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February 17, 2012

National/Politics

Republicans try rare tactic to block 2 Obama rules
By SAM HANANEL , The Associated Press, 2:26 p.m. Thursday, February 16, 2012

Republicans in Congress launched bids Thursday to nullify Obama administration rules that would speed up union elections and set the first national air pollution standards for toxic mercury pollution from the nation's power plants. …. GOP leaders in the House and Senate also filed resolutions Thursday to block new National Labor Relations Board rules that make it easier for unions to hold elections after employees at a work site have gathered enough signatures to form a union.

Indiana's new right-to-work law could prompt copycats
Tony Pugh | McClatchy Newspapers,  February 16, 2012 08:19:14 PM

When Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed legislation this month making Indiana the nation's first new right-to-work state in more than a decade, it turned up the heat on a long-simmering debate about the true intent and impact of the controversial anti-union laws. ….. As states offer up a slate of smokestack-friendly incentives to lure businesses, conservative lawmakers nationwide are dusting off the decades-old right-to-work legislation for a new-millennium revival. … Other areas of the country also are taking a closer look at the legislation. In New Hampshire, a new right-to-work proposal is working its way through the state legislature after Gov. John Lynch vetoed the measure last year. Both GOP gubernatorial candidates in Missouri support right-to-work laws. And in Oregon, a conservative think tank just released a study that claims that if a new right-to-work law were enacted there this year, the state would add 50,000 new jobs by 2016.

Unions in the Crosshairs
February 16th, 2012 by Phil Mattera, Dirt Diggers Digest

“We’ll make the unions understand full well that they are not needed, not wanted, and not welcome in the State of South Carolina,” Gov. Nikki Haley declared in her recent State of the State address.  … Haley’s brazen expression of anti-union animus is a sign of the times.…  Last year, apologists for the effort to eradicate public sector collective bargaining rights in states like Wisconsin insisted that it was not an assault on unions in general. Yet these days private sector union members are in the crosshairs as well.  Indiana, in the heart of the industrial Midwest, recently enacted a “right to work” law, the first state to take this deliberate step to weaken unions in more than a decade. Legislators in states such as South Carolina that are already in the “right to work” camp are considering bills that would make it even more difficult for unions to operate.

Current feds are still at risk despite payroll deal, unions warn
By Kellie Lunney February 16, 201211, GovExec

A legislative deal that requires new federal hires to contribute more to their government pensions spares current employees, but they’re still very much at risk, observers warned. …. Carl Goldman, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 26, called the agreement to increase the amount new workers contribute to their government pensions “race-to-the-bottom economics.”

Federal Workers Face ‘Unprecedented Assault’ in U.S. Budget War
By Kristin Jensen – Bloomberg, Feb 17, 2012

Congress is considering ways to cut U.S. federal workers’ pay, benefits and possibly their jobs even as a record number are borrowing against pensions. … “We are witnessing an unprecedented assault on public employees and federal employees in particular,” said U.S. Representative Gerald Connolly, a Democrat whose suburban Virginia district has one of the nation’s largest concentrations of government workers. “I am mortally offended on their behalf that they continue to be singled out for every sacrifice.” …. State workers have been squeezed for years as local officials struggle with budget shortfalls and underfunded pensions. Thirty-three states have assets of less than 80 percent of what they need to pay out the benefits already promised to their workers, according to an annual study of pensions by Bloomberg Rankings.

President Visits Union Strongholds
By CAROL E. LEE and JARED FAVOLE, Wall Street Journal, FEBRUARY 17, 2012

When Boeing Co. was battling the National Labor Relations Board over a plan to open a nonunion plant in South Carolina, President Barack Obama distanced himself from the dispute, saying the NLRB was an independent agency. On Friday, as part of a three-state, three-day trip mostly focused on re-election fund raising, the president is set to visit the unionized Boeing plant in Everett, Wash., at the center of the battle, a move the labor movement is interpreting as a sign of support for its cause. … South Carolina GOP Gov. Nikki Haley said it was a "slap in the face" to Boeing for Mr. Obama to tour the plant when he refused to take sides in the NLRB dispute. "When Boeing needed him, he wasn't there," she said of Mr. Obama. "He has done everything he can to strengthen unions."

Deal trims maximum jobless benefits to 73 weeks
By SAM HANANEL, Associated Press, Feb 17, 2012

Unemployed workers would no longer be able claim 99 weeks of benefit checks by this summer under a deal being worked out in Congress. Under this week's compromise for extending a Social Security tax cut through the rest of 2012, federal unemployment benefits for people who have been out of work more than six months are being scaled back. …. The new law will allow states to make benefit applicants take drug tests if they lost their job because they failed a drug test or are applying for a job that requires one.

CBO: Tax deal costs $89B over decade
By: David Rogers, Politico, February 17, 2012 07:17 AM EST

New Congressional Budget Office estimates show that the House-Senate payroll tax package will add $167.5 billion to the deficit over the next three years but as offsets fully kick in, that will be reduced to about half or $89.3 billion over the decade. Coming just hours before a scheduled House vote Friday, the analysis is a mixed blessing for the leadership.

Moochers Against Welfare
By PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times, February 16, 2012

….. And what these severe conservatives hate, above all, is reliance on government programs.  … Many readers of The Times were, therefore, surprised to learn, from an excellent article published last weekend, that the regions of America most hooked on Mr. Santorum’s narcotic — the regions in which government programs account for the largest share of personal income — are precisely the regions electing those severe conservatives.  …. But why do regions that rely on the safety net elect politicians who want to tear it down? I’ve seen three main explanations.

GOP senators push for Medicare cuts
By Alexander Bolton – The Hill, 02/16/12 07:30 PM ET

Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) are pushing for major reductions in Medicare spending, even though they know the idea probably won’t be popular with GOP colleagues in an election year. Burr and Coburn announced their plan, which is expected to reduce Medicare spending by between $300 billion and $1 trillion in the next decade, at a news conference Thursday.

Risking union ire, Romney slams Santorum’s labor votes
By Michael Levenson |  Boston GLOBE FEBRUARY 17, 2012

…. In the past, some Democratic union members have crossed over to sway the Republican outcome. But union leaders said they have no plans to meddle in the GOP primary and are planning simply to ignore Romney’s rhetoric. “We don’t want to sabotage their primary,’’ said Albert Garrett, president of the Michigan chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We think whoever they select won’t be good for workers in Michigan.’’ In the general election, he said, unions will ramp up and make “very clear how we feel about Mr. 1 Percent, Mitt Romney.’’

Mitt vs. Michigan GOPers on labor
By: Reid J. Epstein, Politico, February 16, 2012 02:43 PM EST

The endorsements of Michigan’s top Republicans are falling to Mitt Romney despite an uncomfortable divide over a key issue: labor. … Snyder is against right-to-work laws that forbid mandatory union membership in the state from which the modern American labor movement emerged. …. Romney’s Michigan surrogates painted Santorum as such in a conference call held with reporters Thursday that highlighted “Rick Santorum’s unapologetic defense Of Big Labor and big spending.”

The ‘Big Labor’ Skeletons In Rick Santorum’s Closet: Are They Real?
ABC News, Feb 17, 2012 6:00am

With Rick Santorum hot on his heels, Mitt Romney is launching a new, and somewhat puzzling, line of attack against his resurging GOP rival. “Big Labor’s Favorite Senator” read the bold headline on the Romney camp’s latest opposition research e-mail to reporters, which was rife with examples of Santorum’s breaking Republican ranks to cozy up with unions. … “There is no support for Rick Santorum in the labor movement,” said Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. “That just shows how far right that this race has moved. The fact that Rick Santorum is being considered a moderate is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard.”

Editorial: Small Thinking
New York Times, February 16, 2012

Rick Santorum coyly promised a group of Detroit business leaders Thursday that his plan to restore manufacturing and revive the economy was “just a little different” than those of the other candidates. The plan he then described was nothing more than a rehash of tired Republican ideas stretching back decades. Name a tax, and he proposed to cut it: every income-tax rate, including, of course, that on the highest earners.  …. But perhaps his most jarring assertion — especially in Michigan, which has suffered more than most from devastating unemployment — was that many people are deliberately staying out of the work force in order to luxuriate in their unemployment benefits. … That is not only out of touch with reality; it is deeply insulting to millions of struggling Americans.

All-male picture tells 1,000 words, say backers of birth control policy
By Sam Baker and Mike Lillis, The Hill, 02/16/12 08:30 PM ET

Female Democrats staged a walkout from a GOP-led committee hearing Thursday after no women were allowed to testify in support of the White House’s contraception mandate.  Their protest, and the optics of an initial panel consisting only of men, underscored the difficulty Republicans are having in framing the issue as a fight over religious freedom. …. But it was pictures of the initial all-male witness table that spread like wildfire through Twitter and liberal blogs, fueled by attacks from Pelosi and other Democratic lawmakers.

Congress Will Auction Public Airwaves to Pay for Benefits
By EDWARD WYATT and JENNIFER STEINHAUER, New York Times, February 16, 2012

The need for revenue to partly cover the extension of the payroll tax cut and long-term unemployment benefits has pushed Congress to embrace a generational shift in the country’s media landscape: the auction of public airwaves now used for television broadcasts to create more wireless Internet systems. … ……. The measure would be a rare instance of the government compensating private companies with the proceeds from an auction of public property — broadcast licenses — once given free.

Dems target non-profits, cite Rove
By: Dave Levinthal, Politico, February 16, 2012 03:56 PM EST

Seven Democratic senators Thursday called on the Internal Revenue Service to investigate — or acknowledge that it’s currently investigating — nonprofit, “social welfare” organizations heavily engaged in political activities this election cycle, specifically citing a group run by Karl Rove. The senators’ letter comes as small number of such groups, known as 501(c)(4) organizations in IRS parlance, have pumped tens of millions of dollars into political communications since the 2010 election cycle, when the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision loosened restrictions on how such groups may raise and spend money during elections.

GM earns its highest profit ever in 2011 with $7.6 billion; overseas losses cut 4Q profit
By Associated Press, February 16

Just two years after it was rescued and reconstituted through bankruptcy and a government bailout, General Motors Co. cruised through 2011 to post the biggest profit in its history.

State/Local

Alabama Plans to Close Most Hospitals for Mentally Ill
By ROBBIE BROWN, New York Times, February 17, 2012

Alabama will shut down most of its mental health hospitals by the spring of 2013 in a sweeping plan to cut costs and change how the state’s psychiatric patients receive treatment, state officials announced on Wednesday. The decision to close four hospitals and lay off 948 employees is a bleak reminder of Alabama’s shrinking budget. But it is also the latest example in a longstanding national effort among states to relocate mentally ill patients from government hospitals to small group homes and private hospitals.

AZ: Bill passes to weaken employee unions; Mesa GOP senators vote against
Thursday, February 16, 2012 5:06 pm By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

State senators approved legislation Thursday some charge is designed to weaken public employee unions. SB 1484 scraps current law which allows state or local workers or teachers to have to sign up only once to have union dues deducted from their paychecks. Instead, the measure requires those employees to sign up annually for such deductions. Several other measures crafted by the Goldwater Institute, which has been engaged in perennial fights with public employee unions, still await action.

AZ House Committee Passes Jan Brewer’s Patronage Plan
AFL-CIO blog, Feb 16, 2012

After a four-hour hearing described by Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jeremy Duda as “testy” on his Twitter feed, the Employment and Regulatory Affairs Committee of the Arizona House of Representatives approved Gov. Jan Brewer’s plan to remove civil service protections from state workers and make them at-will employees. It was a 6-3 party line vote with Republicans for and Democrats against, proving (once again) that elections have consequences. Several representatives of AFSCME, AFL-CIO, and public safety unions spoke against the measure.

Arizona private prisons slammed by report
Bob Ortega - Feb. 15, 2012 10:10 PM The Republic |

Arizona's private prisons are not cost-effective for taxpayers and are more difficult to monitor than state prisons, according to a new report by a prison watchdog group that is calling for a moratorium on any new private prisons in the state. The report examined the five prisons that have contracts to house Arizona prisoners and six private prisons that house federal detainees or inmates from other states, including California and Hawaii. Based on public-information requests and other data, the report by the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group that works on criminal-justice reform

AZ: Resolution would lower minimum wage for some Arizona workers
By AZ Capitol Times  February 16, 2012

…. If approved by voters, the measure would allow employers to pay workers who are younger than 20 up to $3 less an hour than the state’s minimum wage if they work fewer than 20 hours a week or are employed for fewer than 90 days. The current state minimum wage is $7.65.

AZ: Editorial - Measure itself is excessive
Feb. 17, 2012 12:00 AM The Republic | azcentral.com

A bill to cut government red tape is actually designed to blow up virtually all state and local regulations. Everything from barking-dog ordinances to business licenses would be classified as "excessive regulation" under House Bill 2815. The measure would let businesses and individuals file tax credits for costs associated with regulations they considered excessive. The breadth of possibilities is staggering: It would include any requirement that doesn't protect individuals from fraud or substantial damage to health and safety. The Goldwater Institute's Nick Dranias came up with the idea of the regulatory tax credit as an incentive to stop overregulation. This is fine as a mental exercise. But the bill would enshrine in Arizona law his radical view of overregulation.

CA: Sales tax numbers a sign of brighter times?
Thursday, February 16, 2012 6:26 pm  by Mark Powell, Gilroy Dispatch

Gilroy’s reputation as a retail Mecca may be pulling it out of the Great Recession. A new report shows sales tax revenues are on the rise in Gilroy, jumping more than 9 percent – roughly $250,000 – from July through September compared to that same period in 2010 …. While the city still needs to pull in more property taxes and is “not out of the woods yet” when it comes to budget woes, Gary Muraoka, City of Gilroy chapter president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, says hopes of adding some employees to the Gilroy Police Department is “actively being discussed,” though no formal talks have taken place.

DC: After 37 years, Washington D.C. gets mental health system
Thu Feb 16, 2012 5:46pm EST (Reuters)

The nation's capital regained control of its mental health system on Thursday when a federal judge approved a settlement in a 37-year-old class-action lawsuit, the mayor's office said. The District of Columbia's mental health system had been under court supervision since patients at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Washington's psychiatric center, accused the capital in 1974 of not providing enough community-based mental health services. Under the settlement approved by U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan, the District is committed to adding 300 affordable housing units and to expanding job services for adults with mental illness, the office of Mayor Vincent Gray said.

FL: Scott will explore ways to privatize prisons without law change
Jacksonville Business Journal by DAVID ROYSE, Friday, February 17, 2012, 9:15am EST

—Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday he will explore opportunities to privatize state prisons on his own following the Senate's defeat of a bill that would have required some prisons be bid out to private companies. Speaking to reporters Thursday morning after a public event on insurance fraud, Scott acknowledged that initially he didn't consider privatizing prisons a priority, but was disappointed the Senate voted down a bill that would have done that, and said he'll explore what many backers of the Senate plan said was a possibility – that the governor could order privatization unilaterally.

HI: Graduate students push for collective bargaining
AP, 08:07 a.m. HST, Feb 16, 2012

Graduate students at the University of Hawaii want the right to bargain as a state employee unit. … The bill would remove a restriction that currently prohibits graduate students from negotiating their contracts. The Hawaii Government Employees Association and other unions have joined with the graduate students in supporting the bill.

IL: Mental Health Employees Receive First Layoff Notices
Progress Illinois, Thursday February 16th, 2012, 5:09pm

…. Jo Patton, director of special projects at AFSCME, contends the cost-cutting transition is a bad deal for both patients and employees. “It’s a race to the bottom,” Patton says. “An employee in the city clinic gets a better salary and benefits than employees in a private clinic.”

MI: Prison Privatization Report Reveals Risks to Residents and Taxpayers
SEIU 526M,  February 14, 2012

…. Led by the Michigan Corrections Organization (MCO), SEIU, the UAW, AFSCME, and MSEA joined together to release the comprehensive examination of privatization, “Pitfalls and Promises: The Real Risks to Residents and Taxpayers of Privatizing Prisons and Prison Services in Michigan,” . It details the problems under privatization at Baldwin and elsewhere and GEO’s troubled history, including multiple lawsuits that have cost GEO tens of millions of dollars – liability costs passed on to state with which it contracts.

MI: Outraged crowd confronts Flint emergency manager at community meeting
Friday, February 17, 2012, 7:50 AM  By Kristin Longley | mlive.com

Tensions were high tonight at the emergency manager's fourth public community forum. A group of Flint residents angry about the state takeover of the city voiced their concerns about having an emergency manager in control of city operations.

MI: Ficano says he won't step down despite calls to do so
February 17, 2012 |  Detroit Free Press

Embattled Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano said Thursday that he won't step down -- despite calls from some county commissioners to do so -- but two more of his appointees said they will. Personnel Director Georgetta Kelly announced her resignation, effective March 5. Her deputy, Mark Dukes, also is leaving, county officials said. …. Blackwell credited the pair with helping the county settle a long-standing dispute with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the county's largest union.

MN: Union leaders praise Governor Dayton's focus on jobs
By Barb Kucera, Workday  16 February 2012

… Public employees who work for the state also praised Dayton's remarks. "Governor Dayton shares our commitment to good jobs and economic fairness – and we join him in asking the Legislature to focus on getting Minnesota back to work," said Eliot Seide, director of AFSCME Council 5, the union which represents 18,000 state employees.

MT: Judge hears arguments on removing tax rebate measure from ballot
By CHARLES S. JOHNSON IR | Friday, February 17, 2012

A district judge on Thursday took competing motions under advisement in public employee unions’ attempt to remove a 2012 ballot issue proposing to automatically return money to taxpayers if certain fiscal trigger are met. Assistant Attorney General Andrew Huff asked District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena to dismiss the unions’ lawsuit on grounds that it’s not “ripe” for a decision and that they have failed to show it’s unconstitutional. … Unions filing the lawsuit were the MEA-MFT, Montana AFL-CIO, Montana Public Employees Association, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Montana Council No. 9. Joining them were the Montana Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

NM: For Martinez, session brings wins and losses
By Gwyneth Doland │ 2/16/12, 9:00 pm │ NMPolitics

Gov. Susana Martinez didn’t succeed on many of the issues she had endorsed, but she emerged from the 30-day legislative session with the tax breaks she most cared about and a budget she can work with. Democratic leadership succeeded in killing bills aimed at repealing licenses for undocumented immigrants and ending so-called social promotion, and quickly dispensed with moves to reinstate the death penalty and impose a restriction on abortion. … Some were disappointed that legislators failed to address fears about long-term solvency of the educational pension fund. “Not doing pension reform was a big mistake,” said Carter Bundy of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We had a compromise that would have fully funded the Educational Retirement Board over the next 30 years, and this was a missed opportunity.”

New Jersey Assembly Passes Gay Marriage Bill
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS,  February 16, 2012 at 6:59 PM ET

The New Jersey Assembly on Thursday passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriages, setting the stage for an expected veto by Gov. Chris Christie.

NY: $200B nonprofit industry under scrutiny
Associated Press, 10:04 p.m., Thursday, February 16, 2012

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman proposed Thursday increasing the accountability of 103,000 nonprofits in New York through new board requirements and helping many financially by streamlining state contract payments, reporting and registration rules. ….. The state had 22,000 active contracts with nonprofits totaling almost $17 billion as of last October for services like legal aid, child welfare, affordable housing and drug counseling, according to the review committee composed mainly of nonprofit officials and some attorney general staff.

NY: Town of Niagara plans drug tests
By Thad Komorowski, NIAGARA  February 17, 2012, 12:00 AM

A random drug-testing program for town employees is expected to begin in about two months. The program was reviewed Thursday by members of the Town Board with contract consultant Harvey Albond, who was authorized to draw an agreement with Western New York Occupational Health Care, located at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. Negotiated last year with members of the Civil Service Employees Association, the program will test employees at random for a variety of illegal and controlled substances, and it is possible that the same employee could be tested more than once a year, Albond said.

OH: JobsOhio foes argue they have right to sue
By  David Eggert, The Columbus Dispatch Friday February 17, 2012 5:51 AM

As JobsOhio inches closer to becoming the state’s primary economic-development agency, judges are still considering a thorny legal question: Can anyone sue to stop it? Opponents told the Franklin County Court of Appeals yesterday that they should be able to challenge the constitutionality of Gov. John Kasich’s new private entity. … JobsOhio is replacing the Ohio Department of Development as the main job-creation agency for attracting companies and keeping others here. It will be paid for by the state’s liquor operations.

OH: Third Westerville school union OKs concessions
Jennifer Smith Richards, The Columbus Dispatch Thursday February 16, 2012 12:08 PM

…. The Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 719 voted yesterday to agree to a two-year wage freeze. They also agreed to pay an additional $1,200 in health-care deductibles per family.

OH: WHEELER SEEKS SEAT AS COUNTY COMMISSIONER
Daily Jefferson: February 16, 2012 1:00PM

Norman W. Wheeler has announced his candidacy for the Democratic party to serve as Guernsey County commissioner. Wheeler served as president of the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees in Summit County, where he was employed for five years. He represented more than 3,000 employees.

OR: Let corrections department find budget savings
Ken Allen of Beaverton is executive director of Oregon Council 75 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME),
Statesman Journal, 9:00 PM, Feb. 16, 2012 | 

AFSCME Council 75 represents the workers in the vast majority of the state corrections facilities in Oregon. Our members work hard to protect the public, while working with inmates incarcerated in 13 prisons throughout the state. …. The leadership of this union is opposed to the closure of the Santiam facility. Department leadership has asked legislators to let them find the $1.6 million of cuts in the budget of the whole department. Legislators should do their jobs to monitor budget needs, but none of them has ever even run a prison.

OR: PEBB vote maintains HEM penalties / Board makes other changes in wellness plan
11:25 PM, Feb. 16, 2012 |   Statesman Journal

State employees will continue to pay a monthly penalty if they don't participate in a new wellness program, the directors of the Public Employees' Benefit Board decided Thursday. … The joint committee's primary recommendation had been the suspension of the HEM penalties. "We feel they missed the point, that our people need to be heard to be partners in this program," Issa Simpson, an AFSCME Council 75 staff representative on the joint committee, said following the board's vote. "But we will move forward."

PA: East Shore municipal news
Thursday, February 16, 2012, 4:09 PM  By The Patriot-News

Supervisors on Feb. 7 approved a five-year contract with one of the township’s three American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ bargaining units covering about 30 employees of the township’s public works department. The 2012-16 agreement calls for no salary increases in 2012, 3 percent in 2013 and 2½ percent in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Beginning in 2013 employees will contribute 1½ percent of their base salary toward their health insurance and the employee contribution to the pension plan will increase from 2.75 percent to 3.75 percent of salary.

RI: URI workers leery of pension changes
By Liz Boardman/Independent, Feb 16, 2012

The crew prepares and serves 5,000 meals a day at the University of Rhode Island’s Butterfield Dining Hall. It’s a physical job – all day on their feet, lifting and carrying, stocking and restocking, moving in and out of freezers and refrigerators, working over a stove. They won’t get rich doing it. The average wage for Council 94’s Local 528 group of cooks, cook’s helpers, maintenance, groundskeepers and other manual labor jobs is $29,000, according to Michael McDonald, union president.

RI: NBC 10 investigates Central Falls receivership
By: PARKER GAVIGAN | Turn to 10.com  February 17, 2012 - 6:59 AM

Central Falls is Rhode Island's smallest city and also one of its poorest. Boarded up homes line many streets and one-quarter of the city's families live below the poverty line. … But since the city filed for receivership in 2010 and bankruptcy the next year, a few individuals have made a lot of money. Receiver Robert Flanders is paid by the state. His fee is up to $30,000 a month. … City records show the chief of staff hired her lawyer's daughter last summer. Her mother worked at City Hall, too.

WI: Leaked documents detail 'Operation Angry Badger' / Institute cries foul, says some memos may be faked
By Bill Glauber of the Journal Sentinel, Feb. 16, 2012

A Chicago-based free-market think tank has prepared a strategy to sway the recall debate in Wisconsin, including detailing "the shortcomings of public schools," according to leaked documents that appeared this week on the Internet. "Operation Angry Badger" purportedly describes a Heartland Institute proposal that would cost about $612,000 and focus on promoting Wisconsin Act 10, which curtailed collective bargaining for most public-sector workers. …. According to tax filings from 2001 to 2010, the Heartland Institute received $905,000 in funding from the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation.

WI: Money flows into Wisconsin governor recall fight
Nick Carey | Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:30am EST (Reuters)

Political money has poured into Wisconsin in recent months - not for the presidential or Senate races but for a state vote getting national billing as a battle for the interests of the middle class. ….. The influx of out-of-state money has heightened tensions between anti-Walker forces and groups affiliated with the small-government Tea Party movement that are doing much of the grassroots organizing on Walker's behalf.

WI: Kathleen Falk: Why I would veto and why it’s important to say it
KATHLEEN FALK | Democratic candidate for governor | Capital Times, Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wisconsin deserves a governor who will stand up and fight for what is right for our economy and for our middle class. And we need a governor who is open, honest and transparent. ….. This is why I have said that as governor, I will restore workers’ rights through the state budget and if that budget comes back to my desk without those rights, I will veto it. I will also make sure our employees pay their fair share. Walker abolished our rights in his budget repair bill and I will use the budget to get them back.

WI: Dodge County will continue to study worker wage structure
By Diane Graff of the Daily Times  February 16, 2012

A committee of the Dodge County Board of Supervisors Wednesday agreed to continue its review of hiring a firm to prepare a compensation study of county employees wages and benefits. …. The idea for a compensation study among the county's 850 plus full-time employees came to light when the county's human resources committee quickly prepared policies for county workers. The policies replaced the union contracts for six of the county's seven employee pacts. ….Also in attendance were two representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, along with several county union representatives. “If the county is serious with working together with its employees, this is not what they need right now,” according to AFSCME representative Martha Merrill.

WI: Grass Roots: City-County Building benches back, but challenges of homelessness persist
PAT SCHNEIDER | The Capital Times | Friday, February 17, 2012 6:00 am

What had been planned as a sit-in Thursday to protest the removal of benches in the lobby of the City-County Building turned into a celebration of sorts after the benches unexpectedly reappeared Wednesday afternoon. …. The resulting migration of the homeless is making the problem apparent to new group of people, says Tim Birkley, vice president of AFSCME Local 60, which represents many city workers.

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