It's almost given that a Democratic member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has at least some background as a union lawyer. Craig Becker, who long had been associate general counsel for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) before obtaining a recess appointment to the board by President Obama in March 2010 following a Senate GOP filibuster, fits the pattern. But he also may have gone that extra mile, helping to prepare an SEIU manual on how to intimidate employers. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, wants to know more. On September 12, Hatch wrote a letter to Becker asking him to clarify what role he had, if any, in drafting the document. As Becker is up for Senate approval for a full-term appointment to the (normally) five-member NLRB, his response - or lack of it - may affect the course of board rulings for years to come.
As "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations have gone national, observers are taking note of the prominent role of labor unions in this anti-business crusade. The rote denunciations of "corporate greed" at these events could have been lifted from almost any AFL-CIO convention speech. That doesn't necessarily mean, of course, that union organizers are putting words in protestors' mouths. Yet it does strongly suggest that organized labor and street radicals recognize each other as natural allies.
On April 28, John McMahon, former president of Workers United Local 335-T, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois with making false entries in financial records of the Chicago union. Workers United is a breakaway faction of UNITE HERE that re-affiliated with the Service Employees International Union in 2009. The charge follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
The Service Employees International Union could have written the book on how to get corporations to surrender. In fact, it has written the book. Lawyers for Sodexo USA, a subsidiary of France-based food services and facilities provider Sodexo Inc., recently revealed as much during the discovery phase of the company's federal racketeering suit against the union: an SEIU manual on how to intimidate employers. By applying extreme pressure, the monograph argued, a union can extract concessions from management on virtually any issue. Section Three of the text, fully 88 pages, can be downloaded from www.workplacechoice.org. The lawsuit, filed in March, has yet to go to trial. Yet whatever the outcome, the manual unwittingly shines a spotlight on the lengths to which unions in this country will go to achieve victory in a corporate campaign.
Is Andrew Stern, the retired president of the Service Employees International Union, a born-again capitalist? That's the emerging view at SEIU headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. and various points beyond. For months, Stern, who stepped down last spring after 14 years at the helm, has been championing a proposal to grant a limited-period tax break for U.S. corporations on investment income earned abroad and transferred to here. Stern's allies in the labor movement are shaking their heads in disbelief. His union enemies are saying, "I told you so." Many in the business world are welcoming him like an old friend. Yet the real story may be that Stern is being his old self: a believer in a large-scale government-corporate-union partnership to generate jobs - preferably union ones.
Last August, things looked sunny for former Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich. He and his lawyers had just obtained a hung jury on 23 of 24 corruption charges. But Justice Department prosecutors, confident they had their man, continued to pursue the case - and this time with different results. Last Monday, June 27, a Chicago federal jury, after nine days of deliberation, found the man known as "Blago" guilty on 17 of 20 charges, nearly a dozen of them related to his attempts during the fall of 2008 to fill the pending Senate vacancy left by President-Elect Barack Obama in return for campaign cash.
When President Obama in March 2010 signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148), the nation's most expensive social legislation in decades, he announced, "The bill I'm signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see." Yet what the law seems to have set in motion is a rush to obtain exemptions from group coverage requirements.
Stephen Lerner is a hard person to admire. His specialty, after all, is economic sabotage. Yet his utility to the cause of public accountability is undeniable. Lerner, a longtime official with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) until his supposed ouster last November, was caught on March 18 and 19 on audiotape speaking before a closed-session audience at Pace University in Manhattan describing an SEIU plan to destabilize the U.S. economy. The campaign, which he heads, intends to take down the financial sector and trigger a massive redistribution of wealth and power.
It's not every day that an American labor union gets investigated for possible ties to two of the world's most lethal terrorist organizations. But Chicago's Service Employees International Union Local 73 isn't an everyday union. Last September 24, FBI agents raided residences in Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan of more than a dozen radical activists in an effort to connect them to the Hamas (Gaza and the West Bank) and FARC (Colombia) guerrilla movements. Two of the occupants were SEIU Local 73 chief steward and executive board member Joe Iosbaker and former local board member-steward Tom Burke. Neither they nor anyone else has been arrested. But as the case unfolds, questions have arisen over the possibility of involvement not only by the activists, but also by elements of the Chicago-based radical network that nurtured President Obama's political ambitions.
New York City residents finally are digging out of a devastating post-Christmas blizzard, aided by unexpectedly warmer weather. But a growing number are sounding as if they want to use their shovels against union snowplow workers and their supervisors. Various news outlets have reported that leaders of the Service Employees-affiliated Sanitation Officers Association ordered their Teamsters-affiliated work crews to slack off as a protest against recent City Department of Sanitation budget cuts and demotions. The apparent work slowdown not only paralyzed traffic, but also led to two deaths and any number of commuters trapped overnight in subway cars. On the hot seat, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has demanded, and is getting, a full investigation. Union leaders deny culpability, insisting fiscal austerity had reduced manpower. But evidence appears to undercut such claims.