Michigan Working Families Rally Against ‘Right to Work’ for Less Proposal

Reposted from the AFL-CIO NOW Blog

Hundreds of Michiganders flooded the state Capitol building in Lansing on Thursday to tell their legislators to reject a “right to work” for less proposal currently before a legislative committee. Working families oppose the legislation that would make it easier for corporations to take advantage of their employees and weaken workers’ ability to bargain with management.

“Every working person in Michigan should be concerned about the contents of this ‘right to work’ bill and question how quickly it is moving,” Rick Meeth, a teacher from Bay City, told the Michigan State AFL-CIO. “Whether you are a union member or not, employees in ‘right to work’ states average $1,500 less in wages per year and are less likely to have access to benefits through their job.”

More than 15,000 online signatures have been collected opposing the “right to work” legislation as well. According to Michigan Live, Republicans say the legislation has already been written and they will propose it if they think it has a chance at passing. Legislative leaders were scheduled to meet with Gov. Rick Snyder (R) on Thursday to discuss the legislation.

“With such little discussion or debate, how can lawmakers be sure they are doing the right thing?” asked Craig Hennigan, a graduate teaching assistant. “A ‘right to work’ law will make it easier for big corporate special interests to take advantage of workers. It does nothing to create jobs or rebuild our state.”

Supporters of “right to work” legislation say that it is necessary to prevent workers from being forced to join unions, something that is already illegal under federal law.

Unemployment Insurance Is the Real “Cliff”

We’re in the midst of yet another day of play-acting and finger-pointing on the potential Jan. 1 austerity crisis. And once again, the language many people—especially House Speaker John Boehner—are using seems designed to mask what’s really going on.

In a press conference today, the Speaker expressed his “disappointment” that Congress isn’t any closer to a deal, and insisted that he needs spending-cut proposals to come from President Obama before he’s willing to make any concessions on revenue. But there’s nothing to negotiate over! If there’s no deal, than everyone’s taxes go up, a lot of spending gets cut, and the deficit gets dramatically reduced. Boehner can no more demand concessions in exchange for higher taxes on the very wealthy than he can demand concessions in exchange for allowing the sun to rise in the east. The only question is which portions of the tax and spending changes will come into effect, and which won’t. Demanding an austerity package as the price for avoiding austerity measures is the height of silliness.

In reality, the most urgent problem is that we still have unemployment that’s higher than it should be—and part of the austerity that kicks in Jan. 1 is the end of extended unemployment insurance. That would be a devastating blow to long-term unemployed people, their families and their communities. As Rep. Sandy Levin notes:

You have here a human cliff…On Day 1, 2 million-plus people would lose it entirely.
Extending federal unemployment insurance is vital for millions of Americans laid off through no fault of their own and it serves as an important economic stimulus…we should make sure that the families who need federal assistance in the meantime continue to receive this important lifeline.

This is real money that matters to real people. It helps them stay in their homes, eat, keep their kids healthy and support local businesses. In fact, a study by the Congressional Budget Office says that renewing extended unemployment insurance would create 300,000 jobs.

The bigger question at issue here is that politicians like Boehner—and many of the reporters and pundits who are covering this situation—are focused almost entirely on questions of deficit and debt and blind to the idea that protecting jobs is a higher priority. As David Dayen notes, the obsessive reporting and jockeying over “deals” on taxes or social safety net spending obscures the reality.

In reality, getting people back to work, getting demand up enough to keep the economy growing, is the long-term, sustainable way to reduce deficits. That’s not happening if we replace one set of austerity measures with another.

Like I said before: this is no time for a “grand bargain.” No matter what Speaker Boehner says, this is time to prevent austerity and protect middle-class and working-class families, including the millions still struggling in a slow job market.

Lame-Duck Session of Congress: Myths and Facts

Reposted from the AFL-CIO NOW Blog

In the recently convened “lame-duck” session of Congress, senators and representatives will take on a number of issues that could have major consequences for working families and retirees. Congress is considering benefit cuts for Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare and members are looking at cutting taxes for the wealthy even further. Any deal that Congress makes, though, should be based on facts and not the myths that have sprung up around taxes, the deficit and the earned benefit programs. Here are a few of the key myths and the truth behind them.

Myth: Extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% is important because the economy is weak. Economists agree that cutting taxes on the wealthy is one of the least effective ways to stimulate the economy. A much better use of the $1 trillion cost of those tax cuts would be to invest in infrastructure or extend unemployment benefits. These methods directly infuse cash into economy, creating jobs and raising tax revenue.

Myth: The corporate income tax rate is one of the highest in the world. Only on paper. The effective tax rate companies actually pay is one of the lowest in the world. Cutting already low corporate tax rates would do little to spur the economy.

Myth: Medicare is going bankrupt. In fact, the Hospital Insurance fund can pay 100% of promised benefits until 2024 and 87% of costs after that. The other parts of the program are paid for by premium and tax revenues.

Myth: Social Security is going to cause a debt crisis. Social Security has never added a penny to the deficit or debt. It is funded by a dedicated payroll tax and is fully funded through 2033 if nothing changes. After that it can pay 75% of benefits indefinitely.

Myth: We need to eliminate taxes on offshore corporate profits so we can stay competitive. People like the CEOs who make up the “Fix the Debt” coalition claim we need to eliminate taxes on their overseas profits, which is called a “territorial tax system.”  But in fact this proposal would increase the tax incentives for companies to export good job overseas, weakening the U.S. job market and hurting the economy.

These are just a few of the key myths that are seeping into the conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C., and flooding the airwaves and Internet. The best way to combat them is to make sure you know the facts and are ready to respond to falsehoods. Visit our “Myths and Facts” page for a full list of common misinformation being spread about taxes, the deficit, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and the truth behind those myths.

A Living Wage and a Side of Fries: Punching In

“McJobs Should Pay Too”: New York fast food workers walk out in support of living wages.

They’re not paying us enough to survive.” This walkout is an important challenge to bad wages and working conditions.

Follow the walkout on Twitter at Fast Food Forward.

Could state employees be hurt by an austerity crisis?

Demonstrating their values: “Occupy Sandy” has brought thousands of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of dollars into hurricane relief.

How multimillionaire Romney donors are reacting to his loss.

Finally, several members of our team will be at Rootscamp this weekend. If you’re there, say hello!

Whatchamacallit: Clocking Out

The best explanation we’ve seen yet of the “fiscal whatchamacallit.”

Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, says the obvious: let’s pass the middle-class tax cuts we agree on and deal with the rest separately.

House Speaker Boehner, on the other hand, says tax cuts for the rich or no tax cuts for anybody.

Meet the Minnesota grocery-store owner who’s retiring and leaving the store to his employees.

Austerity gurus Simpson and Bowles get $40,000 apiece for each speech about how they want to cut Social Security.

Simpson and Bowles’ “Fix the Debt” group turns out to be mostly about protecting the Bush tax cuts and cutting social programs.

Simpson-Bowles isn’t “common sense”–it’s nonsense.

Extending unemployment insurance would mean 300,000 jobs next year.

2,000 domestic workers speak out about their pay and working conditions.

When domestic workers suffer, it’s bad for the economy.

Song for the day:

Michigan Republicans Trying to Sneak Through “Right to Work” Bill

Three weeks ago, Mitt Romney lost the state of Michigan by almost 10 percentage points. This week, Michigan Republicans are trying to pass one of his economic policies while no one is looking.

Republicans in the Michigan legislature are seeking to take advantage of their pre-election majorities to sneak through a “right to work” (RTW) bill, which would ban union security clauses and harm the ability of workers to bargain with their employers. In states with RTW laws on the books, wages are lower, benefits are fewer, and workplace injuries and fatalities are more common. (Learn more.)

Michiganders don’t want this, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference to right-wing legislators in Lansing:

The possibility of so-called Right-to-Work legislation (also called “Right to Work for Less” by opponents) is sucking almost all the oxygen out of the capitol. A bunch of Republican heavyweights, mostly business types from the west side of the state, are fiercely lobbying legislators to take quick advantage of big GOP majorities in both the House and Senate and pass it once and for all.

One man has the power to stop all of this. No, not Governor Rick Snyder, who said RTW is “not on his agenda” but hasn’t said he wouldn’t sign a bill if it reached his desk. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) has previously said he would not support RTW, but is feeling pressure from donors, Tea Party activists, and right-wing members of his caucus. He is the chair of the Government Operations Committee that could take up the RTW issue this week.

We don’t agree with Sen. Richardville on every issue, but we certainly respect that he has opposed RTW in the past. He needs to know that Michganders want more jobs, not fewer rights.

Send a message to Sen. Richardville – tell him that “right to work” is wrong for Michigan.

Let’s make sure he knows we are watching closely to see if he and his fellow legislators will focus on jobs for workers, or more attacks on workers. Send a message now.

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Minimum Qualifications: Punching In

Man who could be Virginia’s next governor doesn’t believe Obama won the election. #minimumqualifications

Republicans name their House committee chairs: all white, all men.

Grover Norquist’s anti-tax operation almost completely funded by billionaires.

Randi Weingarten for Secretary of Education? We’re down.

Ridiculous: Republican minority in the Senate could bring all business to a halt, if they wanted.

ALEC is alive and well, and wants to crush ALL THE RENEWABLE ENERGY.

Let’s talk about the real fiscal cliff: the end of unemployment insurance.

Finally: Cartoon of the Day.

Field of Dreams: Clocking Out

What are the coverage options in the Affordable Care Act?

A closer look at the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion–which won’t cost states much.

Memo to Rick Perry: this is a really good deal for your state.

Inequality isn’t just about taxes and education.

Want to help the retail sector? Raise retail wages.

How infrastructure spending like highway repairs helps the economy.

How the Republican voter-suppression strategy backfired–and where it’s still advancing.

A tribute to the late great union activist Marvin Miller, who helped professional baseball players organize a union and get their first collective bargaining agreement, and who passed away today at age 95.

“Marvin Miller didn’t just change baseball. He made all of our sports better games.”

For what he meant to players, Marvin Miller deserves a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

A Potential Austerity Crisis Is a Stupid Reason to Go After Retirement Security and Health Care

The latest news from the Republicans in Congress is that they seem to be edging slowly and delicately away from their fanatical opposition to any increase in tax revenue coming from the very rich. In some ways, this is a good thing—it’s a recognition of political reality, if mostly a rhetorical one. But it’s easy to overstate the importance of the apparent concessions they’re making, and why they’re making them.

What are Congressional Republicans actually saying? Well, they’re saying they’ll accept tax changes that don’t actually change tax rates on the top 2 percent, as voters overwhelmingly support—and in exchange they’re asking for big cuts to social safety net programs that voters don’t support. In short, they are “offering” to do very little about the actual tax issue in exchange for devastating concessions on an unrelated issue.

The austerity crisis we’re staring down—sometimes referred to as the “fiscal cliff”—has zero to do with Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid. It’s a set of changes in tax and spending that all kick in come 2013—changes that reduce deficits too quickly. (For more, check out this great set of questions and answers from the Washington Post.)

Indeed, as Dave Johnson notes, even using the term “fiscal cliff” is misleading:

The very term “fiscal cliff” misinforms and scares people…responsible media outlets should try to help the public understand complicated issues, not help scare and misinform. The public cannot help but get the impression that the country goes broke in a few weeks…this is really the opposite of what is happening.

Nearly everyone agrees that we should extend current tax rates on middle-class people rather than let them go up as they’re scheduled to do. Most people agree that we should end the Bush tax cuts that only go to the top 2 percent. And Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid are important programs with wide public support that aren’t affected at all by the end-of-year fiscal deadlines. So why in the world would anyone give a second thought to a “deal” that doesn’t end the upper-end Bush tax rates on income over $250,000, but does cut benefits? To be blunt, that would be stupid.

Republicans in Congress—and their allies in the corporate world and the press—are lying to us about what the crisis is and how we need to fix it. There shouldn’t be a “deal” on fiscal matters that keeps the Bush-era tax rates for income over $250,000 in place. And there’s no reason to consider a “deal” that cuts Medicare or Social Security.

It’s encouraging to see Sen. Dick Durbin say this morning that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security don’t need to be part of a deal to handle the end-of-year tax changes. A “grand bargain” that keeps tax rates on the rich at Bush-era levels and cuts Medicare benefits is a bad deal and one no member of Congress should accept.

Who You Gonna Call – Filibusters! Punching In

Sen. Durbin of Illinois says now is the time to talk about tax rates, not about changes to Medicare and Social Security.

Filibuster reform in the Senate?

Related: five falsehoods from Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell on the filibuster.

Letting extended unemployment insurance expire would be disastrous for still-high numbers of long-term unemployed, says Michigan’s Rep. Levin.

Where Obama and Romney beat their polls.

Letter: Scott Brown shouldn’t seek a return to the Senate.

A radical solution to all the secession talk.

Justice for homeowners? NY AG Schneiderman sues Credit Suisse for improperly vetting housing loans.

Walmart isn’t the only way to run retail: Look at Costco.

Warren Buffett proposes a minimum tax for the super-wealthy.

Finally, our Cartoon of the Day: