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May 3, 2012

National/Politics

The public-sector jobs crisis / Women and African Americans hit hardest by job losses in state and local governments
By Algernon Austin, David Cooper and Mary Gable | EPI, May 2, 2012

….. The briefing paper next explains the disproportionate impact of state and local public-sector job cuts on women and African Americans, and concludes by contrasting the private sector’s slow jobs recovery with continued employment declines in the public sector.

Member of Labor Board Hit With New Allegations
By MELANIE TROTTMAN, Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2012, 10:28 p.m. ET

…. A new report by the board's inspector general centers on Terence Flynn, a Republican who already is being investigated for allegedly violating board ethics standards by improperly disclosing information. The allegations first surfaced in March, when a report by NLRB Inspector General David Berry found Mr. Flynn had improperly provided information to two former board members, including the one cited in the latest finding, when he was an attorney for the board. The new report alleges Mr. Flynn released proprietary information to Peter Schaumber, a Republican former board chairman who in September was named a co-chairman for the labor advisory team for Mr. Romney, now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Democrats in Convention Box
By BRODY MULLINS and PETER NICHOLAS, Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2012, 7:52 p.m.

Democrats are struggling to raise money for the party's national convention this summer in Charlotte, N.C., in part because they've barred corporations and lobbyists from contributing. …. Labor unions chipped in $8.6 million of the $60.5 million the party spent in 2008 in Denver. This year, a number of construction unions, as well as the labor organization Unite Here, plan to give nothing, officials say. …. Labor unions are also financially strapped. As the number of union workers declines, they are devoting more resources to fighting antiunion efforts in Wisconsin and other Midwestern states. "With all these battles going on, we are contributing our money to them to fight these right-wing governors," said Vince Panvini, former political director of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, who works as a union consultant. One top AFL-CIO official said: "We are going to be spending our resources on membership education, not skyboxes."

CEO pay and the top 1% / How executive compensation and financial-sector pay have fueled income inequality
By Lawrence Mishel and Natalie Sabadish | EPI, May 2, 2012

Growing income inequality has a number of sources, but a distinct aspect of rising inequality in the United States is the wage gap between the very highest earners—those in the upper 1.0 percent or even upper 0.1 percent—and other earners, including other high-wage earners.  …. The significant income growth at the very top of the income distribution over the last few decades was largely driven by households headed by someone who was either an executive or was employed in the financial sector.

The Endless Arrogance of Wall Street
JAMELLE BOUIE, American Prospect,  MAY 2, 2012

…  If you think the bolded section is an exaggeration, you should take some time to read Adam Davidson’s New York Times profile of Edward Conard, a former partner at Bain Capital—Mitt Romney’s investment fund—who now works as an apologist for the ultrawealthy. Conard believes three things. First, that millionaires and billionaires earned every penny of their wealth through merit and hard work: God didn’t create the universe so that talented people would be happy,” he said. .  … Second, that immense wealth is the just reward for any and all risk taking: … And finally, that extraordinary income inequality is a net plus for society. Those who use their wealth for charity, Conard argues, are depriving the world of investment and gain:

It’s not easy being a Wall Street gazillionaire these days
By Greg Sargent, Washington Post,

Nick Confessore of the New York Times has a big story in the forthcoming Sunday magazine about Obama’s sour relations with Wall Street and the impact it’s having on fundraising. Buried in the story is an extraordinary anecdote: Wall Streeters are so upset about Obama’s harsh populist rhetoric that they privately called on him to make amends with a big speech — like his oration on race — designed to heal the wounds of class warfare in this country.

Coordination rules a one-way street
By: Maggie Haberman, Politico, May 2, 2012 02:11 PM EDT

… There is no prohibition against the top GOP power-broker hopping from an outside group to a campaign. The only rules against such movement go the other way, barring consultants from moving from a campaign to a super PAC during a certain time period. …. But campaign finance experts noted that while it’s perfectly legal for top advisers to shuttle from outside groups to campaigns, they can’t erase their memories.

Retirement, Slipping Farther and Farther Away
By CATHERINE RAMPELL, New York Times, May 2, 2012, 10:00 AM

Over the last decade and a half, Americans’ expected retirement age has slowly risen to 67 from 60, according to a new Gallup survey. Latest data are based on interviews with a random sample of 672 nonretirees across America, conducted April 9-12, 2012. The maximum margin of sampling error is 5 percentage points. If a standard retirement age of 60 sounds relatively low, remember that the economy was booming in the 1990s and Americans’ savings were being inflated by the tech bubble. That’s about the time when housing prices began to skyrocket, which also made homeowners feel particularly wealthy. Since then, of course, both the dot-com and housing bubbles have burst.

U.S. health spending 'dwarfs' others
By: Kathryn Smith, Politico, May 3, 2012 12:07 AM EDT

The United States spends more on health care than 12 other industrialized countries, a new Commonwealth Fund study finds – but that doesn’t mean this country’s care is any better. …. David Squires, senior research associate at The Commonwealth Fund and the primary author of the study, found Norway and Switzerland were a distant second and third, respectively, on medical spending, at a little more than $5,000 per person.

Problems seen for Medicare provider payments if Supreme Court strikes down health care law
By Associated Press, Thursday, May 3, 3:29 AM

Tossing out President Barack Obama’s health care law would have major unintended consequences for Medicare’s payment systems, unseen but vital plumbing that handles 100 million monthly claims from hospitals and other service providers, the administration has quietly informed the courts. … In papers filed with the Supreme Court, administration lawyers have warned of “extraordinary disruption” if Medicare is forced to unwind countless transactions that are based on payment changes required by more than 20 separate sections of the Affordable Care Act.

Unemployment claims drop in week ended April 28
(AP) May 3, 2012

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week by the most in more than three months.  …. The Labor Department said Thursdaythat weekly unemployment aid applications fell 27,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 365,000.

State/Local

Ariz. Senate approves Brewer personnel proposal
Associated Press | Posted: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 5:48 pm

The Arizona Senate on Wednesday approved Republican legislation for a sweeping rewrite of the state government's personnel system, a top priority of Gov. Jan Brewer in the current session that lawmakers hope to end this week. The House previously approved the bill, but Senate approval of a changed version on a 21-9 party-line vote Wednesday returns the bill to the House for a final vote. The proposal would combine multiple personnel systems for thousands of executive-branch employees and make the new one more like those of private businesses.

AZ: Senate rejects proposal for ballot measure on pensions for Arizona elected officials, judges
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS , May 02, 2012 - 6:02 pm

The Arizona Senate has rejected last-minute legislation on a public retirement system issue. The proposal would have asked voters to authorize the Legislature to halt enrollment in the public pension system for elected officials and judges and create a new defined-contribution plan for new enrollees.

Arizona Private Prisons, 1 - Troubled Homeowners, 0
05/02/2012Donna Gratehouse, AFL-CIO Now

The Republican majority in the Arizona House just voted to approve a budget, a compromise with Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, that critics say underfunds education, health care and public safety. But the most shocking item in the budget proposal is a plan to transfer $50 million from funds intended to help homeowners facing foreclosure to the private prison industry. Worse, some Republican legislators want to "save money" by removing auditing and oversight from private prison contractors.

AZ: Cities, counties urge Brewer to veto consolidated elections bill
By Jeremy Duda,: May 2, 2012 at 5:49 pm, AZ Capitol Times

Dozens of local and county officials are asking Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a bill that would force cities to consolidate their election dates with the state. …. “This is kind of a think-tank solution to a problem that doesn’t exist,” he said of the conservative Goldwater Institute, which lobbied for the legislation.

CA: San Diego Businesses Speak Out Against Threat to Retirement Security from Proposition B
BY ERICK SANCHEZ | MAY 02, 2012, AFSCME blog

Last week, the Greater San Diego Business Association stood with working families to reject the unfair, misguided Proposition B, which threatens the retirement security of hardworking San Diego city employees.

Colorado House OKs asking voters to change state personnel system
05/03/2012  The Denver Post

Coloradans will get the chance in November to enact the biggest changes to the state personnel system in a century. ….  The House also approved House Bill 1321, which makes statutory changes to the personnel system, including limits on "bumping rights" that now allow more senior employees who have been laid off to push out newer employees if the senior employees meet minimum job qualifications. "Our goal throughout this process has been to protect merit, protect jobs and fight for a new pay system," said Scott Wasserman, executive director of Colorado WINS, a union representing state employees.

CT: Lawmakers say governor's initiatives not immune from cuts as deficits loom larger
May 2, 2012 By Keith M. Phaneuf, CT Mirror

Though Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is trying to see the fiscal glass as half full, key legislators tied to budget talks conceded this week that many of Malloy's top initiatives may have to be scaled back, delayed, or cut altogether.  …. Walker conceded that it might not be possible to scale back the pension fix. That's because contract language to implement the fix starting in July was negotiated and revised last winter with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition and approved by the state Retirement Commission.

IL: House bill would end free health insurance for retired state workers
KURT ERICKSON - H&R, May 3, 2012

Tens of thousands of retired state employees could be stripped of their free health insurance benefit under legislation pending in the Illinois House. ….. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union said the cost of retiree health insurance should be negotiated by the union and the governor’s office, rather than allowing a state agency to set the rates. “This has always been a part of the collective bargaining process,” said AFSCME lobbyist Joanna Webb-Gauvin.

IL: Our Opinion: Objections to pensions, Medicaid without options not acceptable
The State Journal-Register,  May 02, 2012 @ 09:37 AM

…. We understand that all of these lawmakers have a large number of state employees in their districts who may be upset at paying more into their retirement funds now and/or receiving reduced benefits later. They’re in a difficult spot politically. But if you’re not prepared to make difficult decisions, don’t run for office. Brauer is correct in pointing out that state employees always have fulfilled their part of the pension funding while the state has routinely skipped putting in its share.

IL: Budget crisis threatens funds for day-care providers, families
DEAN OLSEN, The State Journal-Register, May 03, 2012

A new wrinkle in Illinois’ budget crisis unfolded Wednesday when Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration said it has begun to delay payments to more than 40,000 child-care providers.

IL: Panel votes to keep DCC open
By Cynthia Grau, Pontiac Daily Leader, May 02, 2012 @ 11:31 AM

… American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer made a statement on behalf of the union. "We applaud the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability for rejecting Governor Quinn's wrongful and damaging closure threats. The commission voted to protect essential public services and preserve more than 2,000 Illinois jobs.

LA: House approves proposal for pension plan changes
BY MARSHA SHULER, Advocate, May 03, 2012

The Louisiana House endorsed Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposal to move to a 401(k)-type pension plan for future state employees Wednesday night, amid criticism that it does not provide enough retirement security. The legislation had stalled on Tuesday after the House approved an amendment that would require new state employees on the “cash balance” plan to be enrolled in Social Security too. On Wednesday, the House reversed course, stripping the Social Security provision, then approving the measure on a 55-45 vote. House Bill 61 now moves to the state Senate.

LA: Senate panel blocks cut in election hours
BY MARSHA SHULER, Advocate, May 03, 2012

A state Senate committee killed legislation Wednesday that would have cut one hour off election day voting. …. Labor union officials said the change would deprive working men and women of an opportunity to vote, particularly those who do 24-hour shift work.

MI: Business and labor groups get ready for battle over bargaining
May 3, 2012 |   Detroit Free

Organizers of a petition drive to enshrine collective-bargaining rights in the state constitution have put their key players in place as the business community organizes to try to defeat the effort. The Protect Our Jobs campaign has hired Democratic political consultant Jill Alper of the Dewey Square Group as its chief strategist, veteran legislative aide Ken Brock as its campaign manager, and PCI Consultants of Calabasas, Calif., to help volunteers gather petitions, officials said Wednesday.

MI: Detroit unions weigh strike option as layoffs loom
Click on Detroit,  May 02 2012 10:25:05 AM EDT

Some Detroit municipal union leaders say striking is one of several options being discussed during ramped-up strategy sessions before new contract talks with the city begin. American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Council 25 spokesman Ed McNeil says no strike vote has been taken "at this point." McNeil said "people are looking at the system itself and are pretty disgusted with the city."

MI: Challengers lining up for county board
May. 3, 2012  DAILY PRESS & ARGUS

The Livingston County Democratic Party is gradually putting together a slate of candidates for the Livingston County Board of Commissioners seats that will decided in the Nov. 6 election. ….. The current Democratic candidates are Jeanette DiFlorio in District 2, Dane Morris in District 3 and Jim Katakowski in District 8. …. DiFlorio, an Oceola Township resident, is a full-service staff representative for the Michigan American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. She has more than 20 years' experience in contract negotiations, arbitration proceedings, grievance procedures and contract administration.

MO: Court upholds Missouri home-care union election
AP, May 2, 2012 1:45 PM

A Missouri appeals court has upheld the unionization vote of thousands of workers who provide in-home care for disabled residents. The Missouri Home Care Union said Wednesday that the ruling is the culmination of a three-year campaign for the workers to form a union. They were given that option under a 2008 ballot initiative. A judge overturned the initial unionization vote in 2009. After a second unionization vote passed in 2010, a Cole County judge again blocked the election from being certified because of procedural violations. The ruling Tuesday by the Western District of the state Court of Appeals overturned that circuit court decision and ordered the election results to be certified.

Related AFSCME blog: Missouri Home Care Providers Win Historic Court Ruling

NJ: Watchdog group wants Attorney General to investigate ALEC's activities in N.J.
Thursday, May 03, 2012, 6:30 AM  By Salvador Rizzo/NJ.com

Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa should investigate the American Legislative Exchange Council’s activities in New Jersey, according to a Washington-based group that advocates for government ethics and transparency. …. It says that although ALEC is registered as a charity in New Jersey, it is "primarily a lobbying organization and may therefore be in violation of its tax-exempt status."

NY: Cuomo targets Super PACS in campaign reform
Associated Press, May 2, 2012, 12:13 p.m. ET

Gov. Andrew Cuomo railed Wednesday against so-called "super PACs" and their use of millions of dollars to influence voters without disclosing donors, while the biggest group acting that way in New York was created to back him. ….. The lobbying group supporting Cuomo since he took office last year, the Committee to Save New York, was created by a business group official and includes CEOs and chambers of commerce. It has spent $10 million to blanket New York with TV ads promoting Cuomo and his policies as he continues to ride high poll numbers. …. The Committee to Save New York was created in part to counter other lobbying groups and registered super PACs, often providing a nonprofit face for government worker labor unions fighting state spending cuts. Those groups have in the past waged multimillion-dollar TV and radio ad campaigns that turned public sentiment away from governors and their initiatives.

NY: Critics Attack Influence of the Committee to Save New York
by Jonathan Camhi, Gotham Gazette, May 03, 2012

… Critics say that the committee operates just like the Super PAC’s that the Governor condemns, spending large amounts of money to campaign on behalf of his agenda. Some reports say that the governor created the committee himself to campaign for his agenda, although the committee denies those reports and says it doesn’t coordinate with the Governor’s office. The committee has also been accused of lacking transparency as it has yet to disclose its donor list and has delayed in filing its lobbying reports required by state authorities.

NY: State workers join national cancer study
By Cathleen F. Crowley, Times Union, 07:49 a.m., Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hundreds of state workers enrolled in a nationwide cancer study this week during a campaign to recruit volunteers by the American Cancer Society. The cancer group is looking for people between the ages of 30 and 65 with no history of cancer for the society's latest project called the Cancer Prevention 3 study.

PR: Retirees Organize 1,300 in Puerto Rico
BY KEVIN ZAPF HANES | MAY 02, 2012, AFSCME blog

More than 1,300 retired public employees signed up for automatic dues deduction with AFSCME following a joint organizing campaign between the International union’s retiree department and AFSCME Council 95. …. “Retirees are a potent force whom we must engage in our fight for workers’ rights,” AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders said.

WA: Gov. Gregoire begins contract talks with state employees
Andrew Garber, Seattle Times, May 2, 2012 at 8:21 PM

Gov. Chris Gregoire will leave office in eight months, but the state worker contracts she's negotiating now could tie the hands of Washington's next governor for three years. The governor's office started bargaining with the Washington Federation of State Employees, which represents about 37,000 state workers, on Wednesday and already has talks under way with the Washington State Ferry unions.

WI: Poll: Walker, Barrett tied in recall race
By MACKENZIE WEINGER | 5/2/12 2:35 PM Politico

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his top Democratic rival are running neck-and-neck in the recall race for governor, according to a poll released Wednesday. …. Barrett leads the Republican governor by a single digit — 47 percent to 46 percent — among registered voters, but Walker reverses that one-point lead with likely voters, 48 percent to 47 percent. (Both results are well within the margin of error.)

Wisconsin Democrats shift recall themes from union issues to state’s lagging record on jobs
By Associated Press,: May 2

When Wisconsin Democrats launched their recall drive against Republican Gov. Scott Walker last year, it was all about unions. They wanted Walker to pay with his job for pushing legislation that stripped almost all public workers of nearly all their collective bargaining rights. More recently, Democrats, buoyed by fresh federal statistics that show Wisconsin’s economy is still sputtering badly, have tried to transform the election into a referendum on the governor’s failure to put people back to work.

Wisconsin for Falk releases new ad
Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel May 2, 2012 10:34 a.m.

Madison -- A union-backed group has a new ad out targeting women in its effort to give the Democratic nomination for governor to former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. The ad will run in the La Crosse, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Wausau and Madison markets, according to the group. Wisconsin for Falk is funded primarily by the Wisconsin Education Association Council and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, two unions that have endorsed Falk.

WI: Before Recall, Wis. Dems Must Choose Walker's Rival
by LIZ HALLORAN, NPR, May 2, 2012

… Would AFSCME's promotion of an online video attacking Barrett, which used stitched-together audio, shatter the party's effort not to destroy itself in its fervor to recall Walker? The answer, it turned out, was a fairly emphatic "no." Under pressure, AFSCME, among Falk's most ardent backers, said it used "poor judgment" in the clip job. And the race moved on.

Wisconsin Workers under the Thumb of Walker’s Law
By Rebecca Kemble, The Progressive, May 2, 2012

….. Interest arbitration became a statutory part of the collective bargaining process for public employees in 1978.  …. ….. According to Katy Lounsbury, attorney for AFSCME Council 40, the loss of interest arbitration under Act 10 “makes collective bargaining a sham.” She explained: “At the end of the day, when one party has 100% of the power to institute their offer, there is no real bargaining.”

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