ATR President Applauds Maine Ethanol Resolution
Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist recently sent a letter to Maine State Representative Beth O'Connor [R-Berwick], thanking her for her work in passing LD 839. This resolution, "To Study Motor Fuel and Fuel Additives and To Explore Alternatives to Ethanol Motor Fuel," prompts the Maine legislature to write a letter to leaders in Washington, seeking an exemption from federal ethanol mandates. In thanking Rep. O'Connor, Mr. Norquist wrote:
"Using ethanol for fuel has been around long enough for Henry Ford to have dubbed it the “fuel of the future.” The fact is, however, that despite years of government assistance, ethanol has still failed to catch on as a viable alternative to gasoline. Disparities in the amount of energy contained within ethanol means that, even as the price of gasoline has risen above that of ethanol, it will still cost consumers more to drive a mile on E-85 ethanol than gasoline. Its corrosive properties have led to mounting evidence of its role in engine trouble, and prevent it from being transported through existing pipelines.
As you rightly noted in your presentation of the Resolution, the ethanol mandate means this year that 36 percent of the nation’s corn crops will be dedicated to ethanol production, up from 14 percent in 2006. This has brought higher food costs to already struggling American families. Burdensome tariffs prevent the importation of cheaper, cleaner, sugar cane based ethanol that would not have the same adverse effect on our food supply.
Despite thirty years of tax assistance, protective tariffs, and mandates for purchase, ethanol’s existence is largely predicated on government policies. Thank you for leading the charge against ill-advised federal mandates and politically motivated corporate handouts."
Click here a copy of the letter.
Politicized NMB Investigates Union Elections
Originally posted at WorkerFreedom.org
The National Mediation Board’s (NMB) assault on Delta Airlines has added another front. The NMB, which has already taken heat for its for its pro-union tilt, announced that it would expand its probes into several recent representation elections involving Delta employees.
Back on June 1, the NMB indicated that the agency would begin a probe into alleged interference during a November 2010 union election involving Delta and 20,000 of the airline’s flight attendants. The notice followed an appeal from the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), who had lost that election 53%-44%. It was the third such lost election for AFA since 2008.
Fast forward a week and NMB has now decided to follow up with new probes in response to similar claims, this time made by the International Association of Machinists (IAM). The three elections in question also ran late last year and were focused on the representation of Delta’s baggage handlers, customer service agents, and stock clerks. Just like AFA, IAM lost all three elections, not by particularly close margins.
Despite repeated rejection, AFA and IAM are unwilling to quit. Realizing that the merit of their argument was not enough to convince workers to unionize, the unions asked their friends at the NMB for help—two of the three NMB board members are former union officials.
Current NMB Member Linda Puchala served as International President of AFA. Chairman Harry Hoglander has also worked extensively in the trenches of air industry labor organization. These two alone have the power to issue decisions singlehandedly, as they so capably demonstrated by leaving then-Chairman Elizabeth Dougherty entirely out of past negotiations. How impartial Ms. Puchala and Mr. Hoglander can remain in their investigation of Delta is certainly in question.
Big Labor’s motivation in continuing this fight is not hard to figure out: representation of Delta’s employees would be an absolute cash cow for the unions. The combination of the several groups of Delta employees voting on representation at the end of last year was the largest attempt at representation at a U.S. company since 1941. The 50,000 new union members potentially gained, willing or not, would mean 50,000 more dues paying members and a stranglehold on the world’s largest airline. The motivations are money and power, pure and simple.
Norquist Calls for Department of Education Investigation
Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) President Grover Norquist today sent a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission Director of Enforcement Robert Khuzami calling for an investigation into the Department of Education’s “gainful employment” rulemaking process. This new rule makes it more difficult for students pursuing degrees at private, for-profit instructions to secure federal student aid. As a result, many of these colleges will be forced to close their doors for good. Describing the situation, Mr. Norquist wrote:
“Knowing this, Steve Eisman—a hedge fund manager for FrontPoint Financial Services and esteemed short-seller—and other financial executives may have worked hand in glove with Department of Education officials and non-profit education groups to write the gainful employment rule. This afforded Mr. Eisman and other investors intimate, inappropriate knowledge about the forthcoming gainful employment rule. Traders were then able to monetize this information by short-selling for-profit institutions’ stocks.
This combination of discordant policy, insider politics, and huge financial gain has left a dark cloud over the Department of Education and its rulemaking process. Although the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General has launched a probe into possible nefarious short-selling, Americans and those affected by the gainful employment rule deserve a parallel investigation from your office.”
Click here for a PDF copy of the letter.
Inflatable Rats Approved for Union Protests by NLRB
Originally posted at WorkerFreedom.org
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has certainly made a name for itself in the last few years as one of the most biased federal agencies. Soon after filing a complaint against Boeing for setting up shop in the right-to-work state of South Carolina, NLRB has issued one of its most anti-business and, quite frankly, strangely terrifying decisions in some time. Musophobes beware: NLRB has approved the use of giant, fanged, red-eyed, zombie-like rat balloons as a legitimate, non-disruptive form of union protest.
The balloons themselves are not new to union protests. What is so shocking about NLRB’s decision is that it allows the use of the blow-up rattus rattus at businesses not directly involved in any kind of union dispute. Now, even the secondary suppliers and customers of an employer at odds with a union are open to inflatable infestation.
The case at hand involved a metal company, Massey Metals, Inc., that chose to use non-unionized workers for the construction of a hospital addition in Florida. The Sheet Metal Workers International Association chose to protest the hospital itself, using the inflatable rat, in hopes of persuading them not to do business with Massey Metals.
The National Labor Relations Act expressly prohibits any behavior that might “threaten, coerce, or restrain” a secondary employer not involved in a union dispute. NLRB Chairman Wilma Liebman, along with Members Craig Becker and Mark Pearce, found the 16-foot-tall rat to be merely “symbolic speech,” which did nothing to “frighten” or “disturb” the hospital’s patients or their families. Because nothing says quality healthcare like the creatures responsible for, among other things, the bubonic plague.
This decision is just another on the long list of NLRB’s blatantly pro-union actions, which includes the radical Boeing reprimand. The Board may be on the verge of overturning its 2007 Dana Corporation decision, which created procedures for workers to decertify representation imposed upon them by an employer-union agreement. In March of this year, NLRB issued a decision that effectively eliminates employer’s property rights, preventing them from restricting union access to property unless there is significant interference with business. Finally, in the case of Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center of Mobile, NLRB may allow the creation of “mini-unions” within groups of employees who opt against representation. These cases and decisions have stoked further employer uncertainty, preventing the growth of jobs so clearly needed for a robust economic recovery.
NLRB’s radical agenda should, unfortunately, come as no surprise. Chairman Liebman and members Becker and Pearce have all spent time in their careers representing the interests of Big Labor in the courtroom. Liebman and Becker were both directly employed by some of the largest unions in the country. Board Member Becker was such a controversial choice that his placement on the Board required a recess appointment by President Obama, a tactic the President plans to use again before Becker’s term is up in December. With so much on the line, and so much damage already done, stopping NLRB’s extreme pro-rodent, anti-business agenda is now more important than ever.
As a side note, courtesy of Labor Union Report, Big Sky Balloons & Searchlights, the maker of the rat balloons, is a non-union company. Concerned unions are currently searching for unionized makers of inflatable rat poison.
Committee Report Outlines Obama's Plan to Inflate Energy Costs
As new drilling and extraction technologies become widely available, it is becoming clear that the United States in fact sits on the world’s largest energy reserves. Common sense would tell us that developing these resources would help lower costs to consumers, wean the country off its dependence on foreign energy, and create well paying, secure jobs. Instead, the President proposes to unfairly raise taxes on oil and natural gas producers by $60 billion.
Sadly, this is only the beginning.
A new report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa [R-CA], lays out specific actions taken by the Administration through bureaucratic directive to deliberately cripple the nation’s oil and gas industry. It traces a stated desire to deliberately raise the price of carbon based fuels through extensive economic engineering. This, of course, is in order to force the transition to unproven, less efficient, and more expensive “green” technologies. Region by region, it shows the devastating effects of the more outrageous new rules and regulations.
The Appalachian Region, for example, is home to 110 years worth of newly accessible natural gas deposits. The new process of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), which allows horizontal drilling, has opened up these vast reserves to the country’s energy producers. In the process, a mixture of sand, water, and chemicals is injected into the well to release the gas or oil.
Even though fracking is already regulated by the states, and has been found safe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Administration is working overtime to shut down this revolutionary new technique. The Department of Interior (DOI) is considering new regulations and EPA is backing away from its previous approval, which found that no environmental problems arise from the process. The Administration has turned fracking into a “political football,” putting its future in severe jeopardy. Never mind that it has increased North Dakota shale production from 3,000 bbl/d in 2005 to 230,000 bbl/d in 2010—essentially lowering the state’s unemployment rate below 4%.
The situation is even bleaker in the Gulf of Mexico. Following the tragic Deepwater Horizon accident, President Obama announced a six month moratorium on all drilling in depths greater than 500 feet, and suspended drilling on 33 wells under construction at the time. Coastal communities, including many in which one third of all jobs are involved with the oil and gas industry, were devastated. Even though the official moratorium ended in October 2010, DOI has since instituted a “permitorium,” bringing development to a halt through bureaucratic stalling. The permitting process for drilling activity, which at one time took just weeks, got so slow that a U.S. District Judge had to force the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) to take action. Since February, 13 permits have finally been approved- 11 simply to resume previously permitted activity. If the situation described were somehow not ridiculous enough, new regulations require deepwater operators search for shipwrecks and buried treasure by running a full archaeological assessment.
The examples in the report go on and on. In Alaska, Shell has been ready to drill for four years. After investing $3 billion in the project EPA revoked a previously authorized air permit. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is stoking more uncertainty over how they will protect a new “critical habitat area” for polar bears.
In the Rockies, where the federal government holds millions of acres of land, the Administration has allowed new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) leases to drop to their lowest levels in twenty years. There are also instances of BLM changing the terms of a lease after it has been signed, something the report equates to signing a lease on an apartment allowing pets, and then being told that your dog is not allowed in.
Federal overreach is also slowing energy production in Texas, the nation’s most productive energy state. Seizing control of Texas’ air quality permitting system, the EPA overruled state regulations and implemented its own. FWS has also proposed placing the dunes sagebrush lizard, native to western Texas, on the endangered species list. This would allow FWS to limit production in the region that produces 20% of the nation’s total crude oil.
Each of these examples, and the report contains many more, shed light on how the Administration is purposefully raising the price of carbon based fuels. Throw in generous subsidies to handpicked “alternative energy sources,” and the Administration is convinced that it can engineer a transition to a greener tomorrow. Higher energy costs, job losses, increased taxes, and skyrocketing debt are of no matter. The Administration’s envisioned future is bright—until the sun sets and the wind stops blowing.
Obama Re-Nominates Labor Radical to National Mediation Board
Originally posted at the Alliance for Worker Freedom.
This past week, the White House released a new list of nominees for key posts within the administration being sent to the Senate for approval. Included is the re-nomination of labor radical Harry Hoglander to the National Mediation Board, where he currently serves as Chairman and has presided over one of the most controversial rule making decisions in the Board’s history. If Chairman Hoglander is approved by the Senate, his new term would run through July, 2014.
During his time on the board, Chairman Hoglander has demonstrated his willingness to go to any length to institutionalize Big Labor’s radical agenda. In 2009, Chairman Hoglander and Board Member Linda Puchala pushed through the NMB’s new “minority rule.”
Overturning 75 years of precedent, the new rule stacked the deck in favor of unionization as now a majority of voting workers is able to determine union representation—as opposed to the old rule which required a majority of all workers to elect a union.
This swiftly undercuts every individual’s right to choose representation. Unsurprisingly, Chairman Hoglander is a former Executive Vice-President of the Air Line Pilots Association, an organization that pushed heavily for the dramatic rule change.
The rule change itself has been controversial enough to warrant several instances of Congressional rebuke. The House of Representatives passed a reversal of the rule change in this year’s FAA Reauthorization Bill, which is pending in the forthcoming Senate—House conference.
Adding to the fire just last week, Reps. Darrell Issa [R-CA] and Dennis Ross [R-FL] of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to Chairman Hoglander requesting information regarding improper actions surrounding the writing of the rule. Among the charges are claims that Chairman Hoglander and Member Puchala published the rule without the input of then-Chairman Elizabeth Dougherty, and even sought to “prevent the publication of Member Dougherty’s dissent.” The letter also questions the suspicious timing of the removal of applications for representation by two labor unions with clear ties to members of the Board, allowing them to receive more favorable treatment under the new set of rules. The Alliance for Worker Freedom had previously taken direct issue with several of these questions. The fact that the President could re-nominate a figure embroiled in such controversy shows either profound stubbornness or ignorance.
President Obama’s re-nomination of Chairman Hoglander is hardly an unexpected turn of events, given the President’s track record of repaying Big Labor’s big money with political favoritism. The President is largely expected to re-nominate Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) before his term ends this December. Mr. Becker, who received a recess appointment by the President following his rejection by the Senate, is a former Associate General Counsel to both the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Among other controversies, Becker once argued that “workers should not be able to choose against having a union as their monopoly-bargaining agent.” Mr. Becker has recently out done even himself by playing a pivotal role in NLRB’s decision to file a complaint against Boeing for expanding from Washington to the right-to-work state of South Carolina. More than just an assault on right-to-work states, this action stands as an assault on every American’s right to choose where, when, and how to do business.
Harry Hoglander’s re-nomination illustrates President Obama’s preference for handing out political favors to those who will help most with his reelection bid. Mr. Hoglander, and Mr. Becker for that matter, have no place on the nation’s foremost labor relations boards given the conflicts of interest brought about by their past job titles alone. Their actions while serving on their respective Boards have only gone to prove their inability to put their required duties ahead of their political ideologies. The Administration will clearly stop at nothing to administer its radical agenda, repeatedly rejected by Congress, through bureaucratic backchannels and pay-for-play politics.
Nearly 3 Million Paid Hours Spent By Federal Employees on Union Activity
The United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has finally released its FY2009 report laying out the tremendous cost incurred by federal employees dealing with union issues on the clock- nearly 3 million hours and over $120 million. For some background, federal employees are designated, under their current collective bargaining agreement with the government, “official time” during which they are allowed to participate in union activities.
After looking into the numbers, it is clear why the Obama Administration might have wanted to hide the data:
- Hours of paid union activity in FY2009 totaled 2,991,378- a 3.37% increase from FY2008.
- Total costs to the Federal government for on-the-job union work grew by $9 million to $129,100,798.
- Over 75% of time reported was spent on “General Labor-Management” issues, as opposed to bargaining or dispute resolution.
- The total “Hours Per Employee” (HPE) rate, which “indicates the average number of official time hours expended per bargaining unit employee” was 2.58 hours.
- Just for fun, the agency with the highest HPE rate- 11.57- was our old friend the National Labor Relations Board, which has apparently found a new way to waste taxpayer money. This may explain their unnecessary desire for more funding.
This time and money serves as a direct handout to public sector labor unions, allowing them to piggyback free labor off the United States taxpayers. This fact is even readily admitted by OPM in their report!
“There are fewer incentives for Federal employees to join and pay union dues than there are for private sector and many state and local government employees…This voluntary membership in Federal sector unions results in considerable reliance by unions on the volunteer work of bargaining unit employees, rather than paid union business agents, to represent the union in representational matters such as collective bargaining and grievances”
Note that OPM is using this statement as justification for the “official time” rules. Because there are fewer federal sector union members than at other levels, the government ought to make life a little easier by providing free work, according to the report. Free to the union, that is; expensive to the taxpayer.
Although the numbers show the financial cost of taxpayer funded union organizing, what raw data cannot show is the accountability shattered by the way in which it seems to have been deliberately delayed and buried by the Administration. Because this report covers data from FY 2009, it would typically have been released in March, 2010. OPM repeatedly skirted both Congressional and public inquiries for over a year before quietly releasing the data without as much as a mention on their website. This sort of action dramatically undercuts any claims about running a “transparent” and “open” government.
Although the report has made its way out of OPM, it still remains mysteriously missing from the agency’s website. Rep. Phil Gingrey [R-LA] was one Member of Congress who repeatedly had his requests for the report’s release stonewalled by OPM. To tackle this issue, Rep. Gingrey earlier this year re-introduced the Federal Employee Accountability Act of 2011, H.R. 122. Back when the legislation was first introduced in 2009, the Alliance for Worker Freedom released this letter in support of its passage. This vital legislation would forbid federal employees from performing any and all union activity while on official time, ending the practice of wasting taxpayer money on what should be union funded work. Hopefully, the release of this startling new report will renew focus on Rep. Gingrey’s legislation, ensuring its swift passage and a greater commitment to transparency on the part of OPM in the future.
New Letter Calls out NMB's Blatantly Pro-Unionization Agenda
The ongoing controversy surrounding the procedures of the National Mediation Board’s (NMB) “minority rule” continued in recent days with a letter sent by Reps. Darrell Issa [R-CA] and Dennis Ross [R-FL]. The Alliance for Worker Freedom (AWF) has extensively covered the details of NMB’s “minority rule”, as well as some of the issues surrounding its publication. For those unfamiliar, in May 2010, NMB changed a 75 year old rule that required the consent of a majority of all workers to approve unionization. Under the new “minority rule,” unionization only takes the support of a majority of voting employees. Thus, a small minority of workers is able to decide the question of representation for all employees, perhaps compelling an entire workforce towards something they may vehemently oppose.
Several items in the letter raise questions about the motivation behind the drafting and publication of this new rule. For example, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) spent years attempting to force representation upon the employees of Delta Airlines. Within just four days before the first Notice of Proposed Rule Making, each of these organizations withdrew their applications to the NMB. Had they not done this, AFA and IAM would have remained subject to the majority rule- keeping their quest to forcibly unionize Delta workers quite difficult. As the letter states, “the proximity of the IAM and AFA’s withdrawal…to the Board’s publication…strongly suggest that someone within the Board communicated with the IAM and AFA concerning the case before the Board.”
Could the coziness between NMB and AFA have anything to do with the fact that NMB Board Member Linda Puchala previously served as International President of the AFA? Another former AFA head stated in a radio interview that the AFA had worked hand in hand with other members of the Big Labor community and even with the Obama Administration to ensure Member Puchala’s placement on the Board. It should come as no surprise that, as the letter notes and as AWF has previously taken issue with, Member Puchala and Chairman Harry Hoglander published the rule behind the back of then-Chairman Elizabeth Dougherty and even “sought to prevent the publication of Member Dougherty’s dissent.” With their political agenda already decided, Puchala and Hoglander hardly had time for petty disputes with the other member of the Board.
This direct push for unionization by regulation betrays any sense of public confidence in the nation’s federal agencies. It proves that the objective of NMB is hardly “the prompt and orderly resolution of disputes arising out of the negotiation of new or revised collective bargaining agreements” as their own mission declares. Instead, NMB and other federal agencies are puppets of Big Labor. Unions like AFA and IAM have proven that they will stop at nothing to achieve this goal, including co-opting our nation’s regulatory agencies who are all too frequently more than willing to assist them.
Luckily, the House of Representatives voted to overturn NMB’s minority rule change through Title IX of this year’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill. The bill is now headed to conference with the Senate, where the Title IX language was not included in their version. Ensuring that Title IX is included in the final FAA bill is a key step in winning the battle against Big Labor’s political agenda. In the meantime, the letter sent by Reps. Issa and Ross should receive the utmost attention of NMB officials and serve as a warning to all federal regulatory agencies attempting to implement a partisan agenda around the will of Congress and the people.
NMB's Partisan Goals Now Front-and-Center
Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), along with the Alliance for Worker Freedom (AWF), has issued a press release supporting the fact finding inquiry into the National Mediation Board's (NMB) rulemaking procedures. The inquiry, put forward by Reps. Darrell Issa [R-CA] and Dennis Ross [R-FL], seeks information on potential suspicious behavior leading up to the NMB's attempts at facilitating unionization.
"Reps Issa and Ross worry that union political pressure may have influenced the federal agency charged with overseeing union-employer relations in the transportation industry: “(we are) troubled by evidence tending to show that this change in the rule was the result of a predetermined effort to advance a partisan policy agenda,” wrote Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Dennis Ross, chairman of the oversight subcommittee on labor policy
Looking to shed light upon the suspicious behavior preceding the NMB’s controversial rulemaking, the Issa and Ross letter codifies the Congressional NMB rebuke. House Republicans voted to overturn the NMB’s anti-worker rulemaking including this provision (Title IX) in the House-passed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization. With the Senate passing its own FAA reauthorization bill—which does not contain the House’s Title IX language—the House and Senate are scheduled to meet in conference to merge the two bills.
“It is hard to understate the importance of this letter from Representatives Issa and Ross. With union membership falling off a cliff in recent years, Big Labor has enlisted federal agencies, like the National Mediation Board, to help bolster unions’ ranks. This letter, combined with the House’s FAA bill, puts these regulatory agencies on notice—they can no longer blindly pursue partisan objectives while ignoring statutes and the people they purport to serve,” said Christopher Prandoni, Executive Director of the Alliance for Worker Freedom. “The next, imperative, step is ensuring that Title IX is included in the post-conference FAA reauthorization bill.”
Click on the document above for the full press release.
Senate Energy Tax Hike Vote is a Taxpayer Protection Pledge Violation
Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) just sent a letter to Senators urging them to oppose the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act of 2011, which is a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. The legislation incorrectly tacitly classifies tax credits and deductions as federal subsidies and calls for their repeal—meaning, tax increases. Raising the cost of producing crude oil will only raise the cost of gasoline for consumers. With regards to the legislation's focus on raising taxes rather than cutting spending, Mr. Norquist wrote:
"As many Americans now understand, this country doesn’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. Democrats are defaming oil and natural gas companies—with stunts like last week’s Senate Finance hearing—because they see these successful businesses as a way to fund a bloated federal government. President Obama’s Party has demonstrated no interest in seriously reducing spending."
Click on the document above for a copy of the letter.