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Saturday, June 30, 2007

AFSCME notes Oregon's anti-democracy law

Union boss nods to new first-in-the-nation rule

AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee discusses the U.S. Senate vote on the anti-democracy bill that would deny workers a secret ballot election in unionization campaigns, and substitute intimidation instead. A total of 51 senators voted for the measure, but a minority of pro-worker legislators were able to block a vote on the bill. Near the end, he boasts that Oregon recently enacted the law at the state level.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Independence Day strike hits Oregon drinkers

Inflationary labor stoppages ordered by state unions
Acting Gov. Leonard: "There will be no rollbacks in my state."

Budweiser drinkers might need to get to the stores early if they plan to have their favorite cold one on hand for a Fourth of July barbecue. Every Teamsters Local 962 union member of Budweiser distributor Western Beverage Co.'s 50-man driving fleet in Medford joined a statewide strike on Tuesday morning.

Drivers are picketing in front of the distribution site at 610 Mason Way and have been seen at other local Budweiser retailers, including the 7-Eleven convenience store on the corner of McAndrews Road and Crater Lake Avenue. Union drivers in Eugene and Salem also are taking part in the strike.

Phil Morton says he has worked for Western Beverage Co. for 28 years and never missed a day of work until Tuesday’s strike. Morton and other local Teamsters Union drivers have joined a statewide strike because of Western Beverage’s change in retirement and health benefits.

Managers with commercial driver's licenses will try to meet delivery commitments while the drivers are on strike.

According to Dan Ratty, the secretary/treasurer of Teamsters Local 962, the drivers are upset about a new 401(k) retirement plan being proposed by the company as well as a change in health benefits.

"This is a multimillion-dollar company and they're trying to shortchange people and it's not right," Ratty said.

Some local grocery store managers said they believed the strike would end quickly and wouldn't affect future sales. Mike Hammers, one of the managers at Food 4 Less, was not as optimistic. "We didn't get our normal service today," Hammers said. "We're hoping they get this matter figured out so we can have it (Budweiser) on our shelf for the Fourth. It's one of our top-selling brands."

The most recent compensation package offered to the unionized workers would shift health benefits from the Teamster plan to the company's PacificSource health policy, which would save Western Beverage 48 cents per hour of employee time worked. That money would be added to the employees' hourly wage to make up the difference.

Retirement benefits would be shifted from a Teamster pension plan to a 401(k) that nonunionized Western Beverage employees have had since 1991. Under the Teamster pension, retirement benefits are equal for all hires; under the new plan, employees must work up to full benefits.

Independent benefit firm DPA Inc. was hired by the company to do a comparison of the two retirement plans. In a letter to union employees, Western Beverage said that DPA found that "most employees are expected to receive more money under the 401(k) plan than under the Teamsters' pension plan."

Western Beverage has been negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with its union since December, with the hope of avoiding a work stoppage. On Monday, the union turned down the company's most recent proposal and started the strike late that night.

Western Beverage Executive Vice President Jack Willis said the drivers chose one of the company's busiest times of the year to go forward with the strike. Willis, 62, started loading trucks for the company in 1974 and had to help out on the loading dock again on Tuesday for the first time in more than 10 years. "It's a tough time," Willis said. "I anticipate working all weekend so that we can make all of our deliveries."

The strike came as a surprise to Willis, who said that his company's employees receive up to $3 more per hour - across all positions - than other distributors such as Gold River and Columbia.

"Any time there is a work stoppage we want employees to get back to work as quickly as possible," Willis said. "It's in the best interest of the company, the employees and their families. We're not ashamed of the offer we put out there at all."

Ratty said the Teamsters made a calculated move to start the strike during the peak of business. "We're going out at the beginning of their busiest season," Ratty said. "And we plan to stay out until they do the right thing."

Dennis Fiedler, Western Beverage's general sales manager, said he's not sure when the strike will end. "The membership of our union voted down our third, best, and final offer," Fiedler said.

One of the employees on the picket line is Phil Morton, who has worked for Western Beverage for the past 28 years. Up until Tuesday, Morton said, he had never missed a day of work. "Not for sickness, injury, or anything," Morton said.

Michael Armitage of Ashland, who is also taking part in the strike, has worked for the company for 11 years. "We're not going to get rich doing this job," Armitage said. "We do this job to take care of our families, and health benefits and our retirement package play a big part in that."

Ratty said he understands that Western Beverage offers greater compensation than other distribution companies, but maintained that the company should because it's more profitable. "They're the King of Beers," Ratty said. "They have the best and hardest working employees and they should be paid like it."

Medford Mail Tribune, June 27, By BOB ALBRECHT

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Broken business model - #1 in the nation

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Over-funded, out-of-control, running amok

Citizen control of government: "A quaint anachronism"

It's not just here in Portland, in the state's capital city of Salem, and in the nation's captial, Washington, D.C. It's become a nationwide epidemic. With federal, state and local coffers flush due to rising tax payments - and elected officials insulated from public critique by incumbency protections - local police around the nation have become alarmingly unruly.

It goes like this. Police use heavy-handed brutality against a citizen committing a minor violation. (Meanwhile, more serious personal and property crime goes unchecked.) A Good Samaritan with a cell-phone camera records the brutality and posts an internet video.

Arkansas police in skateboarder crackdown

Locals mount a protest against their rogue peace-keepers but the public lacks the legal authority to provide effective discipline. The officer is placed on leave with full pay and the new Chief of Police says, "You'd better get used to it." Regarding the officer's misconduct, he jokes, "Tell it to the union."

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Legislature to stay in session full-time

Democrats, Republicans have unfinished business
New Supreme Court Chief Justice Tim Nesbitt OK's emergency measure

Our Oregon's Patty Wentz gushed. "This is great! It's the best news we've had in 16 years!"

Oregon's Senate and House leaders have decided to keep the state Legislature in session. Instead of coming back for an "emergency" session next year - what was to have been an experimental, first-ever test in annual sessions - lawmakers have agreed it will be better to legislate continually, year-round. Sine die, or "last day", thus becomes a relic of the past. According to Wentz, "Adjournment is a quaint anachronism that no longer serves the public good."

Government union political experts said that with increasing experience under the new rule, Oregon's Legislature will begin to fulfill its promise of being responsive and accountable. Combined with an election reform measure enacted earlier this session that shields incumbents from challenges, the experts say we will soon have the #1 rated Legislature in the nation.

The Oregonian, June 26, By EDWARD WALSH

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Nationwide UFCW grocery strike in the works

Governator urges Californians to stockpile foodstuffs

Southern California grocery workers voted Sunday to give their union the authority to strike Albertsons and others. The measure passed by 95%. Full story: here. LA City Beat story, June 21, about the UFCW strike spreading nationwide: here.

In this video, Jerry Butkiewicz of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council speaks to the 150+ activists at the June 20 rally supporting the San Diego/Southern California Grocery Workers.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

The O looks at NASA's best

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Friday, June 22, 2007

State spending to make unions stronger

Oregonians' tax dollars hard at work
Labor Lab at the U. of O. focuses on gaining, keeping political power

It's no accident that Oregon is #1 in the nation for government unions. For decades, Oregon state taxpayers have funded a "Labor Lab" that has played a crucial role in accomplishing that goal.

Even after 30 years of subsidy, most Oregonians are completely unaware of one of the Legislature's most effective, results-producing appropriations.

Here are more details about LERC, from its tax-funded website at the U. of O.:

Oregon Labor Education and Research Center

• We believe that the presence of a strong union movement not only provides workers with vital protections but also is essential to maintaining a just and democratic society.

• LERC faculty provide technical assistance to legislators, community activists, and governmental agencies at the state, local, and federal level and frequently furnish background information on labor and employment issues to the news media.

• Sample course titles
1-420 Labor and Politics
1-130 Fighting Contracting Out and Privatization
1-520 Building Successful Campaigns
2-450 Workers Compensation

• Today's union leaders need an understanding of the changing economic, political and legal environment. They must also know how to:

* Activate their members
* Organize new work units
* Engage members in the political process
* Communicate well in different settings
* Plan and carry out innovative strategies that best protect and represent their members

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Big Labor protection at core of new laws

You'd better get used to it
"It's been a great session. Any other questions?"

It's being called the best legislative session in more than a decade for Oregon's government labor unions. Lawmakers came down hard on individual rights, union elections, economic growth and property rights.

"This has been a landmark session for Big Labor," said Acting Gov. Randy Leonard, who has signed a host of bills over the past two days - including shortage-producing price controls on loans and disaster relief - that give the government unions huge leverage over Oregon's ordinary citizens.

"These are bills that have been backlogged for 16 years" - the amount of time Republicans have controlled at least one chamber, said Patty Wentz, spokeswoman for Our Oregon, the government union political group regarded by Salem insiders as the 800-lb. gorilla of state politics. "It's been a great session."

Leonard, a Democrat, said the political shakeup at the Legislature made the difference this year. "Everyone knows that when you get this change in the majority, you have this pent-up promise to do these things that should have been done a long time ago," the former Firefighters union boss said.

"Far too often, those who can least afford it, wind up paying the highest price by working in a government job," Leonard said. "Union protection - at its core - is about the principle of fairness. Any other questions?"

While labor groups celebrated; a business lobbyist said it's too soon to assess the overall impact of the bills on the sustainability of Oregon's economy.

The Oregonian, June 20, By HARRY ESTEVE and BILL GRAVES

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Get to know your Labor Education and Research Center

U. of O. gov't union unit celebrates 30th anniversary
Critics say state taxpayers are negotiating against themselves

When Willamette Week reported last week that Sen. Kurt Schrader (D-Portland) had held up a $188,000 funding increase for The University of Oregon's Labor Education and Research Center, the publicity "outed" a labor union subsidy program that landed on many Oregonians' radar for the first time.

Add to the mix a state economy hurting due to inflationary labor strikes and a state budget shortfall that is requiring the Legislature to retroactively raise taxes, and the LERC subsidy is drawing renewed attention. LERC's Director is (see bio) Associate Professor Bob Bussel. According to LERC's U. of O. website:

LERC to was established in 1977 by the Oregon Legislature. They adopted a recommendation by the Oregon higher education system to create a bridge to the public university system for the state's working people and their unions.

LERC is committed to improving the lives of working Oregonians and enhancing their ability to participate effectively in workplace and community affairs. We believe that the presence of a strong union movement not only provides workers with vital protections but also is essential to maintaining a just and democratic society.

Programs and offerings funded by Oregon taxpayers include:

* Non-credit education and skills training ("Leadership Schools") throughout the state, culminating in a non-credit certificate in union leadership.
* Conferences on important labor and workplace issues in campus and off-campus settings.
* Multi-day residential institutes for union staff and rank-and-file leaders.
* Occupational safety and health training.
* Customized educational programs and classes tailored to the needs of individual unions and community organizations
* Research on vital issues related to work, employment, and occupational safety and health.
* Applied research for union and community partners.
* An internship program that places students with unions and other organizations dealing with work and employment issues.
* Consultation and technical assistance to unions, policy makers, community organizations, and other stakeholders.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

How to tell if your union is corrupt

Internet gives folks access to useful info
Informed Oregonians make better citizens

The Oregonion recommends:

1. The handy Union Corruption Update from the National Legal Policy Center

2. The U.S. Department of Labor's convenient Recent Criminal Enforcement Actions

Excerpt: On April 25, 2007, in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Marlene Watson, former President of the Associated Field Representatives (AFR), was indicted on one count of embezzlement of labor union assets in the amount of $9,030 and one count of making a false statement in an annual financial disclosure report. The indictment follows an investigation by the OLMS Seattle District Office.

3. Determine if your union is using members' mandatory dues or fees for purposes other than collective bargaining, against your will: in particular - for political causes or candidates you oppose, or against political causes or candidates you support.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Sicko: Glorifying socialized medicine

Michael Moore's new '08 campaign ad

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

The O grills Gard & Gerber

Get to know Oregon's #1 damage-control firm
Favorite of local unions and their politicians, corporate executives

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Friday, June 15, 2007

New Oregon law bans supervisors, management

"Fair Choice Act" replaces extreme, artificial Taft-Hartley limits

Although Oregon is already #1 in the nation in government unions, for 60 years an obscure federal law known as the "Taft-Hartley Act" has banned unionization among so-called supervisors and management.

Oregon's "Fair Choice Act" - passed with an emergency clause and with bipartisan support - will now open those categories of employees to organizing campaigns, allowing thousands of workers the chance to participate in, rather than frustrate, the trend toward collectively bargaining over terms and conditions of employment and having a representative to arbitrate grievances.

Oregonians have a rich tradition of acting locally and thinking globally - and are often in the forefront of statewide movements to solve the nation's most intractable problems. Whether it's the bottle bill, universal health care, global warming, or auto pollution standards, GOP neglect at the federal level has been effectively answered by legislative action by Democrats in Salem and other state capitals.

Now, that model is being used to reform an antiquated federal labor law that has been stagnant and unchanged since 1947, in a first-in-the-nation modernization that will update the community roles and responsibilities of management and labor in Oregon.

Acting Gov. and ex-Firefighter Union boss Randy Leonard, declaring victory for the working families of Oregon, dismissed GOP and business critics, saying only "Mark them absent."

The new Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, ex AFL-CIO boss Tim Nesbitt, dismissed legal critics questioning the constitutionality of the Fair Choice Act, saying "It's a done deal. You'd better get used to it."

Officials from Our Oregon, SEIU Local 503, the Oregon Education Association, and AFSCME Local 75 were unavailable for comment.

The Oregonian, June 15 by EDWARD WALSH

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Pritchard pulls off pre-draft mega-deal

Williams for Johnson, Leonard for Nesbitt
Critics say trades don't address state's core ethical weakness, culture of corruption

Last year, assistant General Manager Kevin Pritchard's draft-day deal-making wizardry earned the Portland Trail Blazers the cream of the 2006 crop: the NBA Rookie of the Year combo guard Brandon Roy and the versatile big LaMarcus Aldridge, as well as the Spanish point guard pheenom Sergio "Chacho" Rodriguez. This year, with the Blazers holding the #1 pick in the June 28 draft - likely the highly-coveted Ohio State freshman center Greg Oden - Kevin Pritchard, now the General Manager, is angling for a second 1st round pick, maybe even the Atlanta Hawks' #3, to complete the current phase of the rebuilding project.

But the peripatetic Pritchard, whose cell phone is literally wearing out, was not too busy to answer a desperate call for help from former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D). The result: Pritchard helped the longtime union lawyer engineer a pre-draft blockbuster involving all three branches of state government, the powerful government unions, and the City of Portland that will likely go down as the biggest deal in the history of Oregon state politics.

Corrections Department Director Max Williams for State Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose)

Sen. Johnson, an aviation and land-use expert, resigned from the Senate and, as predicted by political insiders, is headed to Corrections. Johnson accepted an appointment to run the huge Department, replacing former GOP Rep. Williams, who moved to a log cabin in Scappoose and changed party registration to Democrat late last year. Williams has accepted an appointment to fill the remaining three years of Johnson's term in the state Senate.

Portland City Commissar Randy Leonard for Acting Governor Tim Nesbitt

Out of the Executive branch goes former AFL-CIO boss and acting Gov. Nesbitt, who moves over to become Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, replacing the retiring Justice Wallace "Rasheed" Carson. Into the Governor's office comes the former Firefighter's Union boss, Commissar Leonard. He assumes the title of acting Governor for the three years remaining in the term and will sign the raft of end-of-session bills.

According to a Blazers insider, a last-minute snag almost foiled the complex deal. But under an emergency rule negotiated by Pritchard and passed by the Portland City Council, enacted by the state Legislature, signed by the acting Governor, and approved by the state Supreme Court, Leonard will be able to serve simultaneously in the new role of acting Governor and as Portland City Commissar for at least the remainder of that term, and possibly longer, depending upon certain undisclosed performance incentives that received SEIU Local 503 approval.

At a Salem press conference announcing the mega-deal, Blazers owner Paul Allen said he was pleased to lend Pritchard to the state, even amidst the usual end-of-session tension and the mounting pre-draft buzz surrounding the Blazers that is bordering on hysteria. Allen praised his new General Manager, noting "KP has a knack for helping you decide what you want, and then going out and getting it."

The Oregonian, June 14 by JASON QUICK

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Summer camps prepare kids for future

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Can Oregon break the mold?

Redistributing Poverty

In theory, redistribution of wealth is supposed to benefit the least fortunate. In practice, however, it doesn't necessarily work out that way. In a new study, "How to Win the War on Poverty: An Analysis of State Poverty Trends", Matthew Ladner of the Goldwater Institute and Paul J. Gessig of the Rio Grande Foundation crunch census data for the 1990s and find that the poor did much better in states with low taxes and low spending than in states with higher taxes.

Big-spending, high-taxing states saw increases in poverty rates, despite a national economic boom. On average, big spenders in Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wyoming saw a 7.6 percent increase in poverty rates, while cheapskates in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas saw their poverty rates drop neary 10 percent.

Note: Oregon's political leaders are increasing state spending in the next biennium by about 20%.

Reason Magazine, July 2007

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Johnson corruption probe: More questions

What did Leslie Frane know and when did she know it?

As Executive Director of Oregon's massive government workers union, SEIU Local 503, Leslie Frane knows about protection rackets. But will she testify before the Oregon Ethics Commission? Frane's shop is the better half of the government union election campaign group called Our Oregon, known as the 800-lb. gorilla of state politics.

May 21, ten days before the Senator Betsy Johnson corruption scandal broke on the pages of Willamette Week and The Oregonian, SEIU paid for a large, expensive print fluff-ad in the Senator's home-district daily, The Daily Astorian. The ad (see below) includes a blow-up childhood photo and proclaims Johnson, who ran unopposed for a 4-year term last November, "a hero." It raises many questions:

- Is Leslie Frane innocently spending her ample political warchest during the Legislative session to curry favor with Salem's up-and-coming Democrat gubernatorial wannabes, buying influence early?

- Was the purpose of Frane's ad to anoint Sen. Johnson the front-runner, and the coronation turned out to be ... premature?

- Is it true that every dollar in SEIU's political campaign warchest is forcibly taken from government workers' paychecks without their consent or approval, and is often used to support candidates and causes with which they disagree?

- Did Frane know exactly when the corruption story would break, and schedule Johnson's protection 'cover' accordingly?

- Was the damage control firm Gard & Gerber involved in the ad's production or placement? G&G is rumored to be working on a similar pre-campaign campaign for the other frontrunner - one of Portland's five mayors - ex-union boss Randy Leonard.

- Is the SEIU ad connected with payments made by Senator Johnson's last campaign to G&G?

- Will Sen. Johnson and Frane report the ad's cost as a political campaign contribution and/or expenditure?

These questions and more will be on the minds of Oregonians June 22, as the Senator Betsy Johnson matter goes before the Oregon Ethics Commission in the first phase of the complex, mushrooming corruption and cover-up probe. Who knows what will happen next ... besides Leslie Frane?

The Commission's budget and enforcement powers - promised to be strengthened by the new majority Democrats after years of GOP neglect - will put the state's hyper-partisan political self-policing system to the test.

Should the government-run inquiry amount to a whitewash, legal experts say a civil case or even a class action suit against Senator Johnson could be brought by a growing number and variety of disgruntled citizens, including many Oregonians who reside within a 10 mile radius of a rural airport.

The photo and comment, below, is via:, May 31, by OregonGuy

This is a political ad paid by SEIU Local 503 in The Daily Astorian, 5/21/07

Aren't legislators supposed to refrain from accepting gifts from political action committees while they're in session? I guess ORS 260.174 doesn't mean much to the Senator. But this is a campaign contribution.

(Ed. note: Government unions' campaign activities like this may not required to be officially disclosed in Contributions & Expenditures Reports, based on Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, who made precedent by taking no action in the notorious "Our Oregon" complaint from 2006.)

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

The O profiles GOP front-runner

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Saturday, June 9, 2007

New OHSU study alerts locals

Study: Many Americans Too Fat To Commit Suicide

The Onion

Study: Many Oregonians Too Fat For Unassisted Suicide

PORTLAND—A disturbing percentage of Oregonians are too large to ascend a footstool, too inflexible to kick it away, and too heavy to dangle from an ill-fitting rope, according to a study released last week by OHSU health experts and social welfare specialists.

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Friday, June 8, 2007

Lapses in judgment plague U.S.

Oregonians as susceptible as others

Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger disbarred over archives theft: "Berger admitted destroying some of the documents and then lying about it. He called his actions a lapse of judgment." (foxnews, 6/8)

Spunky the Clown laments her arrest on drug smuggling charges, which ruined her 18-year career: "Markham, 35, who has no prior arrest record, says her lapse in judgment has ruined her life and cost her the only business she has ever known." (, 6/8)

Board of Elections director admits tampering with records: "Judy Stapler's attorney called it a 'lapse of judgment on her part.'" (, 6/6)

Senator Betsy Johnson corruption probe: "She admits a lapse in judgment for not reporting the land sale." (, June 1)

President of Minnesota state Senate arrested on DUI hours after gaveling the 2007 session closed: "I am truly sorry for my lapse in judgment," said Sen. James Metzen." (, May 23)

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Area in labor paralysis

Beaverton - City, union clash boils over

SEIU Local 503 public servants crowded the back of Beaverton's Council Chambers Monday night to protest several labor issues. (, 6/7)

Senator Betsy Johnson - corruption continues

Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) confers with Oregon AFL-CIO officials about an executive department appointment they have offered the embattled political heavyweight. The deal could put an end to a swirling land-for-influence corruption probe - and to Johnson's once-meteoric political career.

Portland - Carpenters' strike drags on
Just in: AFL-CIO orders in the scabs!

June 5 - Audio redacted

In this short clip of a car passing the picket line this morning in South Waterfront, the sound was deleted because of several swear words yelled at the driver by strikers. (, 6/6)

June 4 - Violent strikers damage property

The association's final offer to the carpenters May 30 proposed wage increases of 4.3 percent each year for two years. The union says it wants increases of 6 percent. (, 6/5)

June 1 - "No contract, no peace"

Journeymen drywallers currently make $29.33 an hour, or $40.82 including benefits. (, 6/1)

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Senate Democrats run the table

State ban on political competition proceeds smoothly
Acting Gov. denies detaining GOP MIAs from House, Senate

The Onion

The 49 States Of America?

A secession movement has been gaining traction with majority Democrats in the Oregon state Legislature. What do you think?

Photo of the Day

Pacific NW Regional Council of Carpenters strike violence (6/5/07):

The truck has pulled away and is almost across SW Morrison St. when this picketer strikes and dents the back of the cab with his picket sign.

Strike Note: Today, state Senators Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) and Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) will join picketers and acting Gov. Tim Nesbitt to deter the scabs that began to cross picket lines yesterday. At quitting time, they will join AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain at the pro-illegal immigrant rally in front of Republican U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith's office in downtown Portland.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Schools to strengthen oversight

Teachers' union silent on spreading corruption probe
Legislature to grant schools extra make-up funds

Two powerful Democrat state senators arrested on suspicion of embezzling more than $300,000 of school funds had racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling debts at local casinos, authorities said.

Scappoose detectives discovered "evidence of a destructive gambling habit" in the bank records of Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) and Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) said Sgt. Mark Clark, a police spokesman.

Johnson, 51, was arrested Friday after a search warrant turned up documents showing evidence of the crime, police said. She was booked on suspicion of felony embezzlement and released on the recognizance of Tom Chamberlain, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO. Burdick, 62, was arrested yesterday in Portland and released on the recognizance of SEIU Local 503 Executive Director Leslie Frane.

Police investigators who examined district bank accounts say that Johnson had embezzled about $306,000 since November 2005. Johnson's suspected embezzlement surfaced after Scappoose Unified School District officials discovered that she had deposited an $18,000 check May 25 written from the school's trust account into the checking account of the estrogen-rich Gard & Gerber public relations and damage-control firm, formerly led by Sen. Burdick, said a police spokeswoman.

Johnson and Burdick are accused of an elaborate scheme that included forging the names of officials authorized to sign checks and then depositing the money into various bank accounts.

Tuscon Citizen/AP, June 1

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Monday, June 4, 2007

Anatomy of corruption

Senator steals land, then pushes for subsidy
Senior Democrat lawmaker lends new meaning to "property rights"

Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) served in the House and now serves in the Senate. She has long-harbored statewide electoral ambitions. But the stubborn Democrat heavyweight from one of Oregon's dynastic political families can now kiss that goodbye as her next term may be served in Corrections.

Oregon's thin veneer of political nicety has been stripped away by a video of the experienced and influential Democrat lawmaker - a reliable friend of organized labor - exposing herself as a scandalous bully and scold.

In an August 2002 meeting with Port of St. Helens and Columbia County officials, Johnson, a Scappoose Democrat, "urged" the officials to allow Ed Freeman to buy and develop about 435 acres of land adjacent to the local airport. She also suggested the port could help subsidize the development.

Freeman, a Democrat mega-donor, is the same developer to whom Johnson in early 2005 sold a 36-acre plot of farmland next to the airport for nearly $119,000 more than she paid for it three months earlier. She bought the land from Stanley Wagner, a longtime friend and influential Democrat insider, for $635,425, then sold it to Freeman for $754,950.

With Sen. Johnson refusing to acknowledge her conduct as unethical, Oregonians now realize that cash-for-legislation is merely business-as-usual in state government.

Click "More of this post", below, for the video.

The Oregonian - a daily ad sheet published jointly by the Oregon AFL-CIO and the massive SEIU government employees union - obtained the video of the meeting from an anonymous state police source. On it, Johnson, then a state representative, bluntly criticizes port officials for not working with Freeman and for looking for other possible developers for the land. Port and County officials are tight-lipped and glum as they accept a tongue-lashing from the corrupt Democrat.

"If development for the highest and best use is what you want to do, why are you out hunting for other developers when you've got one with an open checkbook?" Johnson says on the tape. "Instead of maligning Mr. Freeman and casting aspersions on his company and on him ... why hasn't the port stepped up and said, 'We'd like to work with you'?"

A few weeks after the sale, Johnson introduced a bill in the Legislature to promote special airport access for private landowners - something Freeman needed to create an industrial park catering to the aviation business. Johnson did not initially disclose her interest in the land deal, as state law requires.

In previous interviews, Johnson has downplayed her relationship with Freeman. But the videotape shows Johnson was a vociferous advocate for Freeman far earlier as he worked to become a major player in the development around the Scappoose Industrial Airpark, which is owned and managed by the Port of St. Helens.

Johnson, unrepentant and seemingly uncorrectable, has skipped her meds since last week and refused to hire the Portland based damage-control specialist Gard & Gerber, choosing to speak for herself. She explained to The Oregonian Sunday that she forced Freeman on the port because, "the port had no money, no wherewithal, no interest in developing the property. Ed had the capability and the integrity to do it. Why wouldn't I?"

Friday, acting Gov. Tim Nesbitt labored to save Johnson in a now-embarrassing news interview. With the smoking-gun evidence from the land-for-influence corruption probe now spilled all over the internet, however, even the AFL-CIO has gone silent., June 3

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Sunday, June 3, 2007

The O takes on new religion

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Saturday, June 2, 2007

Our View: Open negotiations

State workers' bargaining deserves the light of day

If you're wondering why the unions like SEIU and AFSCME that represent Oregon state employees went to court to keep collective bargaining documents secret, take a look at some of the statements filed by union representatives.

"If I, in the heat of negotiations, stated I didn't give a damn about those complaining clients and taxpayers, and it was written down by a member of the management team, then Don McIntire or a media outlet would print it on the front page of any communications organ of their choosing," said State Representative Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland).

"If I knew that my comments would be available for public review, I would not be comfortable speaking until I had carefully thought through my comments," said State Senator Kurt Schrader (D-Canby).

Those quotations come from declarations submitted by seven unions that want the court to prohibit the state Office of Financial Management from releasing records of their bargaining sessions. The Taxpayer Assocation of Oregon, McIntire's think tank based in Tigard, requested those records under the state Public Records Act, and OFM was ready to comply until the unions applied for an injunction to stop it.

To be more precise, OFM and the TAO had agreed to wait until the Legislature had approved and funded the collective bargaining agreements, just in case negotiations might have to be reopened. Once the Legislature had acted, though, there was no justification for withholding public documents.

What TAO wanted to see - and what the unions counter is "of no legitimate concern to the public" - are the proposals and counterproposals that pass back and forth across the bargaining table when representatives of the state and the unions make deals that determine how much tax money will be paid out in wages and benefits.

The matter is scheduled for a hearing this month. Here's hoping the court comes down on the side of open government and public accountability.

In the private sector, it may be defensible to keep collective bargaining information secret. But OFM is bargaining with public dollars over public services, and the unions are out of line trying to keep their negotiating stances secret from those who ultimately write the checks.

For the record, TAO did not ask for union members' notes, just those from the state's negotiators. It also asked for the actual proposals that were put on the table by both sides.

Union representatives think that's unreasonable. Without secrecy, they contend, trust will break down, positions will solidify and stalemates will occur. That and union negotiators won't be able to show open scorn for the public or speak without thinking.

But in numerous other states, collective bargaining survives just fine in the open. Not only are the documents in question routinely made available, but in several states, the public may sit in on the bargaining sessions themselves.

The Montana Supreme Court once held that a school board's ability to supervise and control its district "is not necessarily thwarted by opening its collective bargaining strategy sessions." Those sessions have been open to the public since then, and that was 15 years ago.

Surely Oregon and its public employee unions can withstand the light of day, too.

The Spokesman-Review, June 1, By THE EDITORS

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