Labor Notes: January 2013

[from the January 2013 issue of the Capital Research Center publication Labor Watch(PDF here)

The Pryor Cashman law firm has been ordered to pay $21,000 for filing a “frivolous” motion in the legal malpractice suit involving the “Sandhogs” embezzlement case. The firm is being sued for allegedly failing to notice something was amiss and take action while Melissa King, benefits consultant for the Laborers International Union of North America Local 147, stole $47 million. In June, King received a six-year sentence for embezzling the money from the local, an elite construction unit known as “the Sandhogs” that digs New York City’s subway, sewer, and water tunnels. Although her compensation reached $540,000 a year, that was apparently not enough to support King’s lifestyle—a $2 million home in Westchester County, a summer home in Maine, and a $25,000-a-month Park Avenue penthouse; $32,000 for dog grooming and $3 million on horses; a Porsche, a Land Rover, and two Mercedes; and a wine collection that included four cases of Château Lafite Rothschild. A 71-year-old Sandhog who lost his life savings was quoted by the New York Daily News: “I planned my life to be retired at 65. Now I get up every day at 3:30 in the morning . . . because of a thief.”

In Mexico, even left-wing members of that country’s Congress are frustrated with the privileges given union bosses (who, USA Today noted, “often lead lavish lifestyles”). Their privileges are fiercely protected by the union-dominated, notoriously corrupt Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which returned to the presidency December 1. Union allies have blocked such proposed reforms as allowing outside audits of union financial records, allowing union members to see the contents of their contracts, requiring union leaders to consult members before calling strikes, requiring secret ballots for union elections, and ending “ghost unions” that organize work sites without workers’ consent. As U.S. unions become increasingly detached from the concerns and interests of workers, Mexico may offer a window into the future.

Remember those workers at a Jeep plant who were fired two years ago after a Fox News report showed their activities during lunch break? They were seen on video drinking from bottles in brown paper bags and smoking what appeared to be marijuana, which sparked outrage in the wake of the Chrysler bailout. Now they’re reportedly back on the job as the result of binding arbitration under the union contract. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. It was recently revealed that the union contract for teachers in Bay City, Michigan, allowed them to show up for work drunk five times or under the influence of drugs three times, or get caught selling drugs to students twice, before they could be fired.

The California Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, recently released a video designed to explain the financial crisis and the evils of capitalism to children. Narrated by actor Ed Asner, the video—an eight-minute animation in the style of such educational cartoons as “Schoolhouse Rock”—features greedy rich people refusing to pay their fair share of taxes. At one point, as an illustration of “trickle down” economics, a rich man urinates on regular people. After a public outcry, the urination image was removed. Asner, by the way, supported leftist rebels in the El Salvador conflict, serves on the board of an organization named in honor of Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and is a former union president (the Screen Actors Guild).

In case you’re wondering why the Obama administration seems intent on pursuing job-destroying policies, consider this comment from General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, the head of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, regarding Communist China: “The one thing that actually works, state run communism a bit—may not be your cup of tea, but their government works.” The current government of China has killed more of its own citizens than any other government in the history of the world. Immelt, by the way, is considered the father of the current incarnation of MSNBC as a pro-Obama propaganda channel.

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