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April 24, 2012

National/Politics

 

Senate debates measure to nullify union rules
By SAM HANANEL, Associated Press, April 23, 2012

 

The Senate began debate Monday on a Republican effort to overturn new labor regulations that make it easier and quicker for unions to hold workplace elections. The White House immediately threatened to veto it. Even though it can't be filibustered and needs only a simple majority to pass, the rarely invoked resolution of disapproval is given little chance of succeeding when the Senate votes on it Tuesday. The vote, however, forces lawmakers to take sides ahead of the November election on an issue that sharply divides unions and business groups.

Social Security Fund to Run Out in 2035, Trustees Say
By Brian Faler - Apr 23, 2012 1:45 PM ET, Bloomberg

The Social Security program will exhaust its trust fund in 2035 and have to start reducing benefits to senior citizens unless Congress intervenes, its trustees said. That is three years sooner than projected in 2011 for the retirement benefits program, which serves 44 million people, the trustees said in an annual report today. Social Security’s disability program, which aids 11 million Americans, will run through its trust fund in 2016, two years earlier than predicted. The report attributed the fiscal stress in part to the weak economy.

Related AFL-CIO blog: Trustees’ Report Shows Social Security ‘Vibrant, Strong’

Research shows the US is a low wage country
By Mark Thoma, CBS News, April 23, 2012 7:00 AM

Recent research from John Schmitt of the Center for Economic Policy Research shows that the US leads developed countries in the share of workers earning low wages. The research also shows that increased wage polarization over the last several decades is one of the reasons for the large share of low wage-work in the US.

SPIN METER: Romney roadmap leaves voters guessing
By Steve Peoples, Associated Press / April 23, 2012

Mitt Romney's roadmap for governing the country is so vague that it has even Republican allies questioning his intentions. …. The fuzzy positions are consistent with Romney's pattern of embracing politically popular choices -- tax cuts and smaller government, for example -- while ignoring the realities he would face as president, such as how to pay for those tax cuts or regulate business to prevent another economic meltdown. His campaign refuses to say whether he will offer specifics in some cases even before the November election.

Editorial: Callous Choices in the House
New York Times, April 23, 2012

For months, House Republicans have been trying to wriggle out of the agreement they made in August that will force deep cuts in military spending. Now we know how they propose to do it: They will take tens of billions out of programs for the poorest Americans, particularly food stamps, along with health care for the middle class.

Altmire-Critz race tests labor's muscle
By: Alex Isenstadt, Politico, April 23, 2012 11:31 PM EDT

…. At the United Steelworkers downtown headquarters here, an entire room is devoted to a singular purpose: defeating Jason Altmire, the Democratic congressman who voted against the president’s health care bill more than two years ago. More than a dozen workers sit at circular tables, stacking doorknob placards and leaflets hailing Altmire’s foe, Democratic Rep. Mark Critz, as “the only labor-endorsed candidate in Pennsylvania’s 12th District.” … Now, union forces have thrown the full weight of their political machinery against the conservative Democrat.

Conservative Groups Spending Heavily in Bid to Win a Senate Majority
By JEREMY W. PETERS, New York Times, April 23, 2012

The conservative groups that helped Republicans win the House in 2010 are pouring money this year into an aggressive campaign to capture the Senate, a goal that they consider just as vital as winning the White House. … Their immediate objective: use hard-hitting television ads to tether Democratic candidates to the budget deficit, lackluster economic growth and the perception that government has become too intrusive and unmanageable. …. The conservative groups’ strategy makes clear that they — traditional Republican allies like the Chamber of Commerce along with newer players like the Karl Rove-backed Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers-affiliated venture, among others — intend to be even more aggressive this year than they were in 2010, when they greatly expanded the role of outside money in Congressional elections.

How the Pennsylvania Senate Primary Explains Democrats' Chances to Keep the Senate
APR 23 2012, 3:19 PM, Molly Ball, The Atlantic

On Tuesday, Republicans go to the polls to pick a U.S. Senate nominee in a five-way primary in this paradigmatic swing state. But it's generally agreed the winner will be the pick of a bad litter. … Across the political spectrum, Pennsylvania observers say the same thing. The state's veteran independent pollster, Terry Madonna, says Casey "looks relatively safe." Observes a Republican insider in Harrisburg, "I don't know anyone who thinks Bob Casey's going to lose." …. The reasons why help tell the story of why national Democrats are feeling good about keeping the Senate in a year when few expected they could pull it off: Across the country, from Florida to Ohio, sitting Democratic senators who ought to be sorely vulnerable are instead watching from the sidelines while their rivals squabble or implode.  
Editorial: A Test on Equal Pay
New York Times, April 23, 2012

… Mr. Romney says he supports equal pay for women and has “no intention” to repeal the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the 2009 federal law that corrected a notorious 2007 Supreme Court ruling that made it much harder for victims of pay discrimination to challenge their unlawful treatment. Yet he declines to say whether he would have signed that law in the first place, and he calls Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who this month signed a law repealing a 2009 state wage discrimination law, a “hero.”  … By supporting the bill and rallying Republicans to get behind it, Mr. Romney can demonstrate real leadership on equal pay — and perhaps even soften the impression of Republican insensitivity to women’s concerns. At a time when women still earn, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, there is a clear need for stronger steps to help close the gender gap.

NRA Reportedly Seething Over Elimination Of ALEC Task Force
April 23, 2012 11:20 am ET by Matt Gertz, Media Matters

….Erickson reported:…. The NRA representative claimed that if ALEC was going to run away from the fight on these public safety issues, ALEC might just run away from other issues too, e.g. immigration. … At that point the ALEC representative pointed out that ALEC had actually sought help from the NRA on "stand your ground" laws, but the NRA decided, yet again, to play it safe and wound up letting ALEC take the bullet.

ALEC's alienating political agenda
By: Ari Melber, Politico, April 23, 2012 09:36 PM EDT

For an organization devoted to building coalitions, the American Legislative Exchange Council has seen a lot of partners hit the road recently. Close to a dozen companies have withdrawn from ALEC after recent public pressure, and The New York Times reported Sunday on a new trove of documents that detail ALEC’s aggressive lobbying activities despite its tax-exempt status. The group is now battling a related Internal Revenue Service complaint, continuing boycott campaigns and a rapid decline in its pro-business brand. This backlash is significant because it shows the limits of modeling a conservative coalition on the Republican Party’s base — and the potential for free-market pressure to boomerang.

Insurers Alter Cost Formula, and Patients Pay More
By NINA BERNSTEIN, New York Times, April 23, 2012

Despite a landmark settlement that was expected to increase coverage for out-of-network care, the nation’s largest health insurers have been switching to a new payment method that in most cases significantly increases the cost to the patient. … The agreement required the companies to finance an objective database of doctors’ fees that patients and insurers nationally could rely on. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, then the attorney general, said it would increase reimbursements by as much as 28 percent. It has not turned out that way. Though the settlement required the companies to underwrite the new database with $95 million, it did not obligate them to use it. So by the time the database was finally up and running last year, the same companies, across the country, were rapidly shifting to another calculation method, based on Medicare rates, that usually reduces reimbursement substantially.

Workers, not firms, pay for healthcare
April 22, 2012 at 5:33 PM (UPI)

U.S. employers don't pay for health insurance, workers do; the employer pays for health insurance from money allocated for payroll, researchers say. Jonathan Kolstad, assistant professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and Amanda Kowalski, an Okun-Model Fellow in Economic Studies, said when making hiring decisions, a company focuses on the total amount it spends on compensation, not the breakdown between salary and other benefits. .. Today, when offering jobs to potential employees, employers reduce salary to account for the contributions they must make to health insurance premiums, the researchers said. Potential employees then have to decide whether they are willing to work for lower wages and have health insurance, the researchers say.

Occupy Movement Looks Toward Political Conventions
By VIV BERNSTEIN, New York Times, April 23, 2012

… Every four years, the political conventions become magnets for mass protests, but this year the Occupy movement has added an unpredictable element to the mix. In Charlotte, the movement has already shown its clout through hundreds of protesters in October who gathered to demonstrate against Bank of America and a resulting encampment on the lawn in front of old City Hall.  But the Occupy movement here has been beset by troubles. There was infighting over leadership within the group at the start, and there were repeated public relations gaffes.  … Occupy Charlotte members recently met with Occupy protesters from throughout North Carolina to prepare for the convention and are planning to provide housing, food and other support for those who come from out of state.

Liberal Groups Plan to Protest at Shareholder Meetings
Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2012, 7:30 AM ET

Liberal and labor groups calling themselves the 99% Spring are planning to stage protests at annual shareholder meetings of a number of big corporations, including Wells Fargo & Co., General Electric Co., Bank of America Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. … The groups include SEIU, AFSCME, MoveOn.org, Rainforest Action Network, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, The New Bottom Line, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and Americans for Democratic Action, according to a press release.

Could a Union Strike Ground the Pentagon's New Jet?
Adam Weinstein| Mon Apr. 23, 2012 1:13 PM PDT, Mother Jones

The union builders of one of the Pentagon's priciest pieces of equipment are going on strike, threatening the beleaguered trillion-dollar program and the Beltway contractors who are counting on it. Last Sunday, workers at Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth, Texas, construction plant voted by more than a 9-to-1 margins to strike for better conditions. The plant's 3,600 union machinists handle most of the parts and assembly for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an over-budget, under-performing, behind-schedule fighter jet that's on record as one of the biggest wastes of money in Pentagon history.

Wal-Mart faces federal criminal probe tied to allegations of bribery in Mexico
By Sari Horwitz and Jia Lynn Yang, Washington Post: April 23

The Justice Department has been conducting a criminal probe of Wal-Mart for allegations of systematic bribery in Mexico, according to three people familiar with the matter. …. Labor critics again raised alarms about the company’s practices. “The reported cover-up by Walmart executives at the highest levels exposes a core truth: Walmart cannot be taken at its word,” Joe Hansen, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, said in statement.

State/Local

CA: Former San Jose elected officials backing library funding petition
By Mary Gottschalk. Bayareanewsgroup  04/23/2012 06:15:37 AM PDT

Citizens unhappy with the state of San Jose's public libraries are circulating a petition for a ballot measure that would force San Jose to set a minimum funding level for its library system. Save San Jose Libraries' supporters point to the 18 branch libraries now open just four days a week, a 25 percent cut in staffing over the past three years and four new branch libraries sitting fully constructed but never opened. …. If the initiative qualifies for the November ballot and passes, the proposed amendment to the city charter would raise San Jose's per capita spending to $49 per resident, making it even with Oakland.

CT: House approves controversial collective bargaining proposal
April 20, 2012, By Arielle Levin Becker, CT Mirror

The House approved a controversial proposal to give collective bargaining rights to certain home care workers and daycare providers Friday night, a matter that has galvanized union supporters and opponents, people with disabilities, child care providers and critics of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

IL: Quinn's pension plan could set legal precedent
JOHN SHARP, Journal Star, Apr 23, 2012 @ 08:41 PM

Gov. Pat Quinn's proposal to reduce the state's massive pension debt by making state employees work longer and pay more toward retirement is a concern that "is going to be a constitutional test," an administrator with an unaffected public pension program said Monday.

IL: Supporters speak out against closing transition center
STEVE TARTER, Journal Star,  Apr 23, 2012 @ 09:35 PM

If it's not broke, why fix it? That sentiment was expressed by many who spoke at a Monday hearing on the possible closing of the Peoria Adult Transition Center. .. "It's the one aspect of corrections that works," said Lott Pickett, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 359 and a second-shift supervisor at the Peoria transition center that houses 224 individuals.

KS: Report: Kansas state hospitals face staffing crisis
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Mon, Apr. 23, 2012 09:45 AM

A program launched last year by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to cut the state’s workforce has resulted in major staffing problems at state hospitals, according to a report presented to the House Appropriations Committee. Brownback’s administration says more than 1,000 employees took advantage of the governor’s early retirement program, which offered health insurance benefits and one-time payment incentives to state workers. The buyout is expected to save the state $34.5 million over two years, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.

LA: Opponents rally against Jindal plan
BY MARSHA SHULER. April 24, 2012, Advocate

The Jindal administration’s proposed retirement plan for new state employees will cost taxpayers more money and could leave future retirees destitute, critics of the plan said Monday. …. Opponents at the news conference Monday included representatives of firefighters, policemen, teacher and state employee unions as well as executives of AARP and a nonprofit budget project group. Neither firefighters nor policemen were affected but they said they wanted to join with opponents, figuring their groups would be next.

LA: Our Views: What does a worker get?
Advocate, APRIL 23, 2012

… However, in all these debates, the one thing we’ve wanted both sides — or all sides, depending on the particular bill — to agree on is a common set of facts. How much can a worker count on? State employees don’t have Social Security, so of necessity a decent retirement depends on the state pension. .. At a League of Women Voters panel, retired Civil Service Director Allen Reynolds put his finger on this problem. “The process has been so quick, we really don’t know what those changes are, he said.

LA: Audit finds more problems with Louisiana Medicaid home-care programs
Monday, April 23, 2012, 3:52 PM,  By Bill Barrow, The Times-Picayune

Home health services financed by the Louisiana Medicaid program remain plagued by claims fraud and other personnel problems, this time centered on workers who are related to their patients, according to a recent analysis by state auditors. Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office last year documented six years of irregularities that resulted in $4.32 million in improper payments to Medicaid vendors who provide in-home and community-based care to elderly and disabled patients. The new follow-up audit involves 2010 claims from 25 workers. All the cases involved patients that had family members serving as their direct-care provider.

MA: UHS Considers Cutting Infirmary Hours over Summer
By DAN DOU and SAMUEL Y. WEINSTOCK, CRIMSON, Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Harvard University Health Services is considering plans to close Stillman Infirmary, Harvard’s center for 24-hour care, and after-hours urgent care between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. this summer, according to University spokesperson Nanci Martin. …. Bill Jaeger, director of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, which represents many UHS employees, said that HUCTW has been assured that the potential closures would have “no impact” on its members. Jaeger said this meant that there would be no layoffs, no reductions in hours, and no involuntary schedule changes involved.

MI: Bing administration says 2,500 job cuts, privatization will save Detroit $250M
11:56 AM, April 23, 2012 |  By Matt Helms, Detroit Free Press

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s staff laid out a city budget this morning that cuts more than 2,500 jobs in an effort to shave $250 million from its annual expenses as the city tries to right its finances after agreeing to state oversight. The job cuts -- mostly through layoffs but also counting retirements and attrition -- would be in addition to the 1,000 layoffs Bing sought earlier, all but 200 of which have been targeted, Bing’s Chief Operating Officer Chris Brown told members of the Detroit City Council this morning.

MI: Facing bankruptcy, Detroit to spend $330K on Washington lobbyists
By Rachel Leven, The Hill,  04/23/12 01:28 PM ET

The mayor of Detroit has signed a $330,000 contract with a team of Washington lobbyists as he tries to save the city from bankruptcy. The office of Mayor Dave Bing has employed Clark Hill, a law and lobby firm, to work on “funding for municipal government activities, including workforce development, education, public safety, transportation and housing,” according to public documents filed last week.

MI: Former Pontiac EFM to give speech criticizing law
Monday, April 23, 2012 By Alan Burdziak, News Herald

Michael Stampfler, former emergency manager of Pontiac, will give a presentation tomorrow on why he believes Michigan’s emergency manager law, enhanced by Public Act 4 of 2011, is failing and why it will make things worse. …. According to the Wyandotte Rotary Club, he is expected to speak on his firsthand experiences and “why the damage can reach beyond the troubled cities into surrounding communities, and what are the alternatives?”

MI: Emergency manager's Flint budget proposal 'rough,' council member says
Monday, April 23, 2012, 11:56 PM  By Kristin Longley | mlive.com

Flint city Councilman Bernard Lawler said the emergency manager's budget will overburden residents who can't afford to pay higher fees for water, waste collection and street lights. … Despite the proposed public safety layoffs, he said he thought the emergency manager preserved public safety "to the extent the budget allows for it." "When you lose 20 percent of your workforce, there's going to be cuts across the board," he said.

MN: Dayton talks up Vikings stadium at union retiree event
By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor, 23 April 2012

 Governor Mark Dayton received a standing ovation during a visit Saturday to the annual “Fun(d)raiser” for the Minnesota State Retiree Council, AFL-CIO, where he emphasized the need to build a new Minnesota Vikings stadium.… The crowd gave Dayton a standing ovation as he concluded his remarks. “He’s good with the people,” said Gayle Bolin, Eagan, an AFSCME Local 8 retiree.

Mo. House votes to further study state worker pay
AP,  Apr 24, 2012 5:23 AM EDT

The Missouri House has voted to give a special committee more time to find ways to boost the salaries of state employees. A resolution approved Monday on a vote of 145-1 would keep the special panel in business and order a study of pay scales for different state jobs. The committee's members include lawmakers, other state appointees and members of the public. The resolution says that state employees in Missouri are the lowest-paid in the nation.

NJ: Trenton agrees to represent Johnson as head of union representing city blue collar workers
Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 7:00 AM,  By Matt Fair/The Times

Flip-flopping on its position earlier this month, the city said yesterday it would recognize Edmund Johnson as the head of the union representing blue collar city workers. … The decision to recognize Johnson, the acting president of AFSCME Local 2286, comes after a meeting Friday between him and new city business administrator Sam Hutchinson.

NV: Gov. Sandoval reaches sales tax deal with Amazon
ED VOGEL, REVIEW-JOURNAL, Posted: Apr. 23, 2012 | 6:04 p.m.

Gov. Brian Sandoval and Internet sales giant Amazon announced an agreement Monday to allow the state to start collecting sales taxes on the company's Internet sales to Nevada customers beginning in 2014. ….. The administration estimates the tax would bring in at least $16 million a year, although Taxation Director William Chisel said he could not guess on the amount of sales taxes that the state would collect on purchases by Amazon customers from Nevada.

NY: State Ponders Relinquishing Its Oversight of Vulnerable
By DANNY HAKIM, New York Times, April 23, 2012

The Cuomo administration is strongly considering relinquishing some of the state’s oversight and monitoring responsibilities over vulnerable populations, and giving that power to a nonprofit advocacy group, a top administration official said Monday. The administration discussed its plans after The New York Times obtained a report in which the state agency charged with oversight of vulnerable populations in New York said it had a “fundamental conflict” that prevented it from fulfilling its mission. The agency, the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons With Disabilities, recommended that much of its work be turned over to a nonprofit group.

NY: Progressive groups question CEO lobby for Cuomo
Associated Press, April 23, 2012, 5:52 p.m. ET

Two of New York's growing progressive groups said Monday that a committee of CEOs lobbying on behalf of Gov. Andrew Cuomo is really a "Super PAC" for wealthy interests that a state regulatory board has failed to investigate. Community Voices Heard and VOCAL-NY, anti-poverty groups often associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement and unions, cited a story Saturday by The Associated Press about the lobbying group The Committee to Save New York. The committee was created in 2010 to fund TV and radio advertising campaigns to support Cuomo's agenda. It denies being a Super PAC.

OH: OSU advances $400M parking privatization
By Mary Posani, Lantern, Tuesday, April 24, 2012 00:04

Ohio State has sent out an official request for proposals (RFP) to private companies interested in managing campus parking operations, hoping for a bid of at least $375 million. …. Gee also said in the email that no current Transportation and Parking employee would lose his or her job from a new contract.

PA: Pleasant Ridge Manor pension dispute subject of June hearing
BY KEVIN FLOWERS, Erie Times-News, APRIL 23, 2012 11:47 PM EST

The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board in June will hear details of a dispute over proposed changes to the pension plans of workers at two county-owned nursing homes. Officials from both Pleasant Ridge Manor and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 85 are expected to present arguments at the unfair-labor-practices hearing, set for June 8 in Pittsburgh. …. AFSCME filed an injunction in Erie County Court on Dec. 29 to challenge County Council's Nov. 17 approval of a "hybrid" pension change that allows half of the nursing homes' approximately 360 employees who participate in the pension plan to continue accruing benefits.

PA: Labor board reverses decision
Citizen’s Voice, April 24, 2012

The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board has reversed an order that would have forced Luzerne County to reinstate 36 former employees who filed unfair labor charges when their jobs were outsourced without bargaining sessions in 2010. The former county employees were union workers, represented by the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, in the dissolved county workforce investment agency. The labor board agreed with the county that the Luzerne/Schuylkill Workforce Investment Board, not the county, was responsible for the outsourcing decision. …. Schnelly said she will review last week's labor board decision with AFSCME's attorney and Council 87 director David Antle. They will decide whether to appeal the decision, Schnelly said.

PA: Corrections chief weighs privatizing medical services
BY ROBERT SWIFT April 24, 2012, Times Tribune

Decision time is nearing on a plan to privatize medical services at state correctional institutions, the corrections secretary said Monday. Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said a recommendation could come from his agency in several weeks on whether to proceed with the outsourcing of nurse and medical records services at the prisons. The recommendation will go to Gov. Tom Corbett and be based on both cost-savings and service delivery considerations, he told the Pennsylvania Press Club. The department has obtained bids from companies that specialize in prison management as part of efforts to maintain corrections spending at current levels of $1.9 billion in the 2012-13 state budget.

RI: Taveras Unveils Budget: City Council Reacts
Tuesday, April 24, 2012, Dan McGowan, GoLocalProv News

Less than three months after warning that Providence was on the verge of bankruptcy, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras on Monday proposed a fiscal year 2013 budget that will not raise taxes, but will depend on retirees having their cost-of-living-adjustments (COLAs) frozen and tax-exempt institutions contributing millions in payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to the city. … Taveras urged the Council to immediately pass all seven recommendations made by Council subcommittee on pension sustainability, which includes freezing COLAs and placing a cap on pensions moving forward.

SC: American Legislative Exchange Council has a hand in S.C. politics
BY ROBERT BEHRE and STEPHEN LARGEN, Post & Courier, April 23, 2012

…. The extent of ALEC’s influence in the Palmetto State is difficult to nail down, as there is no complete or definitive public tracking of just how many of its model bills have been introduced or passed here in some form over the years. …It’s rare for state legislators to publicly admit that a bill they sponsor is actually the work of ALEC, but the similarities between the group’s model bills and some introduced here are undeniable. Whole sections of some, with a few words changed, match ALEC models. …. Some say ALEC provides corporations a way to influence lawmakers without it being reported to state ethics watchdogs.

WA: Geiger Corrections Center set to close amidst budget cuts
by KREM.com & Honora Swanson,  April 20, 2012 at 8:28 PM

The Geiger Corrections Center will shut down because of budget shortfalls, according to officials in Spokane County. KREM 2 News obtained an internal email from the Detention Services Commander in the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office that notified employees of Geiger's impeding closure. The email was sent out Friday.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's budget reforms: Sheboygan County numbers appear inflated
10:37 PM, Apr. 23, 2012 |   Josh Lintereur, Sheboygan Press

Gov. Scott Walker and other Republican lawmakers announced Monday that their controversial budget bill curtailing most collective bargaining rights for public workers has thus far saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $1 billion — though their estimates appear somewhat inflated in Sheboygan County. The $1 billion figure includes an estimated $1.3 million in savings in the City of Sheboygan, where city officials said the money saved under the budget bill was far less, totaling $420,000. City Administrator Jim Amodeo said the governor's estimate assumes Sheboygan employees weren't previously paying any money toward their health insurance when in fact most were paying 8 to 10 percent.

WI: Judge's ruling creates confusion over union status for public emloyees, local government
11:17 AM, Apr. 23, 2012 |  of The Northwestern

A federal judge’s decision to strike down elements of the law limiting collective bargaining by public employees has left workers and local government officials unsure of the status of many public employee unions. In late March, Judge William Conley struck down provisions of Wisconsin Act 10 that required unions to recertify annually and prohibited governments from directly deducting union dues from employee paychecks. Several unions representing city of Oshkosh employees opted not to hold a recertification vote when their contracts expired at the end of 2011. … Transit workers used to be members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 796. The local represented more than just city transit workers, but did not hold a recertification vote, so Brinkman said the group was looking to establish a separate union for themselves.

WI: Walker hit by first ad in recall election
CNN, April 23rd, 2012 08:46 AM ET

The first major ad against incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin went up statewide on Monday, ahead of the state's recall election on June 5th. Greater Wisconsin Political Fund launched the 30-second spot with the help of $500,000 from the Democratic Governors Association in an effort to attack the first term governor's record on jobs and taxes.

WI: Serious Assaults at Stanley Point to System-wide Problems in Corrections 
AFSCME Council 24, April 23, 2012 

Recent serious assaults against staff at Stanley Correctional Institution point to growing problems at the facility, and statewide throughout the correctional system, according to the men and women who work inside correctional facilities. …. "Correctional officers have long understood that they work in dangerous conditions.  But what has changed is that they no longer have a way to speak out about their concerns without fear of reprisal from above," said Troy Bauch, an AFSCME Council 24 staff representative and former correctional officer.

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