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Our Opinion: Union leaders make it 'us vs. them'

December 17, 2006 10:13 AM

Coming to a newspaper near you, the Teamsters?

This time, we're not just referencing the News-Press. The newspaper's management is asking federal officials to determine whether a vote by some newsroom employees is valid in light of charges of union coercion.

A Teamsters win could mean other South Coast media outlets and businesses also could find themselves dealing with organizing by a union known for its historical links to the mafia.

The last development anyone should want is more Teamster involvement in Santa Barbara.

This isn't Los Angeles, where unions at times aren't shy about using tactics that tear apart the community.

Right now, down in Los Angeles, the Teamsters union is targeting the L.A. Times pressroom. The publisher of the Tribune Co.-owned newspaper, David Hiller, has told the staff: "What I can tell you is I came out here (from Chicago) with the mission of keeping the Times a great newspaper . . . and doing that working with you as a team. I believe we can do that best by working together and communicating directly with each other -- and not through some outside third party. So I am personally asking you to vote 'no' to the union."

Working as a team flies in the face of the us-versus-them mentality of many union leaders. Is the word team even in their vocabulary?

In fact, union bosses often don't appear to see themselves as being on the same team as the workers they claim to represent.

Observers note that these bosses spend union dues on political candidates and causes, even when a majority of the membership disagrees. They point to a San Francisco Chronicle article that says California unions spent $32 million to oppose Gov. Gray Davis' recall even though "exit polls found half of union members voted for the recall and 56 percent voted for a Republican candidate to replace him -- 43 percent for (Arnold) Schwarzenegger and 13 percent for Tom McClintock."

This is just one example.

We told you last week about how the reformed-minded Teamsters for a Democratic Union maintains a list of union bosses who are in the "$150,000 club" and "$100,000 club" in terms of salaries paid for by union dues. BusinessWeek has noted how Teamsters president James Hoffa Jr. in the past has allowed double-dipping with officers on the headquarters payroll also getting salaries from other Teamster units. The magazine added that Mr. Hoffa also had taken "heat for holding executive board meetings at such posh resorts."

Union bosses also would prefer not to "bother" with secret elections. Notes one group: "Facing declining membership, union officials have turned to a highly questionable practice of organizing new members through a process called 'card check.' With card checks, paid union organizers try to persuade workers to sign cards saying that they favor union representation. This persuasion is documented as frequently including deception, coercion, and harassing visits to workers' homes."

Making the card-check system the law is a top priority of union bosses now that there's been a power shift on Capitol Hill.

Union bosses, do they represent workers or their own self-interests?

Working as a team flies in the face of the us-versus-them mentality of many union leaders. In fact, union bosses often don't appear to see themselves as being on the same team as the workers they claim to represent.

- Editorials -

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