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February 21, 2012

National/Politics

 

The end of the for-profit prison era? A nationwide campaign to stem investments in private corrections companies is gathering steam
BY HANNAH RAPPLEYE, THE CRIME REPORT/Salon.com, MONDAY, FEB 20, 2012 7:00 AM EASTERN STANDARD TIME

 

Early this year, the United Methodist Church Board of Pension and Health Benefits voted to withdraw nearly $1 million in stocks from two private prison companies, the GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). The decision by the largest faith-based pension fund in the United States came in response to concerns expressed last May by the church’s immigration task force and a group of national activists. …  It was an important success for a slew of activists across the country who are pushing investors and institutions to divest from the private prison industry.  …… The National Prison Divestment Campaign, launched last spring, includes a broad coalition of immigrant rights, criminal justice and other organizations targeting private prison companies like CCA and the GEO Group, the two largest private prison corporations in the United States. …. A number of organizations have coalesced around the divestment campaign, including branches of the Occupy movement and unions representing prison guards and employees. Cervantes-Gautschi notes that the campaign is supported by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Unions return to Democratic fold for 2012 election / After a falling out with the party, labor is back with cash and other support, driven largely by Republican attacks on collective bargaining.
February 19, 2012|By Matea Gold and Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times

….. …. One of the biggest unions, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, plans to put in as much as $100 million this year — money that will largely benefit Obama and other Democrats at the local, state and national levels. "What's the alternative?" Gerald McEntee, the federation's president, told the Washington Post in October. Last month, AFSCME spent $1 million in Florida on a television ad attacking Romney for his ties to a medical company that admitted to defrauding Medicare — the first time the union had weighed in during a Republican primary.  … Labor officials insist their recent political activity does not mean they are a de facto arm of the Democratic Party, a frequent charge made by conservatives. Larry Scanlon, AFSCME's political director, noted that the union backed GOP officials at the local and state level.

AFL-CIO chief goes on the offensive / Richard Trumka hopes to take advantage of the growing frustration with Wall Street and concerns about income inequality to reverse organized labor's long decline.
By Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times February 21, 2012

The future of the labor movement may very well rest in the hands of a man who was sitting over a paper plate piled with spaghetti, amusing his audience by twirling a napkin in his ear, then hamming it up with a wink and a goofy grin that would make any teenager cringe. He'd been working for 12 hours already, but AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka had every reason to be giddy. Ohioans had just voted down a law that restricted collective bargaining for public workers, and the American labor movement was savoring a rare victory.

Asserting a Claim on Democracy
BY SEC.-TREAS. LEE SAUNDERS | AFSCME blog, FEBRUARY 17, 2012

In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King took his struggle for black workers and their families to Memphis, Tenn., because he understood the connection between civil rights and workers’ rights. It was there that the 1,300 sanitation workers of AFSCME Local 1733 went on strike to demand respect, fairness, and a voice in the issues that mattered to them. …... As we observe Black History Month 2012, AFSCME members from coast to coast are asserting the same claim. We are protesting the politicians’ callous disregard for struggling families and their failure to demand that the wealthiest Americans do their fair share. AFSCME members are also partnering with other groups to overturn restrictive voter laws designed to keep millions away from the polls. We’re taking part in a Main Street Movement and exercising our power through solidarity.

Attacks on Worker Rights Can Be Defeated, Says Ohio AFSCME Leader
BY CLYDE WEISS | AFSCME blog, FEBRUARY 17, 2012

That’s one of the key lessons for labor following last November’s overwhelming repeal of an Ohio law that would have stripped collective bargaining rights from 350,000 public service workers in the state, says Joseph P. Rugola, executive director of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees OAPSE/AFSCME Local 4. Rugola, also an AFSCME International vice president, made his comments this week during a panel discussion on the politics of collective bargaining in the public sector hosted by the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, a program at Georgetown University that draws on its academic and research capabilities “to find new approaches in improving labor and workplace relations.”

Mitt Romney, now fiercely anti-union, called for 'cooperation' with unions in 2002
Daily Kos Labor, FRI FEB 17, 2012 AT 07:21 AM PST

Let this be a lesson: When you think you've identified the one issue on which Mitt Romney has been consistent, think again. Romney's opposition to unions has been consistent throughout this Republican presidential primary campaign, which is a whole lot of consistency by his standards—one time he said "Unions have played a very important role historically," but that was just in the process of making a slightly more nuanced anti-union argument than he usually employs—but of course, of course it turns out that he was singing a different tune while running for governor in Massachusetts in 2002.

Pain Without Gain
By PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times, February 19, 2012

…. The point is that we could actually do a lot to help our economies simply by reversing the destructive austerity of the last two years. That’s true even in America, which has avoided full-fledged austerity at the federal level but has seen big spending and employment cuts at the state and local level. Remember all the fuss about whether there were enough “shovel ready” projects to make large-scale stimulus feasible? Well, never mind: all the federal government needs to do to give the economy a big boost is provide aid to lower-level governments, allowing these governments to rehire the hundreds of thousands of schoolteachers they have laid off and restart the building and maintenance projects they have canceled.

House Transportation Bill: Lobbying And Lawsuits Behind Move To Strip Worker Protections
Dave Jamieson huffingtonpost.com, : 02/17/2012 1:08 pm

House Republicans are trying to pass a transportation bill that would strip certain workers of their minimum-wage and overtime protections. As it turns out, several of the companies that would benefit from the change have recently been sued by their employees for allegedly violating wage laws.

Obama buries NLRB hatchet in tour of Boeing plant
By Justin Sink  - The Hill, 02/17/12 04:04 PM ET

President Obama examined Boeing's next-generation 787 Dreamliner and met with workers during a tour of the company's Everett, Wash., plant Friday — an auspicious backdrop considering the high-profile debate over the plane's manufacture late last year. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had sought to block Boeing from opening a new plant to produce the 787s after the company announced it would locate that facility in South Carolina, a right-to-work state. The NLRB accused the company of picking the site as retaliation for strikes by unionized workers at the Washington plant.

UW profs shed light on ALEC's threat to public education

TODD FINKELMEYER | The Capital Times | Monday, February 20, 2012 8:45 am

University of Wisconsin-Madison professors Julie Underwood and Julie Mead are expressing concern over the growing corporate influence on public education in an article published Monday. In particular, they are highly critical of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which connects conservative state legislators with like-minded think tanks, corporations and foundations to develop "model legislation" that can be enacted at the state level.

Editorial: Shuttering Bad Charter Schools
New York Times, February 20, 2012

The charter school movement has expanded over the last 20 years largely on this promise: If exempted from some state regulations, charters could outperform traditional public schools because they have flexibility and can be more readily tailored to the needs of students. Another selling point is that these schools are supposed to be periodically reviewed when they renew their operating permits — and easily shut down if they fail. It has not worked out that way.

Montana ruling on corporate campaign spending blocked by U.S. Supreme Court
4:16 AM, Feb. 18, 2012  MARK SHERMAN, Tribune

The Supreme Court on Friday blocked a Montana court ruling upholding limits on corporate campaign spending. The state court ruling appears to be at odds with the high court's 2010 decision striking down a federal ban on those campaign expenditures. The justices put the Montana ruling on hold while they consider an appeal from corporations seeking to be free of spending limits. The state argues, and the Montana Supreme Court agreed, that political corruption gave rise to the century-old ban on corporate campaign spending.

#ALEC Exposed
BY KATE CHILDS GRAHAM | AFSCME blog FEBRUARY 17, 2012

From the backwards ideology that brought America the Koch brothers, comes the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is not new, though it has flown under the radar, employing extreme secrecy to mask its corporate backers. … Twitter is taking note:

For boomers, it's a new era of 'work til you drop' / Blindsided by changing workplace and economy, Baby Boomers new mantra is 'work til you drop'
By John Rogers, Associated Press | Feb 20, 2012

…. Union membership, which has been declining for years, now includes only about 10 percent of all eligible U.S. employees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the number of defined benefit retirement funds offered by private enterprise have fallen from about one in three employers in 1990 to about one in five in 2005. With unions no longer in a strong position to fight for benefits like pensions, with jobs disappearing or going overseas, and with Gen Xers and even younger Millennial Generation members coveting their jobs, Lawler warns this is no time for boomers to quit and allow the skills they've spent a lifetime building to atrophy..

GAO Report That Retail Pays More Isn't New News
Tuesday, February 21, 2012, By James Ramage, Bond Buyer

A government report that describes how institutional investors pay less than individual investors when buying or selling municipal bonds isn’t news to market participants. The Government Accountability Office report on muni bond transactions released in January said that retail investors paid an average 2.5% markup when buying $5,000 worth of municipal securities in the secondary market.

Secrecy Puts Judges on Defense in Delaware
By PEG BRICKLEY, Wall Street Journal, FEBRUARY 21, 2012

A federal lawsuit getting attention in Delaware involves people unaccustomed to being named as defendants: judges. … The stakes are high for corporations that want to resolve disputes behind closed doors, and for the state of Delaware, which hopes arbitration will help its courts hold on to work that otherwise could be lost to private arbitration. A decision in the case isn't expected soon. . …. Critics say the Delaware arbitration system sets a dangerous precedent by allowing corporations to get decisions from taxpayer-paid judges out of view of the public. The process steps "toward a two-tier court system, in which the wealthy get secret justice on a fast track, while others [get] messy public processes," says Paul Kirgis, a professor of alternative dispute resolution at St. John's University School of Law.

Catholic Hospitals Expand, Religious Strings Attached
By REED ABELSON, New York Times, February 20, 2012

As Roman Catholic leaders and government officials clash over the proper role of religion and reproductive health, shifts in health care economics are magnifying the tension. Financially stronger Catholic-sponsored medical centers are increasingly joining with smaller secular hospitals, in some cases limiting access to treatments like contraception, abortion and sterilization. … About 20 such deals have been announced over the last three years, by one estimate, and experts expect more as stand-alone hospitals and smaller systems with no Catholic ties look to combine with larger and financially stronger institutions, in part because changes under the federal health care law are forcing all hospitals to become much more efficient.

State/Local

AK: Retirement board fears legislative access to funds
February 19, 2012 - 12:11am By Pat Forgey, JUNEAU EMPIRE

The Alaska Retirement Management Board has backed off its harsh criticism of a pension funding proposal in the Alaska Senate, but not as much as some members would have liked. A divided board, meeting in Juneau Friday, adopted a resolution addressing some of the issues in Senate Bill 187, but no longer directly mentions the bill. ….. Senate Bill 187, sponsored by the powerful Senate Finance Committee, would create a special reserve fund into which $2 billion could be deposited.

AL: In Alabama, a County That Fell Off the Financial Cliff
By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH, New York Times, February 18, 2012

…. This is life today in Jefferson County — Bankrupt, U.S.A. For all the talk in Washington about taxes and deficits, here is a place where government finances, and government itself, have simply broken down. The county, which includes the city of Birmingham, is drowning under $4 billion in debt, the legacy of a big sewer project and corrupt financial dealings that sent 17 people to prison. …… Officials here have only begun to grapple with the implications of life under Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy code, a municipal form of debt adjustment, rather than reorganization or liquidation. Until now, the most famous example was Orange County, Calif., which filed for Chapter 9 in 1994, after risky investments went horribly wrong. Many local governments are struggling to pay their bills these days, but hardly any have filed for bankruptcy. Notable exceptions include Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, Vallejo, Calif., and Central Falls, R.I.

Arizona legislature releases budget
by Alia Beard Rau, and Mary Jo Pitzl on Feb. 20, 2012, Arizona Republic News

After meeting for months behind closed doors, Republican legislative leadership quietly released its budget plan Monday afternoon, giving 18 hours’ notice for what may be the only hearings in which the public can testify on the bills. …. The legislative budget also denies the governor some of the key spending requests she made, such as $50 million for reading remediation for school children, a 5 percent employee pay raise and money to buy back titles for state Capitol buildings.

CA: Budget Woes Prompt Erosion of Public Jobs, With a Heavy Toll in Silicon Valley
By MICHAEL COOPER, New York Times, February 18, 2012

….…..  It is not just faded industrial cities that are struggling to retain their workers. San Jose, a growing city of nearly one million in the heart of Silicon Valley that is now the nation’s 10th biggest, has shed 1,592 jobs — more than a fifth of its employees — over the last four years as falling tax revenues, rising pension costs and dwindling state aid have all taken their tolls on the city and its workers. … Now Mr. Reed is taking aim at pension costs, which rose after the benefits were improved over the last decade, with police officers and firefighters able to retire after 30 years with pensions worth 90 percent of their salaries.  ….  Union members picketed the speech. They have accused the city of exaggerating the future costs of pensions to build support for the measure.  ……..Yolanda Cruz, a library network engineer and the president of the city’s Municipal Employees’ Federation, pointed out that city workers would not get Social Security, and that the average pension for nonuniformed workers was $36,000 a year. She said a city-commissioned poll had found a growing willingness to raise taxes.

CA: 280 Private Sector EMS Workers in Santa Clara County Vote to Join AFSCME
BY JUSTIN LEE | AFSCME blog,  FEBRUARY 17, 2012

In an historic union election, 280 private sector EMS professionals in Santa Clara County voted overwhelmingly to build their own local with AFSCME.  EMS workers at the emergency medical services company, Rural/Metro – including paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and vehicle supply techs – are now part of the same national union that represents 20,000 EMS workers nationwide. They join the ranks of the uniformed paramedics and EMTs of the FDNY.

CA: In San Diego, a high-stakes battle over pensions
By Susan Crabtree-The Washington Times Monday, February 20, 2012

…. In developments being closely watched by municipalities across the country, the Republican mayor wants to put all newly hired San Diego city employees, except for police officers, into a 401(k)-type plan, shifting away from the familiar guaranteed retirement benefits of the past. The effort is stirring national opposition from unions fearful that a successful move to privatize pensions in San Diego will have a domino effect in other cash-strapped cities and states.  ……. National labor unions immediately seized on the ruling. The National Public Pension Coalition, comprising a broad group of unions including the Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and American Federation of Teachers, held a conference call with reporters denouncing the mayor for collecting a $90,000 city pension for his years on the police force, as well as a $94,000 salary as mayor, while advocating for the “reckless” pension plan that will subject city workers to the vagaries of the stock market.

Related Los Angeles Times: San Diego tackles municipal pensions

CT: Malloy Budget Drawing Fire On 'Gimmicks'
By SHELLY BANJO, Wall Street Journal, FEBRUARY 21, 2012

A $700 million bond sale in November gave Connecticut the money to build schools, fix roads and repair sewer systems. The sale came with something else: a $65 million upfront payment that helps Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, balance the budget, but also results in higher interest costs for future governors. The bond sale is among a number of accounting measures Republicans and other critics are questioning as exactly the kind of fiscal gimmicks Mr. Malloy had vowed to end when he took office last year. … To that end, Mr. Malloy managed to strike a $1.6 billion deal with state-employee unions and close a $3.6 billion budget gap while attempting to shore up the state's underfunded pension and adopt Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP, an accounting policy in place across the country that he ordered but hasn't yet fully implemented.

FL: More counties are taking up efforts to save their prisons
12:28 AM, Feb. 21, 2012 |   Tallahassee.com

Jefferson County's successful effort to save a prison that is the small, rural county's largest employer has touched off similar efforts by other counties with prisons and work camps scheduled to close by June 30, Department of Corrections Secretary Ken Tucker said Monday. Tucker met with Gov. Rick Scott for a half-hour to discuss department activities, including a $79-million budget gap. He said they did not discuss privatization of prisons in 18 South Florida counties, which Scott could still order DOC to do despite the vote against it by the Senate last week. … Privatizing 29 institutions in an 18-county area of South Florida was supposed to happen by New Year's Day, but was blocked by Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford, who ruled that the Legislature improperly sought to order the privatization through budget-proviso language.

FL: Private prisons are a bad idea / Certain functions, like police and prosecutions, should remain in government hands
Michael Mayo, Sun Sentinel  7:30 p.m. EST, February 20, 2012

…. So I'm glad the Florida Senate killed a plan to privatize 28 state prisons, all in southern Florida, last week. The Legislature tried to ram through a similar controversial plan last year, attaching it to the state budget, but courts threw it out. …. As it stands, seven of Florida's 60 prisons are run by for-profit firms. I'm afraid what might happen if mass privatization takes hold. There will be cost-cutting by hiring cheaper workers, which could only undercut morale in already difficult conditions.

IA: GOVERNOR LAWSUIT: Arguments in a lawsuit against Gov. Terry Branstad will be heard by the Iowa Supreme Court Tuesday night
WHO 10:26 a.m. CST, February 20, 2012

The Iowa Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments Tuesday evening in a lawsuit filed against Gov. Terry Branstad. The head of AFSCME, Danny Homan, filed the suit on behalf of thousands of state union workers. The suit claims the governor illegally used his veto power when he decided to close dozens of Iowa Workforce Development offices last year.

IL: Unions may have to choose between salaries, pensions
WBEZ, KRISTEN MCQUEARY | FEB. 20, 2012

As Gov. Pat Quinn prepares his budget address for Wednesday, the president of the Illinois Senate says state workers might have to compromise between salary increases and pension benefits. About 33,000 unionized workers are reminding state officials they’re owed pay raises. Members of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees sent a letter to Quinn last week asking for the raises that they were supposed to get last July. … The union says the state is contractually obligated to pay the raises, which were negotiated at the bargaining table during contract talks. AFSCME is fighting the issue in court.

IL: "Save JDC Open House" a warm-up for COGFA hearing
Saturday, 18 February 2012 18:15 | Written by Jim McCabe |  WLDS

… A “Save JDC Open House” was held at the American Legion Hall yesterday in an effort to get people familiar with those associated with the JDC. The event was put together by AFSCME workers and guardians of JDC residents.

IN: With Marion County on board, Indiana's welfare system is now fully 'hybrid'
7:30 AM, Feb. 20, 2012 |   Mary Beth Schneider, Indianapolis Star

Marion County today becomes the final Indiana county to move to a "hybrid" welfare eligibility system that combines personal contact with online and telephone options. The change represents the final and perhaps biggest challenge for the state's Family and Social Services Administration since the new system was implemented in January 2010.  ….. That system began in December 2006 when Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a 10-year contract with companies led by IBM and Accenture to privatize claims processing.

LA: Public employees object to Jindal's proposed cuts
11:13 PM, Feb. 17, 2012 |  News Star

An organization that represents public employees believes Gov. Bobby Jindal's proposal to eliminate 6,400 state employees would not only cause hardship for them, but affect services to citizens. Leonal Hardman, president of the Louisiana Council of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has been making the rounds across the state to gather support against Jindal's proposed plan.

MA: Online Chat Disturbs Library Employees / University says that administrators did not actually write the offending sentences
By HANA N. ROUSE and JUSTIN C. WORLAND , CRIMSON  Monday, February 20, 2012

As the University continues to announce details of its planned reorganization of its library system, which will include staff reductions, a transcript alleging to show a virtual conversation between University officials and a concerned library worker sparked confusion and distress among library staff last week. …. In the chat, the account claiming to be Garber and Shenton wrote, “life is full of risk. accept and move on,” in response to a question asking how library staff can decide whether to accept the University’s early retirement offer without hearing full details of the future of their current library jobs.

MI: EM petitions signed, sealed and ready for delivery
Sun, Feb 19, 2012, By Marcus Wright,  Michigan Citizen

The Emergency Manager Law, Public Act 4, may be repealed, according to petition drive organizers.  … Michigan AFSCME Council 25 President Albert Garrett says the coalition has collected 206,000 signatures. Garrett said 161,304 valid signatures are required to place the law on the Nov. 12 ballot.

MI: Signature collection begins to recall Ficano in 'uphill battle'
BY JOEL KURTH THE DETROIT NEWS, FEBRUARY 21, 2012 AT 6:42 AM

… Convertino said union leaders assured him workers would help gather 140,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot. But now, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employee officials won't return phone calls since Ficano gave them a contract that includes incentives not offered to other unions, Convertino said. …. Al Garrett, president of AFSCME Council 25, which oversees the locals, said there was no secret deal with Ficano. "If you follow the court docket, you'll see there's no love lost between AFSCME and Mr. Ficano," said Garrett, whose council represents 2,000 county workers.

MI: After Detroit firefighters reach deal, other unions head to next phase
February 19, 2012 |   Detroit Free Press

Detroit city unions are expected to begin encouraging their reluctant members this week to approve concessions intended to stave off an emergency manager after Detroit Mayor Dave Bing reached a tentative labor agreement late Friday with the city's final union holdout, the Detroit Fire Fighters Association. …. Many unions approved tentative contracts earlier this month that include cuts in pension, health care and overtime, but refused to seek ratification until the firefighters were on board so they could ensure equal sacrifices.

MI: Detroit steps up revenue collection / From income tax to parking fines, financially strapped city goes after every nickel it's owed
BY DARREN A. NICHOLS THE DETROIT NEWS, FEBRUARY 20, 2012 AT 11:27 AM

Detroit for years has failed in collecting revenue it's owed, but now, facing a financial crunch, officials are making considerable efforts to recoup outstanding debts.

MI: Report Weighs Options for Detroit as Deadline Nears
Tuesday, February 21, 2012, By Caitlin Devitt, Bond Buyer

As Michigan officials near their deadline for deciding the future of Detroit, a new report suggests that one of the more dramatic options on the table — a Chapter 9 bankruptcy — doesn’t offer a panacea to the city’s deep-seated financial problems. If it opted for such a filing, Detroit would be the largest American city to file for municipal bankruptcy, and the first local government to do so in Michigan. Many steps remain before it could file for Chapter 9 protection, and there is no indication that state officials would be willing to let that occur. … “I wanted the review team to have the facts to the extent that we can predict what Chapter 9 can and can’t do,” said Eric Scorsone, a Michigan State University professor and the co-author of the report with Nicolette Bateson.

MI: Detroit scrambles to avoid emergency financial manager
February 21, 2012 |   Detroit Free Press

Teetering closer to insolvency, the City of Detroit is scrambling to make a last-minute case that Gov. Rick Snyder does not need to appoint an emergency manager over the cash-starved city. …. "We have a lot of work to do," Laurie Walker, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 457, said. "I won't know if we have enough votes until I meet with my local." Union leaders acknowledged the urgency.

MN: House committee advances bill banning union dues deductions from child-care subsidy payments
By Doug Belden, pioneerpress.com,   02/20/2012 12:01:00 AM CST

A bill passed by the House earlier this month that would prevent union dues from being deducted from state child-care subsidy payments got an OK Monday in a Senate committee. The Health and Human Services committee approved the bill and moved it to State Government Innovation and Veterans.

MN: DFL-backed organizations set sights on winning Legislature
Catharine Richert, Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio  February 21, 2012

…. The ad wasn't paid for by a candidate. A liberal organization called the Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM) produced it. ABM eventually spent $5.2 million on an ad campaign to defeat Emmer and elect Democrat Mark Dayton governor - $600,000 more than Dayton spent on all his campaign costs. Emmer says he was surprised by how much money ABM spent on the spots, and how well-coordinated their message was. ….. The strategy has also allowed smaller groups to compete when political advertising is increasingly expensive, said Eliot Seide, who is Executive Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5, the state's largest public employee union.

MN: Editorial: 'Right to work' is wrong for state
Star Tribune: February 18, 2012 - 4:19 PM

Minnesota governors can't veto proposed constitutional amendments. But governors have bully pulpits. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton used his during last week's State of the State address to take a swipe at a bad idea that some GOP legislators want to add to the Constitution -- a ban on labor contracts that require all workers employed under the terms of the contract to pay a share of union costs. ….. Contrary to what its label implies, it would give no one the right to a job. Rather, it would allow workers in union shops the option of a "free lunch" -- the chance to benefit from collective bargaining without paying for it.

MN: Pro-Voter ID Group Under Pressure for Racial Images
02/20/2012 11:04 PM, By: Dayna Landgrebe, WDIO

A major push for required voter identification at polling stations came under the microscope on Monday over the issue of race. The controversy comes over a website, sponsored by the group Minnesota Majority. It features a banner image with a group of people waiting to vote, including a man in a sombrero and African-American man in a jail uniform. At a news conference on Monday, Take Action Minnesota said they were outraged by the racial imagery and are demanding the banner be taken down and an apology issued.

New Jersey pension lawsuit continues in federal court
5:58 AM, Feb. 20, 2012 |  Daily Record

The federal lawsuit brought by state government worker unions in an attempt to overturn New Jersey’s landmark pension reform law continues to grind away, even as other state courts have decided in favor of pensioners recently. The state’s largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, and other unions filed a brief Feb. 7 that argued why they believe the case belongs in the U.S. District Court, rather than the state Superior Court.

NY: Pols pitch pricey pension sweetener
By CARL CAMPANILE NY Post, 10:57 AM, February 20, 2012

Bowing to union pressure, legislators are proposing a sweeping pension bill that would allow thousands of state and city government workers to retire early with full benefits — at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to taxpayers, The Post has learned. The early-retirement push clashes with Gov. Cuomo’s drive — backed by Mayor Bloomberg — to scale back pension costs. ….. McEneny said the unions — particularly the Civil Service Employees Association and the Public Employees Federation, the two largest state government-worker unions — had urged him to champion the bill.

NY: Local leaders confront corporate powers
Saturday, 18 Feb 2012, 6:37 PM EST Kevin Rhoney  (WIVB)

Confronting corporate power was on the minds of some grass roots, union, and community leaders Saturday, at a training session to help make their voices heard.  … Agnes Mabins of CSEA Local 815 said, "The community suffers when everyone doesn't pay their fair share. the libraries close, daycares close, the roads are bad. the people pay their fair share, all were asking is that the corporations do the same thing."

NY: Union: Re-Negotiating Contracts Not an Option
2/17/2012 (Updated 10:47:01 PM) Fox 40

In Thursday's State of the County Address, Broome County Executive Debbie Preston said she wants to reopen talks with unions to try to find savings. Discussion would be about adjustments to employees' healthcare contributions, but it doesn't look like Preston will get her wish. Spokesman for CSEA, Mark Kotzin, said they will not reopen contracts for re-negotiations.

Ohio voters may get say on ‘right to work’
By Thomas Gnau,  8:32 AM Tuesday, February 21, 2012, Middletown Journal

In the wake of Indiana’s recent passage of a right-to-work law, opposing sides in Ohio are preparing to battle over the same issue. … On Monday, the organization Ohioans for Workplace Freedom said it will gather signatures to place before voters a proposed constitutional amendment to “guarantee the freedom of Ohioans to choose whether to participate in a labor organization as a condition of employment.”

OH: Turnpike leader defends analysis
By Rick Armon , Beacon Journal  February 20, 2012 - 12:00 AM

BEREA: Ohio Turnpike Commission Executive Director Rick Hodges is urging critics of the idea of leasing the turnpike to slow down. The 241-mile toll road isn’t up for lease now and may never be, he said during a recent interview in his office that overlooks the highway.

OK: Business gets its way in Republican Oklahoma
By Pamela M. Prah, Stateline, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2012

Oklahoma is used to being overshadowed politically by its bigger, bolder southern neighbor, Texas. But in the past year, it’s Oklahoma that has developed a reputation for unusual political boldness, with the GOP flexing its muscle in dramatic fashion.  The 2010 elections gave Republicans complete control of state government for the first time ever in Oklahoma. They have quietly, methodically enacted a slate of pro-business measures and are embarking on an extraordinary plan to eliminate the personal income tax outright. …. “We’re extremely concerned that some of these far-right folks are so far right that they are anti-business,” says Warmington of the state Chamber of Commerce. “They actually are more problematic for us than trial lawyers and labor unions right now,” he says, referring to business’ traditional adversaries. Some in the Tea Party movement have taken to calling Governor Fallin a RINO — a Republican in Name Only.

OR: Budget ax aimed at 3 critical areas / Senior services, public assistance, prisons are targeted
9:00 PM, Feb. 18, 2012 |   Statesman Journal

Balancing the state budget is putting several groups of Oregonians in the monetary spotlight, a light that will burn hot for the next 10 days as legislators and Gov. John Kitzhaber search for ways to make ends meet.  ….. Although the legislative plan would restore other cuts planned in the Department of Corrections budget, "it's that amount that is troubling to us," said Tim Woolery, the official with Council 75 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, who represents a group of corrections officers.

PA: Five probation officers among first to be laid off by county
By Jennifer Learn-Andes timesleader.com, February 18

Luzerne County managers have started verbally informing employees who will be laid off due to budget cuts, including five probation officers in the court system. …. Paula Schnelly, of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, union, said she doesn’t expect to receive specific information about furloughed employees until next week.

TN: Memphis City Council Debates Privatizing Garbage Collection
April Thompson, WREG,  6:06 p.m. CST, February 20, 2012

Garbage pickup is on the verge of being left to someone other than the City of Memphis. The city council has approved a 13 million dollar voluntary buyout plan for sanitation workers. Some 250 workers could walk away with 40 to 60 thousand dollars each. The city would then let an outside company take over most garbage collection. …. We are told the City could save millions with a more efficiently run private system, using fewer workers per truck and holding a tighter rein on work hours. But uncertainty over how current employees would be impacted has workers worried. ….. "The City and AFSCME need to get  to  the table, come up with a number of employees that both groups can be satisfied with. AFSCME will make sure it's union is maintained and the city will realize some savings in the process. That's what they ought to do," says Collins.

TX: Union leader says lawmakers' education cuts, Medicaid changes 'immoral'
Feb. 17, 2012, By Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service

The secretary-treasurer of the Texas AFL-CIO said lawmakers in his home state last year conducted "the most immoral legislative session I have ever witnessed," especially their actions on education funding and Medicaid.  John Patrick, a Catholic, also criticized lawmakers for trying to pass a measure that he said would have made it illegal for labor officials to use union dues to "advocate for working families."

WA: House GOP calls for welfare cuts, furloughs
Brad Shannon | The Olympian • February 17, 2012

House Republicans offered a balanced-budget alternative at the state Capitol today that fully pays for public schools, slashes welfare spending by $225 million, and forces state employees to take two more days off work each month without pay through mid-2013. …. Furloughs might run afoul of labor contracts that already call for 3 percent reductions in pay and hours worked. The Washington Federation of State Employees did not offer immediate comment, but the largest state-employee union has argued previously against such furloughs and said the ongoing 3 percent cuts were bargained with an understanding that no more furloughs would be imposed.

WA: Is Port Townsend takeover of Fort Worden park too speedy?
By Charlie Bermant, Peninsula Daily News, Feb 19

The more than 200 people who attended a meeting last week to learn about the possibility of the Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority taking over all or part of the ownership and management of Fort Worden State Park were left with more questions than answers about the process. …. Jeanine Livingston, a representative of the Washington Federation of State Employees, registered her displeasure about the idea of a transfer, as well as the meeting agenda. “I find this format to be offensive,” she said. “This was not an open meeting. “Whenever someone tried to ask a question, a PDA board member would intervene and try to correct the question so it would ask what they wanted,” she said.

WI: Politico Gaffe Becomes Organizing Tool In Wisconsin Recall Effort
BRIAN BEUTLER FEBRUARY 20, 2012, 11:57 AM, TPM

When President Obama spoke to workers in Wisconsin last week, Politico accidentally made itself the story. The paper’s reporter mistook the Wisconsin state flag for the seal of a local union, and cited it as an illustration of President Obama’s pro-union bias. …. “When national news blog Politico came to Milwaukee to cover Pres. Obama’s visit, they incorrectly identified the Wisconsin flag as the “flag for the local union, Wisconsin 1848.” Many people got a chuckle at the embarrassing mistake, but we think it really represents something larger,” reads a new AFSCME petition. “So let’s say it loud and say it proud! Join as a charter member of “Wisconsin Local 1848” today. We’ll share up-to-the-minute information on statewide issues that affect us all.” And there’s a t-shirt
to go along with it.

WI: KOCH BROTHER VOWS TO BREAK UNIONS, PRAISES BIRCHER FATHER
19 February 2012 | 9:35 pm EST  National Confidential

Billionaire David Koch has vowed to defend Wisconsin governor Scott Walker against the union-backed recall election underway in that state. In an interview with the Palm Beach Post, Koch said that, “We’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more.” ….. Koch also told the Post that “there will be no stopping union power” if they win the recall election versus Walker, who jammed through legislation that strips public employee unions of their power to collectively bargain.

WI: Report: AFSCME endorses Falk in recall
WTAQ, Monday, February 20, 2012 4:57 p.m. CST

Wisconsin's largest public employee union is endorsing Democrat Kathleen Falk in the expected recall election against Governor Scott Walkr. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel obtained an e-mail sent by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees to its members. The paper quoted it as saying that Falk is “simply the strongest leader to reverse Walker’s reign of deceit and job-killing extremism.”

WI: Recall Election Looks Likely in Wisconsin
By LISA BUCHMEIER , Courthouse News, Feb 21, 2012

A judge denied Gov. Scott Walker's second request for more time to review signatures on his recall petitions, leaving a Feb. 27 deadline in place.  Dane County Judge Richard Niess's ruling means the Government Accountability Board's March 19 deadline for deciding whether recall elections should be held for Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican states senators also remains in place.  Niess previously gave Walker 30 days to review the petitions - three times the 10 days allowed under state law.

WI: AFSCME Wisconsin Members Mobilizing with Teletownhalls
BY JOE LAWRENCE | AFSCME blog,  FEBRUARY 17, 2012

They’re phoning it in and it’s making them stronger. AFSCME members from across Wisconsin are joining together in teletownhall meetings to discuss anti-worker attacks and effective ways to fight back. Council 24 held a teletownhall recently in advance of the state issuing sweeping changes in the personnel system that could negatively affect membership.

WI: Gov. Walker's numbers not adding up for local governments
Sun Feb 19, 2012. Eric Lindquist Leader-Telegram staff |

A year after Gov. Scott Walker proposed a budget repair bill that led to a storm of protest by some and praise by others, local governments have calculated the initial impact of those reforms on their bottom lines. The Republican governor has spent a lot of time in the past year talking about the "savings" that would be generated by the bill, which became known as Act 10 when it was passed into law last March by the GOP-controlled Legislature. A new website the governor's office launched recently estimates that the increased public employee contributions toward pension and health care benefits called for by Act 10 already have saved local governments and school districts $911 million.