Entries in Unions (11)


Let the Liberal Pressure Begin: Union Ads Tell Dems Not to Cave on Cuts

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Three major unions have joined forces to air ads pressuring Democrats to reject GOP demands as party leaders negotiate a way to sidestep the dreaded “fiscal cliff.”

Congress will return after Thanksgiving to hash out a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes in the hopes of averting what has also been referred to as “taxmageddon” -- a combination of the Bush tax cuts expiring and the budget “sequestration” that will enforce automatic, across-the-board cuts if Congress can’t find savings and revenues elsewhere. It’s the ultimatum Congress and President Obama gave themselves when they agreed to raise the federal debt limit in 2011.

With negotiations in their early phases, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers (AFSCME); the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); and the National Education Association (NEA) have teamed up to air TV and radio ads pressuring moderate Senate Democrats to reject spending cuts and focus more heavily on tax hikes.

According to AFSCME, the ads are supported by a “sizable, six-figure ad buy.”

Ads like this are airing in Colorado, Missouri and Virginia. The ads target Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, D-Colo., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Jim Webb and Mark Warner, D-Va. All five are considered moderates.

The unions are targeting four House members in three more states with radio ads: Pat Meehan, R-Pa., Mike Fitzpatrick, D-Pa., Don Young, R-Alaska and Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney Calls on Obama to ‘Stand Up’ for Chicago Kids in Light of Teacher Strike

Saul Loeb/AFP/J.D. Pooley/GettyImages(LAKE FOREST, Ill.) -- Mitt Romney Monday night called on President Obama to take a stand on the Chicago Teacher’s Union strike, which is about to enter its second day in which 400,000 students will be shut out of classes. The candidate took a break from a high-dollar fundraiser to criticize the president.

“Well, I think the president ought to stand up and say we that we ought to put the kids first in this country and the teacher’s union goes behind,” Romney said during a radio interview Monday night. “Look I think we’ve gotta help the kids, help their parents, help the teachers, but the teacher’s union is opposed to many of the reforms in education that we know are critical to the success of our kids.”

Obama did not make a public statement or issue a statement on the strike Monday, but White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters during a briefing that Obama had “not expressed any opinion or made any assessment” about the strike and that the White House believes that the entities involved in the dispute “can and should work it out.”

“I haven’t had that discussion with either [Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan or the president,” Carney said. “I think that we believe that both sides ought to -- and we hope they do -- resolve this in a way that recognizes that it is the interest of Chicago’s children that must be preeminent as they work it out. But I don’t have any predictions for where it’s going to go. We just simply hope that it gets resolved.

“I can tell you that this president has pursued an education policy that has been a notable success, and a notable bipartisan success, under the president’s and Secretary Duncan’s leadership,” Carney said. “And he’ll continue to do that because he believes, as he says frequently, that investing in education now pays enormous economic dividends later. It is integral to our economic future, and that’s why he’s made it such an important part of his domestic policy agenda.”

But Monday night Romney used the opportunity to tout his own talking points on education, saying that the standards for students have to be raised in the United States and called on teachers to face evaluations that would reward them “for doing an excellent job” and would “make sure teachers are also given an opportunity to be evaluated based upon the capabilities of their students.”

“Look, we know what it takes to fix our schools and this strike in Chicago is a setting where I think you need to stand up and say look, I’m with the kids and I’m with their parents and I’m not with the teacher union,” said Romney, who has been a fierce critic of teacher’s unions, in May dubbing the group “the clearest example of a group that has lost its way.”

Romney did not campaign in Illinois, but opened up the arrival of his charter flight to the local press before heading to a suburban fundraiser that local reports estimate will raise $3 million for Romney’s campaign.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Paul Ryan on Chicago Teachers’ Strike: ‘We Stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’

Win McNamee/Getty Images(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- Paul Ryan crossed party lines and voiced support for one of President Obama’s biggest backers Monday, saying, “We stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel” in his fight with Chicago’s teachers, which led the union to call the city’s first teachers’ strike in 25 years.

“If you turned on the TV this morning or sometime today, you probably saw something about the Chicago teacher’s union strike,” Ryan said at fundraiser at the Governor Hotel in Portland, Ore. “I’ve known Rahm Emanuel for years. He’s a former colleague of mine. Rahm and I have not agreed on every issue or on a lot of issues, but Mayor Emanuel is right today in saying that this teacher’s union strike is unnecessary and wrong. We know that Rahm is not going to support our campaign, but on this issue and this day we stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.”

Emanuel is not only the Democratic mayor of the third largest city, he’s also President Obama’s former chief of staff and one of his most visible supporters. Ryan went on to ask the group of about 200 donors where the president stands on the strike.

“We stand with the children and we stand with the families and the parents of Chicago because education reform, that’s a bipartisan issue,” Ryan continued. “This does not have to divide the two parties. And so, we were going to ask, where does President Obama stand? Does he stand with his former Chief of Staff Mayor Rahm Emanuel, with the children and the parents, or does he stand with the union? On issues like this, we need to speak out and be really clear.”

Ryan said in a Romney administration they will “not be ambiguous.”

“We will stand with education reform, we will champion bipartisan education reforms,” Ryan said. “This is a critical linchpin to the future of our country, to our economy, to make sure that our children go to the best possible school, and that education reforms revolve around the parents and the child, not the special interest group.  This is something that’s critical for all of us.”

In Ohio Monday, Romney did not voice his support for the Democratic mayor of the city as Ryan did, but did say that students should have the “skills they need,” which means the end to the strike.

“I want our kids to have the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow and that means put our kids first and put the teachers union behind,” he said.

Ryan’s comments were made off-camera in front of donors who paid between $1,000 and $25,000 to be there, but when asked about the strike before he took off on his campaign plane from Portland to attend more fundraisers in Seattle he declined to repeat the comments.

The candidate instead returned to the front of the plane, away from the cameras, after thanking reporters who had brought doughnuts for those taking the flight.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


South Carolina AFL-CIO Leader Bashes Nikki Haley Pinata

Chris Keane/Getty Images(COLUMBIA, S.C.) -- A video has surfaced showing Donna Dewitt, the outgoing president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO, bashing a piñata of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s face while Dewitt and her colleagues were at a retreat in Columbia, S.C. Saturday afternoon.

“Well I will say, she looks like a tough old girl here,” Dewitt says as she gears up to swing at the piñata.

She repeatedly hits the piñata, which bears the phrase “Unions are not needed, wanted or welcome in South Carolina” below Haley’s face.  In her State of the State address this year, Haley said, “We’ll make the unions understand full well that they are not needed, not wanted and not welcome in the state of South Carolina.” Dewitt whacks the piñata down and continues to wail away at it once it’s fallen. Onlookers cheer her on, urging her to continue hitting the piñata.

“Give her another whack. Whack her again,” a woman screams.

“Hit her again,” another man says.

Dewitt told ABC News she has no regrets about the incident and said there was “no ill intent” in what she was doing.  Dewitt said her colleagues brought the piñata and were using it as a “memoir” of Haley’s words and actions towards unions in her time as governor.

“They made it and I would have played the game with them no matter it would have been pin the tail on the donkey with Nikki Haley’s face on it.  I still would have played,” Dewitt told ABC News over the phone.  "There was no ill intent....I’m not mad or angry.”

“We’ve been the brunt of her comments now for two years and that’s what the whole thing was.  She’s been whacking at us over the last two years,” Dewitt, who has been president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO for the past 16 years and will retire at the end of June, continued. “Anyone that knows me knows there was no ill intent at all.  Our folks don’t go to speeches with guns and things like that.  We have very loving people in our unions who will take up money for people or a vet.  We just heard these comments by the governor for over the two years.  They were using a memoir of the last two years I’ve lived under her leadership.”

“Kids use piñatas all the time,” she added.

Nikki Haley even reacted to the video, tweeting the link and this message: “Wow. I wonder if the unions think this kind of thing will make people take them seriously. Check this out.”

“There is no place for that in civil public discourse, and that video no more represents the people of South Carolina than union bosses represent our workers,” Rob Godfrey, spokesman for Haley, said in an email.

Rick Wiley, political director for the RNC, reacted to the video by tweeting back to Haley as he called the group “a pathetic bunch.”

Alison Omens, director of media outreach at AFL-CIO, emailed this comment on Dewitt’s actions: "By now many of you have seen the video of the outgoing president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO. While it was meant as fun, there is absolutely no place for that kind of joke in a conversation that is extremely serious about how to rebuild our middle class and our country. There’s plenty to talk about in Gov. Haley’s awful record. We do not believe that’s an appropriate joke -- working people deserve a better conversation.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney Promotes ‘Right to Work,’ Bashes ‘Stooges’ in NLRB

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – At a campaign stop in South Carolina on Tuesday, Mitt Romney continued to promise to “unwind” what President Barack Obama has done during his term in the White House and spoke of his desire to return rights to workers.

“President Obama doesn’t understand it’s not government that makes people strong, it’s the free people of America that provide our future and our strength,” said Romney, standing in the middle of the work floor at Colite International, a global signage company known for constructing some of the most well-known signs in the world, including those that adorn Holiday Inn hotels and Target stores.

Reiterating his criticism of the National Labor Relations Board, Romney told the South Carolina audience that they “know something about” the struggles of factories moving to right-to-work states, referencing the lawsuit facing Boeing after the company decided to move a 787 factory to the state.

Romney also accused Obama of “appointing some stooges to the National Labor Board,” arguing that the president is “giving favors” to unions.

“I happen to think American workers deserve a number of rights,” said Romney. “I think American workers have the right to work in a non-union state, and I don’t think the federal government should be able to tell South Carolina you can’t be right-to-work and have factories.”

Romney went on to outline other rights he believes union workers should have, including the right to a secret ballot, a 30-day notice before a union election and the right to know where their member dues are being given to prevent their money going to political parties that they might not support.

Ben LaBolt, spokesman for President Obama’s campaign, said in an email statement, “Mitt Romney has opposed the president’s plan to invest in infrastructure and endorsed a budget plan that would wipe out investments in education and research and development. It’s clear that Mitt Romney is allowing the Tea Party, rather than sensible ideas from his own advisors, to drive his economic agenda.”

Tuesday’s event, attended by nearly 150 people, was Romney’s seventh campaign stop in South Carolina since he launched his campaign. And while individuals associated with the campaign have said they plan to spend more time in the state as the Jan. 21 primary date grows closer, there are just three paid staffers on the ground.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Capitol Hill Spat over Unions, Rural Airports Costing $30M Daily

United States Congress(WASHINGTON) -- The Democratic congressional leadership blasted House Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans Wednesday for taking 75,000 Federal Aviation Administration and construction workers "hostage" by refusing to pass a short-term extension to fund the FAA.

"We owe it to these workers to come together to reach a compromise," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said. "We owe it to every American taxpayer to reach a compromise. We need to get this done and we should get it done today."

The FAA has been partially shut down since July 22, when Congress-approved funding for the agency expired. Without funding, the FAA cannot collect airplane ticket taxes, resulting in a loss of about $30 million per day, or $360 million since the shutdown began. That number will jump to more than $1 billion if Congress does not pass an extension before returning from its August "district work" break in September.

The shutdown has also caused 4,000 FAA employees to be furloughed and more than 70,000 airport construction workers to be sent home without pay.

"The FAA is in limbo," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "Airports are the economic engine of small and large communities around the country and that engine is now stuck in neutral. Under the cover of the debt-ceiling crisis that they manufactured, [Republicans] have set in motion another crisis and again are holding the livelihoods of Americans hostage until they get everything they want."

Congress has passed 20 short-term FAA funding bills since the agency's long-term authorization expired in 2007.

But while past extensions have been relatively uncontroversial, this one has caused a firestorm of debate because it brings a labor dispute and subsidies for rural airports into the fray.

The House has already passed a short-term extension bill, but Senate Democrats refuse to pass it because it includes $16.5 million in cuts to rural airport subsidies.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Labor Steamed at Debt Deal, But Do They Blame Obama? 

AFL-CIO(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama met for more than one hour with the executive committee of the AFL-CIO Tuesday morning, the same day he signed the deal raising the debt ceiling, but left the meeting having angered the labor movement -- a core Democratic constituency.

Labor leaders are concerned about the $2.4 trillion deficit reduction plan, most notably the "super committee" made up of 12 members of Congress -- six Republicans and six Democrats -- tasked with recommending more cuts to the U.S. debt. The committee could lead to cuts to entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, items that pose the biggest worry about the deal to the labor movement. Unions are also concerned that there were not tax increases, seen as a win for congressional Republicans.

Although they are upset about the plan, with one lobbyist for the American Federation of Government Employees saying they "hate it," most of the labor organizations that spoke with ABC News believe that Obama and Democratic members of Congress had to support the legislation to avert disaster and were cautious not to criticize the president, instead blaming Republican members of Congress. But some said the president could have gone a different route.

Former president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Andy Stern used more pointed language, telling ABC News that the president needs to work on the "reality" of getting Americans back to work including working on a jobs bill with Congress, organizing "his administration to create a sense of urgency" about the need for job creation, and "work with the Senate particularly to do everything in his power to turn the focus on jobs."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Maine Governor Seeks to Remove Labor Mural

Maine [dot] gov(AUGUSTA, Maine) -- Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who famously told President Obama to "stay the hell" out of Maine during his election campaign last fall, has ordered a 36-foot mural illustrating his state's labor history to be stricken from the lobby of the Department of Labor.

A spokesman for the Republican governor said some Maine business people complained that the mural was "hostile to business."

Later, a fax released by LePage's office read in part, "In studying the mural I also observed that this mural is nothing but propaganda to further the agenda of the Union movement.  I felt for a moment that I was in communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses."

Critics of LePage responded that it was his way of getting back at the unions because of their political differences.

The news comes after battles have taken place between state employees and lawmakers over collective bargaining rights across several states, like Wisconsin.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Protesters Stream Through DC to Protest Wisconsin GOP Fundraiser

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Image(WASHINGTON) -- Taking the fight from the statehouse in Madison to the nation’s capital, protesters shut down major streets in downtown Washington, D.C. Wednesday afternoon as they marched to the White House in protest of a fundraiser for Wisconsin GOP legislators.

Nearly 300 protesters, including Wisconsinites and union members from elsewhere, took to the streets in opposition to a fundraiser hosted by BGR Group, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm founded by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.

Organized by the Wisconsin Republican Party, the $1,000-a-head fundraiser was expected to draw 60 to 70 people from Wisconsin, including Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald.

Bob Wood, president of BGR Group, told ABC News the fundraiser was in the works for months and has been held annually for the past seven years.

But protester Jonathan Backer, from Kenosha, Wisconsin, saw the fundraiser as a political ploy to inject corporate power into government.

“It’s such a good representation of what’s wrong with our democracy right now.  There’s so much corporate power in our democracy where literally seconds after one of the worst anti-labor decisions that’s ever happened in the Midwest, you’ve got a big fundraiser going on here, right here in D.C.,” Backer told ABC News.  “What we’re doing here is all about trying to fight for unions so there is a way to combat this corporate power going on in democracy right now.”

The protesters created a traffic jam in downtown Washington, D.C. as they shut down streets while marching to the White House.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Wisconsin Governor Says Dems Have 'Failed to Do Their Jobs'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MADISON, Wisc.) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Sunday the Democratic state senators who fled the state to block a vote on his controversial budget bill have "failed to do their jobs," and he expects them to concede this week.

"If you want to participate in democracy, you've got to be in the arena, and the arena is right here in Madison, Wisconsin," Walker said on Fox News Sunday.

"My hope is that cooler minds will prevail and by some time earlier this coming week they'll show up for their job," Walker said. "Democracy is not about hiding out in another state. It's about showing up here in the capital and making the case there, and for us, we're willing to take this as long as it takes."

The bill, which would cut benefits for public employees and drastically reduce unions' collective bargaining powers, has sparked protests that stretched into a sixth day today. Union members and supporters have begun to arrive in both Madison and Green Bay, where a smaller pro-union rally is scheduled outside Packers Stadium.

More than 70,000 protestors descended on Wisconsin's capitol Saturday, many of them angry at Walker's bill, which has the backing of the Republican controlled state Senate.

But there were also supporters of Walker's bill, many of them bused in by Tea Party groups, and organizers said they would begin recall efforts against the 14 Democratic state senators who are hiding in Illinois and preventing the bill from coming to a vote on Tuesday.

Some Wisconsin doctors threw their support behind teachers protesting the Republican governor, saying they would write sick notes for teachers to skip work to demonstrate.

Wisconsin has a $137 million shortfall this year and $3.6 billion over the next two years.

Other governors facing similar budget crises are watching Wisconsin carefully. More than 40 states are facing a combined projected shortfall of $125 billion for the fiscal year of 2012. The hardest hit are California, facing a $25.5 billion gap, Texas at $13 billion, Illinois at $15 billion, New York at $9 billion and New Jersey at $10.5 billion.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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