beaten by goons hired by the union bosses and the political machine’s police. Organized crime had always worked both sides of the aisle, playing for the highest bidder. The NLRB showed organized crime that unions were the future and industry was the past. But the politicians were ahead of them.”

“The union became a parasite and union jobs either went south or were outsourced. But the public sector union remained a tick fixed on the bloodstream of the public. You didn’t have to be a factory owned to be drained by them. You didn’t need to own a single share of stock. All you had to do was live and pay taxes in an area where public sector unions had gripped in their claws. The intersection of entitlements and public sector unions and political machines meant that money was being exchanged for political support, and the people outraged were not the ones that politicians cared about. They still made a show of driving a hard bargain, but more often they showed up at union conferences to loud cheers. Their old electorate paid taxes. Their new electorate gobbled them.”

“And that brings us back to 2011 where the oppressed worker is now the taxpayer, whose income and future are being garnished by unions. The poor man standing out in the rain is not the union employee, but the man waiting to collect another check, that will be torn apart and consumed by union bosses and politicians. Who will then protect those workers—the people, from the unions?”

Americans: Beware of Rogue NLRB

Last week, big labor bosses were provided two early Christmas presents while the nation was being distracted by the theatrics of its “Lame Duck” Congress. In Beware the Lame Duck, I warned of potential attempts by Obama and his sidekicks Pelosi and Reid to pass some version of the “Employee Free Choice Act” (a.k.a. Card Check) by embedding one of its most onerous provisions, employer fines, in a non-related bill as described in the EFCA Update. I have also warned of the Administration’s attempts to pass EFCA through the Backdoor which could be achieved through use of executive appointments, executive orders and rule changes. It appears that, for Big Labor bosses, it is now Beyond Lame Ducksville and on to Corporate Campaigns with more weapons in their arsenal.

While the country was being distracted by Obama’s Alinsky style of Overwhelming the System, maybe the most insidious initiatives of all were being perpetrated at the NLRB or NLBR. First NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) General Counsel Lafe Solomon issued a memorandum to all Regional Directors concerning remedies to be sought for “unfair conduct” by businesses during organizing campaigns which can be seen in the NLRB Memorandum. Then, the Labor Board announced a proposed rule to require employer posting of employee rights under the NLRA, as seen in Labor Relations Board Rule Would Require Businesses to Alert Workers to Union Rights.

At first glance these would appear to be reasonable initiatives; however when you peak beneath the covers the newest initiatives are simply more evidence of Obama’s Love AffairTrue EFCA Objective, forcing employers to sign a with big labor. They are nothing more than another in a long line of recent gifts to big labor bosses to mount ruthless corporate campaigns against employers and employees. Campaigns designed to achieve “card check” through the Neutrality Agreement.

These two initiatives contain remedies that fit nicely into “ The Ends Justify the Meanss of these initiatives are Unfair Labor Practices and the remedies proposed for such practices, which include a mandatory provision for the employer to provide the names and addresses of its employees to the labor union – a critical component of corporate campaigns against employers. Such a rule would effectively implement key provisions of the Neutrality Agreement.  As currently used, labor unions file unfair labor practices against companies resistant to their organizing efforts in order to force them to sign a Neutrality Agreement. The Neutrality Agreement contains a provision where, upon signing, the employer provides the employee list to the union. The Neutrality Agreement further eliminates the secret ballot in favor of card check, and you now have Job Killing Thugs at Your Door and the doors of your employees. The proposed rule, therefore, accomplishes a key objective of the Neutrality Agreement for labor unions, and provides a key advantage to assist the unions in successfully organizing employees. union playbook. The centerpiece

Corporate campaigns such as the one the SEIU ran against EMS, and as chronicled in The Devil at My Doorstep, are crucial to the future of the Gasping Dinosaurs. It is now abundantly obvious the NLRB, dominated by Obama appointees and ever mindful of the current plight of unions, who today represent roughly 12% of the workforce or 6% of the American population, is determined to provide union bosses the paybacks they are demanding, despite the fact that its mission statement reads:

MISSION STATEMENT

The mission of the National Labor Relations Board is to carry out the statutory responsibilities of the National Labor Relations Act, as efficiently as possible, in a manner that gives full effect to the rights afforded to all parties under the Act.

Furthermore:

The Act embodies a bill of rights, which establishes freedom of association for purposes of collective bargaining. It defines and protects the rights of employees, unions, and employers, and seeks to eliminate certain unfair labor practices on the part of employers and unions so as to promote commerce and strengthen the Nation’s economy. Under the Act, the NLRB has two primary functions:

1)      To conduct secret-ballot elections among employees to determine whether or not the employees wish to be represented by a union; and

2)      To prevent and remedy statutorily defined unfair labor practices by employers and unions.

Despite the fact the NLRA clearly defines that one of the NLRB’s two primary functions is to conduct secret ballot elections and that the mission of the board is to protect the rights of “all parties”, it is clear the NLRB is determined to provide an unlevel playing field in favor of unions by eliminating the secret ballot election at the expense of American employees and loss of American jobs. At the pace these new initiatives are being presented through the SEIU’s Insidious Tentacles, the United States will soon be nothing more than a third world country thanks to the greed of Obama and the big labor elitists who drive us toward socialism in the name of social justice. Nothing in the History of Labor Movement compares with the power grab that is being attempted today.

It is time for all Americans to take a stand against this tyranny and contact their representatives and demand these initiatives designed to bypass our constitution and remove our freedoms not only be stopped, but retracted.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Misclassification of Workers: Common Ground or Hotbed of Greed?

“Misclassification of workers” refers to the practice by some businesses of classifying and utilizing workers as independent contractors instead of employees in order to avoid payroll taxes and insurance, and in an effort to increase margins and/or reduce costs. In some industries, this is done for the purpose of obtaining new contracts by being the low-cost bidder on the contract. Unfortunately, instead of utilizing salesmanship skills and providing high quality service and products, these companies choose to engage in this illegal practice to the detriment of:

  1. Their employees who are often underpaid, provided no benefits, and not paid for overtime hours worked,
  2. The federal, state, and local governments that lose out on payroll and income tax revenues, and
  3. Competitor companies who conduct their business with integrity and lose this business by being underbid.

By avoiding the costs associated with payroll taxes and liability and worker’s compensation insurance, businesses that misclassify workers realize a 20-30% price advantage in the marketplace. Illegitimate businesses are, sadly, aided and abetted by companies, many of whom are Fortune 500 companies, who encourage this practice by looking the other way and hiring them purely for profit motives. It truly is an underground economy which needs to be eradicated (See Underground Economy). Misclassification of workers, which historically has been more prevalent in the southern and border states where illegal aliens are often the victims of this practice, is rapidly becoming more common in northern states such as Indiana.

Interestingly enough, the Obama administration, federal, state, and local governments, big labor and legitimate businesses have some common ground with respect to misclassification of workers as independent contractors, albeit for very different reasons. Federal and state governments obviously have an interest because they are losing significant revenues, sorely needed in the current recession (See Efforts to Root Out Worker Misclassification Expand). The interest of legitimate businesses is due to the severe competitive cost disadvantage. Big labor’s interest is in organizing workers, which they cannot do if the workers are not employees. Finally, the Obama administration has interest in paying back big labor for its financial support.

Subsequently, the Obama administration has begun to take a serious look at this practice and appears intent on imposing fines on businesses who misclassify workers in an attempt to pacify big labor, which is disgruntled over the administration’s inability to pass EFCA or Card Check (See Government Cracks Down on Employee Misclassification and Criminal Penalties for Misclassifying Independent Contractors). Big labor and its puppet administration would have you believe it is for their favorite theme of social justice for workers, but in reality it is for financial gain through union membership, and ultimately for political power (See Unions Want Limits on Firms’ Use of Contractors).

It is truly ironic that elimination of such a controversial and illegal practice would be common ground for government, the Obama administration, big labor and legitimate businesses. It is sad that all the parties can’t agree; current laws, which are adequate to eliminate the problem, need to be enforced for the simple reason that misclassification is illegal and depresses wages and benefits for all American workers. Unfortunately, big labor and the administration see this as an opportunity to further their quest of imposing forced unionism through employer fines, which are exploited by unions in corporate campaigns to coerce companies into signing neutrality agreements. Neutrality agreements, in effect, accomplish Card Check as is vividly chronicled in The Devil at My Doorstep. So much for altruistic motives.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Will California Voters Support Union Reform?

UnionWatch recently commissioned a survey of 800 voters in California to explore public support for measures to rein in the power of public employee unions. Here are the principal findings and conclusions. The interviews were conducted between September 29th and October 5th, 2010. The margin of error associated with the results is +/- 3.5%. To summarize some of these:

Do California Voters View Public Employee Unions as Having Too Much Influence?

People tend to view public employee unions as very influential: The survey looked at this in some detail and found the same: 51% of the voters believe labor unions representing public employees have too much influence in state and local government.

Questions about specific public employee unions only yielded the result that the CTA is seen as too influential, followed by the Correctional Peace Officers. Even those two specific unions are less likely to be seen as influential than the generic phrase ‘labor unions representing public employees.

For the most part all subgroups of the electorate agreed with this question; we found some differences but they were relatively small. Significantly more likely to feel public employee unions have too much influence are:

√ Males over 45: this group is both more likely to pay attention to the news and more informed of current affairs, and is more conservative particularly on fiscal issues.

√ Conservative Republicans

√ Males who are political independents; in the last few years this has been a fairly conservative group on fiscal issues

Significantly less likely to feel this way are

√ Union members

√ Younger women (under 45)

√ African Americans

Other salient union issues raised with voters were inability to fire, followed by pension abuse, followed by salary disparity. Here are the survey results on these topics:

√ 62% feel it is accurate to say that unions make it impossible to for a government employee who is not doing his or her job

√ 64% feel it is accurate to say that unions use their political influence to get pay and benefits for public employees that we simply cannot afford.

Also:

√ 43% feel public employees make more than people in comparable positions in the private sector, 19% about the same amount and 16% feel they make less. Twenty-two percent did not know enough to say.

√ 62% feels public employees get more generous pensions than people in the private sector, 13% about the same and 9% feel public employee pensions are less generous. We asked a different version of this question which included a more complete description of benefits, mentioning health and dental, paid vacations and sick leave. The results were the same, however.

More information does make a difference. Respondents were asked relatively early in the questionnaire whether people felt something needed to be done to limit the influence of public employee unions, and asked a similar question at the end of the questionnaire; in between our respondents were exposed to a large number of the pro’s and con’s of doing so. The later question shows a substantially higher level of support for limiting the influence of public employees:

Question 15: is legislation needed to limit the influence of unions representing public employee?  Needed 45 Not needed 45

Question 60: Would you support or would you oppose passing laws to limit the influence of public employee unions? Support 60 Oppose 34

The most problematic question is what to do. Here are responses to three options:

A follow up question asking people to select which proposal they liked best provided a slightly different view of things, this one suggesting voluntary membership is a somewhat stronger candidate:

People don’t ‘get’ the connection between union dues and excessive pay and benefits.

When we asked questions connecting the dots between union influence and pay and benefits people agree the questions were accurate by 2 to 1 margins.

People don’t want to deal with part of the problem (union contributions) they want to deal with all campaign contributions (and include corporate contributions). The survey confirmed this finding. As we reported earlier, 59% of the voters support a measure to no longer allow government to withhold that portion of dues that is used for political purposes. We half sampled this question with a different version that banned both government withholding and corporations withholding political contributions from their paychecks. We found substantially stronger support for the version of the question that included the language on corporations (70%) then the language that did not (59%).

A different question on this issue looked at it from the opposite angle, by looking at the impact of the argument unions have used against previous reform efforts. A clear majority finds it convincing that it is unfair to restrict public employee unions without also doing something about the influence of corporations:

The survey also looked at the context in which this issue is likely to be debated. The findings of these questions generated few if any surprises. The dissatisfaction of the voters with the direction California is going in has been document in many other surveys; also well known is that this dissatisfaction goes well beyond a concern about the economy, but also includes governance. Our look at this confirmed this, finding in addition that there is a large difference between state government and local government. People are far more likely to think that state government in Sacramento needs to change than that their local government needs to change:

The same difference was found for the extent to which people feel decision making is driven by special interests, rather than made to the benefit of the citizenry. When it came to state government, 72% felt decisions are made to benefit special interests. In the case of their region’s local government 46% felt this was the case, while 45% felt decisions are made for the most part to benefit residents.

The pension crisis in particular is likely to be an on-going problem that will provide support for the argument that change is needed to limit the influence of public employee unions. As we have mentioned most people are aware that public employee pensions are too rich and agree that you can connect union influence to excessive pensions. In addition to these we found substantial support for pension reform, even when questions were asked the ‘pushed back’ with the opposing point of view:

√ 67% supports a proposal to shift new hires to a 401K plan, while keeping current employees on the retirement system that is in place today.

√ Support for this proposal was dramatically lower (48%) when a carve-out was included for police and fire fighters. People who want pension reform want to reform all pensions. The open ends suggest that there is some awareness of the contracts with the prison guards, although very few people mentioned it.

√ 48% agreed reform is needed in view of the $500 billion unfunded liability, while 39% agreed there was a problem, but that we should not reduce pensions, for police and fire fighters in particular.

Fundamental attitudes:

Our previous work on attitudes towards labor unions has found consistently that the voting public can be divided into 3 groups. First a group of hard core union supporters, typically on the left or members of union families. Second a group of hard core anti-union folks, typically conservative men. The 3rd is an in between group which does not have strong feelings one way or the other.

The problem with union reform measures is that the core anti-union group is well short of 50% of the vote, and unions have been successful in persuading the middle group to vote with union supporters.

It may be that as a result of the pension scandal the math is changing a bit, at least as far as California is concerned. When at the end of the questionnaire we attempted to do such a segmentation we found that the size of the anti union group was well over 50% of the vote. This is not to say that this is true in California today. We used questions at the end of the sample to conduct this segmentation, and found it after our sample had heard about and been asked about a variety of pension / budget etc., and that our questions were focused specifically on public employee unions. In other words, the data suggest that with some education a coalition greater than 50% of the vote can be built.

It continues to be true that majorities of the voters agree with both sides of the debate; for instance:

√ 60% agree that unions are doing to government what they did to the airline, auto and steel industries.

√ 65% agree police officers need strong union protections

However, the current fiscal crisis and news coverage of the pension abuses have created an opportunity in which a majority of the voters supports reforms. A question (Q39) that best summarizes the relative balance of opinion found the 54% agrees with the premise that reform is needed, while 37% feels it is unfair to limit public employee unions without also limiting the influence of corporations.

This question also allows us to look at demographic segmentation:

√ Political ideology appears to be the most significant driver: liberals oppose reform, while conservatives support it. Partisan differences match ideological differences as do regional differences.

√ Other demographics don’t have much of an effect; age and gender differences are minimal, for instance.

√ Among people who are currently union members 40% agrees reforms are needed, while 50% agree with the union point of view. Former union members and people who have never been union members agree with the case for reform 60% of the time.

Persuasion:

We tested a variety of arguments for their persuasive effect and found there were some with a reasonably good impact. We use a scale that asks people how convincing they find an argument; our rule of thumb is that to pack some punch at least 30% should find something very convincing. If 40% responds that way you’ve got something and scores of 50% or higher are very powerful. Most of the arguments we tested (Q40 to Q48) hit the 30% benchmark and a few hit the 40% level:

√ Public employee unions spend $250M / year on political activities

√ Double dipping on pensions, make more in retirement then when they were working

√ LA unfired spends millions on teachers it cannot fire

Conclusions:

1. Because of the budget crisis and publicity covering the pension abuses a measure to limit the influence of public employees has good odds of passing. Core attitudes are not violently anti-union, but there are enough people who see problems with public employee unions. It is important to remember that we only got a clear majority of support for reform at the end of the questionnaire. In the early portions of our interview our sample split down the middle on the question whether reform is needed.

2. There are good arguments to support reform, mostly highlighting the magnitude of the influence of unions and the abuses that have resulted. The pension issue is a big one, but the public is impressed by other problems as well.

3. While the impact of arguments is good, it is our belief that it is more important to get the correct measure. The differences in support levels between the various options we tested is very large; although this is an apples to oranges comparison the differences in support for policies is larger than the differences in impact of various arguments. To put this point differently, there is a majority support for reform, but the specifics of reform will be at least as important as the arguments in determining the ultimate outcome;

a. Easiest to sell is making union membership voluntary.

b. Hardest to sell (probably) is a measure to ban government collection of dues for political purposes.

c. It will be a lot easier to sell a measure that deals with both corporate and union contributions than with one that only deals with union contributions.

To view the entire survey results, click here.

Wisconsin Governor Confronts Unions

An recent report in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel entitled “Walker looks at showdown with state employee unions” claims Wisconsin’s incoming Governor Scott Walker will attempt to reduce public sector union prerogatives in order to make it easier to eliminate the state’s budget deficit.

Based on the election results on November 2nd, Governor Walker may get some help from his legislature. According to Ballotpedia, Wisconsin’s State Assembly has transitioned from a 50-45 (2 independent, 2 vacancies) Democratic majority to a 60-38 (1 independent) Republican majority. Similarly, Wisconsin’s State Senate has transitioned from a 18-15 Democratic majority to a 19-14 Republican majority.

Voters and politicians in Wisconsin only have to look at what public sector union control of the state and local governments have done in California – where on November 2nd Democratic candidates swept the higher state offices and enhanced their already absolute control of both the senate and the assembly – to know the time for confrontation is now, not later when the game is so rigged that reforms are almost hopeless. California is a failed state, where the latest estimate of the state budget deficit is $29 billion, and the collective estimates of the local government budget deficits probably dwarf that figure. Opinions differ as to the cause of these deficits, but the agenda of public sector unions don’t leave much to the imagination of an unbiased observer: over-market pay and benefits to unionized government bureaucrats, excessive and self-perpetuating social welfare programs, and laws and regulations designed to punish businesses and maximize taxes and fees. The voters in Wisconsin, like voters in most of the states still relatively free of unionized government control of the political process, want no part of it.

In California, how government employees unionize and what aspects of their employment are subject to mandatory collective bargaining are covered by several key legislative actions, most notably the Meyers Milias Brown Act, but many others. Links to information on the laws enabling collective bargaining by state and local workers in California can be found on their Public Employers Relations Board website. If California had a Governor and legislature prepared to stand up to unions, instead of utterly beholden to them, they could modify or even repeal this labyrinth of legislation, and give their state back to the taxpayers – but then again, it is equally likely that sometime in 2012 the Golden Gate Bridge will suddenly turn into an alien stargate, and Governor Moonbeam will welcome emissaries from Remulak.

Back on planet earth, in Wisconsin, to be particular, Governor Walker had this to say about public employee unions in his state: “Anything from the decertify all the way through modifications of the current laws in place,” and “The bottom line is that we are going to look at every legal means we have to try to put that balance more on the side of taxpayers and the people who care about services.”

According to the Dec. 8th report in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Governor Walker’s agenda includes the following:  “As a short-term measure, Walker wants to require workers to make a 5% contribution to their pensions. State union workers have traditionally not contributed to their plans. He also wants to increase employees’ share of health costs to 12% – up from 4% to 6%, depending on the bargaining unit.” Imagine that – asking employees to help pay for their pensions and health insurance.

Wisconsin’s law enabling and regulating collective bargaining by state and local government employees is their State Employment Labor Relations Act. Wisconsin’s Governor and legislators have the opportunity to dramatically revise this legislation. With the cautionary example of California to guide them, they may take dramatic steps to curb the political power of public sector unions before it’s too late.

Abuse of Executive Power, the Trifecta Approach

Labor unions and the Obama Administration are intent on implementing forced unionism and totalitarianism on the American people. Their plan is simple –overwhelm the system until it implodes. This classic technique is espoused in Saul Alinsky’s “Rule for Radicals” and is practiced regularly by union hierarchy during forced union corporate campaigns against businesses (See Get to Know Saul Alinsky and Overwhelming the System.). The Obama Administration has demonstrated this intent since taking office by bullying through the “Stimulus” bill, the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler, the Health Care bill, and financial reform. Along the way the Administration has also attempted to. ram through the Employee Free Choice Act, the DREAM Act, the DISCLOSE Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, “cap and trade” climate legislation, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act and a “net neutrality” bill (See Net Neutrality End Run).

Doesn’t common sense tell us that when someone is in such a big hurry to pass as many bills as this administration has or is attempting, that something stinks in Denmark? Why would a President attempt to pass so may bills in such a short period of time, especially during the so-called “Great Recession?” Especially when such legislation provides the government with unprecedented control and oversight, greatly increases an already overwhelming federal deficit, and is apparently intent upon keeping unemployment high and millions dependent on the government. The answer is simple – he is counting on overwhelming the system while the American people are asleep at the controls long enough for him to accomplish his objective. I have seen this approach first h. and with the SEIU’s “corporate campaign,” as described in the Devil at My Doorstep. The SEIU and other unions utilize the same tactic of overwhelming the system, in this case businesses, to the point where they capitulate and sign a neutrality agreement providing the union all the power. By the time the business wakes up it is too late, as is happening with this administration and the American people.

The Obama Administration understands it needs financial support and muscle to accomplish its goal. In order to obtain these necessary pieces, it has embarked on a “trifecta” approach to provide unions the coveted power they need to keep from becoming extinct. The three-pronged approach consists of forced unionism of public workers, card check, and government regulation.  The attempt to continue the forced unionism of more government workers is apparent with legislation such as the “Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act” (the Police and Firefighters bill) and current attempts to unionize the TSA. “Card Check” has been introduced in the Senate on a couple of occasions without success, but continually lurks in the shadows waiting for one of the administration’s pawns to introduce it in one form or another (See previous blogs EFCA Through the Backdoor and Beware the Lame Duck).

While the public and lawmakers are combating these two theaters of war, Obama is overwhelming the system in another arena, all in the euphemistic prose of social justice.

The theory is open-ended government by executive appointment and agency rule making, which is far more insidious, harder to track, and potentially more devastating to business and employees (See Government by Executive Order). In fact it could result in millions of lost jobs in an economy where employment is already hovering near 10%. Why would a president be intent on actions which would result in higher unemployment? The answer is that the design is to make more people dependent on government and subject to its rule.  They represent that they are no better than you, but in truth it is all about power and control. Obama has not only embarked on this battlefield over the first two years directly through his issuance of executive orders to impose union friendly rules, but is rebuilding his staff See Obama Reshapes Administration for Fresh Strategy) to accommodate promulgation of the executive order.  His appointment of Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor and Craig Becker as a member of the National Labor Relations Board are but two examples showing how Obama is utilizing persons with extremist, progressive views and putting them in  positions of power to implement his agenda by the rule making authority given to their respective agencies. As Obama has been unable to press aspects of his agenda, he is showing that he is more than willing to bypass Congress through the use of agency rule making.

Why is this now the most important leg of the trifecta? Simply because with “card check” in jeopardy due to the November elections, and attempts to increase unionization of public employees struggling, massive changes in rules and regulations within the DOL and NLRB would give unions the unprecedented leverage they need to prosecute massive numbers of corporate campaigns against all types and sizes of businesses across the country (See EFCA Update). Hence Obama and cronies increase the muscle and the financial resources they need to change the government and move it to a dictatorship and total control. As starkly admitted in Government By Executive Order, the administration is intent through the DOL, OSHA and. the NLRB to attack business on multiple fronts, increase pressure on employers, maintain a greater use of injunctive relief against employers, increase, fines on employers and shame employers, all rolled up in a living or ever-changing document designed to support unionization and reduce union oversight.

These tactics are identical to the tactics unions use against businesses during Corporate Campaigns as vividly chronicled in The Devil at My Doorstep. Tactics which are designed to support a massive roll-out of union Corporate campaigns against businesses of all sizes across the country. The end result, tremendous union membership growth and subsequent revenues through union dues, increased political contributions to its political allies, more rules and legislation to promulgate union growth and government control, and the vicious cycle continues until they have complete control.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Unions Chasing Jobs Out of California

In the wake of the election on November 2nd, 29 of the 50 states have Republican governors (ref. Real Clear Politics), and they are all looking to California to woo companies. Can California live on green jobs and agriculture? Because that’s about all that’s going to be left under the combined weight of the global warming act and the state and local government’s insatiable demand for more tax revenues to pay over-compensated government employees.

Here’s a good article about what’s about to hit California from economic development departments from Nevada to Texas and beyond: “New Republican governors eye California businesses,” by Jim Christie, Reuters, November 30, 2010.

And here’s what Jim Christie, reporting from San Francisco, quotes from California Labor Federation head Art Pulaski, in regards to the Democratic annihilation of Republicans in California: “It’s a testament to California’s voters that they had the foresight to beat back the tidal wave of corporate-controlled candidates that swept much of the rest of the country.”

Mr. Pulaski is right about waves and beatings, but he’s identifying the wrong culprit. It was the union controlled candidates in California who beat back a wave of financial sanity that is beginning to restore sustainable government to the rest of the U.S.

Someone who serves in a State Senate in a state which, out of courtesy, we won’t identify, spent this past week in Washington DC. His mission? To meet with the heads of the bond rating agencies and make a presentation to them on the relative health of state government and municipal bonds in California vs. other parts of the country. Their objective? To accelerate the inevitable downgrading of bonds issued by California’s union controlled cities and counties that finance their deficit spending.

Opponents of NAFTA, most of them union bosses, described what they said would be a “great sucking sound” as jobs would flee to Mexico and elsewhere if the NAFTA agreement were ever passed. If you stand on the crest of the Sierra these days, that sucking sound can be heard. But it’s coming from the east, not the south.

Union Engineered Voter Fraud?

During the 2004 Presidential election there were allegations of voter fraud; the 2000 Presidential election was alleged to have been “stolen” by the Republicans. If you go further back in history, you can point to evidence the Democratic machine in Chicago manipulated election results to throw the 1960 Presidential election victory to Kennedy. A close reading of American history would reveal election fraud as a challenge to our democracy from the very beginning, and in every decade since then. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that we’re seeing it now.

What is a surprise is the opportunities for voter fraud, in this age of biometric identification technology and total information awareness, are actually greater than ever. Using California as an example, here are some of the reasons why:

Voters are not required to present a verifiable photo identification when they vote, and if they wish, voters don’t even have to show up at the polling place, they can vote by mail. Voting by mail causes a variety of problems – first, it precludes anyone showing an identification, and second, it prolongs vote counts after the election as workers tabulate the ballots. And the greater the number of ballots requiring post-election, manual counting, the more opportunities there are for political operatives who have infiltrated our election workforce to manipulate results. And because voting by mail is done outside of the controlled environment of the voting booth at the polling place, there is no guarantee that these ballots are not filled out by someone other than the person supposedly voting.

There are horrendous reports coming in since November 2nd from all over the country documenting allegations of voter fraud. An article posted on RedState.com, entitled “How Unions or Their Allies Could be Stealing November’s Election Right Now,” alleges that massive, systemic, union-orchestrated fraud has been implemented across the U.S. this election and could have decided several close races in favor of Democrats. Whether or not this is true, or true at the scale being alleged, should not deter any concerned citizen from considering these charges, because they expose serious weaknesses that challenge the integrity of our voting process. Here are some of the allegations:

The SEIU and others funded the “Secretary of State Project” in 2005, pouring money into races to elect “reform minded” Secretaries of State in battleground states. In nine states since then they have successfully elected their candidates. Since the Secretary of State oversees elections, who sits in that position can potentially have a corrupting influence on election outcomes when there are recounts – or when there is a high percentage of mailed absentee ballots. In California, the employees who count and verify ballots are members of the SEIU. Is this appropriate? Are these people disinterested parties to election outcomes?

The report goes on to claim the SEIU has been attempting to manipulate the electoral system across the United States, engaging in actions ranging from submitting forged initiative signatures, to invalid voter registrations, to hacking into voter machines, to destroying evidence of hacked machines. The report discusses how fake IDs are being used to exploit lax voter registration procedures, that illegal immigrants are being signed up as “permanent absentee voters,” and that early voter “rallies” are being held where voters are instructed, as a group, how to mark their mail-in ballots.

Is all of this true? Are unions engaging in electoral manipulation that eclipses any potential manipulation by the other side? One thing is certain, they certainly have the financial power to do this. Unions, who compel employees to join their ranks and pay them mandatory dues, exercise financial clout that can overwhelm most other special interests, particularly when most other special interests are either terrified of unions or working with them. It is naive to dismiss the idea that big labor, big business, and big government would not have a common interest in colluding to squelch competition by emerging entrepreneurs and disruptive technologies.

If the primary practitioners of voter fraud in 2010 are indeed labor unions, it is an amazing feat to see their interests defeated nearly everywhere in the nation. Because if it is true, that they have gone into legal gray areas – if not engaged in blatant criminal activity – using their millions of well-paid, highly organized foot soldiers to penetrate every race, local, state and national, exploiting every weakness in the system, AND spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars in political campaigning to promote their agenda, why did they lose so badly?

The reason, of course, is because America doesn’t want unions to run their country – their President, their Congress, their State Legislatures, their school boards, their public utilities, their local city councils. American workers don’t want to be forced to pay dues to a union boss. They don’t want to see their upward mobility in the workforce governed by seniority and diversity quotas instead of merit and hard work. They don’t want to see competition erased from our economy. They don’t want to see unions and environmentalists provide cover for each other, as they dismantle our economy. They don’t want to see their taxes turned over to public sector pension funds and gambled on Wall Street, distorting the market and destroying small investors. They don’t want to be deceived anymore by well-heeled leftist politicians, funded through coercive dues instead of voluntary contributions, telling them capitalism is evil, that wealth is inevitably ill-gotten, and that equality of outcome is superior to equality of opportunity – legislating accordingly.

Whether or not unions fraudulently manipulate our election results, they certainly buy them. Any reforms to improve the integrity of our elections or impose yet another restriction on campaign finance must first address this fact – unions compel millions of American workers to become members, impose upon them mandatory dues, and use this illegitimately acquired wealth to exercise far too much influence on our democracy.