Recent reports on union activity from around the web through Oct. 26, 2010:

Unions the Real Big-Money Culprits This Election Season
By Mark McKinnon, The Daily Beast, October 24, 2010
The out-of-control big-money donors this fall aren’t the U.S. Chamber of Commerce types, as the White House would have you believe. Mark McKinnon on the real culprits—union gifts to Democrats. Team Obama’s message in the closing weeks of the campaign was completely eclipsed Friday by a union official who openly boasted in a story reported by The Wall Street Journal: “We don’t like to brag,” but “we’re the big dog” when it comes to campaign funding. Big as in $87.5 million. Big as in the biggest spender of any outside group—all meant to protect the interests of unions, the new “privileged class…” (read article)

Ask Unions Whether Foreign Money Is Pouring In to U.S. Elections
By Kevin Hassett, Bloomberg, Oct 24, 2010
Foreign money may be having a profound influence on the U.S. elections, more so than many people are aware. I’m talking about the tens of millions of dollars that flow each year from foreign sources to organizations with an immense stake in the course of U.S. politics. More groundless speculation about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce? No. This is real money going to American labor unions, an influx of foreign cash that is now harder to trace thanks to actions taken by President Barack Obama’s administration. This is the same Obama who is riling Democratic campaign rallies with warnings, backed by no evidence, that Republican “front groups” and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may be using money from foreign interests… (read article)

Four reasons to vote ‘yes’ and roll back the sales tax
By Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe, October 24, 2010
MY 7-year-old son knows better than to believe in the Tooth Fairy, but he was happy to act as if he did in order to cash in when he lost three teeth this month. He played his part convincingly, even slipping a note under his pillow asking if he could keep one of the teeth and still get paid for it. As I listen to the usual suspects braying for the defeat of Question 3, the Massachusetts ballot initiative to roll back the state sales tax from 6.25 percent to 3 percent, it occurs to me that they aren’t so different from Micah… (read article)

Unions are the big dogs of campaign spending

By Mark Hemingway, San Francisco Examiner, October 24, 2010
“Trying to discredit people and issues because some member of big business or another is on their side is very effective,” according to Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein. And liberals are right to note that corporate influence of our electoral system visits a host of ills on our democracy. However, big business is hardly the most ideological, let alone the biggest special interest, financing our elections. Guess which outside group has spent the most money on this year’s election… (read article)

Hard choices: Oregon state worker pay is a pivot point for budget showdown

By Ted Sickinger, The Oregonian, October 26, 2010
With Oregon’s unemployment rate stuck at 10.6 percent and the state facing a $3.2 billion budget shortfall, public employee compensation has become a fat target. With good reason: State officials say three out of four dollars from the general fund go to pay for compensation in one form or another – the people costs of providing public services. Without pay cuts, layoffs or service reductions, Oregon’s budget shortfall is simply unsolvable. Yet one fundamental question underlying the debate is whether Oregon’s public employees are overpaid… (read article)

Campaign’s Big Spender: Public-Employees Union Now Leads All Groups in Independent Election Outlays
By Brody Mullins and John D. McKinnon, The Wall Street Journal, October 22, 2010
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is now the biggest outside spender of the 2010 elections, thanks to an 11th-hour effort to boost Democrats that has vaulted the public-sector union ahead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and a flock of new Republican groups in campaign spending. AFSCME, the public-employees union, has vaulted ahead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to become the largest campaign spender of 2010. Jerry Seib discusses how that could boost the Democrats? Plus, Neil King on the Republican wave sweeping Indiana. The 1.6 million-member AFSCME is spending a total of $87.5 million on the elections after tapping into a $16 million emergency account to help fortify the Democrats’ hold on Congress. Last week, AFSCME dug deeper, taking out a $2 million loan to fund its push. The group is spending money on television advertisements, phone calls, campaign mailings and other political efforts, helped by a Supreme Court decision that loosened restrictions on campaign spending. “We’re the big dog,” said Larry Scanlon, the head of AFSCME’s political operations… (read article)

The Chris Christie Clones
By Kim Strassel, The Wall Street Journal, October 22, 2010
Across the country, candidates are taking up the government-reform
mantra embodied by New Jersey’s new governor. Republicans are doing it; even some Democrats, too. It’s called the Chris Christie. “I want to be the Chris Christie of Connecticut,” declares GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley. “Chris Christie is the primo example of how you turn around government,” says Scott Walker, vying to run Wisconsin. Mr. Christie’s reforms are a “road map” for California, pronounces Meg Whitman. “He tells it like it is, and it’s time for that,” says Iowa’s gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad. In one long year, Mr. Christie, the governor of New Jersey, has gone
from little-known prosecutor to GOP rock star… (read article)

Abuse on the highways
Editorial, Daily Record, October 21, 2010
Many New Jersey residents may no longer be shocked by the abuses of our public agencies. However, that should not lessen the outrage. An audit by the state Comptroller’s office has found $43 million in waste at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which, by the way, increased tolls two years ago. Specifically, Comptroller Matthew Boxer found that $30 million in bonuses were doled out to employees without regard to performance. Some employees also got bonuses for shoveling snow or working on their birthday. State funds were also used to support an employee bowling league and all employees got free E-ZPass transponders to commute to work. Many of these perks are included in contracts with the 10 unions representing authority workers… (read article)

Unions Spend Big to Defeat Prop. B
By Elizabeth Lesly Stevens, The Bay Guardian, October 20, 2010
In just the first half of October, public unions poured $471,000 into their energetic campaign to defeat Proposition B, the November ballot initiative that would require increased pension- and benefits contributions from San Francisco city employees. Campaign contribution disclosures show the largest union donor for this period was the Police Officers Association, which contributed $200,000 on October 14. The second-largest donor was the Service Employee union, which gave $100,000 on October 13 and nearly $300,000 in recent months… (read article)

Card Checkmate; Voters in four states head to the polls to preserve honest union elections
Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, October 21, 2010
Big Labor’s dream to end secret ballots in union organizing elections has faded in the 111th Congress, but now the battle turns to the states. Citizens in Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah will vote on November 2 on ballot initiatives to block union “card check” elections in their states. Card check laws are designed to replace elections with a system allowing a union to organize a work site if more than half of the employees sign a card approving the union. With less than 7.5% of private workers now wearing the union label, labor chiefs view card check as a way to give them a big new edge over management. Workers often vote differently in private than they do in public. Unions typically wait until they have cards from more than 50% of employees before seeking to organize a work site or business. Management can then request a secret vote under current law. And in about one third of the cases in which secret ballot organizing elections are then held, unions fail to get a majority, according to the National Right to Work Foundation. Card check exposes workers and their families to peer pressure and union intimidation. The four “save our secret ballot” initiatives… (read article)

Jack Dean is editor of PensionTsunami.com, formed to monitor developments in all three pension spheres nationwide — public employees, corporations and social security. PensionTsunami, like UnionWatch, is a project of the California Public Policy Center. Dean is a former newspaper editor and a past executive director of the Reason Foundation. He has been active in politics for more than three decades and currently serves as president of the Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers.

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