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“Right to Work” Rears Its Ugly Head Again

It must be Groundhog Day. There’s another Supreme Court case that could “deal a major blow to labor unions.”

Yes, the National Right to Work Foundation is getting another chance to impose “Right to Work” on the entire nation through Supreme Court fiat.

Nevermind how voters may feel about it. After Maine lawmakers passed “Right to Work” in 1947, voters repealed the law by a two-to-one majority. In 1958, California and Colorado voters refused “Right to Work” by three-to-two margins; Ohio voters turned it down two-to-one; and voters in the state of Washington said “no” by a margin of nine-to-five. Ohio lawmakers ignored the 1958 ballot results and passed “Right to Work” in 2011; and voters repealed the law by an overwhelming margin. Missouri lawmakers passed “Right to Work” last year; but the law is now on hold, and voters will have the final say in a referendum this fall.

Nevermind the state legislatures that have had second thoughts about “Right to Work.” In both New Hampshire and Delaware, state legislatures adopted “Right to Work” in 1947 – and then repealed it in 1949. Louisiana’s legislature passed “Right to Work” in 1954 and repealed it in 1956 (and then passed it again in 1976). Indiana passed “Right to Work” in 1957 and repealed it in 1965 (and then passed it again in 2012).

Nevermind that conservatives are supposed to be opposed to judicial activism. The National Right to Work Foundation wants the Supreme Court to make “Right to Work” the law of the land. The Foundation has been using court cases to chip away at labor unions since 1968 – and they’re proud of it. You can read a list of the court cases they’ve brought against unions here.

If they succeed, what happens next? All the press coverage has been about the potential damage to labor unions. But what about

Government contracting? The National Right to Work Foundation wants the Supreme Court to rule that government contracting is an “inherently political” process. That may sound good to the Foundation, in the context of union-busting, but what about the rest of government contracting? At last report, the federal government negotiated more than 3.8 million contracts a year, totaling about $440 billion in spending – and about 2% of the federal workforce was made up of “contract professionals” (who are not union members). What happens if the Supreme Court adds “politics” to the list of reasons a procurement decision can be challenged? Will taxpayers or business competitors be able to challenge contract decisions on the basis of politics? (For instance, the $24 million refrigerator upgrade to Air Force One – was that decision tainted by the $16.7 million in lobbying that Boeing paid for, last year? The more than $1 million its PAC has “invested” in this year’s federal campaigns? The more than $2 million it spent on the 2016 campaigns?)

Employers’ rights? The National Right to Work Foundation wants the Supreme Court to rule that an employee’s “right” to not associate with the union takes precedence over his employer’s right to determine conditions of employment. That may sound good to the Foundation, in the context of union-busting, but what about the rest of employer-employee relations? What happens when an employer requires a security clearance, but the employee wants to associate with terrorist organizations? When an employer wants to maintain a mainstream “brand” but the employee wants to use Facebook and Twitter to advertise his association with the American Nazi Party?

States’ rights to decide the terms and conditions of their workers’ employment?

40 years’ worth of judicial precedents, not just in labor law, but also First Amendment interpretation? (If workers’ First Amendment rights trump their public employers’ interests, won’t that open the floodgates for “leaks” to the press?)

What about all the other potential ramifications of this case?

Yep, it’s Groundhog Day. Another opportunity for the Supreme Court to overlook long-term consequences, in a case brought by political insiders.

Remember Citizens United? Citizens United President David Bossie is on the GOP’s National Committee and a “veteran conservative operative.” The Supreme Court used his court case to overturn campaign finance laws. Now Congress is openly doing what their donors (not voters) want. Read the Brennan Center’s How Citizens United Changed Politics and Shaped the Tax Bill.  Read Politico’s Big donors ready to reward Republicans for tax cuts. Is this really what the Supreme Court had in mind, when it ruled in Citizens United?

Remember Hobby Lobby? Salon describes how Hobby Lobby is “quietly funding a vast right-wing movement.” The Supreme Court used its case to give religious rights to for-profit corporations, and now we’re beginning to see the consequences. Cardozo Law Review explored how employers could use the Hobby Lobby decision to sidestep employment-discrimination laws. And at least one federal court has already allowed a corporation to fire an employee for “religious” reasons, notwithstanding the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Notice how “Right to Work” is being pushed by special-interest organizations? The Koch-connected American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity. The Koch-affiliated US Chamber of Commerce. And, of course, the Koch-funded National Right to Work groups. Notice how it’s not being pushed by actual businesses? Not in New Hampshire. Not in Ohio. But the ripple effect of this court case could be huge.

Groundhog Day. Janus v. AFSCME. Another chance for the Supreme Court to reinforce the impression that it’s an extension of the Republican Party. After all the headlines about Merrick Garland and Neil Gorsuch, what are citizens supposed to think? Both President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claim Justice Gorsuch as “an accomplishment.” The RNC based a fundraising campaign on his confirmation. The Court just blocked a lower court’s order that North Carolina redraw its election maps, because the old maps were unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering that favored the GOP. (And now Pennsylvania’s GOP legislators want the Court to block a similar ruling in their state.)

Groundhog Day. Another attack by the special interests that have been transforming our government into an oligarchy. (“Oligarchy” – government by the few, especially despotic power exercised by a small and privileged group for corrupt or selfish purposes)

Voters’ view, last election day: 72 percent agree “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful.” 75 percent agree that “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.”

Granite Staters’ view, now: only 14% think voters have more influence than special interests.

Groundhog Day, the movie, reminds us that we can be doomed to repeat the same thing over and over until we “get it right.” (How fitting that the movie is now back in theaters for its 25th anniversary.)

It’s supposed to be our government. When are we going to get this right?

PA Public Utilities To Investigate CWA’s Claims Of Infrastructure Neglect By Verizon

In response to CWA petition on hazardous conditions across the state, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Announces Hearings into Verizon’s Systemic Neglect of Telephone Infrastructure

p 13 top left Chester Co Honeybrook Rte 10 & WoodlandVerizon’s Negligence Statewide Results in Broken Poles, Sagging Cables, Ungrounded Conduit, and Abandoned Equipment

PUC Has Received Thousands of Complaints of Inadequate Service; Customers Unable to Receive Medical Calls, Call 911 

WASHINGTON – The Communications Workers of America (CWA) commended the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission today for its decision to hold hearings into the unsafe conditions at Verizon locations throughout the state, following a CWA petition that detailed hundreds of dangerous locations across 13 counties.  The PUC announced last week that the case has been assigned to Administrative Law Judge Joel Cheskis who will preside over hearings examining Verizon’s maintenance practices and quality of service. 

Image courtesy of CWA

Image courtesy of CWA

CWA, which represents nearly 5,000 Verizon workers in the state, has examined Verizon’s equipment in areas of the state where the company has refused to build its new fiber network and only offers service through traditional copper wiring, which is often left in a state of virtual abandonment. At multiple locations across the state, CWA documented severe instances of poles designated for removal that were broken or unstable; portions of old poles suspended in the air; terminals and other equipment not attached to poles; cables hanging perilously close to the ground; plastic coverings and splice boxes placed over damaged cable and other equipment that pose a risk of insect and animal infestation, and other similar unsafe, service-impacting conditions. 

“Pennsylvania families are paying top dollar every month for reliable telephone service and safe neighborhoods and streets. They deserve better than Verizon’s reckless disregard for public safety and service,” said CWA District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney. “CWA members across the state are climbing poles and fixing equipment every day to make sure that communities get the service they deserve and the service they pay for. Despite its billions of dollars in profits, Verizon knowingly is leaving its infrastructure in a state of disrepair, risking the safety of telephone workers and Pennsylvania residents.”

Since 2012, the PUC has received more than 6,000 complaints of inadequate service.  Because the PUC often transfers customers to Verizon before taking a complaint, the real number of complaints is likely even higher.  Many of these complaints document multiple days without service over several months, and have led to missed medical calls and an inability to call 911 in emergencies.

The union says that the dangerous conditions are due to Verizon’s systemic underinvestment in its traditional landline network.  CWA also asked the PUC to order Verizon to take immediate actions to correct these dangerous conditions throughout the Commonwealth, and to fine Verizon for what appear to be willful failures to safely maintain its equipment.  According to CWA’s petition, the PUC has the authority to fine Verizon up to $1,000 per day for each safety violation.

Working Class Solidarity is the Key to Health Care Becoming a Human Right

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Written by Sean Kitchen
for the Raging Chicken Press

Just before the start of the 2014 NFL season, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Devon Still was cut from the team’s main roster.  In the offseason,  Still’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer causing him to miss off-season practices and mini-camps which then affected his performance during training camp.  In an act of charity and kindness, the Bengals front-office decided to place Still on the practice squad, which would allow Still to pay his daughter’s treatments.

Unfortunately, if Devon Still wasn’t granted this opportunity – or the opportunity to be a professional athlete, Still could possibly be facing what many working class Pennsylvanians are facing; full-time employment with no access to private health care, and that is why working class solidarity is the key for health care becoming a human right.

According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services in some of Pennsylvania’s largest counties, the percentage of uninsured residents on the county level range between 10 and 16 percent.  Of those who are uninsured, over three-quarters of those have at least one family member with a full-time job.  This means that 438,000 of the 600,000 uninsured people in Allegheny, Berks, Dauphin, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Luzerne, Philadelphia and York counties have at least one family member with a full-time job! Clearly having a job is no guarantee that your family will have access to care.

Of those 10 counties, the most unequal counties are York, Berks and Lancaster counties.  In York, 42,227 people are uninsured and of those uninsured, 80.5 percent, or 34,000 people, have at least one family member with a full-time job.  The same is true for Berks county, where 39,000 people are without insurance and 81.4 percent, or 31,600 people, have a family member with a full-time job.  Lastly, Lancaster county has 73,500 people without insurance and 84.9 percent, or 62,500 people, have a family member with a full-time job.

 The Devon Still story is a prime example of how having access to health care is essentially an act of charity within the employer, employee dynamic, and unfortunately, for hundreds of thousands of working class Pennsylvanian’s who have full-time jobs there is no charity nor access to health care.  Within the ten counties listed above, 438,000 of 600,000 Pennsylvanians have no access to health care coverage even though they are a productive member of society.  This goes against the conventional wisdom that those who need a hand up in today’s society are lazy and unproductive, and if we are to break down that conventional wisdom and make health care a human right – not about coverage, but about care –  we must break the rural urban divide by reaching out to and build solidarity amongst working class Pennsylvanians.

Kids Or Corporations? Which Do We Value More?

Image by Rocksee (Flickr CC)

Image by Rocksee (Flickr CC)

From Pennsylvania, this story:

Governor Tom Corbett cut corporate taxes by $1.2 billion.  Then he cut nearly $1 billion dollars from the state’s education budget.  Then he acted shocked when schools from Philadelphia to Pittsburg were forced to close.

Then a child died.

From the AFT: “We don’t know if a school nurse could have saved this young boy. But we do know every child deserves a full-time nurse in his or her school. We do know all parents deserve to know that their child will be safe and his or her most basic needs will be tended to at school. We do know that all Philadelphia children deserve better.”

The boy wasn’t the first child who died.  Twelve-year-old Laporshia Massey died from asthma complications that started while she was at school.  Could her death have been prevented there had been a school nurse on staff?

Of course, Governor Corbett responded by attacking the teachers’ unions – without mentioning the budget hole created by his corporate tax cuts.

Yep, another politician who wants our teachers to make “sacrifices.”

(But not the corporations.  Somehow, they never ask the corporations to make “sacrifices.”)

But it’s not just Pennsylvania.

A friend of mine is an elementary school art teacher, whose classroom is out of supplies and whose budget is out of money.  How do you teach elementary school art without construction paper and glue sticks?

A middle school student complains about seeing her teachers outside of school.  “It’s really embarrassing when you run into your teacher in a restaurant,” she says.  “But it’s even more embarrassing when your teacher is your server at the restaurant.  Why can’t we pay teachers enough that they don’t need a second job to survive?”

All across the country we hear stories of states being forced “make the hard choices” when it comes to budgets.  They try to make us believe that they have no other choice than to cut programs to keep their budgets balanced.  They never mention the possibility of restoring revenues that were given away as tax cuts.

A strong public education is vital to our communities.  A strong education is the foundation of the American Dream.  Public schools provide the tools necessary to lift people up, to find good high paying work, and to get that little house with the white picket fence.  A strong public education system — which I believe should include higher education — is the key to countering America’s poverty problems, too.

But budget cuts have forced some schools to close completely, leaving children and their parents scrambling.  Teacher layoffs have led to larger class sizes, and less time to help students.  Budget cuts are forcing teachers and parents to supply schools with basic necessities like paper, pens, chalk, and paper towels out of their own pockets.

Cuts to school lunch programs mean that too many teachers are reaching into their own pockets to buy lunch for students who would otherwise go hungry.

Yet corporations keep their tax cuts.

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are on the front lines of this fight to protect and preserve our public education system.  AFT is running a new campaign entitled “reclaim the promise” that challenges people to stand up for public education.

Stand up and fight to ensure that children in all communities get access to a high quality education.

Stand up and say “NO” to the government leaders who would rather cut funding to schools than ask businesses to pay their taxes.

Stand up and say: “NO MORE hungry children.”

And “NO MORE children dead, without a school nurse around.”

 

(Special Hat-Tip to my friends Kevin Mahoney and Sean Kitchen at Raging Chicken Press for always keeping the light shining on the atrocity of Governor Corbett’s attack on public schools and public workers.)

Grassroots and Dark Money Groups Building Media Campaign for Right to Work in PA

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Written by Sean Kitchen on the Raging Chicken Press

The never-ending push for Right to Work (for less) legislation in Pennsylvania is on the move again, but this time there’s more of a tangible campaign targeting the conservative base.  For 14 straight years, State Representative Daryl Metcalfe has introduced some form of Right to Work legislation, but this year’s legislation was introduced by State Representative Bryan Cutler (Lancaster, PA).  Last January, Jen Stefano from the Koch Brothers funded American’s for Prosperity in Pennsylvania held a press conference with Representative Metcalfe and announced that the legislation will become law.  Currently, it appears that dark money groups tied to right wing think tanks like The Franklin Center and Greenhouse Solutions are teaming up with a conservative activist from Southeastern Pennsylvania, and are astroturfing a social media and media campaign by using Facebook and Twitter accounts to push anti-union news and rhetoric from “independent” media outlets.

The players in this story are Simon Campbell – a conservative grassroots activist from Yardley, PA,  dark money think tanks, and astro-turfed media and social media outlets.  Simon Campbell is a local conservative activist from Bucks County PA.  He jumped on the scene in 2005 when he was elected to the Pennsbury School District.  The cause-celeb he ran on was a teacher bashing and anti-teacher strike platform.  While sitting on the Pennsbury School Board, Campbell started Stop Teachers Strike.  In 2013, Campbell’s four year term on the local school board was up and he and his colleagues were sept off board.   Weeks after the election, Campbell founded a 501.4(c) organization called Pennsylvanians For Union Reform, and thanks to his non-profit social welfare status, Campbell’s group is able to receive a whole lot of dark money.  Campbell’s resume as a right-wing activist has him giving speeches at luncheons or sitting on training sessions at Koch funded think-tanks like the statewide Commonwealth Foundation and Americans for Prosperity.

Then there’s a growing social media campaign. It appears that Campbell has been running a Pennsylvanians for Union Reform facebook page since June 2013, and has amassed over 20,000 followers.  That’s either one hell of a grassroots campaign or Campbell’s group has a few thousand sitting aside for social media promotion.   Then the page regularly posts stories from Pennsylvania media outlets that deal with union issues, but the majority of the posts come from two “independent” media outlets, Media Trackers and Watchdog Wire.  Out of the two media outlets, Media Trackers is more savvy when it comes to hiding their funding sources and who is actually writing their articles.  According to their website, Media Trackers describes itself as follows:

Media Trackers is dedicated to media accountability, government transparency, and quality fact-based journalism. Our site examines stories published in the mainstream media, explores claims made by some of the more partisan political groups, and provides the facts on the issues, people and elections that matter.

A 2012 Mother Jones article described Media Trackers as:

Conservatives have their think tanks, dozens of them at the state and national level. They also have a corporate-funded legislation mill in the American Legislative Exchange Council. What conservatives lacked, Ryun told the donors, were nimble attack blogs that could quickly capitalize on the latest missteps by big-government politicians or the “liberal” media—essentially hard-hitting, opposition-research-style shops that prize scoops, speed, and scandal over policy briefs and press conferences. His pitch: Create a network of one- and two-man digital media outlets with low overhead, rapid response, and a nose for controversy.

The donors loved it. They ponied up seed money in the low six figures, and Ryun’s conservative attack machine, Media Trackers, was born. Bonus: As a nonprofit, Media Trackers can keep the identities of those donors secret.

To obtain their non-profit status, Media Trackers changed their name to Greenhouse Solutions during the2013 IRS scandal, claiming that a liberal sounding name will ease the process.  When looking for Media Trackers’ journalists or blog staff, some of their writers were from the Heartland Institute,  a Rick Perry adviser, and a former journalist with the Washington Examiner.

The second fake independent media outlet involved in this campaign is Watchdog Wire, whose twitter account describes it as a “project of the Franklin Institute.”  Watchdog Wire’s media outlet is ran by the Franklin Center’s communications department.  Under the Franklin Center’s staff page, it lists Watchdog Wire’s staff.  The Franklin Center also has ties to two Pennsylvania groups, the Commonwealth Foundation, a right winged think-tank, and the Pennsylvania Independent, one of those “independent media” outlets.  Sourcewatch describes The Franklin Center’s ties to statewide think-tanks like the Commonwealth Foundation:

Franklin Center Director of Communications Michael Moroney told the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) in 2013 that the source of the Franklin Center’s funding “is 100 percent anonymous.” But 95 percent of its 2011 funding came from DonorsTrust, a spin-off of the Philanthropy Roundtable that functions as a large “donor-advised fund,” cloaking the identity of donors to right-wing causes across the country (CPI did a review of Franklin’s Internal Revenue Service records).[18] Mother Jones called DonorsTrust “the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement” in a February 2013 article.[19]Franklin received DonorTrust’s second-largest donation in 2011.[18]

The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation,[20] a conservative grant-making organization.[21]

The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM),[22] a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network,[23] which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation.[24] Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation.[25] SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.

What we are witnessing are the cogs turning in the right-wing infrastructure gearing up for an attack on public sector workers in 2014.  There has been a quiet 14-year movement to make Right to Work a possibility in Pennsylvania, and now the volume is being ratcheted up a few notches.  We are witnessing a “grassroots,” social welfare, non-profit group that has the potential to collect dark money run a social media campaign that is pushing for one issue; screwing workers’ rights.  The social media campaign, run by Pennsylvanians for Union Reform, is constantly pushing anti-union rhetoric from dark money dominated non-profit media outlet, like Media Trackers, or the Koch Brother funded, Franklin Center’s communication’s department at Watchdog Wire.  This is how the right wing infrastructure, with all their minions, all their think tanks and all their communications departments are going to try to undercut labor laws in Pennsylvania just like they did in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Florida in 2011.

 

Workers To Protest Against “Right To Work (for less)” In Pennsylvania

lager-620x264 Yuengling BeerFor a little over a month we have been talking about “Dick Yuengling called for “right to work” legislation in Pennsylvania“. Since this post workers have been organizing in protest to the proposed Right To Work legislation in the Keystone state.

I just received information about a local action in Pottsville, PA.  If your in the area, please join them!

March and Rally for GOOD JOBS and Rebuilding Pennsylvania’s MIDDLE CLASS:
Join Us As We Draw a Line in the Sand for Good Jobs, Strong Families and Strong Communities

Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Line up is at 10:30 AM between Third and Fourth Street and Mahantongo Street, Pottsville, PA

We will March to The Schuylkill County Courthouse for a Rally.

Each and Everyone One of Us Can Make a Difference by Standing Together and Demanding an End to Policies that support taking more money out of our pockets and handing it to people who are already too wealthy.

Tell Dick Yuengling Gov. Tom Corbett that Pennsylvania Needs a Raise …. Not Right-to-Work “for Less

Here are the facts:

  • Forbes Magazine recently reported Yuengling’s worth at $1.3 billion among the wealthiest in the country
  • Average annual pay in states with right to work “for less” was $39,169, which was $5,660 less than the average annual pay in Pennsylvania of $44,829 according to the latest figures from the bureau of labor statistics.
  • If you live in a right to work state employers are less likely to provide health insurance or good pensions to their employees and workers are 34.8 percent more likely to be killed on the job than Pennsylvania residents.

Dick Yuengling and Governor Corbett: Stop supporting policies that would put us ON A RACE TO BOTTOM and would turn the clock back over 100 years ago to the days of the “Molly Maguires”.

Congtruction worker 1Miners 1

Join Us as We Draw a Line in the Sand for Good Jobs, Strong Families, and Strong Communities on Saturday, November 9, 2013 Rally and March in Pottsville. 

For more information contact Roxie Pauline (RoxieP9@aol.com and cell: 570-840-1650) or Liz Bettinger (LBettinger@usw.org)

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