April 25, 2012
DINE: Relevant once more, labor takes presidential prominence
By Philip Dine - Special to The Washington Times Tuesday, April 24, 2012
For the first time in a long time, labor will be a central topic in the presidential campaign. Don't get me wrong. As a political player, labor has consistently been engaged and that won't change this time around, even if labor isn't thrilled with the job the president and Democrats in Congress have done on jobs, labor-law reform or trade deals. As union leaders and members look at the alternatives, they see a rather clear choice. What will be different this time around is the extent to which labor will be involved as a political issue. …. The actions by mostly Republican governors and legislators in dozens of states, particularly battleground states in the industrial heartland, also will be hot-button issues. …. More broadly, Republicans will accuse unions of harming job creation, bankrupting local and state governments, and being an arm of the Democratic Party. For their part, Democrats will contend that the Republicans ignore the plight of workers and have become the voice of corporations and the wealthy. And so, on a variety of fronts, labor will be front-and-center in the 2012 election season.
Obama Campaign Asks Unions to Help Cover Convention Costs
By Hans Nichols - Apr 25, 2012, Bloomberg
President Barack Obama’s political advisers are pressing labor unions to contribute to the Democratic convention in September to cover a fundraising shortfall resulting from their self-imposed ban on corporate donations, according to two people familiar with the matter. Democratic officials gave representatives of the major U.S. unions, including the AFL-CIO, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the United Auto Workers, a tour of the convention sites in Charlotte, North Carolina, April 23 in advance of a request for donations, according to the two people, who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss internal strategy.
Philly convention with a union seal
Philadelphia Daily News, Wed, Apr. 25, 2012, 3:01 AM
LABOR UNIONS unhappy that the Democratic National Convention will be held this September in union-averse Charlotte, N.C., are organizing a massive "middle-class" rally for August. The location: Philadelphia. … Kristie Greco, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Convention Committee, played down the strife Tuesday, noting that the Philadelphia event is being scheduled to not conflict with the Charlotte proceedings.
Labor Board Meets Rising Resistance
By MELANIE TROTTMAN, Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2012, 10:34 p.m. ET
Resistance to new National Labor Relations Board regulations and to the legitimacy of some NLRB members could make it harder for the Obama administration to change federal labor policies …. On Tuesday, the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected a measure to overturn a new NLRB regulation that would speed union-organizing elections by preventing employers from completing legal challenges until after the voting. …. Democrats and labor unions say workers need the freedom to join unions and launch complaints without employer intimidation. "Today's vote is just the latest in a long series of senseless and time-wasting attacks on working people, their unions and the National Labor Relations Board," said Alison Omens, a spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO.
Critz defeats Altmire in Dem member match-up
By Cameron Joseph, The Hill, 04/24/12 10:37 PM ET
Rep. Mark Critz (D-Pa.) defeated fellow Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire in their primary on Tuesday, in a major victory for unions.
A public power play over CEO pay
By: Josh Boak, Politico, April 24, 2012 11:19 PM EDT
…. The Securities and Exchange Commission has yet to finalize a requirement from the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform that companies disclose how much their chief executives earn compared with a typical employee. But already, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is turning up the pressure on the White House to deliver on Obama’s rhetoric about income inequality and lean harder on the SEC to finish things up. …. But the unions know — it’s no secret — who’s been fighting the implementation. A coalition of 22 trade associations, including heavy hitters like the American Petroleum Institute, the Business Roundtable, the National Retail Federation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, claim the new disclosure would cost a publicly traded company more than $7.6 million a year — and without doing much good.
In tough times, municipalities turn to volunteers to get the job done
By Brian Slodysko, Chicago Tribune. April 25, 2012
…. Although the evidence is largely anecdotal, local governments around the country are turning to volunteers to conduct official business, according to a report by the National League of Cities in Washington. Citing two examples, the 2010 report said Jacksonville, Fla., had brought in more than 500 volunteers and Hampton, Va., had used roughly 100 students to fill staff and intern positions. …. Just because volunteer labor is free doesn't mean it will be done well, said a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, one of the largest public worker unions. Volunteers often lack training and professionalism and are unreliable, said Anders Lindall, a spokesman for AFSCME Council 31. "There's scant evidence that volunteers can maintain essential public services over time," Lindall said. "It is very difficult to screen volunteers for competence and integrity, and even harder to ensure accountability. And, of course, laying off workers destroys middle-class jobs."
Romney sweeps 5 wins, promises 'better America'
By KASIE HUNT, The Associated Press, Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Mitt Romney laid claim to the fiercely contested Republican presidential nomination Tuesday night with a fistful of primary triumphs, then urged all who struggle in a shaky U.S. economy to "hold on a little longer, a better America begins tonight." ….. The former Massachusetts governor spoke as he swept primaries in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York, the first since Rick Santorum conceded the nomination.
Democratic super-PACs hit Romney on higher education
By Geneva Sands – The Hill, 04/24/12 03:25 PM ET
Two Democratic super-PACs teamed up Tuesday to attack Mitt Romney's record on higher education ahead of President Obama's visit to three college campuses, as he courts the youth vote. The pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities USA Action and Democratic-leaning American Bridge 21st Century released a memo and video, accusing Romney of making Massachusetts "less competitive" by cutting funding for higher education and job training programs.
How Democrats plan to use a lobbying group to paint Mitt Romney as too right wing
By Juan Williams April 24, 2012 FoxNews.com
…. Name a controversial, conservative piece of legislation from the last two years — from South Carolina’s Voter ID law to Alabama’s “Papers Please” immigration law to Wisconsin’s effort to strip unions of collective bargaining rights — and ALEC had a hand in writing it. …. Now ALEC’s negative image is about to loom even larger as President Obama’s campaign enacts a strategy of reminding voters of the extreme conservative positions Romney adopted to win the GOP nomination. …. Romney’s endorsements of ALEC laws are a major part of why independent voters are reluctant to back him.
How ALEC became a political liability
By Rachel Weiner, Washington Post: April 24
…. While legislators pay $50 a year to belong to the group, most of the ALEC’s money comes from corporations. According to tax returns obtained by the New York Times, in 2010 the group had a $7 million dollar budget, with some companies paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in dues.…. Activists who have been working against ALEC say the real turning point came last summer, when a whistleblower leaked 800 pieces of ALEC model legislation to the Center for Media and Democracy. The group created a new website, ALEC Exposed, to house the drafts and publicize ALEC’s work. .. Common Cause is challenging ALEC’s status as a tax-exempt charity in a complaint to the IRS, based on more leaked documents and FOIA requests. Whether the lawsuit succeeds or not, like the Koch Brothers (themselves ALEC supporters), the American Legislative Exchange Council has gone from a little-known acronym to a political fireball.
Hatch Act reforms set to advance
By Eric Yoder, Washington Post, 04/25/2012
Both chambers of Congress are taking steps toward a potential first overhaul in nearly two decades of the rules restricting political activities by federal employees, beginning with a planned vote today in a Senate committee.
Feds to pay contractor execs up to $763,029
By Brian Tumulty, Gannett, April 24, 2012
Congress has frozen the salaries of federal employees, but not the salaries of federal contractors. Certain executives at firms with federal contracts are in line to receive a 10% salary increase to an annual maximum of $763,029 each.
Private water companies partner with fracking lobby
Sarah Pavlus | 04.20.12 | 8:56 am | American Independent
Two of the country’s largest private water utility companies are participants in a massive lobbying effort to expand controversial shale gas drilling — a heavy industrial activity that promises to enrich the water companies but may also put drinking water resources at risk. The situation — which some watchdogs describe as a troubling conflict of interest — underscores the complex issues raised by the nationwide push to privatize infrastructure and services like water, prisons, and roads. The water companies – American Water and Aqua America – are leading drinking water suppliers in Pennsylvania, where drilling is booming. They also sell water to gas companies — which use a drilling technique that requires massive amounts of water — and have expressed interest in treating drilling wastewater, a potentially lucrative opportunity.
Stimulus expected to lapse in June
By: Josh Boak, Politico, April 24, 2012 11:19 PM EDT
The Federal Reserve looks ready to take the training wheels off the recovery, despite signs that the economy is wobbling again. When Fed officials wrap up their April meeting Wednesday, Wall Street mostly expects them to let the current stimulus effort — popularly called Operation Twist — lapse as scheduled in June.
School vouchers and the religious subversion of church-state separation
Katherine Stewart, guardian.co.uk, Monday 23 April 2012 12.55
…. You don't have to be a constitutional scholar to get that using public money to fund religious schools violates the letter and spirit of the first amendment. …. The real money behind the voucher movement, however, comes from real money. Many of the voucher bills passing through state houses are the work of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or Alec, as well as pro free-market thinktanks such as the Heartland Institute and the Heritage Foundation. These organizations engage in aggressive lobbying efforts in favor of what they call "school reform". They are backed by big oil, Koch Industries, Walmart – the kind of corporate entities that Romney would call "people".
Fewer employers offering health benefits, study says
By Sam Baker, The Hill, 04/24/12 01:12 PM ET
Fewer employers are offering healthcare coverage and fewer employees are taking it, a new study reports. The survey, conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), found a steady drop in the number of private-sector employers that offer health benefits to their workers.
Lack of insurance mandate would hurt hospitals -Moodys
Tue Apr 24, 2012 1:14pm EDT (Reuters)
Non-profit hospitals will struggle with higher costs if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns a key part of the healthcare reform law that requires individuals to buy insurance, Moody's Investors Service said on Tuesday.
Debt Collector Is Faulted for Tough Tactics in Hospitals
By JESSICA SILVER-GREENBERG, New York Times, April 24, 2012
Hospital patients waiting in an emergency room or convalescing after surgery are being confronted by an unexpected visitor: a debt collector at bedside. This and other aggressive tactics by one of the nation’s largest collectors of medical debts, Accretive Health, were revealed on Tuesday by the Minnesota attorney general, raising concerns that such practices have become common at hospitals across the country. … To patients, the debt collectors may look indistinguishable from hospital employees, may demand they pay outstanding bills and may discourage them from seeking emergency care at all, even using scripts like those in collection boiler rooms, according to the documents and employees interviewed by The New York Times.
TARP: Billions in Loans in Doubt
By VICTORIA MCGRANE,ROBIN SIDEL and JEFFREY SPARSHOTT, Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2012, 8:31 p.m. ET
Hundreds of small banks can't afford to repay federal bailout loans, a top watchdog will warn Wednesday in a report that challenges the government's upbeat assessment of its financial-system rescue. Christy Romero, special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, said 351 small banks with some $15 billion in outstanding TARP loans face a "significant challenge" in raising new funds to repay the government.
CA: Analyst says some state worker contracts 'modestly' increase costs
Sacramento Bee, April 24, 2012
The Legislative Analyst's Office figures that four union contracts that Gov. Jerry Brown has agreed to extend for one year will "maintain or modestly increase the state's costs for employee compensation." The nonpartisan LAO looked at so-called "rollover agreements" with the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (Bargaining Unit 16) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (Unit 19) and concluded that they don't cost the state more than the deals that expire in July.
CA: Bill to cap state pay dies in committee
Matt Clark, UT San Diego, 4:52 p.m., April 24, 2012
A proposal to cap state worker pay at what the governor earns died in a Senate committee on Tuesday, with six yes votes and seven no votes. … Representatives for California State University, the California State Teachers Retirement System and the Union of American Physicians and Dentists all spoke in opposition to the bill. They said the bill would affect the state’s ability to recruit and retain employees.
FL: State employees to see more retirement cuts on July 1
By SASCHA CORDNER, WFSU, April 24, 2012
The retirement plans of about 100,000 Florida employees are about to change, after Governor Rick Scott signed a bill into law that allows employers to reduce the amount they pay into a 401-K type retirement plan. But as Sascha Cordner reports, the move could spur employees to start looking at other options. …. Critics of the bill, like Republican Senator Mike Fasano, say it’s sad that the measure could cause many to weigh their options and switch from the investment plan into the pension plan.
IL: City Council approves Emanuel's controversial rebuilding plan
By Hal Dardick, John Byrne and Kristen Mack, Clout Street, 1:19 p.m. CDT, April 24, 2012
The Chicago City Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s controversial plan to lure private money for public-works projects, tossing aside concerns from some aldermen that there's not enough oversight. ….. But good government groups, several aldermen and Inspector General Joseph Ferguson said those steps did not ensure full compliance with city ethics rules, hiring regulations and state government sunshine laws. …. Labor leaders and aldermen who favor the mayor's plan urged passage, playing up the jobs the projects funded by the trust would create.
KS: Statehouse Live: State employee association calls on Legislature to fund under-market pay increase
By Scott Rothschild, Journal World, April 24, 2012
…. Michelle Walters, president of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said state workers are committed to their jobs and need to be fairly compensated. "Not only are state workers dedicated to working to keep Kansans and their communities safe, but they are doing it to the point of mental and physical exhaustion,” Walters said.
La. workers retirement bill in works
BY MARSHA SHULER, Adovcate, April 25, 2012
Major changes are being negotiated behind closed doors to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed overhaul of the retirement plans for about 60,000-plus state employees, including those in higher education. Legislative sponsors said Tuesday that it will be next week before the measures get their next legislative airing. …. Jindal has said he is trying reduce taxpayer pension spending while providing for the sustainability of the system for employees. But opponents claim the governor’s proposals are unconstitutional because they break contracts.
ME: Judge's ruling on Maine labor mural to be appealed
ASSOCIATED PRESS April 24, 2012, 3:23PM ET text size: TT
Plaintiffs in Maine will appeal a federal judge's ruling that Gov. Paul LePage was within his rights when he had a mural depicting Maine's labor history removed from a state office building. Lawyers for the plaintiffs announced Tuesday they have filed a notice of appeal in the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
MD: Infant stabbed in Baltimore; mother in custody
Apr 24, 2012 5:14pm, AP
A mother managed to slip a long kitchen knife past security at a Baltimore social services building and used it to stab her infant daughter in the face and neck Tuesday, police said. …. Patrick Moran, director of AFSCME of Maryland, which represents some state workers, called the incident "horrible, wretched and gut-wrenching. How she (the mother) got through security is beyond me."
MI: Detroit leaders paint grim fiscal picture
BY DARREN A. NICHOLS THE DETROIT NEWS, APRIL 25, 2012 AT 1:00 AM
City leaders offered sobering comments on Detroit's financial future Tuesday, a day after Mayor Dave Bing proposed a budget that would slash services and cut nearly a quarter of the city's work force. …. On Tuesday afternoon, about 50 union members marched outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center to protest tough new contract terms called for under the consent agreement between the city and state. The 1,000 water department workers represented by Local 207 are vowing not to simply accept the compromises that union's president said were forced upon other union workers by city and state officials.
MI: Ex-Pontiac emergency manager: Law is a quick fix destined to fail
April 25, 2012 | Detroit Free Press
The former emergency manager of Pontiac outlined Tuesday how the state's emergency manager law is destined to fail. In describing the law as a quick fix of city finances without planning for future economic development and civic engagement, Michael Stampfler said Public Act 4 makes it easy for cities to fall right back into distress when the emergency manager leaves. His comments came at a Rotary International meeting in Wyandotte.
MI: Saginaw employee benefits exceed standards set by Gov. Rick Snyder's administration
Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 12:40 PM By Gus Burns | mlive.com
Saginaw employees receive benefits in excess of the standards established by Gov. Rick Snyder's administration for municipal governments, says Dennis Jordan, the city's employee services director. Saginaw must show it has a plan to reduce benefits below those limits in order to receive its full portion of state revenue sharing. …. Three Saginaw unions — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Service Employees International Union 517 M; and the International Association of Firefighter's — have contracts that expire June 30 and are amid collective bargaining negotiations with the city.
Minnesota's talks with unions continue; contracts expired nearly 10 months ago
By Megan Boldt, pioneerpress.com, 04/24/2012 11:46:13 AM
Republican legislators say they're frustrated by the lack of transparency in negotiations between Minnesota's state employee unions and Gov. Mark Dayton's administration, accusing the two sides of "dragging their feet." The DFL governor is in the midst of negotiations with several unions, including the two biggest - the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees. The contracts expired almost 10 months ago.
Minn. contracts may have domestic partner benefits
By BRIAN BAKST Associated Press , April 25, 2012
Same-sex domestic partner health benefits are in play as part of Minnesota state employee contract talks, reopening a debate that raged at the Capitol a decade ago. Republican lawmakers drew attention to the potential contract language Tuesday by circulating an offer sheet between Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton's administration and the largest public employee union. The proposed two-year pacts haven't been finalized, but the benefits were part of the "state's best offer" put before the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Missouri Senate backs pay raise for state employees
11:32 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 24, 2012 BY DAVID A. LIEB/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Tens of thousands of Missouri state employees, who rank as the lowest paid in the nation, would get a 2 percent pay raise under a proposal narrowly embraced Tuesday night by state senators. The Senate voted 17-15 to defeat an amendment that would have stripped the pay raise out of the proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
MS: Firm Leaves Miss. After Its Prison Is Called 'Cesspool'
by JOHN BURNETT, NPr, All Things April 24, 2012
One month after a federal court ordered sweeping changes at a troubled juvenile prison in rural Mississippi, the private company managing the prison has announced it is pulling out of the state. A report by the Justice Department describes "systemic, egregious and dangerous practices" at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. … Walnut Grove, located an hour's drive east of Jackson, is a 1,450-bed prison that houses inmates ages 13 to 22 who are minors convicted as adults. It is run by GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla., the nation's second-largest for-profit prison corporation, which posted a profit of $284 million last year. The Mississippi Department of Corrections pays GEO to manage the prison.
NC: Unwise outsourcing of prison health care
BY DANA COPE, executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina. News Observer, April 25, 2012
Hiring private contractors to take over the state’s prison health care system is a bad move for North Carolina and for all of us in the state who pay taxes. Privatization won’t save money, and if other states are a guide, initial low-ball bids and multiple malpractice suits will push the state’s costs even higher. Deliberate understaffing at Central Prison has led to many negative outcomes. But it looks like the Perdue administration would rather scapegoat 2,500 prison medical professionals than acknowledge its own culpability and fix the problems.
Nevada may push more children’s services onto community groups
By David McGrath Schwartz (contact), Las Vegas Sun, April 24, 2012 | 6:21 p.m.
Unable to provide services to the state’s youngest children with physical and developmental disabilities, the state is considering shifting more of the responsibility to nonprofit community providers. …. State employee unions opposed legislation last year that would have encouraged the state to rely more on nonprofits. Vishnu Subramaniam, chief of staff of the state chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, called past legislation “over-reaching.” “What is most important is what best serves the children of our state,” he said Tuesday.
NY: Union hopes pact made / Fulton County, CSEA lack contract
April 24, 2012 By MICHAEL ANICH , The Leader Herald
- Fulton County government's largest union has shrunk to about 285 members, but both sides negotiating a new contract are eager to begin talks again after more than two years without a new pact. The county's last contract with the general unit of Local 818, Civil Service Employees Association expired at the end of 2009. Officials are trying to work out deals with that unit and a smaller unit that covers nurses.
NY: Suffolk County Legislature approves 315 layoffs
by John Callegari, LIBN, April 24, 2012
The Suffolk County Legislature today approved a plan to lay off 315 county employees beginning in June.
OH: Mansfield hires consultant in AFSCME talks
Apr. 25, 2012 Linda Martz, News Journal
The chairwoman of Mansfield's fiscal recovery commission Tuesday backed Mansfield's use of an outside consulting firm as negotiations with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees progress. …. AFSCME members have not had a raise since 2008, Remy said. But Hanrahan said what happens as a result of negotiations with that union could affect talks following later with firefighters and police.
OH: Contract approved (scroll down) Beacon Journal, April 25, 2012
RAVENNA: A new contract has been ratified between the county Department of Job and Family Services and 126 employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The contract, which runs through 2014, provides for a one-time payment of 1 percent of the bargaining unit’s base salary as of March 1, 2012, plus a one-time payment of $150. There is no cost of living increase.
SC: Senators ‘working through’ pension system issues
By ADAM BEAM - thestate.com, Wednesday, Apr. 25, 2012
A state Senate subcommittee is wrestling with how to start fixing the state’s $14 billion retirement system deficit – considering what changes to make and, more important politically, who those changes would affect. … There seems to be consensus among senators that part of the House’s solution to the retirement deficit – cutting the benefits of current workers – is a bad idea, according to interviews with four of the committee’s six members. But senators are having trouble agreeing on what to do instead.
TN: Haslam signs civil service bill
4:11 AM, Apr. 25, 2012 | The Tennessean
Gov. Bill Haslam signed his plan to rework the state’s civil service rules into law in an outdoor ceremony near the state Capitol on Tuesday morning. With his Cabinet, legislative leaders and representatives for state workers looking on, Haslam signed the Tennessee Excellence, Accountability and Management, or TEAM, Act, which gives managers in state government more power to hire, fire and promote whom they wish. The bill de-emphasizes seniority and calls for annual performance reviews that can be used to determine pay.
TN: Audit Shows Prison Deficiencies
April 24, 2012, by Michele Reese, WREG
An audit by the State of Tennessee uncovered what many suspected about the Shelby County Corrections Center: no one is adequately watching hundreds of inmates. The On Your Side Investigators obtained a copy of the latest inspection at the same prison where inmates posted pot-smoking videos on Facebook. State investigators failed the Shelby County Corrections Center after their latest inspection filed six weeks ago. In the five-page report, the Tennessee Corrections Institute outlined deficiencies at the prison. Supervision and sanitation topped the list.
WI: 3 prison guards attacked in past week at Stanley prison
Apr 24, 2012 5:23 PM EDT By Jerry Gallagher – (WQOW)
After 2 years without an inmate assault there were two incidents at the Stanley Correctional Facility in a week. … "Morale is at an all-time low. Vacancies are at a record high. Mistakes are happening that can and should be corrected," says Troy Bauch, an AFSCME Council 24 staff representative. He blamed the governor, in part, for eliminating collective bargaining. He said one impact of that law was the loss of monthly labor-management meetings at each correctional facility. He said in those meetings workers could speak openly and share their concerns.
WI: Falk's new strategy in Wis. recall
By: David Catanese, Politico, April 24, 2012 05:32 PM EDT
…. An internal Falk poll, part from a strategy memo that was released to POLITICO, showed the former Dane County executive cutting into Barrett’s lead, but still trailing by 8 percentage points. … A Falk strategist said the candidate would also be turning more of her attention to Act 10, the controversial budget bill that Walker is now claiming saved the state $1 billion.
Wisconsin job losses highest in nation for last 12 months, federal report says
KAREN RIVEDAL | Wisconsin State Journal | Tuesday, April 24, 2012 4:00 pm
Wisconsin saw the largest percentage decrease in employment in the nation during the 12 months ending in March, a new report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said. During that time period, while 27 states and the District of Columbia saw significant job increases, only Wisconsin saw "statistically significant" job losses, the report said.