- The Washington Times - Friday, June 12, 2009

Condom unions

Pro-union organizations are waging war on a major pharmacy chain because it keeps condoms locked up in some of its stores.

But not the store they chose for a protest Thursday.

Change to Win, a coalition of labor organizations, held a news conference outside a Dupont Circle CVS on Thursday urging the drugstore to enact a corporate policy of keeping condoms unlocked at all times.

However, when The Washington Times called the store at 6 Dupont Circle NW, the person who took the call, who declined to be named, said that store’s condoms are not locked up. A trip to the store later confirmed this.

Also, given that Change to Win’s “CureCVS” accuses the drugstore of limiting access to HIV/AIDS prevention in predominantly minority areas, it seems odd to choose a wealthy neighborhood known as a gay mecca to make the point.

Information released by Change to Win says the campaign was created “to ensure CVS provides equal access across all communities and income levels to its stores and services, offers fair and accurate prices, provides quality products and services, protects customers’ privacy and puts quality pharmacy care first.”

CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis said Change to Win is being “misleading” and “deceptive” about his company’s policies for political gain. “All CVS stores sell condoms that are unlocked and accessible,” he said.

“In stores where condoms have been heavily shoplifted, a selection of condoms may be kept in a locked display to ensure that there is stock available for customers to purchase,” Mr. DeAngelis said. “This decision is based on the theft experience of the store, not its specific location. In stores that have a locked condom display, we maintain a selection of condoms that are not locked and are available for customers to purchase without asking for assistance from store employees.”

He also accused Change to Win of starting this campaign as retribution against CVS for refusing to waive its employees’ rights to have union elections done by secret ballot.

Big business dare

Business groups are daring President Obama to impose pay caps on labor union bosses in light of indications the White House will limit how much corporate executives can be paid.

Mr. Obama has argued that “corporate greed” has contributed to the economic crisis and appointed a “compensation czar” to review executive pay for several companies receiving taxpayer bailout money. Now White House officials have told the press that legislation should be enacted to limit executive pay in private companies through nonbinding shareholder votes.

The Workforce Fairness Institute, which has lobbied heavily for the defeat of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would ease organization rules for unions, argues that labor officials have acted just as poorly as the “greedy corporate executives” who the president has blamed for the economic downturn. The group points to a 2008 Hudson Institute study that suggests unions have short-changed benefits for their rank and file in favor of generous executive compensation packages and to pad the coffers of their political allies, who are mostly Democrats, as evidence.

“On average, the 21 largest unions’ pension plans had less than 70 percent of the funds that they would need to cover their total obligations, and none were fully funded,” the study said. “Seven were less than 65 percent funded. Yet 23 officer and staff funds from the same unions had 88.2 percent of the funding they would need to pay promised pensions, including seven full-funded plans and another 13 with at least 80 percent of the required funds.”

Business leaders who oppose plans to limit executive pay say if it is to be passed, labor unions must be included as well.

“Given that union bosses’ job performances have yet to be scrutinized despite numerous, credible reports that they have engaged in ‘creative accounting’ and have mismanaged and underfunded worker pension plans, while wholly funding their own, is deplorable,” said Katie Packer, executive director of the Workforce Fairness Institute.

Frank walks off

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, became so frustrated during an interview on CNBC about executive pay legislation he ripped his earpiece out and walked off camera.

CNBC host Mark Haines has been a critic of executive pay compensation legislation in the past, calling the increased calls for regulation “scary.” Mr. Frank supports limiting pay by giving nonbinding shareholders more power to limit it and didn’t like Mr. Haines questions about it.

“I hate to burn down the house here, but it seems to me you are dealing with a model that no longer works because we don’t have mom and pop sitting at home holding these shares,” Mr. Haines said. “The shares are primarily in mutual funds and the ownership is a derivatives instrument and I don’t see how you get there.”

After some squabbling, Mr. Haines said, “My point is the shareholder is at arms length to begin with.”

“Do you want to lose me?” Mr. Frank fumed before abruptly ending the interview. “Do you want to lose me? I’m trying to respond to your misrepresentation. I apologize but this interview is over. I get three different questions, different angles. I try to respond but you want to interrupt me, you don’t like what I’m saying - you can find someone else to interview.”

“Fine, goodbye, sir,” Mr. Haines retorted.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at [email protected]

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