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Unions Push Right To Work Off The Table In Kentucky

rtw logoBy BERRY CRAIG
AFT Local 1360

Think voting really doesn’t matter? Talk to a pair of Kentucky labor leaders.

Because union-endorsed candidates won three of four special House elections this month, “right to work” is dead for now in the General Assembly, said Bluegrass State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan and Bill Finn, Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council director.

State Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, announced Friday that the “Kentucky Right to Work Act,” Senate Bill-3, “is off the table this session,” Finn added. “The sole reason was the Democrats holding on to a majority in the state House, which the Democrats now control 53-47.”

Stivers also pulled Senate Bill-6, so-called tort reform. “It is rare for the proponents of such bills to kill their own bills and it is even rarer for the president of the Senate to credit their deaths to the one factor that we all know has been holding back the onslaught of anti-worker legislation: Democrat-control of the Kentucky House,” Londrigan said.

Unions were a big reason Democrats still have the legislature’s lower chamber, according to House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

“I don’t think you can overstate just how important organized labor was in the special elections,” he said. “They gave us a strong foundation to work from, and they were crucial for our ground game.”

RTW was very much alive last fall. Tea party Republican Matt Bevin was elected governor on a RTW platform, leaving the Democratic-majority House of Representatives as the only barrier between the Bluegrass State and RTW. The state Senate has a 27-11 pro-RTW Republican majority.

The Democrats’ 54-46 House margin shrunk by four when a pair of Democratic lawmakers switched to the Republicans and two more took posts elsewhere in state government.

The GOP hoped to run the table in the four special elections, thereby making the House 50-50. (Two Republicans had to leave after winning constitutional offices in November.)

A GOP sweep—or even wins in three of the races—would have given the Republicans significant momentum going into this fall’s elections.

Now Old Mo seems to be with the Democrats. 

Stivers filed SB-3 on Jan. 6. “SB-3 was sent to the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee on January 7 where it lay pending the outcome of the House special elections on March 8,” Finn explained.

He added, “there could not be a clearer picture for our members…that their vote matters than President Stivers’ admission that a Republican majority in the House would have passed SB-3.”

Click here to see Stivers’ surrender on SB-3.

“President Stivers stated clearly that ‘elections have consequences’ and the consequences of the failure of the Republicans to win all four special elections and tie for control of the Kentucky House is the death of RTW and tort reform–as well as the previous death of prevailing wage repeal in the House Labor and Industry Committee–and so many other terrible pieces of legislation the Republicans had ready if they won those four critical seats,” Londrigan said.

Londrigan added that the special elections again prove that all elections matter. “In this case, the consequences were sufficiently positive to maintain control of the Kentucky House.”

But he cautioned against “resting on our laurels. We are heading right back into a full blown effort by our opponents to ‘flip the house’ – a mantra the Republicans have been using for about the past six years.

“We have prevented them from doing so this time, and only by an enormous and united effort will we be able to do so this November. The consequences of failure can be understood by simply looking at our neighboring states of Indiana and West Virginia.” Both states became RTW states, West Virginia most recently.

“The wolf is at the door again,” Londrigan warned. “The question is will we in the Kentucky trade union movement have the strength and courage to keep the wolf at bay and prevent Bevin and company from turning back the clock even further on Kentucky’s hard-working men and women.”

Londrigan thanked “all of those who worked so diligently and effectively in the four special elections. Our opponents thought they had all four of them won. Our labor program and grassroots and workplace efforts won these elections and the hard work and dedication of so many union members, representatives, released staff and national staff gave the Kentucky labor movement a great win and a chance to win again in November.”

Finn is also grateful to union members—especially those who pack building trades cards—for their work in the special elections. “This is more proof that organized labor’s effort can change the directions of Kentucky.”

Kentucky is the South’s only non-RTW state. The Kentucky House is the only chamber in a Southern legislature with a Democratic majority.

Plymouth State University Faculty File Petition to Form Union


Plymouth, NH.  On Wednesday, March 9, tenured and tenure-track faculty at Plymouth State University filed a petition with the New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board to form a collective bargaining chapter with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Included with the petition were union authorization cards from a majority of the tenured and tenure-track faculty members at Plymouth State. 

Plymouth State University – AAUP, the group of faculty members leading the union drive, asserts that a faculty union will help create a more collaborative relationship with the PSU administration by establishing a collective bargaining agreement that outlines fair and clear processes. Rebecca Noel, an Associate Professor of History at PSU, is hopeful that a faculty union will create “an environment built on transparency, communication and shared decision-making, with respect for the needs of university students, faculty and staff.” Gary McCool, an Associate Professor in the Lamson Library & Learning Commons at PSU, believes that “the entire university community benefits when faculty are empowered to help ensure the quality of education at PSU by having fairly negotiated, legally binding policies and conditions of employment.”

There are roughly 170 tenured and tenure-track faculty currently working at Plymouth State University who would be eligible to vote in a union election. Plymouth State University is one of four public universities that make up the University System of New Hampshire. Should PSU faculty vote in favor of unionization, they would be following in the footsteps of their unionized colleagues at the University of New Hampshire and Keene State College. The tenured and tenure-track faculty at UNH, along with the full-time non-tenure-track faculty at UNH, are both unionized with the American Association of University Professors. The Plymouth State University – AAUP expects that an election will be scheduled this spring.

New Poll Shows 66% Of Republicans Oppose The TPP, Spelling Possible Trouble For Ayotte

Former NH State Senator Jim Rubens Challenges
Sen. Ayotte to a debate on American worker wages

A poll released today by the conservative group Americans for Limited Government and independent pollster Pat Caddell shocked the establishment about voters’ attitudes on the 2,000 page Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership agreement.  The shocker: 66% of Republicans oppose the TPP.  Some highlights from the results: 

– 69% of Republicans say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate for U.S. Congress who promises to put a stop to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

– 63% of Republicans oppose an effort to pass TPP in a special session of Congress.

– 85% GOP voters agree that “political leaders are more interested in protecting their power and privilege than doing what is right for the American people.”

– 76% of Republicans say “the same political elite who have been rigging the political process in Washington are the same ones that have been rigging trade deals that hurt Americans, but benefit themselves.” 

-77% of Americans oppose a Republican leadership effort to vote on TPP in a lame-duck session.

– An astoundingly low 4 percent of GOP voters think that free trade deals have been “more of a benefit to the U.S.”.  

Jim Rubens issued the following statement in response to the poll results: 

“Since the first drafts were leaked in 2014, I have publicly opposed the TPP.  I am firmly on the side of American workers.  It’s time for the U.S. Senate to take the side of American workers and against the crony capitalists and their bought-and-paid-for politicians who want to export American jobs and drive down American wages.

“Conservative Republicans are way out front in opposition to the TPP.  It’s unfortunate that Sen. Kelly Ayotte not only supports this crony capitalist agreement, but she voted last May to give President Obama fast-track trade authority to grease it through Congress.  New Hampshire is among the top 10 states most hurt by our trade deficit with China, having lost over 22,000 jobs over the decade ending 2011.  It’s clear that voters think that Washington career politicians are selling them out.

“Many people have referred to the TPP as ‘NAFTA on steroids’ because this deal benefits other countries at the expense of American workers who are being replaced by cheap foreign labor.  85% of GOP voters have lost faith in the Washington political class because of their blatant crony capitalism.  I’m running for senate to give voters a way to stop this wholesale sell out of the American worker.”

In the press conference discussing the poll results, pollster Pat Caddell predicts there will be significant primary losses based on this issue.  

Rubens challenges Sen. Ayotte to a debate on TPP and how to get American wages rising again.

March 10, 1919

March 10, 1919

The U.S. Supreme Court rules on Debs v. United States, affirming the labor leader’s conviction under the Espionage Act of 1917 for an anti-war speech he gave in Canton, Ohio, in 1918. Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison and disenfranchised for life. While in prison, he ran for president in the 1920 election and received 919,799 votes (3.4 percent of the popular vote).

Unions And Democrats Fight Of GOP In Kentucky House Elections

Democrats win three out of four special elections to keep the Kentucky House the only legislative chamber in the South the Republicans don’t have 

AFT Local 1360

Bill Londrigan

Bill Londrigan, Kentucky State AFL-CIO president

Labor-endorsed Democrats have won three of four special elections for the Kentucky House of Representatives, the only legislative chamber in the South that Republicans don’t control.

“These elections were a repudiation of Gov. Matt Bevin’s anti-worker policies and a rejection of the Republicans’ continuing effort to ‘flip the House’ as they call it,” said Bill Londrigan, Kentucky State AFL-CIO president.

Jeff Taylor, Chuck Tackett and Lew Nicholls will be heading to Frankfort to boost the Democrats’ House majority to 53-47.

It was 50-46 before Tuesday’s balloting, which was overshadowed by presidential primaries in Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho and Hawaii.

Taylor, from Hopkinsville, defeated Republican Walker Wood Thomas, also from Hopkinsville, in District 8. In the District 62 race, Tackett topped Republican Phillip Pratt. Both are from Georgetown. Nicholls of Greenup turned back Republican Tony Quillen, Greenup, in District 98.

“The Republicans didn’t ‘flip the House’ because their polices are not in sync with the interests of the hardworking men and women of Kentucky and the unions they support,” Londrigan added.

Londrigan said out-of-state, dark money groups spent lavishly on ads supporting the GOP hopefuls. Unions countered with a get-out-the-vote ground game that included neighborhood canvassing, phone banking and “doing everything else that was required to break through all that money the Republicans spent on media.

“We went door-to-door talking to people individually at their homes, their workplaces and at their union halls. We convinced them how important it is to come together to beat these anti-worker and anti-union policies that we have witnessed in Indiana and West Virginia.”

He said the elections prove that “workers really are concerned about what the future holds for their jobs, their families and their standard of living.”

But he said unions aren’t about to rest on their laurels. Organized labor is already focusing on the November elections when the whole House and half of the 38-seat Senate will be up for election.

“We’re ready to advance beyond these regressive policies of Gov. Bevin and these other anti-worker Republicans and start turning Kentucky around. We want to make Kentucky a state that supports workers and unions and not a crusade to destroy both.”

Taylor will replace State Rep. John Tilley, a Hopkinsville Democrat who resigned to take a cabinet post in Bevin’s administration. The 8th District includes Christian County and part of Trigg County in western Kentucky.

Likewise, Nicholls’ victory is another Democratic hold. The seat became vacant when Rep. Tanya Pullin, D–South Shore, stepped down to become an administrative law judge. The 98th District covers Greenup and Boyd counties in eastern Kentucky.

Tackett’s win is a Democratic pickup. He will succeed State Rep. Ryan Quarles, a Georgetown Republican, who was elected agriculture commissioner. The 62nd District encompasses parts of Fayette, Scott and Owen counties in central Kentucky.

In the other special election, Republican Daniel Elliott finished ahead of labor-endorsed Democrat Bill Noelker in House District 54. The seat had been held by GOP State Rep. Mike Harmon who was elected state auditor. All three men are from Danville. The district includes Boyle and Casey counties.

Leo W Gerard: When a Coin Drops in Asia, Jobs Disappear in Detroit

Former Factory Closed (Image Michael Coghlan)

Former Factory Closed (Image Michael Coghlan)

Last year, free trade hammered Michigan’s 11th Congressional District, located between Detroit and Flint, killing manufacturing, costing jobs and crushing dreams.

It’s not over, either. Another 11th District company, ViSalus Inc., told the state it would eliminate 87 jobs as of last Saturday, slicing its staff by nearly 400 since 2013 when ViSalus was the second-largest direct sales firm in the state.

The numbers are staggering. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released a reportlast week showing that America’s $177.9 billion trade deficit in 2015 with the 11 other countries in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal caused 2 million job losses nationwide.

This trade deficit reduced jobs in every U.S. congressional district except two, EPI said, but Michigan’s 11th had the ignoble distinction of suffering more as a share of total employment than any other district in the country. It was 26,200 jobs. Just in 2015. It was tech workers in January and teachers in July and tool makers in August and auto parts builders in October.

Manipulation of money killed those jobs. It works like this: Foreign countries spend billions buying American treasury bonds. That strengthens the value of the dollar and weakens foreign currencies. When a country’s currency value drops, it acts like a big fat discount coupon on all of its exports to the United States. And it serves simultaneously as an obscene tax on all U.S. exports to that country.

Among the TPP countries, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan are known currency manipulators, and Vietnam appears to be following their example. EPI found that currency manipulation is the most important cause of America’s massive trade deficits with TPP countries. Trade deficits mean products are shipped to the United States rather than made in the United States. The math is simple. A drop in Asian currency means a drop in U.S. jobs.

EPI looked at what types of imports the 11 countries sent the United States last year to determine what types of industry and jobs America lost as a result. The overwhelming majority was motor vehicles and parts. That’s why Michigan was the biggest loser of all of the states. The auto sector was followed by computer and electronic parts ­– including communications, audio and video equipment – and primary metals – including basic steel and steel products.

In addition, EPI found job losses in industries that serve manufacturers, like warehousing and utilities, and services like retail, education and public administration.

Each of these kinds of losses occurred last year in Michigan’s 11th district, located in the heart of America’s car manufacturing country in southwestern Oakland County and northwestern Wayne County, where Detroit is parked just outside the district’s lines.

In January, in Michigan’s 11th, Technicolor Videocassette of Michigan, Inc., a subsidiary of the French multimedia giant Technicolor SA, laid off 162 workers in Livonia. That same month, what was once a vibrant chain of cupcake stores called Just Baked shuttered several shops, putting an untold number of bakers and clerks in the street, some with last paychecks that bounced.

In February, the Sam’s Club store in Waterford closed, throwing 122 in the street. Waterford municipal official Tony Bartolotta called it another “nail in the coffin” for the township’s east side.

In April, Frito-Lay told 17 workers that they’d lose their jobs later that year when it closed its Birmingham warehouse.

In July, 231 teachers in the Farmington Public Schools learned they would not have work in the new school year. One of them, 25-year-old Val Nafso, who grew up in Farmington, told the Oakland Press, “I hope things change where people who are passionate about teaching can enter the profession without 1,000 people telling them “Don’t do it…get out now.”

In August, DE-STA-CO, a 100-year-old tool manufacturer, told Michigan it would end production in Auburn Hills, costing 57 workers their jobs.

In October, Waterford laid off 39 firefighters. The township had received a $7.6 million grant in 2013 to hire them, but just couldn’t come up with local funds to keep them. That happens when factories close and bakeries shut down. Township officials told concerned residents they’d looked hard at the budget, “We started projecting out for 2017 and it flat lined,” Township Supervisor Gary Wall told them.

Later that month, FTE Automotive USA Inc., an auto parts manufacturer, told Michigan it would close its Auburn Hills plant and lay off 65 workers.

In the areas around Michigan’s 11th, horrible job losses occurred all last year as well, which makes sense since EPI found 10 of the top 20 job-losing districts in the country were in Michigan.

Ford laid off 700 workers at an assembly plant in Wayne County in April. GM eliminated a second shift, furloughing 468 workers at its Lake Orion Assembly Plant in Oakland County in October.

Auto supply company Su-Dan announced in September it would close three factories in Oakland County by year’s end, costing 131 workers their jobs.

In October, a division of Parker Hannifin Corp. in Oxford, Oakland County, that manufactured compressed air filters told its 65 workers they wouldn’t have jobs in 2016. “There’s a lot of people there that are paycheck to paycheck, and it’s going to hurt them,” Michelle Moloney, who worked there 25 years, told a reporter from Sherman Publications.

The threat of the TPP is that it does absolutely nothing to stop this job-slaughter. Lawmakers, public interest groups, manufacturers, and unions like mine all pleaded with negotiators to include strong provisions in the deal to punish currency manipulators. They didn’t do it.

They included some language about currency manipulation. But it’s not in the main trade deal.  And it’s not enforceable.

Swallowing the TPP would be accepting deliberately depressed currency values in Asian trading partner countries and a permanently depressed economy in the U.S. car manufacturing heartland.

It’s the TPP that should disappear. Not Detroit.

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