December 30, 2006

Weekend Question 2: What’s Wrong with Allowing ‘Card-Check’ in Union Drives?

Filed under: Business Moves,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:41 pm

ANSWER: It depends on whether you believe in free, fair, and secret-ballot elections. If you do, “card-check” is a disaster.


This issue was mentioned here a couple of months ago, and deserves to be brought up again.

Thomas Bray succinctly stated what it’s all about in his Thursday column:

….. not-so-Big Labor, which has dumped millions into organizing campaigns without much success, is scrambling for new ways to beef up its membership rolls. The latest hot idea is “card check,” in which unions demand to be recognized as the bargaining unit for a workplace if a majority of the workers merely sign a card indicating their support. Under current law, companies are required to recognize a union only after a secret ballot of the workers–and unions have been losing an increasing number of those elections.

….. Sen. Kennedy, whose bill is titled the Employee Free Choice Act, claims federal card check legislation “would level the playing field” by removing “large loopholes” in existing labor laws that supposedly allow employers to fire union organizers and intimidate workers prior to organizing elections. Union officials like Stewart Acuff, the AFL-CIO’s organizing director, complain that elections “just don’t work.”

But it’s more than a bit odd for union leaders, long proponents of what they are pleased to call “industrial democracy,” to object to the secret ballot. As for Sen. Kennedy’s claim that he merely seeks a choice for workers between card-check and a traditional ballot, imagine you are Joe Lunch Bucket on your way to work. A beefy organizer greets you at the plant gate and asks you to sign a card in favor of representation by a union. Are you really going to say no?

The fact that unions now call card-check their No. 1 legislative priority should be seen as a sign of weakness rather than strength.

The final statement from the excerpt is so true. The union movement should be able to organize via secret ballot. Workers in a few industries I can think of right away would actually benefit from being organized. The mystery is why organizers can’t make their case. Please don’t tell me it’s intimidation by employers; in most circumstances, their human-resource employees or advisers are not counseling aggressive opposition (unless attempts at treating people well count as that).

There is one reason why organizing drives aren’t cutting it that is becoming self-inflicted, and is a total mystery to me. I don’t understand why the unions don’t realize that their recent embrace of illegal immigration is undermining their attempt to organize the industries that would be the best candidates for unionization. They don’t understand why people might be reluctant to embrace a union when there is so much underpriced competition, legal and otherwise, out there. And they can’t seriously believe that unionizing illegal workers is a winning strategy — can they?

Speaking of mysteries: Why would the party of Taft-Hartley acquiesce in such an obviously undemocratic exercise as card-checkoff? Giving in, which some observers believe may happen, would be a sellout of historic and monumental proportions.

There’s a reason a secret ballot is secret. Sometimes the employer has the coercive hand; sometimes union organizers do. The secret ballot means that neither hand gets to guide the hand the employee uses to casts his or her ballot.

Stem Cell News They Don’t Think You Can Use (123006)

Filed under: Business Moves,Life-Based News,Marvels,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 12:20 pm

BizzyBlog readers can infer from the title that the news will be about adult stem cells.

The news in the past 30 days about the relevant work of Cellerant Therapeutics is outside the realm of what any casual news consumer might normally come across: a company press release that ended up being posted at three different PR news services (here, here, and here), and this article in Forbes’ December 11 issue, which I have excerpted:

Rebooting the Body
Cellerant Therapeutics aims to use purified adult stem cells to cure a host of wrenching diseases.

In a darkened laboratory off Silicon Valley’s Highway 101, a machine called a flow cytometer is sorting through 300 million white blood cells, one at a time, at a rate of up to 60,000 per second. The sorter, housed in a glass box the size of a big fish tank, is looking for blood-forming stem cells, the precursors to the body’s red and white blood cell lines. It’s a laborious process, requiring half a day to fill a chilled vial with 50 million to 150 million stem cells. But the work may be worth it. What’s inside the vial has an outside chance of being a miracle cure for a host of diseases.

The lab, run by Cellerant Therapeutics in San Carlos, California, has yet to prove anything, but its promise is great: Inject purified doses of adult blood-forming stem cells, which normally regenerate from inside bone marrow, to revive the diseased bloodstreams of sufferers of sickle-cell anemia, lupus, Crohn’s disease and Type 1 diabetes. It’s the biological equivalent of rebooting a crashed computer.

The serum’s purity is crucial: Traces of the immune system’s T cells could set off a lethal rejection by the recipient, but an absolutely pure dose of adult blood-forming stem cells can, in theory, be used in any patient without fear of rejection. Cellerant has dosed radiation-ravaged lab mice with other mice’s purified stem cells and watched them recover to full health in months. “We’ve learned enough biology to start curing diseases,” says Cellerant Chief Executive Bruce Cohen. The company has raised $25 million from seven venture capital firms including MPM Capital and Allen & Co.

A trial in humans is slated to begin in January on 15 to 20 sickle-cell anemia patients, for whom the current curative treatment is a bone marrow transplant, assuming they can find a donor. Cohen also hopes to begin a trial next year with advanced-stage breast cancer patients to boost their red and white blood cells.

….. Cellerant’s claims of better medicine through purity may crumble under closer inspection. Several previous attempts to purify bone marrow for sickle-cell transplants have failed. “Some of the cells that are removed in purification are important,” says Dr. Mark Walters, head of the Blood & Marrow Transplant Program at Children’s Hospital Oakland in Oakland, California. “Can you overcome this? That’s what they need to show.” Cellerant says it might succeed where others have failed by giving patients larger numbers of purified cells. Walters, one of the principal investigators on the trial, says it will be clear within six weeks of the transplant if the purified cells take root. “If it works, it would be a big advance,” he adds.

…. Because Cellerant is transplanting unaltered human cells–a process similar to an organ transplant–the company does not have to go through the traditional three-step clinical trials to get U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval. The FDA just has to verify that Cellerant’s purification process meets its good-tissue-practice standard. Cellerant is performing the work at a lab that already has such approval.

The possibly-imminent “big advance” in adult stem cell research (ASCR) described here has been ignored, except by Forbes, which saw an entrepreneurial angle it could use in the story (previous issues of Forbes have lamented the dearth of money being directed towards life-destroying embryonic stem cell research [ESCR]). Yet the formerly Mainstream Media coverage of what was ultimately shown to be an overhyped non-advance by Advanced Cell Technologies in ESCR several months ago was overwhelming.

ASCR is the area where real progress is being made continually, but it gets little, if any, respect. ESCR gets covered as soon as the PR people start dialing out to their media contacts.


Weekend Question 1: How Did the Stock Market Do in 2006?

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy — Tom @ 9:53 am

ANSWER: Pretty well. We’ll take repeats of this performance any time. It would be nice if NASDAQ had done a bit better.


After the close of trading on Friday, here’s where things stood:

DJIA 12463.15; up 16.2% for year
S&P 500 1418.28; up 13.6% for year
NASDAQ 2415.29; up 9.5% for year

For dividends, add a couple of percentage points for the Dow and S&P, and maybe one point to the NASDAQ, if you’re scoping out total yield.

As noted yesterday, Forbes’ Rich Kargaard thinks that 2007 will be a pretty good year for the stock market. We’ll start finding out Wednesday, since the markets will be closed Tuesday in honor of the late President Gerald Ford.

Positivity: Climber Rescued after 60-Foot Fall

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:57 am

In Deep River, CT — That this person wasn’t hurt seems a near-miracle:

December 28, 2006

DEEP RIVER — Firefighters rescued a rock climber who fell nearly 60 feet from a cliff in the Cockaponsett State Forest on Wednesday.

Fire Chief Tim Ballantyne said Conor Dwyer, 23, of Madison, had been rock climbing when he fell 20 feet onto a ledge, bounced off and fell about another 40 feet.

Rescuers needed a brush truck and a pickup truck to reach Dwyer because he was about 5 miles from Route 9 down a narrow, dirt road in the pine ledge region of Deep River. The access road is used by the Department of Environmental Protection and DEP personnel were on the scene.

“He was conscious and alert upon arrival,” Ballantyne said.

Dwyer was taken by truck to Route 9, where a rescue chopper had landed between exits 5 and 6.

Ballantyne said emergency personnel shut down Route 9 at about 4:15 p.m. and reopened the road about 5:20 p.m.

Dwyer was flown to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he was listed in fair condition.