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web posted August 16, 1999

Court dismisses Wal-Mart appeal

Global retailing giant Wal-Mart is considering its options after losing the first round in a bitter labour fight at its only unionized store.

On August 10, an Ontario court turned down Wal-Mart's request for a judicial review of a January decision by the Ontario Labour Relations Board which upheld the wording of a 1997 contract ratification ballot.

The labour board validated the wording of the ballot used by the United Steelworkers of America to get approval for its first contract negotiations at a city store in December 1997.

The court not only upheld that decision on but also awarded costs to the union.

Wal-Mart is "disappointed by the decision," spokesman Andrew Pelletier said that night. Pelletier said the company is considering an appeal.

The court found the labour board acted correctly in accepting the wording of the ballot, which asked eligible voters to choose between accepting the tentative contract or authorizing a strike.

Wal-Mart had argued that the ballot violated changes to the Labour Relations Act invoked in 1995.

"The ballot did not provide the Windsor associates with a clear choice," Pelletier said. He said it offered the option of a strike or accepting a contract the workers had already rejected.

The decision was "consistent with the specific provisions of the (Labour Relations) Act, and with the scheme of the act," the court said in its dismissal.

Steelworkers spokesman Tom Collins said Wal-Mart is using legal challenges to delay implementing the first contract.

"Because of their zeal to fight the union, the benefits of having a contract and belonging to the union have been withheld from everyone," said Collins.

Wal-Mart, its employees and the union have been at three-way odds since May 1996, when the Steelworkers first tried to organize the workers.

The employees voted to reject certifying the union by an overwhelming 151-43 but the union accused the company with intimidating the workers and the labour board ordered certification.

The union has tried unsuccessfully twice to organize two other Wal-Mart stores in B.C.

In a separate challenge before the Ontario labour board, some Windsor employees have asked that the collective bargaining agreement be thrown out, saying the union fabricated the results of the vote.

The labour board last month reserved its decision on that allegation.

Nearly 20 similar complaints involving labour relations at the Windsor store are before the board.

Smith to go with U.S. Taxpayers Party

U.S. Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire announced on August 10 he would run for president as the candidate of the U.S. Taxpayers Party, urging conservatives to "come home" to their core beliefs.

Smith quit the Republican Party on July 13, saying it had abandoned its conservative platform on key issues such as abortion and gun control. At the time, sources close to his campaign said they expected him to run as the Taxpayers Party's candidate.

"If conservatives believe in the right to life, the Second Amendment, a strong constitutional government going to our constitutional rights, I believe I'm your person," he said in a telephone news conference. "Come home conservatives, and Bob Smith will be the next president of the United States."

Party Chairman William Shearer said he expected Smith to win the party's nomination at its convention in September. Smith also wants the party to change its name to the Conservative Party.

"I think there isn't any question he will get the nomination overwhelmingly," Shearer said.

Smith, who consistently drew little support in early Republican presidential polls, even in his home state, said he hoped to unite other disaffected conservatives in his independent run for the presidency.

"This is a serious, serious endeavor by me. I intend to unite the conservative movement and (the other parties) are scared to death of it. This is going to be a grassroots effort that is going to take from the Democrats and the Republicans."

The Taxpayers Party's platform calls for repealing the federal income tax, abolishing welfare and appointing judges who "acknowledge the legal personhood of the unborn child." It also says education cannot be separated from religious faith.

The founder of the 7-year-old party, Howard Phillips, appeared on the ballot in 39 states in 1996, but drew only 180 000 votes. Phillips and other party officials have said he was a placeholder for the party, which had hoped to attract a candidate with a higher profile in national politics. Smith will be taking on that role.

China to attack if Taipei refuses to drop statehood claim

Beijing has decided to use military force against Taiwan if Taipei refuses to abandon President Lee Teng-hui's recent declaration of statehood, a Hong Kong newspaper reported on August 11.

The South China Morning Post said the Chinese were considering an "appropriate degree of force," but the only option mentioned was the invasion and temporary occupation of an outlying island held by Taipei.

The newspaper, citing unidentified Beijing sources, said Chinese leaders are split over the timing, with hard-liners favoring military action soon after Oct. 1, China's National Day, while moderates prefer waiting until Taiwan's presidential elections next March.

The moderates argued that Beijing should only take action if the new president refuses to back down from Lee's declaration that Beijing must deal with Taiwan on a "state-to-state" basis, the report said.

Top Chinese leaders agreed on the battle plan at the top-level, closed door meetings at the seaside resort of Beidaihe, where Beijing leaders converge every summer to make important decisions, the Post said.

President Jiang Zemin, Premier Zhu Rongji and Central Military Committee Chairman Chi Haotian usually attend these meetings, but their presence could not be independently confirmed.

Tensions between China and Taiwan have risen to a three-year high since Lee's declaration in July, which was seen by Beijing as a major step toward formal independence for the island.

China views Taiwan as a renegade province and says it will use military force if Taiwan ever seeks formal independence. The two sides split politically in a 1949 civil war.

Military activity has heightened over the Taiwan Strait separating Taiwan and mainland China since Lee's remarks.

Lee and his deputies have stood by his statehood claims despite military pressure from Beijing and political pressure from Washington.

The Post said that the Chinese leadership has agreed that several top Chinese government units, including the Central Military Commission and the Leading Group on Taiwan, have been granted authority to determine the timing and severity of military action.

Labor leader says Springer could 'be our Forbes'

One of the big political forces in Ohio - organized labor - has taken a hard look at TV talk show host Jerry Springer and decided he could have been the ticket.

With fame and wealth at his disposal, Springer as the Democratic Party's nominee could make next year's race against freshman Sen. Mike DeWine competitive and interesting, labor leaders said August 11.

"Something needs shaken up before we get the plain old, money-inherited, plaid-shirted DeWine again," said state AFL-CIO President William Burga.

The most experienced Democrats in Ohio have taken a pass on the chance to run against the first-term Republican. Only Richard Cordray, a former state representative with little statewide name recognition, is exploring a candidacy.

The United Steelworkers' state political director, Dan Martin, said Springer would arrive with the same irresistible political asset as millionaire publisher/presidential candidate Steve Forbes: wealth.

"We have a chance with this guy," he said. "He can raise money and what he can't raise, he's got.

"He'd be our Forbes."

Martin said his labor friends in Cincinnati remember Springer as a pro-labor Democrat during terms as councilman and mayor, and serious, though unsuccessful candidate for governor.

A possible Springer candidacy was discussed at the Ohio AFL-CIO's recent board meeting, and "there was no opposition," said Martin, who participated in the discussion.

"Maybe he would stir this party up and get people thinking that they could participate, they could run, too," Burga said from Columbus, Ohio. "I think it's good that Springer's stirring the pot up."

The possibility of a Springer candidacy was first floated by an old friend in Cincinnati, Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke.

At an invitation-only breakfast with selected reporters, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle said "I think he is a joke," and suggested Springer would be unwelcome in the Democratic caucus.

Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, said that he would not appear on the same campaign stage with a candidate Springer. "He hurts people. He abuses damaged, vulnerable people for his own purpose. I think what he does with his TV show is despicable."

Unfortunately, however, all of this is moot. Springer announced at the end of the week that although the idea remained attractive, he would not be running for the Senate.

Beatty reportedly flirting with White House race

Unlike the current liberal in the White House, this guy would at least talent and an attractive wife. A report in the August 12 edition of The New York Times says Hollywood actor-director-producer Warren Beatty is considering running for President of the United States in 2000.

"It's no secret that I am a liberal Democrat," Beatty told the Times. "I have some very strong feelings, the most important of which at the moment is campaign finance reform because its tentacles reach into every other issue. I fear we're getting closer to a plutocracy than we want to, and I believe that deep down the people want to do something about that."

The article says Beatty is unhappy with the current candidates for the Democratic nomination -- Vice President Al Gore and former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley -- and may position himself as a liberal alternative.

Beatty reportedly suggests he might even seek the nomination of the Reform Party, founded by Ross Perot. He's said to have talked about having met with liberals who helped campaign for civil rights leader and CNN talk-show host Rev. Jesse Jackson. Those people reportedly include Steve Cobble, a former political director for Jackson's National Rainbow Coalition, and Robert Borosage, who's worked for progressive advocacy organizations.

Ellen Miller, who leads Public Campaign -- a Washington-based group that calls for campaign finance reform -- told the Times that Beatty has spoken with her.

"He's thinking about this very seriously," the article quotes Miller as saying. "He's thought a lot about it in the last few weeks."

Beatty told the newspaper he doesn't see himself as the best possible candidate. "There certainly should be someone better," he tells Times reporter Richard L. Berke. "That's not to say that I don't have very strong feelings on a lot of things that aren't being spoken."

Can you imagine the bimbo eruptions around Beatty?

Beatty indicates that he has been approached about running. "It's kind of an awkward thing, " he says. "I don't think anybody should be in a position of having to say, 'Please don't say things like this to me.' I want to be very respectful of the people who have made the suggestion to me."

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