Friday Funnies #2, Via the SEIU

The union whose president leads the world in visits to the White House this year has shown what is at the heart of its quest to help mankind -- a  naked power grab.

In pursuit of an Eagle Scout badge, Kevin Anderson, 17, has toiled for more than 200 hours hours over several weeks to clear a walking path in an east Allentown park.

Little did the do-gooder know that his altruistic act would put him in the cross hairs of the city's largest municipal union.

Nick Balzano, president of the local Service Employees International Union, told Allentown City Council Tuesday that the union is considering filing a grievance against the city for allowing Anderson to clear a 1,000-foot walking and biking path at Kimmets Lock Park.

"We'll be looking into the Cub Scout or Boy Scout who did the trails," Balzano told the council.

Balzano said Saturday he isn't targeting Boy Scouts. But given the city's decision in July to lay off 39 SEIU members, Balzano said "there's to be no volunteers." No one except union members may pick up a hoe or shovel, plant a flower or clear a walking path.

via Alex Tabarrok

  • Michael

    The SEIU is making a great case for people to amend their state's constitution to ban government from contracting with unions. Let the unions remain, just prevent government from hiring their members.

  • perlhaqr

    Makes me wanna go volunteer on an Eagle Scout project.

  • Fred from Canuckistan . . .

    The crazy part is this union dufus doesn't see or sense he is doing anything wrong, that ordinary people would feel what he is doing is wrong.

    Of course, this is the SEIU, the same union that fought off attempts when its own office staff attempted to, you guessed it, form a local a join a union.

  • Ken

    You and me both, perlhaqr.

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  • Ian Random

    Let's see if yuppie grocery stores try to merge, it's a monopoly threat and must be looked into. Yet if a labor monopoly forms, that doesn't warrant the same attention.

  • epobirs

    And the union's explanation for how the park came into such a state under the well-paid union members' care?

  • smurfy

    Boy am I lucky no body complained to OSHA about all the underage laborers that worked on my Eagle Scout project.

  • MikeLoe

    This reminds me of the absurdity here where I live. Volunteers wanted to build park swings and slides but were stopped because of idiotic prevailing wage laws. Below is a newspaper article regarding this.

    "It's understandable — if not forgivable — that the state Legislature would have such a hard time passing a budget. It's tough to close a $15 billion deficit, especially when you need two-thirds of the politically polarized lawmakers to agree.

    It's baffling, however, that the Legislature would stumble over a simple bill that 99 percent of Californians would enthusiastically embrace.

    Yet a measure that would allow volunteers to lend their Saturday mornings to helping build playgrounds, cut trails and clean up creeks has been hung up in committee. If the Legislature doesn't act by the session's end this weekend, agencies that allow volunteers on public projects would be breaking the law.

    How could it be illegal to volunteer? Welcome to California. Under a bizarre interpretation of the state's labor laws a few years back, any project using public money must pay prevailing wage even to church youth groups, service clubs and California Conservation Corps crews.

    The legal risk isn't hypothetical. The Redding-based Sacramento Watersheds Action Group was fined in 2004 over its use of student volunteers. That incident pushed the Legislature to exempt volunteers from prevailing-wage laws, but the law sunsets this year and needs renewal.

    Recognizing the obvious — it happens, even in Sacramento — the state Assembly in May passed without dissent a bill, AB 2537, to extend the exemption until 2012. (It should have been made permanent, but that's another story.)

    A later Senate amendment, though, required a study of volunteers' effects on public works projects. That study would cost money. Money's tight. Thus the bill is on ice in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    The study is overkill anyway. Some unions fear that volunteers would steal paid jobs, or that employers might force workers to "volunteer" on projects. The first "problem" is nonsensical: The demand for public works far exceeds the money available, so the choice is not between doing a job with volunteers or with union labor, but between building a park or leaving a vacant lot in weeds. As for the potential strong-arming of volunteers, California's labor laws already bar that kind of treatment.

    No, this prevailing-wage rule wouldn't protect workers. It would simply stand in the way of community projects like the March construction of a playground by volunteers at Redding's Alta Mesa Park.

    There's an easy solution here: Drop the needless and costly study and simply extend the volunteer exemption. Community-minded Californians deserve no less.

    And if our lawmakers can't manage that job, it shouldn't be hard to find a few volunteers who can."

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