Unions mobilize as labor board faces paralysis in Obama’s second term
By Kevin Bogardus, The Hill, 05/14/13 03:24 PM ET
Labor is mounting an all-out push to fill the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as the agency faces the prospect of being sidelined for the rest of President Obama’s second term. Unions of all stripes have told Senate Democrats that they need to move on all five of Obama's nominees to the board, even if it takes a controversial change to filibuster rules to make it happen....Trumka said labor is prepared to put pressure on lawmakers if the NLRB nominations stall in the Senate. ...
NLRB Nominations May Be Blocked By GOP, Rendering Labor Board Inoperable
Dave Jamieson, Huffington Post, May 14, 2013
With the Senate about to consider President Obama's nominees to the National Labor Relations Board, Democrats and labor groups are growing concerned that Republicans will block the administration's left-leaning nominations, rendering the board inoperable once a current member's term expires in August....With Obama's nominees now requiring confirmation, union leaders worry that some Republicans will see their wish of a non-functioning board come true, leaving labor disputes tied up indefinitely....
Dispute at JPMorgan Grows, for All the Wrong Reasons
By STEVEN M. DAVIDOFF, New York Times, Dealbook blog, May 14, 2013, 4:52 pm
… Shareholders are being asked by the Afscme Employees Pension Plan and a number of other shareholders, including the New York City comptroller’s office, to vote on a resolution recommending that the JPMorgan board require that the chairman and chief executive positions be separated... But let’s be clear, the vote is advisory only. The JPMorgan board, which opposes this move, could still say no. And even if the board changes its mind, Mr. Dimon would still be chief executive and very much in charge, assuming, of course, that he stays. The chairman, whether at JPMorgan or any other company, really has the power only to call board meetings and preside over them. The chairman would just be one person on the 11-member board. So why even go through with this? Well, Afscme and the proponents of the change argue that “shareholder value is enhanced by an independent board chair who can provide a balance of power between the C.E.O. and the board.”...
Labor unions not raising a fuss over Pritzker
Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun Times, May 14, 2013
Penny Pritzker, President Barack Obama’s Commerce secretary nominee, has long been a target of organized labor — with the drive against her led by the Chicago Teachers Union and Unite Here Local 1, representing the city’s hotel workers.Yet as Pritzker is lining up Senate support for her confirmation — making her first courtesy calls on Tuesday, starting with a meeting in the Capitol with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) — no union, either national or local, has raised any objection to her nomination.... The unions have muzzled themselves, not because they are crazy about the Pritzker nomination. They are not. Labor officials I talked to told me they are taking a pass on Pritzker because unions have a lot more pressing battles than taking on Pritzker.
Controversies Threaten President's Agenda
By PETER NICHOLAS and JANET HOOK, Wall Street Journal, Updated May 15, 2013, 3:38 a.m. ET
An outburst of controversies threatens to swamp President Barack Obama's second-term agenda, while giving Republicans new opportunities to galvanize their base ahead of the battle for control of Congress in the 2014 elections....One of Mr. Obama's priorities, an overhaul of immigration laws, has significant Republican support. But the president already faced long odds of enlisting GOP lawmakers for his other agenda items, including proposals to raise the minimum wage, spend tens of billions on highways and infrastructure, and broaden early-childhood education. The new disclosures will likely heighten partisan tensions and encourage lawmakers to think even earlier about next year's elections....
Stop holding Democrats to a different standard
BY DAVID SIROTA, Salon, TUESDAY, MAY 14, 2013 09:00 AM EDT
The recent IRS flap shows an obvious double standard in Washington's reactions to Bush era and Obama era misconduct...Considering the gravity of the allegations against the Obama IRS from the Treasury Department’s inspector general, congressional scrutiny is certainly warranted. However, there’s just one problem: most of the lawmakers and pundits today decrying the use of public resources against a White House’s political opponents had little – if anything – to say about equally troubling revelations about the Bush administration’s deployment of public resources against its opponents.....
The real scandal: IRS gives tax exemptions to political partisans
By David Horsey, Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2013, 5:00 a.m.
The revelation that conservative political groups seeking tax-exempt status were singled out for special attention by Internal Revenue Service bureaucrats has given Republicans their best cudgel yet to beat on the Obama administration. But as the outrage revs into high gear, let me offer a contrarian perspective: As inept as the IRS may have been in the way they processed applications for 501(c)(4) status, the bigger scandal is that the IRS grants the tax-exempt designation to so many overtly political organizations, treating them as if they are no more engaged in partisan politics than the Girl Scouts.... Related: Los Angeles Times: Opinion: New details -- good and bad -- from the IRS inspector general's report
Wall Street Journal: Opinion: James Bovard: A Brief History of IRS Political Targeting
Christian Science Monitor: IRS report shows why tea party scandal was almost inevitable (+video)
‘Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA were created for the purpose of hiding donors.’
By Dylan Matthews, Washington Post, Wonkblog, Updated: May 15, 2013
Fred Wertheimer is the founder and president of Democracy 21, a leading campaign finance reform organization.. We spoke on the phone Tuesday afternoon; a lightly edited transcript follows.
...A lot of these groups have super-PACs attached to them. Why? So American Crossroads is a super-PAC, and they’re affiliated with Crossroads GPS, which is a 501(c)(4). Priorities USA Action was the Obama-supporting super-PAC, and it was affiliated with Priorities USA, a 501(c)(4). That is simply one part of the case that shows that groups like Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA were created for the purpose of hiding donors. Donors were basically told: “You can give your money to the super-PAC, but you’ll be disclosed. If you don’t want to be disclosed give it to our 501(c)(4), and we’ll hide who you are.” They weren’t created to be “social welfare organizations.” They were created to hide the donors from the American people, who were financing the campaign expenditures by these groups....
CBO says deficit shrinking at faster rate
By Erik Wasson, The Hill, 05/14/13 02:23 PM ET
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Tuesday said the federal budget deficit this year will shrink to $642 billion — the smallest since before President Obama took office and more than $200 billion less than the agency projected in February... The improvement from a $845 billion deficit this year is due to higher tax revenue than expected and payments from government-backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the CBO said. The office said the revenue increases are temporary. Related: Talking Points Memo: Inconvenient Deficit Facts
Wall Street Journal: U.S. Deficit Shrinking Fast
CBO sees $18 billion spending reduction under Senate farm bill
Derrick Cain, Agri-Pulse Communications, May 13, 2013
The draft farm bill (S. 10), which the Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Nutrition Committee will consider Tuesday, would reduce direct spending by $18 billion over 10 years, according to a Congressional Budget Office report
released today....This falls short of the estimated $24 billion Senate supporters have suggested would be saved over the life of the bill. However, if sequestration was repealed, the reduction would hit $24.4 billion, CBO said. The CBO estimates that direct spending authorized by the bill over the 2014-2023 period would total $955 billion....
Sequestration gets real for furloughed workers
DARREN SAMUELSOHN, POLITICO, 5/14/2013
Sequestration went from wait-and-see to here-it-is Tuesday when the number of furloughed federal workers hit an eye-popping 820,000. .... The number is expected to grow as more department heads make their own tough decisions on how to swallow their share of $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts.... What’s clear so far is that sequestration isn’t being handled the same at each agency, several of which got more money in March, thanks to Congress. The air traffic controllers and meat inspectors also got special deals that allowed them to avoid furloughs....
Head Start Centers Feeling 'Sequester' Pain
Christina A. Samuels, Education Week, Published Online: May 14, 2013
...Head Start and Early Head Start serve nearly a million children and families. The programs were funded at nearly $8 billion in fiscal 2012, marking a period of extended growth due in part to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The sequestration cuts, which represent a 5.27 percent reduction for Head Start from fiscal 2013 spending, take Head Start funding back to approximately $7.6 billion, which is close to where it was in 2008. The administration has framed the reduction as the loss of 70,000 slots....
The Elusive Minimum Wage
David Macaray, Huffington Post, Posted: 05/14/2013 9:35 am
...My one beef with the DOL is its unwillingness to give credit to the only institutional organization in the history of the U.S. dedicated exclusively to improving the economic lives of working people--i.e., labor unions. Indeed, you hardly ever see any mention of unions on their website. While the DOL is clearly pro-worker, pro-disabled, pro-minority, and pro-international rights, they're terrified of the political backlash that would likely result were they to give a well-earned shout-out to organized labor. Say again? Bureaucrats lacking the moral courage to speak the truth to power? Shocking....
Here are 315 charts on poverty and inequality. Satisfied yet?
By Dylan Matthews, Washington Post, Wonkblog, Updated: May 15, 2013
Merry Christmas, nerds: the OECD is out with its latest disposable income, poverty and inequality numbers for all its member states. The full data are here, but it’s more fun to play around with the awesome interactive
they created for the occasion: The takeaways aren’t all that surprising. The United States still has greater-than-average inequality and relative poverty than the typical OECD country....
Trends in Health Insurance Premiums for Public and Private Employers
Written by: Alice Zawacki, U.S. Census Bureau, Research Matters blog, Posted on May 14, 2013
… Looking at publicly available estimates based on the MEPS-IC, we found that the gap between premiums for the public sector (state and local governments) and private employers grew dramatically from 7.5 percent in 2000 to 20.5 percent just nine years later. The figure below shows this growing gap in premium costs for enrollees. In 2009, the single premium per employee enrolled in state and local government health plans was $5,627 versus $4,669 for plans offered by employers in the private sector. A more detailed analysis (not shown) indicates that the higher growth in premiums in the public sector was driven by rising premiums for local government establishments....
How They Do It Elsewhere
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE, New York Times, May 14, 2013
...Scores of other countries have elaborate retirement systems, and some of them avoid the biggest pitfalls of America’s retirement system....A new report ranking various countries’ retirement systems gives the United States a C, considerably worse than the A received by Denmark and the B-plus given to the Netherlands and Australia. The study, by the Mercer consulting firm and the Australian Center for Financial Services, weighs adequacy of benefits, breadth of coverage and other factors, and points to numerous weaknesses in the American system. Those shortcomings include contribution rates too low to assure adequate retirements for middle-class Americans and many workers withdrawing large sums from their 401(k)’s before they retire....
New App Lets You Boycott Koch Brothers, Monsanto And More By Scanning Your Shopping Cart
Clare O'Connor, Forbes, 5/14/2013
...Pardo’s handiwork is available for download on iPhone or Android, making its debut in iTunes and Google Play in early May. You can scan the barcode on any product and the free app will trace its ownership all the way to its top corporate parent company, including conglomerates like Koch Industries. Once you’ve scanned an item, Buycott will show you its corporate family tree on your phone screen. Scan a box of Splenda sweetener, for instance, and you’ll see its parent, McNeil Nutritionals, is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Even more impressively, you can join user-created campaigns to boycott business practices that violate your principles rather than single companies. One of these campaigns, Demand GMO Labeling, will scan your box of cereal and tell you if it was made by one of the 36 corporations that donated more than $150,000 to oppose the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food.....
Unions protest over potential L.A. Times sale to Koch brothers
By Walter Hamilton, Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2013, 4:35 p.m.
About 300 labor-union members and other activists staged a demonstration Tuesday to protest the potential sale of the Los Angeles Times to the billionaire politically conservative Koch brothers. Demonstrators marched outside the downtown L.A. headquarters of Oaktree Capital Management, an investment firm that holds about a 20% stake in Tribune Co., which owns The Times. Protesters alleged that Charles and David Koch, wealthy siblings who fund conservative causes, want to buy The Times in order to skew the paper’s coverage to favor anti-union objectives. The protesters picketed Oaktree because the firm manages pension investments on behalf of unionized government employees, including those in the California Public Employees’ Retirement System….
Fast-food workers stage protests for higher wages
Paul Davidson, USA TODAY8 p.m. EDT May 14, 2013
Fast-food workers are staging unprecedented one-day walkouts in cities across the country. Milwaukee workers plan to join Wednesday as nearly 200 demand $15 an hour and the right to unionize....
Opinion: Mending factory conditions after Bangladesh
By Harold Meyerson, Washington Post, Published: May 14
... The problem here isn’t Bangladesh. Garment work has historically led to mass death for young women — the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York’s Washington Square took 146 lives — when marketers and manufacturers have been able to elude safety standards in pursuit of higher profits. Wal-Mart, though, has taken this problem to a new level. By depressing wages at its retail outlets and at every point along its supply chain, it has helped create an underpaid buying public compelled to shop for discount clothing. Everyday low wages create a demand for everyday low prices — a downward spiral that hits bottom in the deathtraps of Bangladesh....
AK: County refuses order to reinstate fired worker
Peter Rebhahn, Star-Times, May 14, 2013
Juneau County and a union are again at loggerheads in a protracted employment dispute that was not settled by a circuit court judge’s ruling in December. Attorneys for the union that represents fired county employee Jeffrey S. Shaw have asked a judge to hold the county in contempt of court for refusing to reinstate him. In a motion filed in Juneau County Circuit Court on March 18 on behalf of Shaw, attorneys for AFSCME — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — claim that Juneau County “has intentionally disobeyed and resisted” the Dec. 4 order of Sauk County Circuit Judge Patrick Taggart....A hearing on the union’s contempt motion is set for May 28...
CA: Revised California Budget Pumps Up Schools
WILLIAM DOTINGA, Courthouse News Service, May 14, 2013
Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget for 2013-14 channels billions more toward K-12 education, even as California faces a precarious economic recovery and its languishing "Wall of Debt." After years of taking the state's fiscal mess on the chin, California public schools will see $1,046 more money per student in 2013-14 if legislators pass Gov. Brown's budget. That figure could rise to $2,754 per student by 2017 if his budget plans stay on their rails - thanks in large part to voters passing temporary tax increases last year, Brown said. ...A $500 million funding increase for the University of California and California State University systems, which Gov. Brown laid out in his January budget , remains in place with no change... Related: Los Angeles Times: Gov. Brown's budget tightens general-fund spending
CA: Jerry Brown 'aiming low' on pay for state employees
Jon Ortiz, Sacramento Bee, State Worker blog, May 14, 2013
During a press conference this morning to tout his latest state budget plan, Gov. Jerry Brown said that he wants to hold down state payroll costs as his administration bargains new pacts with nearly a dozen unions. One questioner noted noted that the administration is in contract negotiations and asked Brown why the new proposal didn't include employee costs.... Brown's representatives have signaled for months that the governor wants to hold the line on salaries. ...An earlier version of Brown's 2013-14 budget proposal anticipates spending $15.7 billion on employee salaries for roughly 216,000 employees under his authority....
CA: Failed state payroll clean up price tag: $14.5 million
Jon Ortiz,Sacramento Bee, State Worker blog, May 14, 2013
Gov. Jerry Brown's budget includes a $14.5 million allocation for legal costs and computer data clean up associated with the MyCalPays system that Controller John Chiang killed earlier this year. Brown's January budget proposal called for $38 million and 150 positions to finish implementing the program, but Chiang canceled the contract with tech giant SAP after a series of error-filled test runs raised concerns that the project could never expand statewide....
CA: Legal Action Taken by UC To Prevent Hospital Picketing
Posted by Carly Bates, Daily Nexus, May 15, 2013 at 5:00 am
The University of California released a statement last Friday calling for a restraining order against major trade union American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in response to the union’s plan to hold strikes at all UC medical centers May 21 to 22. The two-day sympathy strikes were voted on by thousands of AFSCME Local 3299 members and on May 10, approximately 13,000 UC Patient Care Technical Workers within the union filed a 10-day notice to the UC Office of the President. The decision was reached in light of a new labor contract that will affect 12,500 patient care employees....While the Public Employment Relations Board is currently undecided as to whether it will attempt to enact the restraining order, a decision will be reached soon, according to Meron.... Related: LaJolla Patch: Restraining Order Still Being Sought to Block Strike by UC Hospital Workers
CA: Prop C, LA Measure To Overturn Citizens United, Will Be Voted On By Angelenos Next Week
Kathleen Miles, Huffington Post, Updated: 05/14/2013 1:25 pm EDT
When Angelenos go to the polls next week to choose the next mayor of Los Angeles, they will be the largest electorate to vote on a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. Proposition C is a ballot measure urging Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 Citizens United ruling, which says that restriction of political spending by corporations or labor unions violates free speech....
FL: Sequester forces 4-week cut in jobless benefits
Jim Stratton, Sun Sentinel, May 13, 2013
Florida will soon slash four weeks of unemployment benefits to laid-off workers nearing the end of their eligibility. The reduction is happening because of the so-called sequestration, the automatic federal budget cuts that began in March. Up to 100,000 laid-off workers could be have their benefits cut off. Florida's maximum weekly payment is $275 a week, so a four-week cut could cost the jobless up to $1,100. The average person will lose about $924, the state said.
MI: Dave Bing Will Not Seek Another Term As Detroit Mayor
Joann Muller, Forbes 5/14/2013
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, the 69-year-old former NBA star, says he will not seek another term in office. Instead, he will explore a bid for Wayne County executive...
MI: Detroit Rescue Roadmap May Take Detour as Unions Reject Cutbacks
By Chris Christoff, Bloomberg News, May 14, 2013
...Orr should focus on collecting overdue taxes, trimming payments to vendors and ending wasteful spending on consultants, said Ed McNeil, assistant to American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 President Al Garrett. McNeil said Orr hasn’t answered requests for meetings. “This is really about gutting employee benefits, as opposed to fixing what should be fixed,” McNeil said. Council 25 represents about 2,200 of Detroit’s 10,000 municipal workers. Employees, retirees and debt holders may take cuts as Orr seeks agreements to avoid filing the largest U.S. municipal bankruptcy.... The newspaper said Orr doesn’t intend to end retiree health care. Orr offered to meet with Council 25’s McNeil alone and not with his negotiating team, said Bill Nowling, a spokesman. He said sitting down with negotiators would come “at the appropriate time.”
MN: Minn. Senate debate on child-care unions continues through the night
JIM RAGSDALE , Star Tribune, Updated: May 15, 2013 - 7:58 AM
Final action on the bill was delayed while the Senate debated amendments offered by opponents of unionizing home child-care workers... The bill seeks to give two groups of workers the right to vote on whether to form unions. In addition to in-home family child-care workers, who are being organized by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, the bill would allow a union vote for some personal care attendants who care for elderly and disabled people in the home. They have been organized by the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU.... “Yes, we do want this,” said Lisa Thompson, president of the nascent union and a St. Paul child-care provider. “The only way to certainly make substantial changes in the system, and support the people who do the caregiving, is to join together with one collective voice.”...
NY: Without anonymity, donations stop flowing to NY lobbying group that promotes Cuomo policies
By MICHAEL GORMLEY Associated Press, May 10, 2013 - 6:28 pm EDT
Donations for a lobbying group that promotes Gov. Andrew Cuomo's policies dropped from $17 million to zero after the state ethics board began requiring that donors be named, a 2012 federal tax filing provided Friday to The Associated Press shows.
NY: Golden Hill Health Care Center workers are told employment by Ulster County will end soon
By PATRICIA DOXSEY, Daily Freeman, Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Employees of the soon-to-be sold Golden Hill Health Care Center were informed on Tuesday that their days as county employees are numbered. Most, however, are expected to be kept on by the facility’s new owner.... Bartholomew said the letter was “a standard part of the transition process.” The county’s labor contract with the Civil Service Employees Association, which represents the employees of the nursing home, requires that the county give employees a minimum of 30 days’ notice of a layoff.....Because the facility is being sold, all Golden Hill employees, numbering about 350, will be laid off by the county....
PA: Phoenixville teachers union hires labor law firm
By FRANK OTTO, Times Herald, Posted: Tuesday, 05/14/13 11:50 am
…“In order to develop a reasonable and equitable contract in a timely fashion, (the Phoenixville Area Education Association) has contracted the services of Willig, Williams and Davidson,” according to a press release issued Monday from union co-president Catherine Renzulli. The Philadelphia law firm’s website states it as a “union-side” labor law firm. Listed among its clients are the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the American Federation of Teachers and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters....
TX: Public employees protest commercial property appraisal to dodge taxes
Houston Chronicle, Houston Politics blog, Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Almost 100 members of the municipal public employees union rose from the benches of the Houston City Council Chambers to call for a stop to the chronic undervaluation of high-end commercial properties.... The Houston Organization of Public Employees calculated that the reductions secured by the top 500 properties in Harris County amounts to lost taxes of half a billion dollars for the city and $1 billion for the Houston Independent School District between 2005 and 2012.....