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Obama Hints Of Vetoing The Keystone Pipeline

There is one thing that is abundantly clear now that the Republicans control both the House and the Senate, the Keystone XL Pipeline will pass through Congress. Republicans are trying to convince us that this monumental piece of crap will “spur economic growth” and “create thousands of jobs.”

Thankfully we elected a President who is willing to stand up for our Mother Earth by standing up against the Keystone Pipeline. Well maybe he has not said it yet, but like my Magic 8 ball says, all signs point to veto.

It is becoming more and more obvious that President Obama will not sign the Keystone legislation even if it was to pass. He told The Hill that, “building the Keystone oil pipeline would ‘not even have a nominal benefit’ to consumers, pushing back at claims it would lower gas prices further.”
That is what we progressives have been trying to say for years.

The Republicans are trying to sell the Keystone XL Pipeline as a “jobs bill” that would create tens of thousands of good paying jobs.

Yes, we need a jobs bill that will create tens of thousands of good paying jobs, but the reality is that the Keystone Pipeline would only create a few thousand temporary construction jobs and 35 permanent jobs.

http://youtu.be/RY5ToZgJmo4

We also need to look at who is really going to benefit from the Keystone Pipeline? It will not be us, it will the be the Canadian oil industry as they move their tar sands oil right through America’s heartland to the Gulf of Mexico to be shipped off and sold to foreign countries.

Even President Obama knows this.

“That oil currently is being shipped out through rail or trucks and it would save Canadian oil companies, and the Canadian oil industry enormous amounts of money if they could simply pipe it all the way down to the Gulf,” Obama said during his final press conference of 2014.

It also begs the question, why would this group of fiscal conservatives be willing to take out a $30 billion loan, pushing us further into debt, to benefit a foreign oil company? I will give you a hint, TransCanada’s profits would go through the roof and that would be very good for Wall Street insiders. (Side note: Did you know that Grover Norquest is the lobbyist for the Keystone XL pipeline?)

In 2009, the economy was hemorrhaging jobs and unemployment was skyrocketing. Congress passed the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)” that nearly every Republican balked at. The $900 million dollar investment in America increased the number of “people employed from between 1.5 and 3.3 million” workers, and reduced unemployment from “between .7% and 1.8%.” Ultimately the stimulus only added $200 million dollars to our national debt and started us back on the road to recovery.

How is this $3 Trillion dollar investment going to help us? Will you be one of the lucky 35 people to get a permanent job after the pipeline is created? Instead of spending $3 Trillion dollars for 35 jobs, we could spend $1 Trillion and create millions of jobs.

Lets not forget that we have seen a significant rise in oil pipes leaking their toxic sludge over the past few years.

“History has shown that these pipelines are notorious for springing leaks, and middle class American homeowners, farmers, and ranchers stand to lose the most if there is a spill,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) in her opposition to H.R. 5682, a bill to fast track the Keystone Pipeline. “The sections of the Keystone Project that are already in use suffered over thirty spills in their first year of operation.”

So let me sum this all up. The Republicans, who are heavily funded by Wall Street and oil tycoons like the Koch Brothers, are pushing a bill that would require us to take out a $3 Trillion dollar loan, potentially wrecking our environment, all to boost the profits of a foreign corporation.

Opposing the Keystone Pipeline is a bold step for President Obama. He is opposing the Republicans, opposing Wall Street, and standing up for our environment. We progressives need to stand behind him.

The fight is far from over, in fact it has just begun.

IBEW And CWA FairPoint Strikers Rally In Concord (InZane Times)

“One Day Longer, One Day Stronger”

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With an inflatable corporate pig hovering behind them, hundreds of IBEW and CWA members with their allies rallied at the State House yesterday calling for a fair contract with FairPoint Communications.

The two unions went on strike ten weeks ago following months of frustrated bargaining before and after their contract expired on August 2.

“In April, FairPoint came out with their one contract proposal,” IBEW leader Glenn PC190063Brackett said, waving his index finger while speaking from a stage attached to a Teamsters truck parked next to the State House.

The unions made three comprehensive proposals and even offered $200 million in concessions, Brackett said. But the company has refused to deal and lied to the public along the way. 

Meanwhile, hundreds of consumers have complained to the Public Utilities Commission that the company, which took over Verizon’s New Hampshire landlines in 2008, is not providing the services for which it is getting paid.  Vermont’s E-911 system has been among the casualties, as has the City of Nashua’s internet service. 

“This company has no credibility,” Brackett charged.

“The corporation is in North Carolina and this morning they have internet.  They’ve got 911 and their telephones work,” Brackett said.  “Why?  Because FairPoint does not provide services to the communities in which their executives live.” [see video

“How long will the State of New Hampshire allow its public safety to be threatened by a company frPC190054om North Carolina?,” Brackett asked. 

Strikers and supporters took a few circuits around the State House lawn, chanting and chatting, while  Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and retired IBEW member Linda Horan greeted them as they went by.  Other political figures in the crowd included State Representative Renny Cushing and State Senators Jeff Woodburn, Donna Soucy, and Lou D’Allesandro. 

The crowd left the State House at about 12:30 pm and walked a few blocks to the FairPoint office on South Street, where they chanted some more and tauntedPC190065 strikebreakers who were looking down from company windows. 

The conflict is not just about wages and benefits.  Central to FairPoint’s strategy is its intent to outsource jobs now held by union members.  The unions points out that the service problems consumers are experiencing now will become the norm if FairPoint can hire unqualified contractors to perform functions now carried out by experienced union workers. 

The conflict over contracting out is emblematic of developments in the larger PC190064economy, where outsourcing via staffing agencies is becoming the norm in ever larger sectors of the labor market.  Strong unions are about all that stops the slide toward a disposable workforce.

That may be why clergy from the United Church of Christ have decided to speak up about the FairPoint strike.  In a column published in the Valley News, they wrote:

So here we are today: hedge fund corporate owners versus dedicated New Hampshire (and Maine and Vermont) workers who have the courage to take a stand to protect the kinds of jobs that sustain families and strong communities. Shades of Moses standing up against Pharaoh’s hard heart, perhaps? Or David versus Goliath? Or Jesus challenging the greedy money changers?

According to the Concord Monitor, a spokesperson for Governor Maggie Hassan said she is “concerned about the disruption in FairPoint services and its impact on the state’s communications infrastructure, our public safety systems and economy, as well as the company’s overall commitment to the people and businesses of New Hampshire.”

“One day longer, one day stronger,” the strikers chanted.  That’s great spirit, but some emergency funds for workers on strike more than two months will help.  You can contribute to the IBEW/CWA Solidarity Fund by clicking here.

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Public Officials Call For Compromise From FairPoint As Workers Rally In Concord

Fairness at Fairpoint Banner

Public officials across New England calling for company to compromise; FairPoint hasn’t moved from initial demand for $700 million in severe cuts

Union workers have offered more than $200 million in cost savings; they seek a fair deal that ensures good jobs and quality service for New England

FairPoint Workers Rally -- Image By SEIU1984

FairPoint Workers Rally — Image By SEIU 1984 on Facebook

CONCORD, N.H. — Striking workers and their allies are beginning the tenth week of the strike at FairPoint Communications with a rally on the State House Lawn in Concord. The rally comes as public pressure is growing on FairPoint to settle a fair deal.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, and Senator Bernie Sanders recently issued statements calling on FairPoint, which is headquartered in North Carolina, to settle a fair deal with its New England workers.

The workers — members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communications Workers of America — have offered the company more than $200 million in cost savings during negotiations. But the company has never compromised on its initial demand for $700 million in deep and damaging cuts.

FairPoint executives said they had a contingency plan when the strike began October 17, but replacement workers have struggled to maintain the company’s network. On December 3, a failure of the FairPoint network disrupted 911 lines in Portsmouth and several nearby towns. On November 28, a felled FairPoint line crashed Vermont’s entire 911 network. More than 80 calls were missed.

“FairPoint’s executives back in North Carolina don’t have to worry about their 911 calls being dropped, but they’re putting people’s lives here at risk,” said Glenn Brackett, business manager of IBEW Local 2320 in New Hampshire. “Their refusal to compromise is threatening the economy and the safety of our state.”

In addition to the deep cuts FairPoint is trying to force on the workers, the company has also imposed terms making it easier to outsource work to cut-rate contractors.

“For years, FairPoint has pushed to replace skilled and experienced workers with unqualified and poorly paid contractors,” said Don Trementozzi, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1400. “This strike is showing what a disaster that is for our customers, and it’s why we’re fighting to make sure there’s a qualified workforce in the future.”

The negotiations for a new contract at FairPoint began in April, and from the outset company officials pressed to increase outsourcing, cut pay for new workers and slash benefits for all employees.

The company rejected virtually all of the unions’ proposals during five months of bargaining, then imposed its contract terms at the end of August. In October, after two more months of trying to find common ground with the company, the workers went on strike.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement today after FairPoint Communications CEO Paul Sunu snubbed a request from the Vermont congressional delegation for the North Carolina company to negotiate an end to a two-month strike by about 1,700 New England workers:

“I am deeply disappointed, but not surprised, with the response from Mr. Sunu. His letter confirms what I have long suspected. FairPoint wants to slash wages and benefits for Vermont workers and it refuses to negotiate in good faith. In essence his letter says FairPoint’s bargaining posture is ‘take it or leave it, we want it our way, and we’re not going to make any compromises.’

“Mr. Sunu fails to mention that the unions already have offered more than $200 million in concessions, nor does he describe just how deep FairPoint’s proposed cuts are. I think most Vermonters would be very surprised to know that FairPoint’s opening positon on new employee wages was below Vermont’s minimum wage.

“Mr. Sunu also does not seem aware just how bad FairPoint service has become. Frankly, the people of Vermont are becoming sick and tired of poor customer service that is getting worse by the day.

“It is time for FairPoint to put its customers’ safety and its workers wellbeing ahead of the interests of the multi-billion dollar Wall Street hedge funds that stand to profit from a sale of the company. It is time for FairPoint to negotiate a contract that respects the contributions of its experienced and dedicated workforce.”

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T-9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 represents nearly 300 FairPoint employees in the three states. For more information, visit www.FairnessAtFairpoint.com.

Are You Tired Of Congress Manufacturing A Budget Crisis To Force Through Terrible Legislation?

Budget details: you couldn’t make this stuff up, if you tried

It’s not like Congress didn’t know they had to pass a federal budget.

It’s not like they didn’t have lots and lots of time to put an appropriations bill together, either before or after the elections.

It’s not like they didn’t know what happens when the money runs out. (Hint: not all that much, actually. Except that 800,000 federal workers are required to work without being paid.)

No, this Congress knew all too well what would happen. Since President Obama was elected, Congress has:

  1. had a budget crisis in March 2009
  2. had a budget crisis in September 2009
  3. had a budget crisis in September 2010
  4. had THREE budget crises in December 2010
  5. had TWO budget crises in March 2011
  6. had a budget crisis in April 2011
  7. had a budget crisis in August 2012
  8. had a budget crisis in September 2012
  9. had a budget crisis in March 2013
  10. had a budget crisis – and a government shutdown – in October 2013
  11. had a budget crisis in January 2014
  12. and had a budget crisis just three months ago.

(That’s a rough list. No guarantees of accuracy, I may have missed some. And it doesn’t include the debt-limit crises.)

And yet once again, this weekend, right now… Congress finds itself in a budget emergency.

And from listening to some of the politicians, you’d almost think no-one could have predicted this.

And with all their angst (“Emergency!” “Emergency!” “Can’t let the government shutdown again!”)…

… it would be really easy to overlook some of the so-called “details” of this spending bill. Details like:

  1. The so-called “Citibank” provision that would undo part of Dodd-Frank financial regulation, and allow big banks to rely on the FDIC to backstop risky derivative trades. (Read NHLN coverage here and here.)
  2. The Kline-Miller amendment, which would allow cuts to the earned retirement benefits of millions of retirees. AARP calls it a “secret attack by Congress” and a “last minute backroom deal.”   (Read the AARP alert here.)
  3. The (ahem) provision to help the GOP afford its next convention. According to the New York Times, “The secret negotiations that led to one of the most significant expansions of campaign contributions in recent years began with what Republican leaders regarded as an urgent problem: How would they pay for their presidential nominating convention in Cleveland in two years? It ended with a bipartisan agreement … that would allow wealthy donors to begin giving more than $1 million every election cycle to each party’s national committees.” (Wow. 2016 is going to be a record-breaking presidential campaign season.)
  4. The “Collins rider,” which would increase truck driver hours of service, and other provisions that would increase truck weight limits in Kentucky, Mississippi and Wisconsin. “None of these special interest [provisions] has been subject to any committee hearings, adequate safety review or cost/benefit analysis. However, all of them will have a profound impact on highway safety, deaths and injuries.” The bill will “eliminate the two nights off-duty for truck drivers to rest, while significantly increasing working and driving hours for truck drivers up to 82 hours a week when fatigue is already a well-known and well-documented highway killer.” (Read the Truck Safety Coalition alert here.)
  5. Provisions prohibiting the Fish and Wildlife Service from adding the sage grouse to the endangered species list. This one was apparently added “at the behest of grazing, mining, and oil and gas interests.” (Read more here.)

According to the Hill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the GOP added “nearly 100” special interest riders to the bill.

The five, above, are just the ones that have already attracted public attention.

Can’t help but wonder what ELSE is in that bill.

 

Congressional House Members Split On Omnibus Bill

 

This week has been very busy in Washington as Congress created yet another manufactured crisis with threats to shut down the government over a divisive continuing resolution.

The good news is that, for now, the government will remain open as the House passed a omnibus bill to fund the government for another year. The House also passed a two-day continuing resolution allowing the Senate time to pass the House bill. The omnibus bill created a whirlwind of controversy with numerous amendments that outraged millions of Americans. There is a very small possibility that the Senate will amend or reject the House bill over these controversial amendments.

There are three main amendments that drew the biggest scrutiny and threatened to kill the bill.

1) The Wall Street Rollback

House Republicans added an amendment written by Citi Group stripping regulations on derivatives trading. This is just another handout to the big banks on Wall Street, putting the taxpayers on the hook for billions – or trillions – of dollars.

“TBTF (Too Big To Fail Banks) are now worth $53 trillion,” wrote Liz Iacobucci “Do the math. If there is another Wall Street meltdown; and another bailout; and this next bailout also requires the government to borrow an amount equal to one-third of what TBTF institutions are worth now…”

This provision drew strong opposition from the AFL-CIO:

“The AFL-CIO strongly opposes efforts to make it easier for too-big-to-fail banks to use taxpayer-backed funds to make risky bets in the derivatives markets,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

2) The Pension Reform Amendment

Labor groups were outraged that Republicans added an amendment that would drastically reduce pension benefits to millions of retirees.

“Today we have seen the ugly side of political backroom dealings as thousands of retirees may have their pensions threatened by proposed legislation that reportedly includes massive benefit cuts,” said Jimmy Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “Thousands of hard-working men and women deserve better than having their pensions slashed by a bill that can’t stand on its own merit.”

This provision would allow multi-employer pension plans to reduce payouts to retirees from and average of $50,000 a year to approximately $15,000 a year. The “unfunded liability” is largely due to the massive losses these plans took during the last two Wall Street crashes. But the underfunding will not become an issue for at least another ten years – so there is no need to rush this amendment through on a piece of must-pass legislation.

“Changing ERISA to allow cuts in promised benefits is a ticket to poverty and dependence on government asisstance,” IAM International President R. Thomas Buffenbarger wrote members of Congress last month.

“They’ve sneaked this in,” said Dave Erickson of Isanti, Minnesota. “They don’t have the guts to come out and tell us they’re taking our money. It makes me sick. The pension payment was something I counted on.”

(Read also: Another WIN for Wall Street… and a huge LOSS for the middle class)

3) Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign finance reformers were outraged when the bill was amended to allow millionaires and billionaires to push even more money into political campaigns. Currently a donor can give $32,000 a year to the party of their choice. The Omnibus spending amendment will allow wealthy donors to donate $777,600 per year or $1,555,200 in a two-year cycle.

“Another (amendment) would raise campaign contribution limits, giving a small number of wealthy individuals even more leverage to drown out our middle class voices,” stated Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, who voted against the Omnibus bill.

Neither party is taking credit for the campaign finance amendment that will benefit both parties. It is a win for the fundraisers – but a loss for working families, who are losing their voice in Washington to big money donors.

In a very close 219-206 vote the Omnibus bill did pass the House. The bill saw many Representatives from both parties oppose their own party leaders with their votes. Progressives were angered to see that 57 Democrats decided to support the Republican bill in spite of the “poison pills” in the bill.

The Congressional Representatives in my home state were split in their votes on the Omnibus bill. Both voiced their support for keeping the government open and stated their opposition to these amendments; however, they reached different decisions when it came time to vote.

“Of course Congress had to keep the government open, but it should have been done by passing a Continuing Resolution that funded the government, but didn’t contain these harmful provisions. I strongly opposed the CROmnibus bill, which would hurt working Americans by allowing big-money bailouts for banks and rolling back already-inadequate campaign finance laws,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

“In 2008, I voted against the bank bailouts and for policies that saved us from a depression. I am deeply concerned that this bill calls for a taxpayer-funded bailout for irresponsible institutions if they get themselves in trouble again. The bailout provision is just one of a number of special-interest victories in this bill. Another would raise campaign contribution limits, giving a small number of wealthy individuals even more leverage to drown out our middle class voices. Putting American taxpayers on the hook and gutting campaign finance laws is unacceptable, so I voted no,” concluded Shea-Porter.

“While I remain concerned about certain aspects of the so-called “CRomnibus,” including a troublesome campaign finance provision that increases the donation-limits for party conventions and political parties, I believe that first and foremost it is our responsibility as Members of Congress to work across the aisle to keep the government running,” stated Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “Last year’s government shutdown was devastating for Granite State families; it put approximately 800,000 Americans out of work and wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Congress should never allow politics to get in the way of doing what’s right for our constituents at home, so I’m pleased Democrats and Republicans were able to come together to pass this legislation and provide the certainty our country needs moving forward into the new year.”

I have – and will continue to – support Congresswoman Annie Kuster (and the other 57 Democrats); however, I completely disagree with her on this vote. I share her optimism that our elected representatives can put aside their partisan party politics and do what is needed for working families; however, this bill is not one of those opportunities. This bill will decimate what is left of our campaign finance regulations, and put the Wall Street gamblers in charge of our economy once again, using my taxes to hedge their risky bets.

If these 57 Democrats had voted against the bill, the Republicans would have had no choice but to remove these controversial amendments and offer the bill up for another vote. The Republican leadership knew the bill would not pass without Democratic support because the ultra-right wing (67 in all) planned to vote against it as well.

 *               *             *           *          *               *

Editor’s Notes:

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter’s strong leadership and dedication to working families will be greatly missed in Congress over the next two years. I hope she will consider running for the CD01 seat again in 2016, or even run against Senator Kelly Ayotte for a seat in the Senate.

 

There was one other little known amendment that was slipped into the omnibus bill that would reduce the mandatory rest periods for truck drivers – against Transportation Secretary Foxx’s strong opposition. The amendment reversed the required rest period allowing truckers to drive up to 82 hours a week.

Read more about this amendment, on Bloomberg.

Another WIN for Wall Street… and a huge LOSS for the middle class

Happy Hour

So, late last night… Congress decided that it was just fine to bailout Wall Street bankers again, if they should happen to get into trouble again. Gotta make sure the ol’ FDIC is there in times of trouble.

BUT… gosh… that old PBGC?

Oh… Congress doesn’t want to risk the possibility that taxpayers might have to bailout Middle Class pension funds. At last estimate, “the fund that backs multi-employer plans is about $42.4 billion short of the money needed to cover benefits” for pension plans that are expected to fail.

And what have private employers been doing, to keep those pension plans financially sound? Well… Hostess declared bankruptcy. Peabody Energy declared bankruptcy. Verizon “de-risked” itself of pension obligations. And that’s just what immediately comes to mind.  But I’m digressing.

So last night… LATE last night… Congress included in the “must-pass” budget bill something called the Kline amendment. The measure will allow multi-employer pension plans that are underfunded to significantly cut benefits to retirees under age 75.

Because… why would Congress want to risk having to have the PBGC bailout those middle-class pension funds? … when cutting benefits to retirees under 75 will accomplish the same thing.

Yep, what’s good for Wall Street… isn’t even a possibility for Main Street.

Want to know what I noticed?

One Federal Reserve economist put a number on how much that FDIC guarantee is worth to the Big Banks. He estimated it was worth $450 to $900 billion a year to the financial services industry.

OK, so this “government insurance policy” is coming to Wall Street through the efforts of the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

And yes, those are the same Republicans who are such firm believers in the “free market economy” and “privatization” and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”  

And now they’re… giving a government benefit to the banks.

What happened to “the free market will take care of it”? Why can’t these banks buy their own insurance on the open market? From a private insurance company?

But I’m digressing again.

Here’s what I noticed: it looks to me like the annual “value” of what Congress gave away last night is about the same amount as what Congress spent on the infamous TARP program.

TARP, of course, was a one-time thing. (Or at least… hopefully… not a very frequent thing.)

The FDIC insurance is ongoing. Every year, the big banks are going to get that government-subsidized insurance policy. Underwriting their risky investments.

It’s like a TARP program, year after year after year.

While all those retirees… get their benefits cut.

Walmart Could, And Should Be Paying $15 An Hour And Would Still Make $10 Billion In Profit

Working families are struggling and Walmart workers symbolize the struggles that millions of Americans are facing.  They work as many hours as their employer will give them and they are still living in poverty.

“If you are a man or woman working full-time in this country, it is a crime for you to still be poor,” said Rabbi Michael Feinberg.  “They (Walmart) have a 1-800 number where the workers call up in order for the corporation to help them connect to social benefits in their state, meaning Medicaid and welfare.”

Walmart workers alone cost the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars a year in social programs. The Americans for Tax Fairness “found that a single Walmart Supercenter cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year or between $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 workers.

Walmart workers have had enough! They are walking out protesting Walmart’s poverty wages and failure to provide full-time employment.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said, “That’s why clergy, labor, school teachers, and workers from all over are here (and) all throughout the country to say to Walmart ‘you got to be fair, you got to be just’.”

Walmart is the largest private employer in the country and collected over $17 billion — yes that is with a B–  in profits in 2013. Let’s not forget that the CEO of Walmart collects an annual salary of $23 million.  To break it down further, that is “1,034 times more than the company’s average worker.”  Is this one man worth more than 1,000 workers? Can he stock the shelves of a 1,000 stores?

A 2013 UC Berkeley study showed that increasing wages to $12.00 an hour would add only $3.21 billion to Walmart’s annual labor costs.  That is not even half of what Walmart spent last year buying back their own stock to inflate their stock price.

If Walmart refused to take any cuts to their profit margin they could pass all of their labor costs on the consumer. This is what the Republicans say will cause the price of mile to jump to $10 a gallon!

The average Walmart customer would see an increase of $12.49 per year – about 46 cents per visit – if Walmart executives passed the total cost along, rather than cutting their profits.

Walmart can easily afford to pay workers $15 an hour, hell they could pay them $30 and hour if they really wanted to and still be a hugely profitable corporation.  In fact Fortune Magazine concluded that Walmart could give every worker a 50% increase in pay and still please their Wall Street investors.

The greed of Walmart is unmatched. Collecting millions of dollars a day in profits while asking  associates to donate to other associates so they can have food for Thanksgiving. (Of course they all had to work Thanksgiving too.)  That takes some really big cojones and a complete lack of respect for the people who are making your company a success.

 

Thanks to the American Federation of Teachers for this great video of solidarity for Walmart workers and the members of Making Change at Walmart (OUR Walmart – UFCW). 

Watch the video on YouTube

Republicans Push Right To Work In Missouri, New Hampshire And Wisconsin Admitting It Will Lower Wages

 

Yup, he said it! Missouri Republican State Representative Bill Lant actually admitted what labor advocates have been saying for decades, Right To Work laws reduce wages.

“In the states where right to work was passed recently, the hourly rates may have dropped 2 to 3 dollars an hour, but the amount of days per year that the workers actually got to put in on the job increased dramatically.” (Missouri Digital News)

 

View Progress Missouri’s short video on YouTube: http://youtu.be/iHzMu5CciBc

Proof positive that even the Republicans, who are peddling these ALEC inspired Right To Work laws, know exactly what Right To Work laws will do to workers. The corporations who fund ALEC want to pass Right To Work laws in every state to further suppress already low wages.

Rep. Lant is not the only one who knows that Right To Work laws crush wages. ALEC Co-Chair and Missouri State Senator Ed Emery said, “One of the things that will be advocated by the unions is look at all these right to work states, average wages all go down. Sure they go down…”

View on YouTube: http://youtu.be/zuzI8zzA8dw

This all out assault on worker and our wages is not limited to Missouri. New Hampshire will once again vote to make New Hampshire a Right To Work state. Like many other years in the past, Republicans in the House and Senate will pass a Right to Work bill and Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan will veto it. The only good thing is that everyone knows that the NH GOP does not have enough votes to override the Governor’s veto, but they will undoubtedly try anyway.

Just this week it became obvious that when the new “Wisconsin Right To Work” PAC popped up and began pushing press releases that Wisconsin workers will once again have to fight off Governor Walker and his Koch funded allies.

“The day after Wisconsin Right to Work launched, ALEC member Rep. Chris Kapenga announced that he would be introducing a right to work bill in 2015,” reported Brendan Fischer and Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy.

“All year round, we knock on doors in South Central Wisconsin and we ask people what is on their minds,” said Kevin Gundlach, head of the South Central (WI) Federation of Labor. “Never have I heard anyone say ‘we need right to work’. People are worried about low wages, health care, benefits and making ends meet in this economy. Right to work will take us in the opposite direction from where people want to go.”

Right To Work is not about worker freedom it is about crushing workers and the unions who they have chosen to represent them.

Huge hat-tip the Progress Missouri and the Center for Media and Democracy for their great coverage.  
UPDATE:

After posting this article, it was brought to my attention that the NH Senate has two Republican State Senators (Sen Carson and Sen Boutin) who voted against Right To Work in the past.  If they vote against it again this year, the bill would be deadlocked at 12-12.

Young vs UPS: Is It Legal To Discriminate Against Pregnant Women?

Discrimination in the workplace is real and it happens every day. Some are discriminated based on their skin color, others are discriminated based on their sexual preference, and many are discriminated based on their sex.

This week the Supreme Court will hear a case, Young v UPS, that will decide if it is legal to discriminate against pregnant women.

After working as a delivery driver for UPS, Peggy Young became pregnant. This is not uncommon as 2.5 million working women become pregnant every year. As Peggy’s pregnancy progressed her doctor restricted her to light duty. The doctor said that Peggy should avoid lifting anything over 20 pounds.

Peggy went to UPS and asked to be reassigned to light duty activities. UPS denied her request and to add insult to their denial, they fired her as well. Not only did Peggy lose her paycheck she lost her healthcare too. This is why she chose to sue UPS for lost wages and expenses.

Some are saying this case is moot as UPS has already changed their policy, allowing pregnant women to work light duty jobs, but this case could set a very bad precedence.

Some lawmakers are not waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on this case and have already filed new legislation to strengthen the protections for pregnant women. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) authored the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), legislation which would strengthen the rights of pregnant workers to request accommodations during their pregnancy without fear of retribution.

The PWFA would secure the right of a pregnant worker to ask for workplace accommodations without fear of retribution. Today, women make up nearly half of the labor force, and three-quarters of women entering the workforce will be pregnant and employed at some point in their careers.

“A woman should never have to face a choice between her job and pregnancy,” Senator Shaheen said. “Women are a crucial part of our workforce, and they have every right to receive reasonable workplace accommodations to continue a healthy pregnancy while providing for their families and contributing to the economy.”

“Women make up nearly half of the workforce, and in Pennsylvania, approximately 96,000 women in the workforce give birth each year,” Senator Casey said. “Too many women still face discrimination in the workplace during pregnancy as some employers continue to refuse to provide reasonable accommodations. No woman should be forced out of a job because she is pregnant. Every employer should work to provide accommodations that will allow women to keep working safely through their pregnancies.”

The Senate version of the PWFA (S.942) currently has 33 co-sponsors, 32 Democrats and one Independent, Senator Sanders (I-VT).

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10) submitted identical legislation (H.R 1975) to the House and it currently has 140 co-cosponsors, again all Democrats.

“No woman should ever be discriminated against in the workplace simply because she is pregnant, and I was proud to help send an Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court supporting Peggy Young, whose treatment by her employer clearly violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “As a cosponsor of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which additionally prohibits employers from treating pregnant workers unfairly, I urge the Supreme Court to fall on the right side of the law and rule against UPS for its unacceptable, discriminatory treatment of Peggy Young.”

This case has created some strange bedfellows. Both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice groups have come out in support of Peggy and her case against UPS. Vox.com reported:

“Both the anti-abortion right and the feminist left have filed amicus briefs on behalf of Young, though they come at it from different angles. Women’s rights groups like the Women’s Law Project and Legal Momentum (formerly known as the NOW Legal Defense Fund) have signed onto briefs arguing Young’s side of the case. In one of those briefs, these groups argue that the Fourth Circuit was incorrect and ‘misconceive[d] the gender stereotyping behind pregnancy discrimination.’”

If both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice groups support stronger protections for working pregnant women, why hasn’t a single Republican signed on to support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act? Protecting the mother, protects the child, and the pregnancy.

This should be a slam dunk for Congress.

Or, is it just another example of how Congressional Republicans do not really care about working families and are blocking anti-discrimination legislation for their corporate campaign funders?

Greedy Corporations Are Stealing Thanksgiving From Millions Of Low Wage Workers

KMart

I cannot begin to explain how outraged I am over the theft of Thanksgiving by greedy corporations who are all trying to one-up each other by opening earlier and earlier.

Thanksgiving has always been about family. The one holiday that does not revolve around buying anything more than a massive meal. It is a day where everyone has the day off, kids come home from college, and families pack up to head to grandma’s for a piece of her homemade pie.

For too many low-wage workers this Thanksgiving will not be about family but feeding the greed of their corporate bosses.

This year almost every major retailer will be open on Thanksgiving. The worst is Kmart who will be open at 6 am, and staying open for 42 hours straight.

I applaud all of the stores who have chosen not to open like GameStop and Costco.

“For us, it’s a matter of principle,” said Tony Bartel, the president of GameStop, whose company has 4,600 stores nationwide. “We have a phrase around here that we use a lot — it’s called ‘protecting the family.’ We want our associates to enjoy their complete holidays.”

“It’s an important holiday in the U.S., and our employees work hard during the holiday season, and we believe they deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving Day with their family and friends,” said Richard A. Galanti, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Costco Wholesale.

My problem with stores being open on Thanksgiving is that they are forcing workers to forgo their own Thanksgiving to go to work or lose their jobs. Kmart has come under fire for threatening to fire any employee who does not show up for work on Thanksgiving. These low-wage workers have no choice in the matter.

I don’t see the Kmart CEO working a 12-hour day on Thanksgiving, even though it was his decision to open.

Retail workers have always been treated like garbage from their corporate bosses. They are paid just above minimum wage and are scheduled as much as possible without being classified as a full time employee to avoid being required to offer them healthcare.

No WalmartAcross the country Walmart workers will be walking out in protest. Making Change at Walmart (OUR Walmart) is walking out to protest Walmart’s low wages, lack of opportunity for full time work, and refusal to offer affordable healthcare options for associates.

This year I suggest you start a new Thanksgiving weekend tradition. Spend Thanksgiving with your family. Enjoy the day, eat until you burst, then later get a little more.

Instead of running around like a madman on Friday, take some time and stand with Walmart workers protesting in your area. (Click here to find a Black Friday Protest near you.) All workers deserve respect in the workplace, they deserve fair wages, and access to quality affordable healthcare.

Lastly, spend your Saturday shopping in your local community. Supporting the small businesses in your community ensures that your money stays in your community. Small Business Saturday has grown in popularity in the past few years and that is one Thanksgiving sale that I can stand behind.

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