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February 15, 2012

National/Politics

Courts block efforts at public pension change

By Stephen C. Fehr, Stateline, WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2012

A pair of recent court rulings could slow down state lawmakers’ efforts to increase contributions from current employees to prop up troubled public pension plans. …. One way to head off legal challenges, public pension analysts say, is to avoid legislation altogether by negotiating higher contributions with public employee unions. Vermont did that in 2010, requiring employees to work longer and pay more for benefits but giving them a fatter pension check in return. “A deal everyone makes doesn’t end up at the courthouse,” says Klausner. “It’s certainly something I’ve recommended — consult with labor. Working out the deal yourself is probably the best solution.”

Deal Reached on Payroll Tax
By NAFTALI BENDAVID and KRISTINA PETERSON, Wall Street Journal, FEBRUARY 15, 2012

Congressional negotiators reached a tentative a deal Tuesday night on extending the current payroll-tax cut through the end of the year, as well as continuing longer unemployment benefits and avoiding a steep cut in Medicare doctors' fees. The agreement, culminating a long and angry debate, followed a major concession earlier in the week from House Republicans, who agreed to extend the payroll-tax holiday without offsetting spending cuts. Without an agreement, payroll-tax rates would rise on March 1 for 160 million American workers. …. This extension would be funded with an array of measures, including a sale of the broadband spectrum and a cut in the government's contribution to employee pensions.

Obama signs $63B FAA funding bill into law
By Keith Laing  - The Hill, 02/14/12 03:59 PM ET

President Obama signed a $63.6 billion funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration Tuesday, bringing to an end a years-long fight over aviation funding that became engulfed in labor disputes. …. During the FAA shutdown last summer, President Obama gave a speech in the Rose Garden about the agency's funding situation, but some unions have expressed unhappiness with the labor election provisions in the appropriations measure for the agency even after the compromise.

Bishops plan aggressive expansion of birth-control battle
Stephanie Simon, Tue Feb 14, 2012 5:23pm EST (Reuters)

Catholic bishops, energized by a battle over contraception funding, are planning an aggressive campaign to rally Americans against a long list of government measures which they say intrude on religious liberty. …. More than 30 organizations supporting Obama teamed up to create the Coalition to Protect Women's Health Care, which has started an online petition and plans further action. The coalition includes two unions that represent millions of workers and have well-honed networks for getting out political messages, the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Federal Diary: Government continues to shrink, despite ‘obesity problem’ rhetoric
By Joe Davidson, Washington Post: February 14

On Wednesday morning the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing that’s designed to examine what the majority Republicans call “the federal government’s obesity problem.” If Republicans want a petite government, they should applaud the direction the federal workforce is heading. …. Yet, Uncle Sam already is serving more with less and has been slimming his workforce, compared to the country’s population, at a rate that would make Jenny Craig jealous. “The size of the Federal civilian workforce relative to the country’s population has declined dramatically over the last several decades, notwithstanding occasional upticks due, for example, to military conflicts and the enumeration of the Census,” says “Improving the Federal Workforce,” a chapter in the administration’s fiscal year 2013 budget documents.

Obama’s budget plan backs ending Saturday mail, other Postal Service changes
By Ed O’Keefe, Washington Post: February 14

President Obama’s budget proposal supports allowing the U.S. Postal Service to end Saturday mail deliveries, raise the price of stamps above the rate of inflation and recalculate how it plans to pay for the future retirements of postal workers.

Economic Growth Gives Lift to Obama in NYT/CBS Poll
By JIM RUTENBERG and ALLISON KOPICKI, New York Times, February 14, 2012

…. For the first time since the election season began in earnest in the late summer, as many Democratic voters as Republicans said they were more enthusiastic than usual about voting in the 2012 presidential election. That would appear to wipe out the “enthusiasm gap” that promised to help Republicans greatly next fall. ….. But the poll showed that even Mr. Romney would lose to Mr. Obama by six percentage points among all registered voters if the election were held today.

Private Prison Corporation Offers Cash In Exchange For State Prisons
Chris Kirkham, Huffington Post: 2/14/12

As state governments wrestle with massive budget shortfalls, a Wall Street giant is offering a solution: cash in exchange for state property. Prisons, to be exact. Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest operator of for-profit prisons, has sent letters recently to 48 states offering to buy up their prisons as a remedy for "challenging corrections budgets." In exchange, the company is asking for a 20-year management contract, plus an assurance that the prison would remain at least 90 percent full, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Huffington Post.

Right-to-Work Laws and Working-Class Voters: Another Teachable Moment
02/14/2012 4:53 pm, John Russo, Coordinator, Labor Studies Program at Williamson College of Business Administration, Huffington Post

….. The current RTW legislation is a direct attack on organized labor and its ability to represent the economic and political interests of both the rank and file and those non-union workers whose wages and benefits are enhanced by employers to avoid unionization. No doubt, the role of unions in building and rebuilding economic security and the middle class, advancing workplace rights, and promoting political democracy will be a central part of the curriculum for this teachable moment. All the current Republican candidates have refused opportunities to speak to union leaders.

Americans love the safety net
By Greg Sargent, Washington Post,  12:45 PM ET, 02/14/2012

…. A new National Journal poll finds that a 51 percent majority agrees that the middle class is “suffering the most” from the slowdown, versus 45 percent who say the poor have been hurt most. …. Also critical: The public isn’t buying the argument that entitlements are the problem. Just 3 percent say the biggest reason we’re facing large deficits is spending on the elderly, while a 46 percent plurality blames this on the fact that “wealthy Americans don’t pay enough in taxes.”

Geithner Says Business-Tax Plan to Target Breaks
By JEFFREY SPARSHOTT And SIOBHAN HUGHES, Wall Street Journla, FEBRUARY 15, 2012

The Treasury Department in the coming weeks will propose new corporate-tax rules that cut rates while eliminating many loopholes, measures meant to simplify the code while increasing the number of companies that contribute to government coffers. …. The U.S. corporate-tax rate is 35%, though many companies pay less due to credits, deductions, exclusions and exemptions. Still, the headline rate is significantly higher than in other developed nations. Last year, Mr. Geithner suggested that the corporate-tax rate should move toward the "high 20s" from its current level.

The GOP Plan to Give Your Boss "Moral" Control Over Your Health Insurance
By Adam Serwer | Mother Jones, Tue Feb. 14, 2012 3:00 AM PST

In their latest move in the battle over contraception coverage [1], top Republicans in Congress are going for broke: They're now pushing a bill that would allow employers and insurance companies to pick and choose which health benefits to provide based simply on executives' personal moral beliefs.  …. But Blunt's proposal doesn't just apply to religious employers and birth control. Instead, it would allow any insurer or employer, religiously affiliated or otherwise, to opt out of providing any health care services required by federal law—everything from maternity care to screening for diabetes.

Conservatives Sowed Idea of Health Care Mandate, Only to Spurn It Later
By MICHAEL COOPER, New York Times, February 14, 2012

It can be difficult to remember now, given the ferocity with which many Republicans assail it as an attack on freedom, but the provision in President Obama’s health care law requiring all Americans to buy health insurance has its roots in conservative thinking. The concept that people should be required to buy health coverage was fleshed out more than two decades ago by a number of conservative economists, embraced by scholars at conservative research groups, including the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, and championed, for a time, by Republicans in the Senate.

This Valentine’s Day, We Love Progressive Media
BY CYNTHIA MCCABE | AFSCME blog FEBRUARY 14, 2012

For every Bill O’Reilly out to bash America’s working-class men and women, there’s an Ed Schultz ready to turn his cameras on their plight. Today, on Valentine’s Day, America’s workers can show a little love in return. Why not tweet a Valentine’s message thanking Schultz or his MSNBC colleague Rev. Al Sharpton for their broadcast work on behalf of the American working class? Night after night they focus on the fight for collective bargaining, privatization schemes and how income inequality wallops the 99%. Throw the hashtag #laborvalentines at the end of your tweet so they know where you came from.

Plan Offers $5 Billion to Improve Teaching
By STEPHANIE BANCHERO, Wall Street Journal, FEBRUARY 15, 2012

The Obama administration will propose Wednesday a $5 billion competition aimed at overhauling how America's teachers are trained, paid and granted tenure, the latest sign of the growing focus on the quality of teaching in public schools. The competition—modeled after President Barack Obama's Race to the Top education initiative—would reward states that adopt overhauls favored by the administration, such as raising the bar to get into colleges of education, paying teachers based on student achievement and granting tenure only after proof of successful teaching, according to administration officials. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will unveil the plan during a town-hall meeting Wednesday, officials said, and will call on states to work with teachers unions and colleges of education to overhaul the teaching profession, which has faced withering criticism in recent years.

Labor union to suggest alternatives to AMR cost cuts
Tue, Feb 14 2012 By Kyle Peterson,  (Reuters)

The union representing seven categories of ground workers at bankrupt American Airlines will offer alternatives to some of the job cuts and concessions the company says it needs to survive, the head of the Transport Workers Union said on Tuesday. TWU has asked American's parent company AMR Corp for details on how it arrived at the cost-savings targets it unveiled this month when it said it planned to eliminate 13,000 jobs and terminate pensions.

State/Local

AZ: Brewer's personnel reform plan to be introduced today
Yvonne Wingett Sanchez - Feb. 14, 2012 11:24 AM The Republic |

Gov. Jan Brewer's plan to make sweeping changes to the state's personnel system -- including making it easier to fire employees -- will be introduced later today through legislation. … The bill is expected to be heard in a Thursday committee, Benson said.  …. If passed, Benson said the measure will transition the state's mostly-covered workforce to a mostly uncovered workforce, making it easier to fire and discipline state workers.

AZ: Birthday bummer: Arizona still doesn't own its capitol
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 4:18 pm By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

Jan Brewer did not get what she wanted for the state's 100th birthday. In her State of the State speech last month, the governor pointed out that Arizona does not currently own the House, the Senate and the Executive Tower. They were essentially mortgaged off two years ago as part of $1 billion in borrowing to balance the budget. … In fact, Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said it's unlikely the governor will get what she wants any time this year.

CA: San Jose ethics commission must pass on mayor complaint
By John Woolfolk mercurynews.com   02/14/2012 06:45:15 PM PST

A union complaint accusing San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed of exaggerating the city's pension problem hit a roadblock Tuesday when a city ethics commission lawyer concluded the allegations wouldn't violate city laws under the commission's jurisdiction. …. Christopher Platten, the union lawyer who filed the complaint last week, said he wasn't surprised and that employees would ask the City Council to refer the complaint to an independent investigator to determine whether the mayor or others violated city policies. Moye noted that council members may seek a hearing on complaints against the mayor and other council members.

CA: San Jose City Council delays action on June sales tax measure
By Tracy Seipel, mercurynews.com,   02/14/2012 08:16:00 PM

After discussing the results of an annual poll of San Jose residents about city services -- including what appears to be residents' growing support of a sales tax to help solve San Jose's chronic budget woes -- the City Council on Tuesday decided they need two more weeks to discuss timing and strategies for a potential June sales tax vote. …. The council already has approved a pension reform measure for the June ballot, something that Reed, Liccardo and Oliverio believe should be resolved before any sales tax measure is put before voters. Ballot language for that

DE: AFSCME Local 3109 leader to run against Clark for County Exec.
By Amy Cherry, Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 3:19pm, WDEL

President of the AFSCME Local Union 3109 and assistant chief of the New Castle County Paramedics files papers to run for County Executive against incumbent Paul Clark.  Rich Krett tells WDEL if elected he'll bring the ethics back to County government.

FL: Prisons bill fails 21-19 / State employees applaud death of privatization move after drawn-out debate
12:22 AM, Feb. 15, 2012 |   By Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee.com

Prison officers whose jobs were at stake stood in the Senate gallery and applauded Tuesday as an intense two-hour debate ended with the narrow defeat of a sweeping plan to privatize prisons in 18 South Florida counties. … "I'm looking at the state employees," said Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, nodding toward the correctional officers and organized-labor leaders in the audience. "What's wrong with state employees? They're our employees, we should be taking care of them, rather than kicking them under the bus.".… Jeanette Wynn, state president of AFSCME, said "we must stand together" or the Republican administration will privatize more of state government. She said licensed practical nurses and office workers in the prisons are represented by AFSCME.

Related:  AFSCME blog: Prison Privatization Fails in Florida Senate

FL: Corporate income tax cut nears approval
HERALD/TIMES, 02.14.12

After a partisan spectacle of procedural gamesmanship, House lawmakers moved closer to passing a massive package of business tax cuts. …. The tax plan, a priority of Gov. Rick Scott, would double the corporate income tax exemption, from $25,000 to $50,000, meaning 3,770 companies would be exempt from paying any income taxes.

IL: Kitchen Staff Debate Heats Up
By Kevin Hunsperger, WSIL, Feb 14, 2012 at 12:17 PM CST

- The Williamson County Sheriff's Department and leadership from the AFSCME union are heading back to the bargaining table to work out a deal on the future of the kitchen staff. Tuesday morning, Sheriff Bennie Vick disputed things said by AFSCME staff member Kevan Plumlee last week on News 3.

IL: Two more city contracts to be tied to economy's health
DEANA STROISCH  The State Journal-Register Feb 15, 2012 @ 06:32 AM

Another 220 Springfield city government employees appear to be in line to receive pay raises tied to how well the economy is doing. Meeting as a committee of the whole Tuesday, Springfield aldermen indicated initial support for two separate contracts with locals of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. …. The proposed agreement with AFSCME Local 337, which represents about 64 City Water, Light and Power water workers, would provide annual, across-the-board pay raises based on changes in the Consumer Price Index through September 2015. The maximum raise would be 3 percent, and the minimum would be 1 percent.

MA: Harvard Library Releases Org Chart, Offers Buyouts
February 14, 2012 By Meredith Schwartz, Library Journal

Harvard Library revealed its new organizational structure on February 10th. The restructuring, which is based on the 2009 recommendations of a library task force, focuses on eliminating redundancy across the university’s 73 libraries through the creation of shared services departments. These perform functions previously duplicated at every library. As part of the restructuring, the university has offered 275 voluntary buyouts to library staff. …. “We’re very concerned about what’s happening and deeply frustrated at this point that we haven’t been able to get a more respectful and constructive conversation or negotiation going,” said Bill Jaeger, director of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), which is the only union to represent a significant number of library staffers. The union represents about 450 library workers; the credentialed librarians are not unionized.

Michigan's Hostile Takeover / A new "emergency" law backed by right-wing think tanks is turning Michigan cities over to powerful managers who can sell off city hall, break union contracts, privatize services—and even fire elected officials.
—By Paul Abowd | Mother Jones,  Wed Feb. 15, 2012 3:00

…. Nearly one year after the passage of the emergency-manager law, its opponents are rallying to blunt its impact. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Detroit-based nonprofit Michigan Forward announced they've collected more than the required 160,000 signatures necessary to put the law up for referendum in November; they plan to deliver the signatures to the state on March 2.

Michigan's budget crisis puts democracy on the chopping block
02/15/2012 9:00 am By Paul Abowd, iWatch News, Huffington Post

…. Public Act 4, a law Michigan passed in March 2011, has cut elected officials like Williams out of the process. It allows Gov. Rick Snyder to give emergency managers unilateral powers over the municipalities and school districts they run.  …. Appointed managers can nullify labor contracts, sell public utilities and dismiss elected officials. Michigan cities Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Flint, Pontiac, and two school districts are under emergency management. Detroit, the state's largest city, is under financial review by the state. …. Labor officials say the law is part of a nationwide effort by right-wing think tanks and their corporate backers to break up public sector unions. …. International Vice President of the AFSCME public employees union Larry Roehrig says city workers agreed to health care concessions in a contract with the elected government, hoping to avoid further cuts when Brown arrived. …. Another group that may be influencing state legislators in passing emergency manager type laws is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Michigan unions sue to halt mandated DB-or-DC choice
BY KEVIN OLSEN, Pensions & Investments, FEBRUARY 14, 2012

A new Michigan law requiring state employees to either contribute 4% of pay to the $9.1 billion Michigan State Employees' Retirement System, Lansing, or join a defined contribution plan is unconstitutional because the state Legislature overstepped its authority in passing the law, according to a class-action lawsuit filed Monday by a coalition of unions.…. The coalition consists of Service Employees International Union Local 517M, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25, Michigan Corrections Organization SEIU, Michigan State Employees Association and the International United Auto Workers Local 6000, which represents some state employees.

MI: Law might disrupt union benefits
By Ian Kullgren | State News, Feb 15, 2012

As controversial laws regulating union organization take hold in other Midwest states, a push by some Republican lawmakers to put right-to-work legislation on the table potentially could impact graduate students employed as teaching assistants and other jobs on campus. Right-to-work legislation, which elsewhere has made it optional for members of unionized employment groups to be a member of their union, has been a contentious states’ rights issue across the country. If brought to Michigan, it could open graduate students employed on campus to diminished pay and work conditions, said Kayra Hopkins, president of the Graduate Employee’s Union.

Minnesota enters right-to-work controversy
Matt Herbert February 15, 2012, MN Daily

Minnesotans may vote in November on whether workers should be forced to join a union upon employment. State Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, introduced an “Employee Freedom” amendment in early February, which would not require workers to join a union as conditions of employment. If they  choose to join a union, they wouldn’t be forced to pay the dues. Unlike other “right to work” amendments that have passed, Thompson’s proposal doesn’t impact workers’ collective bargaining rights.

MN: Occupy MN targets ALEC and corporate influence in government
BY MICHAEL MCINTEE,  February 14, 2012, Daily Planet

Occupy organizers say corporate money has too big of an influence on Minnesota’s government and there needs to be reforms. Scott Hargarten of Occupy Minneapolis and Occupy MN says those reforms target the corporate influence that groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

MT: State won't appeal order to disclose workers' pay
CHARLES S. JOHNSON Gazette Tuesday, February 14, 2012 6:55 pm | No Comments Posted

The state won't appeal a district judge's decision ordering the Department of Administration to provide salary data for 14,000 state employees to a Bozeman-based think tank, the agency's deputy director said Tuesday. However, attorneys for the state and Montana Policy Institute, a free-market think tank, are still negotiating over how much the department will charge for computer programming to produce the requested pay data for this year and for future years.

NE: Coalition decries Heineman's tax plan
By KEVIN O'HANLON / Lincoln Journal Star | Tuesday, February 14, 2012 4:05 pm

In what is building toward the battle royal of the legislative session, a broad coalition of groups announced opposition Tuesday to Gov. Dave Heineman's tax plan, saying it would create a $660 million shortfall in the next budget cycle and force cuts in services. ….. The Legislature projects an increased need for spending after next year of an average 7.4 percent, while the governor projects a much lower average of 2.8 percent. Achieving that 2.8 percent growth would require significant changes in the law for K-12 funding, as well as potential changes in state employee salaries and health insurance and other programs, said Omaha Sen. Heath Mello.

NV: Taxation Department losing tens of millions of dollars a year, ex-employees say
ED VOGEL, LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, Feb. 14, 2012 | 5:23 p.m.

The state is losing tens of millions of dollars a year in tax revenue because of an inefficient computer system that prevents department auditors from reviewing the tax records of companies in a timely manner, according to two former Nevada Taxation Department employees. …. Still the employees and their union representative said far more revenue could be secured if the number of audits returned to the total of past years. "It is our members' assertion the total number of audits is down because of the computer and software system," said Vishnu Subramaniam, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 4041. "Individuals have to pay their fair share of taxes. We should expect the same from Nevada businesses."

NYC pension fund should invest more locally: official
Tue, Feb 14 2012 (Reuters)

New York City's pension funds should boost investment in local transportation, power and communications projects to create badly needed new jobs, the city's Public Advocate Bill de Blasio recommended on Tuesday. … The Democratic public advocate is a trustee of one the biggest of New York City's five pension funds, the $40 billion-plus New York City Employee Retirement System (NYCERS), which mostly covers non-uniformed public workers. …. Investing the remaining $350 million allowed in such projects as helping to build a new cross-Hudson Tappan Zee Bridge in a public-private partnership, for example, could create up to 10,000 jobs for the city, where the unemployment rate stands just under 9 percent, de Blasio estimated.

OH: Clark County, top union OK raises
By Tiffany Y. Latta, Springfield News, 11:26 PM Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Clark County government’s largest union will receive 1 percent raises and a 5 percent increase to the maximum pay ranges under changes to its current contract. ….. Union members gave up raises last year when they reached a three-year agreement with commissioners in May 2011. But under the contract, AFSCME could request a wage reopener each year if the budget allows and also could get merit raises, as members will this year.

OH: Cuyahoga County approves domestic partner benefits
Wednesday, February 15, 2012, 7:48 AM,  By Laura Johnston, The Plain Dealer

Cuyahoga County Council voted Tuesday to give health care benefits to the children of gay couples, a benefit they do not give to the children of unmarried heterosexual couples.

OR: Dept. of Corrections: Multiple prisons could be closed
10:50 PM, Feb. 14, 2012 |  Alan Gustafson, Statesman Journal

The Oregon Department of Corrections is considering closing multiple prisons in the state's 14,000-inmate, 14-prison corrections system, going far beyond previously disclosed plans to shut down one Salem facility. Corrections leaders have drawn up budget-cutting plans that call for mothballing 1,500 to 1,800 beds and laying off 350 to 400 employees.  ……Mary Botkin, public-safety lobbyist for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, warned that multiple prison closures would produce overcrowded and dangerous conditions for staffers and inmates at the remaining institutions. "We're talking about turning classrooms, activity rooms and warehouses into dormitory-style housing, like we had back in the 1980s," she said.

OR: Fritz’s Labor Pains / City Commissioner Amanda Fritz says she is the champion of labor unions. So why have they abandoned her?
February 15th, 2012 HEIDI GROOVER | Willamette Week

…. Labor leaders say Fritz hasn’t been there for them on key issues, from wages and benefits to city services critical to doing their jobs. … “I don’t want to say they felt betrayed,” says Joe Baessler, political coordinator for Oregon Council 75 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “But for a person who is, ‘I’m labor, I love labor, I love working people,’ to push the idea of rolling back benefits for our folks was worse than if someone who wasn’t a friend of labor had done it.”

OR: State wellness plan penalties up for consideration
11:10 PM, Feb. 14, 2012  Statesman Journal

The Public Employees' Benefit Board put itself ahead of the curve — but not too far ahead — when it decided to penalize state workers who don't participate in its new wellness program, experts say. Employers with wellness plans currently use incentives more often than penalties to coax workers into taking part, according to a 2011 national survey by human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt.

PA: Court schedules hearing on Hbg. receiver's plan
By Jason Scott, February 14. 2012 9:35AM, Central Penn Business

The Commonwealth Court has scheduled a March 1 hearing for review of the recovery plan filed by Harrisburg receiver David Unkovic. … The plan calls for the valuation of the city's assets by April and to close on transactions by June. In addition to the incinerator and parking, Unkovic wants to look at management and operation of the water and wastewater assets.

PA: Harrisburg's 2012 Revised Budget Passes
9:38 p.m. EST, February 14, 2012, Fox 43

After being re-opened, Harrisburg's 2012 budget has passed. But not without some controversy. It's about half a million dollars less than the first budget. Going from about $55 million to about $54.5 million. Some of the revisions include re-instating health benefits for part time city employees.

RI: Providence Mayor to Retirees, Nonprofits: Pay Up
Wednesday, February 15, 2012, By Paul Burton, Bond Buyer

Warning that “Providence is in peril,” Mayor Angel Taveras repeated his call for retirees to accept pension cuts and tax-exempt institutions to pay more, to keep the city from running out of money by the end of June. …. Taveras called annual cost-of-living payments of 5% and 6% to 600 public safety retirees “unbearable and unsustainable,” and lambasted colleges and hospitals for not contributing enough.

SD: Bonus pay for state workers bill passes SD Senate
9:04 PM, Feb. 14, 2012 |   By Veronica Zaragovia, Associated Press

South Dakota's senators agreed to boost certain state workers' salaries with a one-time payment that could land in their March paychecks if a Senate bill becomes law.

TN: Shelby County mayor announces $250,000 health care initiative
By Amos Maki  February 13, 2012 at 11:26 p.m.

Shelby County government is launching a public-private effort called Healthy Shelby to improve the health of residents and reduce the cost of medical care. …. Luttrell said the initiative will cost roughly $250,000 over the next two years, with Shelby County providing $25,000 and the rest coming from private sources. Almost $2 million is spent in the region each year on emergency-room visits that could be avoided with better primary care, according to Healthy Memphis Common Table.

Virginia fails to thwart use of union labor on Dulles project
Examiner, Feb 15, 2012

In a rare victory for organized labor in Virginia, the state Senate on Tuesday struck down an measure that would have prevented officials building the Dulles Metro rail project from signing onto a labor agreement that favors the use of union labor on the $6 billion project.

WI: In Search of the Anti-Walker / An election to recall Wis. Gov. Scott Walker is now certain. His opponent is not.
BY LIZ NOVAK, In These Times, FEBRUARY 15, 2012

On January 17, people power prevailed–or so Wisconsinites thought. Since that day, Wisconsin’s state elections agency was tasked with reviewing each of the 1 million submitted recall petition signatures. And while it’s inevitable that Gov. Scott Walker will face voters in 2012, less than two years after he was first elected, it is far from clear which Democrat will prevail in the primary election to face him. …. Falk’s third attempt for statewide office appears stronger, especially if the rumors of her receiving endorsements from state teachers union head Mary Bell and AFSCME Executive Director Marty Biel are true.

WI: Ohio pastors say overturning collective bargaining limits worked because of union, faith leader partnership
DOUG ERICKSON | Wisconsin State Journal Tuesday, February 14, 2012 4:56 pm

Two Ohio pastors who helped lead an effort in that state to bring back collective bargaining for public employees told a Madison audience Tuesday the campaign would have failed without a partnership between unions and faith leaders.