The Ballot Initiative Strategy CenterHow It Promotes Big Labor’s Political StrategyBy James Dellinger & Karl CrowSummary: ...
Labor Watch April 2008Page 2Editor: Patrick J. ReillyPublisher: Terrence ScanlonAddress: 1513 16th Street, NWWashington, D...
April 2008 Labor Watch Page 3initiative and referenda campaigns. And itsupports public relations efforts to pro-mote voter...
Labor Watch April 2008Page 4reach, claiming that it is a principal funderof state TABOR initiatives.In a 2007 letter to Ok...
April 2008 Labor Watch Page 5be targeting signature fraud in more con-certed ways than ever in 2008,” accordingto its Dece...
Labor Watch April 2008Page 6Labor NotesUnions, Political Left Pledge $400 Million to DemocratsLeftist groups and labor uni...
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BISC The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center How It Promotes Big Labor’s Political Strategy


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In 2006, voters in 37 states faced a total of 203 state ballot initiatives and supporters and opponents of these measures raised and spent more than $350 million. Many ballot initiatives were sponsored and supported by labor unions, and often they received help from the little-known Washington, D.C.- based Ballot Initiative Strategy Center,
which quietly provides assistance in promoting ballot initiative campaigns in states where the initiative process exists.
But the Center plays another increasingly important role for Big Labor and its allies. It devises tactics for blocking
ballot initiatives by union opponents using aggressive methods.

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BISC The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center How It Promotes Big Labor’s Political Strategy

  1. 1. The Ballot Initiative Strategy CenterHow It Promotes Big Labor’s Political StrategyBy James Dellinger & Karl CrowSummary: In 2006, voters in 37 statesfaced a total of 203 state ballot initia-tives and supporters and opponents ofthese measures raised and spent morethan $350 million. Many ballot initia-tives were sponsored and supported bylabor unions, and often they received helpfrom the little-known Washington, D.C.-based Ballot Initiative Strategy Center,which quietly provides assistance in pro-moting ballot initiative campaigns instates where the initiative process exists.But the Center plays another increas-ingly important role for Big Labor andits allies. It devises tactics for blockingballot initiatives by union opponentsusing aggressive methods.hen labor unions want states toincrease the minimum wage,fund embryonic stem cell re-search and require more reliance on so-called renewable energy, they often seekhelp from the Ballot Initiative StrategyCenter (BISC). This little-known groupApril 2008Ballot Initiative Strategy Centerpage 1Teacher Unions BombardBallot Boxespage 5Labor Notespage 6Wprovides technical assistance in helpingunions put initiatives on state ballots.BISC also helps unions defeat ballot ini-tiatives that protect property rights, andit works against ballot initiatives such asthe Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) thatare sponsored or supported by conserva-tive and libertarian groups.However, BISC is moving into a newarea in 2008: It is using its expertise tothwart efforts by the groups it opposesfrom making use of the ballot initiativeprocess altogether. BISC has become the“go-to” group that Big Labor relies onwhenever it wants to organize a “blockercampaign,” a tactic unions use to restrictaccess to the ballot initiative process. Thevictims of these tactics argue that BISC’sabuse of the initiative process is a form ofpolitical thuggery that has no place in ademocracy.Conservatives Take the InitiativeThe ballot initiative—an electoral strat-egy that allows citizens to create lawsthrough “direct democracy”—is neithernew nor uniquely American. In 1891 Swit-zerland revised its federal constitution toprovide for a ballot initiative, enabling itscitizens to propose and enact changes tothe national constitution. The conceptbecame very popular in the United Statesduring the Progressive era from the 1890suntil World War I. South Dakota was thefirst state to adopt a statewide ballot ini-tiative in 1898. California, Maine, Michi-gan, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon andUtah instituted similar processes by 1911,and by 1918 ballot initiatives were legal in24 states, mostly in the West. Many statesalso adopted the referendum (to changeexisting legislation) and the recall (of stateofficials), creating a triple-barreled elec-The little-known Ballot Initiative Strategy Center works with a “who’swho” list of labor unions and union-funded nonprofit organizations tosupport ballot initiative campaigns for liberal causes.
  2. 2. Labor Watch April 2008Page 2Editor: Patrick J. ReillyPublisher: Terrence ScanlonAddress: 1513 16th Street, NWWashington, DC 20036-1480Phone: (202) 483-6900Email: preilly@capitalresearch.orgWebsite: www.capitalresearch.orgLabor Watch is published by CapitalResearch Center, a non-partisan educationand research organization classified by theIRS as a 501(c)(3) public charity. Reprintsare available for $2.50 prepaid to CapitalResearch Center.toral mechanism that was intended to givecitizens direct power over politics. Enthu-siasm for the ballot initiative declined af-ter World War I however and only Alaska,Florida, Mississippi, Wyoming and Wash-ington, D.C. subsequently adopted it.Although its reputation as an instru-ment of popular democracy is not entirelywarranted, the ballot initiative has servedas a citizens’ check on representative gov-ernment. According to the Initiative andReferendum Institute at the University ofSouthern California, states with ballot ini-tiatives have adopted roughly 40 percentof the 2,051 initiatives offered since 1904,with nearly two-thirds of them in Arizona,California, Colorado, North Dakota, Or-egon and Washington. Since the processgained renewed interest in the late 1970sand 1980s, 303 of 660 initiatives appear-ing on state ballots were passed by theirelectorates. But these numbers don’t tellthe whole story. Many proposed initia-tives never get on the ballot and many ofthose on the ballot do not pass. Accord-ing to the Institute, only 26 percent of allCalifornia initiatives appeared on the bal-lot—and only eight percent were ap-proved. During the 2000 election, 76 ini-tiatives appeared on state ballots, but theyrepresented only 22 percent of all the ini-tiatives offered during that year. Since1996, the number of initiatives appearingon state ballots has averaged 70 per elec-tion year, with the 1996 elections the highwater mark, when 39 of 96 state ballot ini-tiatives were adopted by voters. But com-pare this to the number of bills that areadopted by state legislatures. In 1996 thelegislatures in the 24 states that providefor a ballot initiative passed more than14,000 bills.Still ballot initiatives and popular refer-enda remain popular devices for mobiliz-ing voters. And it’s not simply that theprocess creates voter enthusiasm. Twostudies published in 2001 showed that thepresence of initiatives on the ballot canincrease voter turnout from three to fourpercent—a not statistically insignificantamount. Moreover, during the last 30 yearsthe ballot initiative process has been dis-covered by citizen groups that have usedit to their advantage.As during the Progressive Era, localactivists have found that “direct democ-racy” measures can move state policieswhen a state legislature will not act.California’s ballot initiative process, inparticular, has been dominated by conser-vative and libertarian activists seeking tocheck the excesses of the liberal-domi-nated California legislature. The state hasseen the passage of ballot initiatives cut-ting property taxes (Proposition 13 in1978), denying illegal aliens the use ofpublic services (Proposition 187 in 1994)and repealing the use of racial and genderpreferences in state universities (Propo-sition 209 in 1996). Proposition 13 is widelycredited with jumpstarting the nationwide1980s’ taxpayer backlash that loweredtaxes through ballot initiatives and legis-lation.A Colorado constitutional amendmentbarring local authorities from expandinganti-discrimination law to include homo-sexuals was passed by popular referen-dum in 1992 before it was struck down bythe U.S. Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans(1996). In 2004, state constitutional amend-ments banning gay marriage were on theballot, and they passed in 11 states (Ar-kansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan,Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota,Oklahoma, Ohio, Oregon and Utah). In2006,Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan,Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota,Oregon and South Carolina passed ballotinitiatives limiting the use of eminent do-main, although similar measures failed inCalifornia, Idaho and Washington.Technically, some of these proposalswere not ballot initiatives because theywere legislative referrals from state legis-latures to the voters. Nevertheless, theyembody the concept of statewide voterdecision-making consistent with a ballotinitiative.Ballot Initiative Strategy CenterLabor unions and liberal groups havewatched as conservative and libertariangroups enjoy ballot initiative successeson the economic and social fronts, andthat has spurred them to undertake a simi-lar strategy. In 2006, so-called“progressives” used state ballot initia-tives to propose renewable energy stan-dards and increases to the minimum wage.The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, witha mere $780,000 in revenue in 2006, claimedsuccess in 47 of 61 BISC-funded ballotinitiatives.In Missouri voters passed a state bal-lot initiative to fund embryonic stem cellresearch. Its presence on the ballot waswidely credited as a major factor thathelped Democrat Claire McCaskill defeatRepublican incumbent Senator Jim Talent.Proponents of the stem cell measureoutspent opponents 30-to-1, and they hadthe conspicuous support of Hollywoodstar Michael J. Fox who suffers fromParkinson’s disease. Many voters be-lieved Senator Talent was trying to“straddle the issue” because he touted hissupport for research on adult stem cellswhile opposing research on embryonicstem cells.Founded in 1999, BISC believesprogressives were caught flatfooted asconservatives used ballot initiatives toadvance their legislative goals. It intendsto turn the tables on the Right. But moreis at stake than enacting bits of legisla-tion. For BISC the process of putting ini-tiatives on the ballot is a way to “frameelection issues, increase progressive turn-out, house coordinated field operations,draw contrasts between candidates, buildvoter lists and empower progressive or-ganizations.” This is a comprehensivemission to which BISC brings an exten-sive program of operations. BISC runsdatabases that track leftwing funding forballot initiatives. It trains activists to run
  3. 3. April 2008 Labor Watch Page 3initiative and referenda campaigns. And itsupports public relations efforts to pro-mote voter knowledge about state initia-tives and voter awareness about wherecandidates and office-holders stand onthem.In a 2006 interview with National PublicRadio, BISC Executive Director KristinaWilfore explained, “Minimum wage, Iwould say, is the first example where we’reusing a counterstrategy in the same wayBISC does more than promote liberal and labor-backed initiatives. It also tracks the funding of ballotinitiatives and tries to prevent conservatives fromgetting their intiatives on state ballots.BISC Financial SupportThe Ballot Initiative Strategy Center isreally two organizations. One is classifiedby the IRS as a 501(c)(4) “social welfare”organization, which allows it to lobby. Theother is the 501(c)(3) Ballot Initiative Strat-egy Center Foundation, which can “edu-cate” but not “lobby.” Contributions to itare tax-deductible.BISC does not publicly reveal its do-nors. But a search of foundation grantsthat BISC is offering advice to ten statecoalitions for the November elections.How much of the BISC budget comes fromunions and liberal foundations is unclear.However, BISC comes highly recom-mended by the New Progressive Coalition,a donor pooling operation. NPC claimsBISC is a “leading strategist for progres-sive ballot initiatives, such as living wage.Also defeats conservative ballot initia-tives like eminent domain.”Thwarting Ballot AccessBISC does more than promote liberal andlabor-backed ballot initiatives. It alsotracks the funding of ballot initiatives andtries to prevent conservatives from get-ting their initiatives on state ballots.Union-backed BISC does not see moneygenerally as a threat to popular democ-racy, only money funding conservative orlibertarian initiatives.In a 2007 report, BISC highlighted itscampaign to root out conservative fund-ing of ballot initiatives, targeting ArnoConsulting for its paid efforts to get ini-tiatives on the ballot in Florida, Massa-chusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washing-ton. The report catalogs how BISC-alliedactivists tried keep the initiatives off theballot by challenging the legality of sig-natures submitted on initiative petitions.In its January 2008 newsletter, BISCidentified National Voter Outreach, JSMInc. and Arno Consulting as “fraudsters”who were architects of conservative bal-lot measures. BISC threatened to cut offsupport for any progressive activists whorelied on these groups to develop ballotinitiatives. BISC maintains a “rogues gal-lery” of prominent conservative and lib-ertarian referenda activists, which in-cludes California’s Ward Connerly andTABOR advocate Howard Rich.Frustrated by the advantages conser-vatives and libertarians enjoy in state-levelorganization and funding, BISC and otherprogressive groups are turning to thecourts and the initiative process itself toneutralize that advantage. BISC has foundthat residency requirements and prohibi-tions on paid signature collection are veryeffective ways to frustrate conservativesignature-gathering. In particular, BISCtargets a group called National Voter Out-that the Right has, on issues like same-sex marriage and anti-abortion issues, anda range of things that they’ve pushed totake controversial hot button issues tovoters, and to have some influence in elec-tions at large.” Wilfore’s minimum wagestrategy seems to have been demonstra-bly successful because these measuresdrove many voters to the polls. Accord-ing to some state exit polls, voters whosupported state ballot initiatives to in-crease the minimum wage also voted 2-to-1 for Democratic candidates.The success of liberal and progressiveballot initiatives in 2006 showed thestrength of BISC and its allies. BISC mo-bilized opposition to Taxpayer Bill ofRights (TABOR) initiatives that were pro-posed and defeated in Maine, Nebraskaand Oregon. BISC also supported “livingwage” ballot initiatives increasing stateminimum wage laws inArizona, Colorado,Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio.While a BISC-supported renewable en-ergy initiative was defeated in California,a similar measure passed in Washington.In 2007, BISC continued its strategy,working against a school choice initiativein Utah and efforts to reduce taxes in Or-egon and Washington, while supportingincreased state spending on embryonicstem cell research in Texas and New Jer-sey.turned up nine grants totaling $205,250from sources including the RockefellerFamily Fund and the Tides Foundation.The BISC Foundation had revenues ofabout $202,000 in 2006. In the prior twoyears, the Foundation received substan-tial grants from billionaire George Sorosand his Open Society Institute, the Na-tional Abortion Rights Action League(NARAL) and the far-left Washington,D.C.-based Arca Foundation. At least 15grants totaling $510,073 went to the BISCFoundation since its creation in 1999.BISC has strong union ties. Board mem-bers represent a who’s who of nationalunion muscle from the AFL-CIO (whichdonated $25,000 in 2005), the InternationalAssociation of Machinists, the AmericanFederation of Teachers, the National Edu-cation Association ($75,000 in 2005), theUnited Food and Commercial Workers,AFSCME, and the Service Employees In-ternational Unions (which donated$25,000 in both 2005 and 2006). The unionsprovided cash grants and contracted withBISC to assist them at the state level. Of-ficials from People for the American Wayand the leftwing Center for Policy Alter-natives also are members of the BISCboard of trustees.The New Progressive Coalition esti-mates that BISC will have a $3 million bud-get for the 2008 election cycle and notes
  4. 4. Labor Watch April 2008Page 4reach, claiming that it is a principal funderof state TABOR initiatives.In a 2007 letter to Oklahoma DemocraticAttorney General Drew Edmondson, BISCoffered to assist in the indictments of vet-eran term limits activist Paul Jacob, presi-dent of Citizens in Charge, National VoterOutreach official Susan Johnson, and RickCarpenter, a leader of the group Oklaho-mans inAction. BISC accused them of vio-lating Oklahoma’s law against employingpetition circulators who are not state resi-dents and it urged Edmondson to pros-ecute anyone who made a financial con-tribution to their cause.BISC wants to thwart paid signaturecollectors such as Arno Consulting andinitiative proponent Howard Rich. It urgesstates to pass laws requiring signaturecollectors to be paid by the hour ratherthan per signature, requiring payments tobe reported, and expanding governmentoversight of citizen electioneering. BISCsupports current residency restrictions inMontana as well as bans on per-signa-ture paid petitioning in Colorado, Maine,Nebraska and Oregon.BISC encouraged the AFL-CIO to joinOregon’s Democratic state governor indefending a 2002 ballot initiative banningcompensation “based on the number ofsignatures obtained on an initiative or ref-erendum petition.” In Prete v. Bradbury(2006), two private citizens accused ofpaid initiative campaigning in the 2004 elec-tion challenged the Oregon law as an un-constitutional restriction on free speech.The AFL-CIO, which funded proponentsof the initiative, intervened to support thelaw.The union federation won its case inOregon despite a U.S. Supreme Court rul-ing in Meyer v. Grant (1988) that struckdown a Colorado ban on paid signaturecollection because it severely restrictedprotected speech. In keeping with Meyer,last month the Sixth Circuit court over-turned an Ohio law against paid signaturecollectors in Citizens for Tax Reform v.Deters (2008). The court ruled that theOhio statute was “a significant burden inexercising [the] right to core politicalspeech” that would limit petitioners seek-ing to collect signatures “to volunteersand to paid hourly workers who cannotbe rewarded for being productive and ar-guably cannot be punished for being un-productive.”“[T]he State largely misses the pointthat free speech can be costly,” the Courtconcluded, “By making speech morecostly, the State is virtually guaranteeingthat there will be less of it.”But the Sixth Circuit is now at odds withdecisions in the Second, Eighth and NinthCircuits. That means the U.S. SupremeCourt may have to come back to the issueit thought it settled in Meyer v. Grant. TheNinth Circuit ruled that Oregon’s interestin preventing fraud and forgery in the elec-tion process justified the restriction onspeech, which the Court found to be “notsevere.” The Court relied in part on anEighth Circuit case Initiative & Referen-dum Institute v. Jaeger (2001) that uphelda similar North Dakota law imposing a resi-dency requirement on petition signaturecollectors. The Second Circuit upheld asimilar restriction in Person v. New YorkState Board of Elections (2006), explicitlyreferring to the decisions in the Prete andJaeger cases.BISC’s own position on petition-gath-ering appears contradictory. In 2005,BISC’s Wilfore defended a signature col-lection company whose petitioning prac-tices were so sloppy that the Washing-ton, D.C., Board of Elections & Ethicsfined the initiative committee more than$750,000. The petition company, Progres-sive Campaigns, Inc., is listed on the BISCwebsite as a preferred vendor. Then thereare the petition fraud allegations that havebeen leveled at the radical group ACORNand Fieldworks, another BISC-preferredvendor. Neither Wilfore nor other BISCrepresentatives have seen fit to offer com-ments on them.According to Paul Jacob, president ofthe pro-referendum Citizens in ChargeFoundation, BISC “pretends to be for the(ballot initiative) process, as they alsoundertake measures to fight general bal-lot access.” Rather than engage in“leafleting,” a common, legal and healthyway to fight initiatives you don’t agreewith, Jacob says BISC trains its operativesto frustrate initiatives campaigns usingthuggish measures that amount to whathe terms “blocking campaigns.”According to Jacob, “blockers” oftenuse extra-legal methods such as:Yelling and causing a scene to intimi-date potential signers;Purposely lying about petitioners tohave them kicked out of a store parkinglot;Claiming petitioners are committing“identity theft” with the data collected;Filing lawsuit after lawsuit to bank-rupt a campaign with legal fees;Calling the police on petitioners;Keeping up a constant stream of in-nuendo and smears, falsely alleging thatpetition circulators are using illegal tech-niques to collect signatures.In the 2006 Nebraska case Groene v.Seng, campaign finance filings revealedthat a BISC operative flew into the stateto train other operatives on petition block-ing. The blocking campaign received sup-port from city officials in Omaha, Lincolnand Grand Island who refused to allowpetitioners to work on public property. Afederal judge had to issue a temporary re-straining order against the officials be-cause they violated the First Amendmentrights of the petitioners, and the city gov-ernments had to pay the plaintiffs’ legalcosts.Outlook for 2008With almost no fanfare the Ballot Initia-tive Strategy Center has become a criticaltool in Big Labor’s effort to shape voterturnout and public policy at the state leveland to block conservative ballot mea-sures.The BISC 2008 “watch list” is extensive.It is gearing up to fight ballot initiativesopposed to racial and gender preferencesin Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraskaand Oklahoma; against illegal immigrationin Arizona and Oregon; and anti-abortionreferendums in California, Colorado, Geor-gia, Missouri, Montana, Oregon andSouth Dakota.BISC takes particular notice of ballotinitiatives aimed at reducing the taxpayerburden in Arizona, California, Florida,Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, NorthDakota, Oregon and Washington. BISCalso opposes referenda on workplace is-sues in California, Colorado, Missouri,Oregon and South Dakota.And BISC “will
  5. 5. April 2008 Labor Watch Page 5be targeting signature fraud in more con-certed ways than ever in 2008,” accordingto its December 2007 newsletter.Should BISC fail to convince voters toback its liberal policy agenda, it can al-ways plead the underdog, as Wilfore didwhen she blamed Big Tobacco for Oregonvoters’ decision against increasing to-bacco taxes to fund an expansion of thatstate’s CHIP program. Wilfore told Con-gressional Quarterly in November 2007:“When you have the best marketers in theworld invested in a ballot measure cam-paign, they can be quite successful.” Ifthat spin doesn’t work, there are alwaysthe courts where BISC’s well-funded al-lies are eager to fight.BISC-allied groups are prepared to “goto court” should the November presiden-tial election require additional legal actionover access to the ballot. BISC funders,including AFSCME, the AFL-CIO, theAmerican Federation of Teachers andSEIU, challenged ballot access in Florida,Illinois, Michigan, Oregon and Washing-ton courts in 2006 and 2007. Altogether,there were 12 federal and 14 state casesconcerning ballot initiatives in 2006 and2007 that were decided in 17 differentcourts.Fighting on a legal battlefield was partof Wilfore’s BISC strategy in 2006-2007,and it is likely to be repeated this year. Ina Fall 2002 article in the progressive West-ern States Center newsletter, Wilfore cham-pioned the use of legal and regulatory pro-cesses to “prevent harmful initiatives fromgetting on the ballot.” She stressed theneed to “stop initiatives in the signature-gathering phase in order to avoid havingto mount far more expensive ‘NO’ cam-paigns during the election season.” No-tably, she touted the legal successes ofgroups like the Oregon chapter of theAmerican Federation of Teachers, nodoubt emboldening future litigators inMontana and Washington, which alsohave initiative processes in place.The number of legal challenges in 2006-2007 is impressive because there was nopresidential election. Historically, totalvoter turnout during presidential electionsis close to 50 percent while averaging un-der 40 percent in non-presidential years.But the enormous turnout of the 2008 pri-mary season portends more turmoil overvoter rights and ballot access. We maysee some titanic legal battles as Novem-ber approaches.have increased the waiting periodfrom two to five years before a teacherreceived tenure. The CTA in Los An-geles alone, according to Californiastate initiative filings, ran nearly$200,000 in radio ads to oppose themeasure. Voters defeated the measure55 percent to 45 percent despite Gov-ernor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sup-port.The teacher unions use theirmuscle on many ballot initiatives, butnever so much as when the initiativessupport school vouchers. The NEApulled out the big guns against UtahReferendum 1 (School Vouchers) lastfall funnelling more than $3 millioninto the state to defeat the referen-dum. State teacher unions across thecountry sent even more money to theBeehive State. As in California, Colo-rado and other states, voucher pro-ponents learned how well the teacherunions use power.The NEA funds the Ballot InitiativeStrategy Center. The 2004-05 financialdisclosure report (LM-2) filed by theNEA revealed that the $25 million thatthe NEA spent on “Political Activi-ties and Lobbying” included a $75,000contribution to BISC.Phil Brand is Capital ResearchCenter’s Director of Education Watch.Teacher Unions Bombard Ballot BoxesBy Phil Brandhe teacher unions are not ig-noring the ballot initiative pro-cess, especially in Californiawhere the California Teachers Asso-ciation (CTA) is particularly busy.Teacher union analyst MikeAntonucci of the Education Intelli-gence Agency recalls that the CTAspent $2.1 million in union memberdues to collect signatures that wouldplace a commercial property tax hikeon the June 2006 California ballot. Butthat was before CTA President Bar-bara Kerr met with the California Busi-ness Properties Association and theCalifornia Manufacturers and Tech-nology Association. Both organiza-tions opposed the tax increase. Afterthe meeting, Kerr said she had re-ceived promises that these organiza-tions would lobby for more schoolfunding, and in exchange CTA woulddrop the tax hike petition before iteven reached the ballot.In April 2004, CTA pulled a similartrick, dropping the same tax hike ini-tiative after spending $3.4 million toqualify it for the ballot. One thingvoters can count on in the future isthe CTA spending millions in ballotinitiative efforts, only to use them asblackmail to further their union ends.Another CTA battle was overProposition 74 in 2005. Prop 74 wouldTPlease remember CapitalResearch Center in your will.James Dellinger is Executive Directorof Green Watch and State EnvironmentalWatch at the Capital Research Center.Karl Crow is a student at Temple Univer-sity Beasley School of Law. In 2007 hewas an intern at the Institute for Trade,Standards, and Sustainable Development(ITSSD) in Princeton, New Jersey.
  6. 6. Labor Watch April 2008Page 6Labor NotesUnions, Political Left Pledge $400 Million to DemocratsLeftist groups and labor unions announced last month that they would spend more than $400 million on behalf ofDemocratic candidates for the White House and Congress. Nearly three-quarters of the funds will come from theAFL-CIO and large national unions; will spend at least $30 million.Unions, Leftist Activists Worried About Democratic ConventionUnion and leftist activists gathered at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., last month were worriedabout the lack of a definite Democratic candidate and the potential for a divisive Democratic convention. “There’salways that possibility,” warned AFL-CIO political director Karen Ackerman to the Associated Press. She andother representatives of leftist organizations at the Take Back America conference were anxious to mobilize votersfor the Democratic nominee.SEIU Finds Success in Healthcare OrganizingThe number of union elections in the United States declined in 2007, according to the National Labor RelationsBoard—but the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and others were notably successful in organizinghealthcare workers. Unions won 72 percent of all elections in the healthcare industry, but 62 percent in other fields.The SEIU accounted for nearly half of all healthcare organizing petitions.Rhode Island Governor Crosses Unions With Push for Private ContractsUnions are upset with Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri, who last month asked the state’s Supreme Court to overturna law that requires the governor to prove that the cost savings of hiring a private contractor are “substantial.”Carcieri’s budget calls for replacing 250 unionized state employees with private contractors to save nearly $3.1million, but he says the new law prevents him from closing the state’s projected deficit of $384 million. “We didn’teven get a heads up that that was in the works or being contemplated,” complained AFL-CIO secretary-treasurerGeorge Nee.Unions Bet on Gambling, Conflict With EnvironmentalistsUnions and environmentalists were at odds last month over Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposal to legalizecasino gambling in the state. The “green” activists complain that casinos will bring added vehicles and pollution tocrowded urban areas. Union members have been picketing and packing public hearings to support the creation ofnew jobs. “I want to know which legislator is going to deny you a job, who’s going to pay your mortgage when youcan’t pay, who’s going to leave 20,000 workers in an unemployment line,” Massachusetts AFL-CIO presidentRobert Haynes told his members in a profanity-laden speech, according to the Boston Globe.Oil Executives Criticized by Union LeadersUnion leaders renewed their attacks on executives of oil companies for large compensation packages after Occi-dental announced that its CEO Ray Irani earned $77.6 million in 2007. “With all oil companies, the CEOs are pricetakers and not price makers” on oil, said AFL-CIO investment guru Daniel Pedrotty to the Los Angeles Times.“Given the extraordinary amount of shareholder money that has been paid to Irani and other oil CEOs, there’s aserious question as to whether this is pay for performance.” Irani’s done something right: Occidental’s stockclimbed 58 percent in 2007.