- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2009

LABOR

Unions win more organizing elections

New data showing labor unions won nearly two-thirds of private ballot organizing elections last year is prompting some business groups to question the need for Congress to pass a bill that would make it even easier to form unions.

Union officials say the latest figures from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) are misleading because anti-union intimidation prevents many elections from happening at all.

Unions won 63 percent of representation elections conducted by the NLRB in fiscal 2008, a 4 percent increase from the previous year and the highest level since the mid-1950s, according to figures released last week.

“This new data clearly demonstrates that the current system, if anything, is working to the unions’ advantage,” said Daniel Yager, chief policy officer of the HR Policy Association, a group of 250 Fortune 500 companies.

Labor leaders are urging Congress to pass a bill that would take away an employer’s right to demand a secret ballot election when workers want to organize a union. The Employee Free Choice Act - also known as card check - would instead permit a union to be certified if a majority of workers at a plant sign union authorization cards.

SENATE

Ridge considers run against Specter

HARRISBURG, Pa. | Tom Ridge, the former governor who became the nation’s first homeland security chief, may challenge Sen. Arlen Specter in the state next year, Republican Party leaders confirmed Tuesday.

“He’s considering it,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Washington.

Bob Asher, the state’s Republican national committeeman, said he met with Mr. Ridge in recent days and urged him to run.

“Governor Ridge is very serious about considering to run, and he is weighing his options,” Mr. Asher said.

Mr. Ridge and Mr. Specter, who last week switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, are two of Pennsylvania’s best-known politicians.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday showed Mr. Specter and Mr. Ridge running about even in a hypothetical general-election race.

SENATE

Bunning hedges on re-election bid

FRANKFORT, Ky. | Republican Sen. Jim Bunning said Tuesday he’ll reconsider running for a third term if he doesn’t meet his fundraising goals.

Over the past several months, Mr. Bunning has continued to insist he’s still in the race even as Republican leaders have sent not-so-subtle signals that he should bow out rather than face what will likely be a strong Democratic challenge.

On Tuesday, he slammed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, blaming his fellow Kentucky Republican for losing Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter to the Democrats and costing the party Senate seats.

Mr. McConnell hasn’t publicly asked Mr. Bunning to retire but hasn’t endorsed him for re-election next year. And Mr. Bunning said Tuesday that he may think twice about running if he continues to have trouble raising money. He says he’ll need about $7 million, but he had less than $400,000 in the bank as of the end of March.

“We’re working like the devil to make those goals,” Mr. Bunning said.

Though he’s encouraged Secretary of State Trey Grayson to form an exploratory committee, Mr. Bunning says that doesn’t mean he’s retiring.

BOOK

Caroline Kennedy depicted as angry

ALBANY, N.Y. | A new book paints a picture of an intense, angry Caroline Kennedy bent on extending her family’s legacy in the U.S. Senate only to end her quest when her children no longer recognized their cool, composed mother.

The book is by Edward Klein, a best-selling author who’s been accused of using hearsay in other biographies.

“Ted Kennedy: The Dream That Never Dies” is excerpted in the June issue of Vanity Fair. The excerpt says Ms. Kennedy told New York Gov. David A. Paterson she was withdrawing from consideration for the Senate seat because her children and husband felt she was becoming a different person.

The book shows jockeying inside the family to carry on the tradition of public service through politics after Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was diagnosed with brain cancer.

In pursuing the appointment, she became “loud, harsh and grating,” the book said, quoting a veteran lawyer who spoke with her.

The book also says she was angry when Mr. Paterson didn’t immediately name her to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Senate.

It was her children who “jerked Caroline back to reality,” the book said. “What would her mother [Jackie] think of all this tabloid attention she was getting? … That’s when Caroline called Paterson and told him she was withdrawing her name.”

PREGNANCY

Bristol Palin joins campaign for teens

ANCHORAGE, Alaska | Unwed mother Bristol Palin is going to take part in a national campaign to help raise awareness for teen pregnancy prevention.

The 18-year-old daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been appointed as a Teen Ambassador for the Candie’s Foundation.

Miss Palin will participate in a town hall meeting Wednesday in New York.

She said in a statement that she feels she could be a living example of the consequences of teen pregnancy.

“If I can prevent even one girl from getting pregnant, I will feel a sense of accomplishment,” she said.

Miss Palin gave birth Dec. 27 to a boy named Tripp. She and the boy’s father, Levi Johnston, are no longer a couple.

EDUCATION

Duncan begins ‘listening tour’

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. | Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former big-city schools chief, traveled through rural terrain Tuesday as he asked educators and parents how the Obama administration should overhaul the No Child Left Behind law.

Mr. Duncan is from Chicago, but he made West Virginia the first stop on a 15-state “listening tour.”

“I think the challenges are very similar,” Mr. Duncan told the Associated Press in an interview. “I know there are high-performing schools in every state in the country, and what’s important to me is to really understand what enables them to beat the odds.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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