Tags: Why | Love | Labor | Unions

Why I Love Labor Unions

Wednesday, 09 January 2002 12:00 AM

I was in Las Vegas the weekend before Sept. 11. No, I don't gamble, but I just love the activity that surrounds that place. Vegas, you may know, was largely born of corruption – and where you find corruption you are sure to find labor unions. Yup, unions are a power force out there in Sin City.

Following the terrorist attacks, Las Vegas was suffering. In some of the hotels the occupancy rate was down to as little as 20 percent. That's not good. Resort operators were losing their asses. It was time to make cuts.

One of the ways to make cuts? Go to the biggest item in your budget – labor. Massive layoffs were in store.

A recent column by Kerri Houston in Investors Business Daily brings us an interesting story about the Las Vegas Culinary Workers Union Local 226. This union has 25,000 members in Las Vegas. That makes the Culinary Workers Union a strong one indeed.

Kerri Houston informs us that the Las Vegas resort operators had a plan. They were going to go to the Culinary Workers Union and ask for a little flexibility in scheduling. They wanted to be able to reduce some workers' hours.

The resorts wanted to be able to make day-to-day determinations on whether or not to cut some shifts short and send workers home early. This would be a violation of the union contract, so the permission of the culinary union had to be obtained.

Permission denied. The Culinary Workers Union told the resort operators that the contract must be adhered to.

Houston reports that "Within a few days 15,000 workers, nearly 25% of Culinary 226's 50,000 rank and file members, lost their jobs."

These union members lost their jobs – were laid off – because their union refused to allow simple changes in work hours while Vegas was suffering from the effects of the terrorist attacks.

But wait! There's more to this story!

Houston also tells us about the Venetian Hotel-Resort-Casino in Las Vegas. At the Venetian only 100 workers were laid off. Other workers had their hours adjusted in accordance with hotel occupancy. Now almost all of the 100 workers who were laid off are back on the job.

So, what's so different about the Venetian? How could the Venetian adjust worker hours when business was slow, thus saving jobs?

The Venetian is non-union.

Eight years ago, shortly after Bill Campbell became mayor, there was a memorable press conference featuring Campbell and some city worker union leaders. The press conference was called by Campbell to make one of the most amazingly irresponsible, anti-taxpayer statements that I have ever heard from a public official anywhere, any time.

Campbell was there to tell the city of Atlanta that he would not support any proposal brought before him or the city council for improving the efficiency of city government, or for saving the taxpayers money, if that proposal would cost one single union job.

Just incredible! Here was Bill Campbell saying that his absolute, drop-dead, first priority as the mayor of Atlanta was to preserve every single government employee union job. Any efforts to streamline government and to save money would come second to that primary goal.

In the years that followed, Atlanta city government became the most bloated, expensive government in the nation for any city of comparable size.

This week Bill Campbell is gone. No great Cabinet appointment awaited him in Washington, as he had long hoped. The best he could do was a talk television show that few people will ever see on some urban-oriented cable channel and a figurehead position with some entrepreneur trying to create an empire of urban programmed radio stations.

Atlanta's new mayor, Shirley Franklin, is left with the financial problems that were largely created by Bill Campbell. She's looked at the books and isn't thrilled. Campbell said that the budget shortfall would be around $45 million. That's not quite right. The real figure will be about $75 million.

Franklin has already cut the number of staffers who report directly to the mayor by about one-half. That's 60 people hitting the streets. Sixty people the taxpayers didn't need to be paying. She's also ordered department heads to figure out how to make harsh cuts.

Let's just hope that this radio company that Campbell is going to work for doesn't put him in charge of the finances.

The first idea is simply to eliminate the city of Atlanta!

Look … the population of the Atlanta metro area is well over 4 million people. The population of the actual city of Atlanta is just around 400,000 people. Can you do the math? Atlanta's actual population represents around 10 percent of the total metro population.

It's time for the Georgia Legislature to just revoke the charter for the city of Atlanta. Let Atlanta merge into the Fulton County government.

Right now, people who live inside the city limits bear a double tax burden … paying city as well as county taxes. Many services are duplicated. It's a wholly inefficient system and someone needs to generate the political courage needed to make the change.

The second idea – sell or lease Hartsfield International Airport!

Hartsfield is always rated as the world's busiest or second-busiest airport. It is the single largest factor in Georgia's economy. Tens of millions of dollars in revenue are generated there every single year – and not one penny of that revenue goes to the entity that owns the airport, the city of Atlanta.

Here's a simple question for you. You own a huge asset. That asset generates huge amounts of revenue, but the law prevents you from taking one single penny.

You could, however, lease that asset to a private entity. That entity would be allowed to operate the asset on a for-profit basis and, accordingly, that entity would be making a huge lease payment to you every year.

Can you tell me what sort of a financial idiot would say "No, I don't want to make any money from this asset, I just want to own it and control it"?

The question for the city council and mayor is this. Which is more important? Having Hartsfield around to be used for political patronage, or turning Hartsfield into a giant revenue producer for the city?

Bill Campbell needed Hartsfield around to use as a reward system for political contributors and friends. It's time to put it to another use.

I wonder how much better off our legal system would be in this country if lawyers could be educated by people other than law professors.

Spokesmen from Arab groups are ticked off that the INS is concentrating on finding men from Middle Eastern countries who have violated the terms of their visas ... so they can be kicked out of the country. The Arab groups say that there are far more Hispanics with expired visas in this country than Arabs. Give me a big-time break here. When a group of Hispanic terrorists kills a few thousand Americans, then the INS can start concentrating its search on chicken processing plants and home construction sites.

Why did WSB-AM drop a politician from its line-up when it was discovered that the federal government was investigating that politician for possible criminal activity – and KISS 104.1 FM add a politician to its line-up after the feds started investigating him for like crimes?

I watched President Bush slobbering all over that sot Ted Kennedy in Boston yesterday. Now I know how I would feel if my daughter started dating O.J. Simpson.

A listener wrote me yesterday for the correct spelling of the word "myrmidon." If every myrmidon out there could read that definition and recognize himself, we would immediately be a stronger and freer country. No, I'm not going to give it to you. Look it up.

This didn't make much news yesterday … but news it is, and good news. The U.S. Supreme Court has taken a big step in correcting some of the hideous results of one of the worst pieces of legislation passed by the Congress in the last 25 years – the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Over the last 10 years many people have used the ADA to browbeat employers and public agencies into making expensive concessions to employees for supposed disabilities that had no general adverse impact on the individual.

I'll try to amplify that a bit. Let's say an employee was working at one particular task. Gradually that employee develops some sort of repetitive stress injury that makes performing that particular task more difficult. The boss decides to move the employee to another job.

Unfortunately, that job pays a bit less. The employee demands that the boss find a way to accommodate him on the job he used to have, but the employer refuses. The fix would just be too expensive. So, the employee heads to court and files his ADA suit.

Well – now that employee would most likely be out of luck. The Supreme Court has ruled that the proper test of a covered disability is not whether or not the employee can perform some specific task, but rather whether or not the employee has a disability that prevents the person from performing actions "that are of central importance to most people's daily lives."

I remember one case in Florida where a government school principal managed to keep his job after being arrested and convicted of shoplifting. He claimed that his shoplifting was a result of a disability, kleptomania. I wonder how he would argue that his kleptomania keeps him from performing actions that are of central importance to most people's daily lives.

Maybe we're about to see a slowdown in the tyranny by’ the handicapped.

The Justice Department wants to deport thousands of men who have overstayed their visas. In particular, they want to get men from countries where al-Qaeda has had a strong presence, i.e., Middle Eastern countries.

The problem is that Arab groups are raising the racism/ethnicism/whatever-ism flag and saying that it is unfair to single out a particular group for action. They point out that there are many other groups besides Middle Eastern men whose visas have expired as well, primarily from Central and South America.

"The government has every right to try to deport persons who should not be in this country, but it is unconscionable to proceed with this effort based on a hierarchy of concern that is ethnically defined,'' said Ziad Asali, president of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Excuse me? Is Ziad Asali saying that were the FBI to launch a search for Klan members they would have to search in "the hood" just to be fair?

The answer is simple here, folks – enforce the law! There are literally hundreds of thousands of people with expired visas out there and we don't know where they are or what they're doing. Find the ones who are most likely to be terrorists and deport them first, then go after all the rest. That is nothing less than pure, simple, unadulterated common sense.

These are people who made an agreement when they entered this country to stay their allotted time and then either leave or renew their visas. In effect, they signed a contract with the U.S. government and now they're reneging.

It doesn't matter if they're terrorists or farm workers or doctors or scientists or college professors or meat packers ... if they don't follow the laws of this country, they don't need to be here. Pure and simple.

Blame it on the zits.

Reports are now coming out that Charles Bishop, the 15-year-old suicide pilot in Tampa, was taking an acne medication that has been linked to a small number of suicides.

Accutane is an oral medication that has been used to successfully treat severe acne since 1982. Estimates are that 12 million pimple-pusses have taken it and the FDA reports that 147 people have either committed or attempted suicide while on the drug.

The police labeled Bishop as a troubled loner, but friends, family and teachers are all in agreement saying that isn't true. They say he was a good kid and no one was ever given any reason to suspect he might do such a thing – that it was totally out of character for the teen.

It's a strange case that seems to be getting stranger.

Instead of punishing private pilots for the actions of this kid, let's screen kids with zits out of flight schools.

The Clinton administration (including "Mr. Green Schemes," Al Gore) implemented a plan for high-mileage cars. Their billion-dollar program called for the auto industry to develop cars that would get up to 70 miles a gallon by using lighter alloys and more efficient engines.

Well, the Bush administration has announced plans to scrap the Clinton plan and push to develop new cars that use hydrogen fuel cell technology instead.

This is the only sane long-term idea, because this takes us completely away from dependence on foreign AND domestic oil. The only byproduct of hydrogen fuel cells is environmentally friendly water. One of the ways to get hydrogen is from natural gas – something we have an abundance of – and it appears that fuel cell cars could be on the market in as little as 5-10 years.

This is a brilliant political, economic, and even national security move on Bush's part. It trumps the Dems on the issues of Big Oil and ANWR, it completely changes our politics toward the Middle East, it sparks a new technology boom, which could spur the economy, and it even succeeds environmentally where Al Gore failed ... bringing an end to the internal combustion engine.

And that, friends, will have OPEC countries shaking in their boots.

Don't look for Bush to get any credit for this, though. That just wouldn't be politically correct.

I've mentioned several times that Georgia Senator Zell Miller and I have a long history. I've also mentioned that I've been pleasantly surprised at his performance so far, as the appointment to finish the term of the late Sen. Paul Coverdale.

It's amazing to see the difference in him as a Democrat governor (beholden to the party) and seemingly as his own man in the role of senator. He has been a far better Republican than "Jumpin' Jim" Jeffords (the Godfather's term) was – even when Jeffords was a Republican.

Hell, if I didn't know better, I'd say that Zell was even toying with Libertarian leanings.

Anyway, Miller is among the many Democrats who are calling Tom Daschle's latest criticism of the Bush tax cut bull hockey. As co-sponsor of the tax cut, Miller said Daschle's comments made neither political nor economic sense.

"Maybe it's at a level my brain can't reach," he said. "How do you have as one of your highest priorities to re-elect the moderate Democrats from South Dakota, Montana and Missouri on one hand, then on the other hand blame them for voting for a tax cut that he maintains has created this recession? Hello?"

Keep it up, Zell. You're making a believer out of us.

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I was in Las Vegas the weekend before Sept. 11.No, I don't gamble, but I just love the activity that surrounds that place. Vegas, you may know, was largely born of corruption - and where you find corruption you are sure to find labor unions.Yup, unions are a power...
Wednesday, 09 January 2002 12:00 AM
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