a service of NPRI

July 13, 2005 
Vol. 1, No. 21


The Strange Debate

By Steven Miller

If you’re getting  the impression that something about the on-going spat between union chiefs in the AFL-CIO federation doesn’t quite compute, you’re not alone.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) boss Andrew Stern and his allies say they want to restructure Big Labor so that it can more often “win.” If they can’t get the go-ahead from the other federation brass (and federation President John Sweeney’s job), they very well may split in order to build something “new.” Even for many union insiders, however, that explanation doesn’t quite work.

An example is Matt Noyes, a staffer with the Association for Union Democracy, a union reform group. After the March meeting in Las Vegas of the AFL-CIO’s executive committee, he published an article on the LaborNotes.org website titled, “My Union President Went to Vegas… and All I Got Was This Strange Debate.”

The discord between the two groups is strange, said Noyes, “because both sides agree on so much: they express their fear that labor’s decline could turn into collapse, complain bitterly of the anti-labor bias of the government and the administration, bemoan the difficulties of organizing and bargaining in a changing economy.” Moreover, both sides admit that union leadership failures and lack of strategy have played a big part in Big Labor’s decline, and both sides agree, essentially, on the current priorities they prescribe for labor: new organizing and political action.


Why Are Unions Spending Member Dues on Politics?

The Washington Times

As the annual
AFL-CIO convention approaches later this month, amid threats by some of its largest unions to bolt the labor federation for lack of organizing funds, it is worth asking a couple of questions. First, how much does Big Labor spend helping the Democratic Party? Second, is Big Labor getting its money’s worth?

The answer to the second question is easy: It has to be a resounding “No.” After all, Big Labor and the Democrats have lost the last two presidential elections. Also, the Democratic Party failed at the polls in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004 to recapture either the House or the Senate, both of which the party lost in the anti-Clinton revolution of 1994.

Regarding the answer to the first question, nobody knows for sure how much Big Labor spends on the Democratic Party. However, it is a safe bet that during each two-year election cycle, hundreds of millions of dollars slushes into union treasuries from members’ paychecks and out to the Democratic Party, both directly and indirectly. Leo Troy, a labor economist at Rutgers University who testified before Congress a decade ago, estimated then that Big Labor spent about $500 million supporting the Democratic Party in each two-year election cycle.


Supply-Side Surge

New York Sun

The director of the Office of Management and Budget, Joshua Bolten, will submit the White House’s mid-session review of the federal budget to Congress today, with some good news for those who believe the federal budget deficit has been too big. Just last February, Mr. Bolten was predicting a 2005 deficit of $427 billion, about 3.5% of America’s gross domestic product. But the betting is that today’s estimate will reduce that number by about $100 billion.

The new chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Ben Bernanke, hinted about the numbers in an address at the American Enterprise Institute yesterday, saying that the deficit may fall well below projected levels because of growing tax revenue. “Estimates of growth in wage and salary income have been revised upward substantially, raising the possibility that the labor market may be even stronger than we thought,” he said.


WHY BusinessNevada

Law firm to investigate trademark policies

By Steven Mihailovich
LV Business Press

An independent investigation headed by a San Francisco law firm will examine the $1 deal for which the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority sold the rights to its popular slogan -- "What Happens Here, Stays Here."

The San Francisco-based law firm of Morrison and Foerster, a trademark specialist, was hired by the LVCVA's 13-member board to review the arrangement between the LVCVA and its advertising firm, R&R Partners.


Nevada’s eminent-domain battles may be different

By Alana Roberts

Although the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that government bodies can take away private property in the interest of economic development, the Nevada Legislature has made the process more difficult.

The Legislature passed two bills during the recent session that make it more difficult for governmental bodies to take private property. One revises Nevada law so that it requires governmental bodies to meet four out of nine criteria to condemn a piece of property before taking it. The other forces governmental bodies who take land for open space projects to pay the property owners not only for the property but also for “goodwill” costs such as lost business income.


Intellectual property
Nevada’s Canadian drug scheme faces challenges

By Valerie Miller
LV Business Press

Oncologist Dr. Arnold Wax is passionate when he talks about skyrocketing drug prices in the United States. The Southern Nevada physician has seen his patients make difficult choices. Some have had to skimp on buying potentially lifesaving drugs while substituting cheaper, less-effective, alternatives in their place.

So far none have paid with their lives, said Wax, who is a doctor with the Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada. "Some certainly had side effects because they did not fill them and got sicker, and sometimes we had to come up with some alternative that was maybe not as effective."

University Medical Center Director of Pharmacy Don Frisch thinks the poor will have a tough time using Nevada's Canadian drug importation system.

State lawmakers like Assemblywoman Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said they wanted to give people like that a better choice when they passed Senate Bill 5 at the end of the recently concluded Nevada legislative session. The bill paved the way for Nevadans to order their medications from state-regulated online pharmacies in Canada. Before the ink could dry on the new law, however, Canadian government officials began looking at restricting drug exports to the United States.


Qualcomm center may
lead to NLV tech boom

By Alana Roberts

Qualcomm Inc.’s planned 265,000 square-foot facility is a big deal for North Las Vegas and Nevada, Silver State politicians said this week.

The fact that North Las Vegas is getting the San Diego-based technology firm’s new secure network operations center indicates the city is off to a good start in the effort to attract a diverse group of companies to Nevada, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday.


AFL-CIO Trying to Prevent Defections

Dissident Faction Growing in Strength

by Will Lester
Associated Press

The AFL-CIO is doing all it can to minimize defections from the nationwide federation of almost 60 unions, but may not be able to prevent the departure of its largest union.

Adjacent Column

The Strange Debate

Why Are Unions Spending Member Dues on Politics?

Some labor leaders fear the 1.8 million-member Service Employees International Union is very likely to leave the labor federation in the coming weeks. With that concern clouding the AFL-CIO’s upcoming national meeting late this month, federation leaders are eager to reach agreement on at least some differences with dissident unions.


Nevada growth
Power line debate heats up

Cities want underground wires but don’t want to pay

By Kevin Rademacher

A Battle is brewing over the fate of the state’s power lines.

Local municipalities are clamoring to have the lines buried in an effort to minimize public safety concerns over downed lines and a clutter of power poles. It also is clear that political officials and residents want the lines underground to free their view from a web of lines.

Nevada Power Co.—and its Reno-based sister utility Sierra Pacific Power Co.—want to know who will pay the increased costs of burying wires and maintaining the underground lines.


In Memoriam
John Walton’s
Quiet Legacy

By Andy Serwer

It’s a paradox: John Walton’s contributions to Wal-Mart would be difficult to calculate, but at the same time he will be almost impossible to replace.

The 58-year-old son of Sam Walton died after an experimental aircraft he was piloting crashed near the Jackson Hole, Wyo., airport on June 27. John never held any title at Wal-Mart (except, at one time, company pilot). But when his father asked him in the early ‘90s to serve on the board, John jumped at the chance, telling me in an interview last year that he was “honored” by the opportunity.

Board members say John was noted for his clearheadedness and moral compass. “He brought a different perspective to the board,” says Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott. “He wanted to increase our focus on the environment, education, and literacy. Our reputation too. ‘We can’t just brush that off,’ John would say.”

That type of non-insular thinking by an insider is critically important to the retailing giant these days. In addition to his role as a board member, John also took the lead in his family’s philanthropic efforts, pushing the Waltons to donate hundreds of millions of dollars to educational projects.


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