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May 1, 2012

National/Politics

Jamie Dimon’s Pay Is OK, But Dual Role Isn’t, Says ISS
April 30, 2012, 5:24 PM ET, Wall Street Journal

Jamie Dimon will be out of one job if Institutional Shareholder Services has anything to say about it. But just one job. He can be either Chairman or CEO of J.P. Morgan, but he shouldn’t be both, says the proxy-advisory firm, for the second year in a row. … The recommendations come after the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or Afscme, said in January it was urging J.P. Morgan to split the roles of chairman and CEO. Afscme was on a campaign to split up the roles at several major companies. “An independent chair would get J.P. Morgan executives focused on generating long term value for shareholders, rather than empire building and big bonuses,” Afscme President Gerald W. McEntee said at that time.  … Lisa Lindsley, director of capital strategies at Afscme, said Monday the union was “very pleased” by the proxy firms’ recommendations and felt the bank’s risk and complexity deserved independent oversight, even if Dimon is considered the best.

Related  AP/Huffington Post: AFSCME To Goldman Sachs: Appointing Shareholder Advocate Not Enough To Curb CEO Pay

Saunders: AFSCME Members Are Everyday Heroes
BY KOREY HARTWICH | APRIL 30, 2012, AFSCME blog

AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders appeared on progressive radio show Rebuild America this past week to discuss with host Jeff Santos the attacks on public service workers and union members’ right to organize.  Today he will be a guest on The Working Family Network’s Union Edge radio show (broadcast 4-6 p.m. ET). Listen online at WFRNLive.com or on one of the broadcast stations listed on the site. “It really is disgusting when you have these ultraconservatives and the extreme right wing criticizing the work that public service workers perform every single day,” said Saunders. “ … Listen to the podcast at RevolutionBoston.com.

Census: State and Local Public Pension Assets Increase 10.6%
Monday, April 30, 2012, By Jennifer DePaul, Bond Buyer

State and local public employee retirement systems’ investment holdings rose 10.6%, or $257.2 billion, to $2.7 trillion in 2010, after two consecutive years of losses, according to a new Census Bureau report released Monday. The $2.7 trillion gain in total cash and investment holdings followed a $722.2 billion loss the previous year. The report, the 2010 Annual Survey of Public Employee Retirement Systems, reviewed financial activity and membership information of state and local public employee retirement systems, including revenues, expenditures, investment holdings and the number of retirement systems and beneficiaries.

States scaling back worker pensions to save money
May 01, 2012 Associated Press

… For years, state governments lured workers with the promise of lucrative pensions that provide nearly the pay that employees earned on the job. But after years of budget crunches, nearly every state has revamped public retirement benefits in an effort to shrink the long-term obligations that are billions of dollars short of what is needed to cover benefits. …. Governors as ideologically apart as the conservative Jindal and California Democrat Jerry Brown are facing intense opposition from labor groups, workers and even members of their own parties as they try to change pension rules. And some battles have shifted to the courts, because most states have some sort of legal protection for public pensions. …. But public employees, in many instances, don't have the Social Security safety net. They don't pay into that government system and so they can't get Social Security benefits when they get older. That's why they think it's unfair for states to shrink their pensions.

Ohio Union Fight Shakes Up Race
By DOUGLAS BELKIN And JACK NICAS, Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2012, 10:29 p.m. ET

….. Ohio's Republican leaders a year ago sponsored a law that stripped most collective-bargaining rights from 400,000 state and local workers, including police, firefighters and teachers. Angry voters overturned the law in a November referendum, 62% to 38%.  …. As the 2012 race intensifies between President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the political backdrop in this pivotal swing state is being shaped by events that roiled Ohio a year ago. The fight over the bargaining rights of public-employee unions energized partisans on both sides, and amounted to a trial run for the general election that each party is now trying to use to its advantage.

Obama promotes infrastructure projects to AFL-CIO
By David Jackson, USA TODAY, Apr 30, 2012

President Obama told unionized construction workers today that he is pushing for new infrastructure projects, but congressional Republicans keep blocking him. "Time and time again, the Republicans have gotten together and said no," Obama told members of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. …. Speaking to a key part of his political constituency, labor, Obama also told AFL-CIO members that Republicans are also dedicated to "dismantling unions like yours."

NY: Meet Michael Grimm, Labor’s Favorite Tea Party Republican
BY BRUCE VAIL, In These Times, APR 30, 2012 5:05 PM

Most of the media attention at the big gathering of construction unions this week in Washington, D.C., will be on President Obama's keynote speech, which he gave today. But also newsworthy will be the unlikely appearance there of a Tea Party Republican involved in a blooming romance with organized labor. Invited to speak to the gathering of bricklayers, electricians, ironworkers, and other building trades unions is the little-known Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) … But Grimm’s short and little-noticed tenure in Washington has revealed an unexpected feature of the Marine Corps veteran and former FBI agent—he is a committed supporter of organized labor with no fear at all of the anti-union zealots in his own party. …. Grimm spokeswoman Carol Danko told In These Times that the congressman’s outlook on organized labor is strongly influenced by his father’s experience as a union member. The elder Grimm was a member of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, she said, and instilled a sense of union pride in his children.

AFL-CIO video sharply contrasts Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, calls for movement-building
Daily Kos Labor, MON APR 30, 2012 AT 09:44 AM PDT

A new video from the AFL-CIO, essentially kicking off its 2012 election efforts, highlights the labor federation's attempts to move to a political orientation that continues to treat electoral politics as important without relying wholly on elections to get the job done. The video draws a strong contrast between Mitt Romney and President Obama on economic issues from the auto industry to foreclosure, labor issues like Ohio's Issue 2, the DREAM Act, and Planned Parenthood, with a big helping of "Mitt's just plain out of touch." Arguably the centerpiece of that contrast is Obama's take on values:

Occupy movement prepares for nationwide general strike
By Annie Gowen, Washington Post: April 30

Occupy Wall Street organizers plan hundreds of marches, strikes and teach-ins in 120 cities around the country on Tuesday for what they call a “general strike” for economic justice. May Day protesters from New York labor unions, immigrants groups and others are expected to march from Union Square to Wall Street on Tuesday for “A Day without the 99 Percent.”

GOP money floods battlegrounds, threatens Dems' hold on Senate
By Alexander Bolton, The Hill,  05/01/12 05:00 AM ET

Third-party groups allied with the Republican Party have vastly outspent Democratic incumbents and their backers in Senate battlegrounds.  The disparity in advertising firepower threatens Democratic control of the Senate and could have an impact on the presidential race as well.

Highway bill enters legislative homestretch
AP 5/1/2012 3

Defying expectations, Congress has reached the homestretch on a major overhaul of federal transportation programs that is critical if the nation is to avoid steep cutbacks in highway and transit aid. The bill is driven partly by election-year politics. Both Congress and President Barack Obama have made transportation infrastructure investment the centerpiece of their jobs agendas.

Higher contributions could limit savings
By Eric Yoder, Washington Post, 05:33 PM ET, 04/30/2012

If federal employees are forced to contribute more toward their civil service retirement benefits, many might have to cut back on their investments in the Thrift Savings Plan, employee organization officials said Monday. “We’re very concerned about what the reactions are going to be” if the government requires higher contributions, said Clifford Dailing, national secretary-treasurer of the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association.

Homeownership Rate Declines to 15-Year Low
By ALAN ZIBEL And NICK TIMIRAOS, Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2012, 8:00 p.m. ET

The homeownership rate fell in the first quarter to the lowest level in 15 years as more Americans lost homes to foreclosure and shifted to renting amid the weak economic recovery. Economists say the rate could slip further. While low mortgage-interest rates and falling home prices have made homes more affordable than at any time in the past decade, mortgage-lending standards remain tight. Also, more Americans may feel less confident about property ownership after the steep price declines of the past six years. The Census Bureau said Monday that the homeownership rate fell to 65.4% at the end of March, the same level as in early 1997.

Less White Equals More Green / Mild Winter Saved Cities, States Millions on Plowing; Mounds of Road Salt Left
By JENNIFER LEVITZ, JOE BARRETT and JIM CARLTON, Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2012, 8:26 p.m. ET

States and cities across the northern half of the country saved millions of dollars from a winter that was unusually warm and lacking in snow, providing a rare fiscal bonus and leaving them with surpluses of road salt and other supplies for this year's season. …. Another savings some governments are reporting: lower repair costs for roads that normally are chewed up by plows and broken apart by freezing-and-thawing cycles.

Pitting Employees Against Each Other … for Health
By ANNA WILDE MATHEWS, Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2012

In the effort to make workers healthier, employers and insurers have dangled carrots. They've threatened with sticks. Now, they are trying games. The latest way to nudge people to improve their health is to make it fun and competitive, and take some techniques borrowed from online games like FarmVille, to incentivize them in other settings. Anna Mathews explains on Lunch Break. Photo: Zynga.  …. A survey of employers released in March by the consulting firm Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health found that about 9% expected to use online games in their wellness programs by the end of this year, with another 7% planning to add them in 2013.

CMS: Obama health law has saved seniors $3.4 billion on prescription drugs
By Sam Baker, The Hill, 04/30/12 10:04 AM ET

Seniors have saved $3.4 billion on prescription drugs because of President Obama’s healthcare law, the Medicare agency said Monday. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said seniors saved an average of $837 in the first three months of this year.

Brown says daughter, 23, insured under health law
By Glen Johnson Globe  May 1, 2012

Senator Scott Brown, who won office vowing to be the 41st vote to block President Obama’s health care law, and who has since voted three times to repeal it, acknowledged Monday that he takes advantage of one of its components to keep his elder daughter on his congressional health insurance plan.

Did the American Legislative Exchange Council Give Me the Full Story?
By Brendan Greeley on April 30, Business Week

In August last year, I went to the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council in New Orleans.  …. Both Weber and Stephenson said several times that the model bills are a “library service,” and Stephenson said that legislators “don’t need me to access legislation. ……. John, me, my other, the rest of the ALEC staff, even the ALEC board, we don’t know who’s reaching in and grabbing what. “ …. But now it looks like ALEC did have an idea, it did know who was reaching in and grabbing what, and it knew this in detail. On Monday, Common Cause, an advocacy group for sunlight and government accountability, filed a whistleblower complaint to the IRS, arguing that ALEC lobbies for corporations and thus has violated its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status as a charity. In a response, a lawyer for ALEC said that the complaint “mostly ignores applicable law and distorts what it does not ignore.”

State/Local

CA: State launches new health, wellness program
9:49 PM, Apr 30, 2012  News 10

California has launched a new health and wellness pilot program that supporters claim will save the state millions of dollars in health care costs. The two year pilot program, sponsored by Health Corps and the California Department of Public Health, will focus on increasing physical activity, eating better and reducing stress. The first guinea pigs will be state employees.

CT: Malloy would use state's credit card payments to cover operating deficit
April 30, 2012 By Keith M. Phaneuf and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT Mirror

Despite vowing during the campaign not to use the state's credit card to cover its operating costs, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced late Monday he would divert more than $220 million dedicated last year to pay off debt to close a growing deficit in the current budget. …. The single-largest initiative in that plan involves bolstering the cash-starved state employee pension fund. The governor may not have the flexibility to cut that plan, even were he interested in doing so. That's because contract language to implement the fix starting in July was negotiated last winter with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition and approved by the state Retirement Committee.

CT: New Britain Unions Show No Sign Of Answering Giveback Plan
By DON STACOM,  The Hartford Courant, 5:29 p.m. EDT, April 30, 2012

The city's opening salvo in its campaign to win contract concessions was thundering, but the response has simply been silence. Municipal unions are offering little or no public reaction to Mayor Tim O'Brien's proposal to save jobs through a series of contract givebacks. …. "We want to be part of the solution, and we want to have constructive dialogue with a mayor and the council," said Larry Dorman, spokesman for Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "But that can't be about concessions as draconian as that letter. The letter doesn't hold a whole lot of weight for us – it doesn't represent anything official in our minds."

D.C. Council poised to pay $22 million to city workers for furloughed holidays
By Tim Craig, Washington Post: April 30

The D.C. Council is poised to pay more than 20,000 city employees, including council members, a combined $22 million this year to make up for the four unpaid holidays they were forced to take last year to quell budget pressures. …. In 2010, organized labor and city employees played a crucial role in Gray’s successful campaign to unseat Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). Public-employee unions have also been crucial backers of several council members. “Four days may not seem like a lot of days to a lot of people, but if I lose a day, it might kill me,” said George Johnson, executive director of the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

IL: UI employees rally for new contract
Lauren Rohr  The Daily Illini   April 30, 2012 - 11:29 PM

University employees and members of local units of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees labor union rallied together Monday afternoon, expressing their concerns about the negotiation of the union’s contract and wages.

 Is Illinois still a 'union-friendly' state? Organized labor taking on 'friendly-fire' from Illinois Democrats.
April 30, 2012 By: Michael Puente, WBEZ

…. So far, major Illinois unions are not calling for the ouster of the Democratic governor or other Democratic Illinois lawmakers that they’ve given thousands of campaign dollars to. But they are having to fight for their interests and against proposed budget cuts to public employee pensions. “It was real disappointment. We’ve been consistent in the three measures of any pension solution and this falls short in all three of those,” said Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 (AFSCME).

LA: Jindal offers budget cut / Health-care premiums would drop
BY MICHELLE MILLHOLLON  AND MARSHA SHULER, Advocate, May 01, 2012

Thousands of current and retired state workers would see their health-care premium rates decrease under a plan promoted Monday by the Jindal administration. The move would save money for state workers, retirees, school systems and state government.

MI: Protesters take anti-emergency manager message inside Flint City Hall (with video)
Monday, April 30, 2012, 1:59 PM  By Kristin Longley | mlive.com

A group of protesters against Flint emergency manager Michael Brown took their message inside Flint City Hall this afternoon. The group is speaking out against Public Act 4, the emergency manager law, and what they consider "taxation without representation."

MD: Toll Agency Workers Begin Effort To Unionize
Baltimore City Biz,  May 1, 2012

Employees of the Maryland Transportation Authority, which operates the state's toll bridges and tunnels, have kicked off a campaign for union representation even though the governor has yet to sign the bill authorizing collective bargaining at their agency. A union press release announcing the campaign said they expect Gov. Martin O'Malley to sign the bill May 22.… The MdTA workers are seeking to be represented by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. …. In a Feb. 21 hearing by the House Appropriations Committee, under questioning by Republican members, AFSCME deputy director Sue Esty said all state employees are covered by the pay and benefits negotiated by AFSCME.

MN: In Fight Over Obama Health Law, a Front in Minnesota
By ROBERT PEAR, New York Times, April 30, 2012

With zeal, excitement and a meticulous attention to detail, the administration of Gov. Mark Dayton is trying to expand health insurance coverage and remake Minnesota’s insurance market along the lines envisioned by President Obama. In setting up a marketplace where people can shop for insurance, the state has sought advice from consumer groups, labor unions, doctors and hospitals, employers, insurance companies, agents and brokers, and American Indian tribes. But one notable group has been missing from the process: Republicans, who control both houses of the State Legislature.

MN: Right-to-Work (For Less) Derailed in Minnesota
BY CLYDE WEISS | APRIL 30, 2012, AFSCME blog

A Minnesota right-to-work-for-less amendment is off the table, for now. That’s good news for public service workers – members of AFSCME Council 5 and Council 65 – who lobbied their state legislators in March to challenge an anti-worker agenda that includes passing the measure.

MN: Workers’ safety is in drivers’ hands
By Michael Kuchta, 30 April 2012, Workday Minnesota

No matter how safely a road project is designed, no matter how safe workers keep themselves, nothing can protect them from a careless, distracted or reckless driver. That was the sobering reminder at a Workers Memorial Day ceremony Friday, as AFSCME helped pay tribute to 33 MnDOT employees and 15 other highway construction workers killed while doing their jobs.

MN: Unions endorse May Day march for immigrant and worker rights
30 April 2012, Workday Minnesota

Tuesday, May 1 is International Workers’ Day, a national holiday in more than 80 countries. Activities in Minnesota include a march in Minneapolis. … In Minneapolis, May Day will be observed with the annual May 1st March for Immigrants and Workers Rights organized by the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee. … Union endorsers of the march include: AFSCME Local 34, AFSCME Local 3800, AFSCME Council 5,

NY: County workers get 9 weeks off per year
Monday, 30 Apr 2012, 5:53 PM EDT,   Eli George (WIVB) –

How do your benefits stack up against county workers? Six years ago, we brought the story of how some county workers were enjoying almost double the time off than the private sector. Local leaders promised changes and News 4 is seeing if they followed through. Six years ago, Erie County employees were working the equivalent of eight weeks less than their counterparts in the private sector. Joel Giambra's priority at the time? …. Six years later, not much has changed for CSEA county workers with seniority. They're still under the same contract, and work 360 hours a year less - that's nine weeks less -than the private sector, according to the County Personnel Department.

New York Pension Funds to Challenge Wal-Mart
By GRETCHEN MORGENSON, New York Times, April 30, 2012

Concerned about Wal-Mart’s reported cover-up of bribery in its Mexico operations, leaders of New York City’s pension funds said Monday they would vote their 4.7 million company shares against five directors standing for re-election to the retailer’s board at its annual shareholder meeting next month. …. The New York City pension funds that will vote against the Wal-Mart directors are the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System, New York City Police Pension Fund, New York City Fire Department Pension Fund and the Board of Education Retirement System.

Ohio Lawmakers Weigh Options for $153M Surplus
Tuesday, May 1, 2012, By Caitlin Devitt, Bond Buyer

With an estimated $153 million surplus heading into fiscal 2013, top Republican lawmakers in Ohio are debating whether to spend it or save it. The House last week passed a mid-biennium budget bill that cuts spending by $3 million this year and $69 million in fiscal 2013. ….. Complicating the budget debate is a lawsuit filed last year blocking the state’s $1.4 billion plan to lease its liquor distribution system for 25 years to a private, not-for-profit entity called JobsOhio. The new entity would use the revenue, estimated at $200 million annually, for job creation efforts across the state.

OR: Guest Column: DeFazio has the right idea
11:05 am, Mon Apr 30, 2012. By KEN?ALLEN, executive director of Oregon AFSCME Council 75.  For The Daily Astorian

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio is right on in his thinking regarding upholding our commitment to rural communities in Oregon and elsewhere that have traditionally been dependent on federal timber receipts to help balance county budgets. Congress – particularly DeFazio’s colleagues in the U.S. House – should take heed. … Our union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), has long been a strong advocate for solutions to this crisis. We represent the employees in many of the impacted counties. Our national union works this issue tirelessly in Washington, D.C. Our Oregon-based political staff partners with the Association of Oregon Counties to do everything we can here at home.

OR: Fundraiser for family of slain Oregon corrections officer
Statesman Journal, April 30, 2012

Corrections Officer Buddy Herron is one of the 42 workers and soldiers honored during last week’s Workers Memorial Day ceremony on the Capitol Mall. Now, AFSCME Council 75 is holding a fundraiser to help out his family financially. Here’s an excerpt from their web site, but you can read the whole thing here:

RI: Providence Mayor Moves Financial Woes to Fore
By ABBY GOODNOUGH, New York Times, April 30, 2012

…. On Monday, Mr. Taveras celebrated an initial victory when the Providence City Council signed off on a plan to end, for now, annual cost-of-living increases for about 3,000 retired police officers, firefighters and other employees getting city pensions. The change would save about $16 million in the 2013 fiscal year, the mayor said; cost-of-living increases would be reinstated once the retirement system is 70 percent financed, which could take well over a decade. The change would also apply to current city workers once they retire.

WI: Dems vie for chance to unseat Walker: Falk profile
11:00 PM, Apr. 30, 2012 |   Clay Barbour, Wisconsin State Journal

…. Falk's relationship with unions has become something of a double-edged sword. She quickly won endorsements from most of the state's public unions, including Wisconsin Education Association Council and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which already have pumped almost $2 million into ads for her. Falk has promised unions that she will veto any state budget that does not repeal Walker's collective bargaining law, which sparked the recall. But critics, mainly Republicans, have called her the "union" candidate, implying she would be loyal to them over the rest of the state.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker keeping his campaign headquarters location a secret
Daily Kos Labor, MON APR 30, 2012 AT 12:45 PM PDT

Want to know where to go to stuff envelopes for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's campaign? Want a Scott Walker lawn sign? Well, tough. The location is a secret. Not just not publicly listed in an easy-to-find location, but officially a secret that campaign staff will not give up when directly asked: