In more than 60 cities across the country today, teachers, parents, allies and education supporters are rallying to save public education from a series of radical “reforms” pushed by corporations and politically motivated organizations that would do significant damage to our schools and limit the future of our students. The Reclaim the Promise of Public Education coalition was formed to fight for public education as our nation’s gateway to democracy and racial and economic justice. As part of the day of action, the AFT is running radio, print and online ads to spread the coalition’s message.
AFT President Randi Weingarten discussed the purpose of the day of action:
Teachers, parents, students and community members are banding together to demand a new direction for public education. In some ways, this Day of Action is years in the making. Parents, students, teachers and community members have been coming together in places like Chicago, Philadelphia and New York to call out what’s not working and create solutions that do. Text-fixation, austerity, privatization, division, competition are not working for our students—as we saw in the PISA results this week. Our schools need evidence-based, community-based solutions like early childhood education, wraparound services, professional autonomy and development, parent voices and project-based learning. That’s what this Day of Action is about. That’s what reclaiming the promise is about. These are our schools and they need our solutions.
AFT started a petition for those who support the goals of the day of action:
We want great neighborhood public schools that are safe and welcoming, are fully funded and have teachers who are well-prepared, are well-supported and have manageable class sizes and time to collaborate. We want our schools to be centers of our communities and ensure that children and families have access to wraparound services to meet their social, emotional and health needs. We want curriculum that focuses on teaching and learning, not testing, and that includes art, music and the sciences. We want to put the public back in public education.
In addition to the petition, supporters can join a Thunderclap for the day of action.
Some events are happening later in the day—find out if there is an event near you.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Education, public schools, Randi Weingarten, Teachers
A new article from the Guardian reveals that the State Policy Network (SPN) is planning a significant assault on the rights of working families in 2014 state legislative sessions. Through the Searle Freedom Trust, a foundation it created in 2011, SPN plans to offer sizable grants to supposedly independent, non-partisan think tanks in the states. SPN collected 40 grant proposalsfrom these think tanks and will grant funding through Searle to 20 of them. The proposals are for numerous extreme right-wing policy options, very similar to those proposed by groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the think tanks already receive funding from the typical extremist anti-working family funders like the Koch brothers.
While SPN claims tax-exempt status that limits their lobbying efforts and the group says that it and the groups it funds don’t engage in lobbying, those claims don’t quite pass a commonsense examination. As the Guardian notes:
Most of the “think tanks” involved in the proposals gathered by the State Policy Network are constituted as 501(c)(3) charities that are exempt from tax by the Internal Revenue Service. Though the groups are not involved in election campaigns, they are subject to strict restrictions on the amount of lobbying they are allowed to perform. Several of the grant bids contained in the Guardian documents propose the launch of “media campaigns” aimed at changing state laws and policies, or refer to “advancing model legislation” and “candidate briefings,” in ways that arguably cross the line into lobbying.
Depending on which 20 proposals it chooses to fund, here are 12 ways that SPN could assault the rights of working families in 2014:
1. Alabama Policy Institute: Requested $25,725 to fund the “spark plug” for eliminating the state income tax. Such a plan would lead to the cutting of services for working families. (Also requested for tax cuts or elimination: Advance Arkansas Institute, $35,000; Georgia Public Policy Foundation, $40,000; Nebraska’s Platte Institute for Economic Research, $25,000; New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, $30,000; Ohio’s Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, $40,000; and Opportunity Ohio, $35,000).
2. Delaware’s Caesar Rodney Institute: Requested $36,000 to fund strategies to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law, which would lower wages for working families.
3. Florida’s James Madison Institute: Requested $40,000 to fund efforts to promote vouchers (which they call Education Savings Accounts), which would reduce funding for public schools. Lower public education funding would lead to worsening student performance and teacher layoffs. (Also requested on this topic: Oregon’s Cascade Policy Institute, $40,000.)
4. Georgia Center for Opportunity: Requested $65,000 to fund opposition to Medicaid expansion, which would mean fewer residents have health care. (Also requested on this same topic: North Carolina’s J.W. Pope Civitas Institute, $46,500; Texas Public Policy Foundation, $40,000; Utah’s Sutherland Institute, $50,000.)
5. Illinois Policy Institute: Requested $40,000 to fight to change Chicago’s public employee pension system to a defined-contribution plan, which would mean less retirement security for working families. (Also requested on cutting public employee pensions: Arizona’s Goldwater Institute for Public Policy, $40,000; Minnesota’s Center of the American Experiment, $40,000; Missouri’s Show-Me Institute, $25,000; Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation, $35,500.)
6. Maryland Public Policy Institute: Requested $40,000 to push for cuts in corporate tax rates, which would lead to the cutting of services for working families.
7. Maine Heritage Policy Center: Requested $35,000 to fund a campaign to eliminate state and local income taxes and institute “right to work” for less in one county as a model for future endeavors. If the campaign succeeds, working families will face service cuts and lower wages.
8. Mississippi Center for Public Policy: Requested $30,000 to oppose gas tax increases and privatize the state Department of Transportation, which would lead to weakened services for state residents and lower accountability on transportation issues. (Also requested on privatization: Massachusetts’ Pioneer Institute, $40,000).
9. Common Sense Institute of New Jersey: Requested $50,000 for a campaign to eliminate the compensation of public employees for unused sick leave, which would lower the overall compensation package for employees and encourage public employee absenteeism.
10. Nevada Policy Research Institute: Requested $35,000 to fund a campaign to get union members to leave their unions, which would weaken the collective bargaining rights of working families.
11. Empire Center for New York State Policy: Requested $36,500 to fund efforts to eliminate the estate tax, which would lead to service cuts for working families and shift the tax burden in the state from the wealthy toward working families.
12. Washington Policy Center: Requested $35,000 to launch a campaign to require local governments to have a super-majority to raise taxes, which would cripple local governments and lead to cuts in services for working families.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Alabama, ALEC, Corporate Accountability, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, maryland, mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, State Policy Network, washington
On Nov. 5, the voters of SeaTac, a small suburban community near Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., voted to provide workers for the town’s larger airport-related businesses a minimum wage of $15 per hour, 63% higher than the state’s current minimum wage of $9.19. (Although the measure passed, there may be a recount.) Here are seven ways the new measure would change the lives of the workers detailed in the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal:
1. Allow employees to live closer to where they work and cut down on commute times. “I wouldn’t have to take a two-hour commute,” said Eric Frank, a baggage handler who lives an hour away. With the pay increase, workers would be able to afford housing closer to the job.
2. Give employees with families more time with their loved ones. The raise would allow some workers, like Chris Smith, to take care of their families on one salary and not have to work two jobs, freeing up their schedules so they can spend more time with family.
3. Allow some employees who don’t get much time off to actually have weekends. “My weekend is like a sale at the Bon Marché—one day only,” Smith said.
4. Decrease working families’ reliance on community food banks to provide for their families. The Rev. Jan Bolerjack, pastor at Riverton Park United Methodist Church, said she regularly sees airport workers in uniform using her church’s food banks. “They get off of work and then have to come wait in the rain or cold or worse…just so they can put food on the table,” she said.
5. Give part-time workers the opportunity to get more hours. The law requires businesses to offer more hours to part-time workers before bringing in new part-time workers when more shifts become available.
6. Allow sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs. The law requires the businesses to provide up to 6.5 days a year of paid sick leave to employees who work full-time.
7. Protect airport travelers from illnesses by allowing sick workers to stay home.
Profitable companies such as Alaska Airlines are supporting a lawsuit to overturn the law and the will of the people and are seeking a recount on the measure, which passed by 77 votes.
Photo by Yes! For SeaTac on Facebook
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Jobs, minimum wage, Rights At Work, seatac, washington
Extremist pro-corporate Republicans in Missouri are getting an early start on attacking the rights of working families by pre-filing a “right to work” for less bill for the 2014 legislative session. While there undoubtedly will be similar attacks in other states in 2014, Missouri is the first state to take formal steps to strip working families of their rights.
This isn’t the first time that “right to work” legislation very similar to model bills created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been proposed in the state—similar legislation was proposed earlier this year and in 2011. Peter Kinder, the state’s Republican lieutenant governor, spoke in favor of the legislation at an ALEC conference in August.
The We Are Missouri coalition is leading the opposition to the legislation. Through a press release, several members of the coalition explained why the legislation was wrong for Missouri.
Mike Louis, secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO:
Missouri’s elected leaders should work together to create jobs here in our state. While it isn’t a surprise that extremist politicians would instead file a ‘right to work’ bill on the first day of session, it is shameful that they would make this unnecessary and confusing bill their first priority for 2014. It is time for our elected officials to work together to create good jobs and safe work places instead of trying to micromanage relationships between businesses and their employees.
Bobby Dicken, a utility line crew foreman from Poplar Bluff:
It is simple—“right to work” bills are wrong for Missouri. It’s a corporate power grab that’s in the best interests of CEOs—not our state. Studies have shown that ‘right to work’ means less jobs, lower wages and more dangerous workplaces. I’m disappointed that [Southeast Missouri] area state Rep. Donna Lichtenegger and Speaker Tim Jones seem to be more concerned with doing the bidding of special interest groups like ALEC instead of helping middle-class Missouri families.
Vicki Hurt, who works for the Missouri Children’s Division in Branson:
This bill won’t create a single job. These unnecessary attacks on working people hurt our middle-class families, harm our public schools and put our safety at risk. ‘Right to work’ is a divisive partisan political issue meant to punish labor unions that puts our everyday heroes in danger.
Tell Missouri legislators: we need more jobs, not fewer rights.
Tags: aflcio, Missouri, paycheck deception, Right to Work, Rights At Work
In a preliminary vote expected to mirror the final vote early next year, the D.C. Councilvoted unanimously to support a plan to raise the minimum wage in the District of Columbia to $11.50. A final vote must still take place, but no member has expressed any intention to vote differently and Mayor Vincent Gray (D) has suggested he is willing to sign the bill, in contrast to his recent veto of a measure to require big-box retailers like Walmart to pay a living wage. The D.C. Council appears to have the votes to override an unlikely veto, something they fell one vote short of on the big-box store bill.
The vote comes on the heels of two Maryland suburbs minimum wage increase votes, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, that also voted to raise their minimum wages to $11.50. Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has indicated he will sign the bill into law. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III has expressed opposition to a minimum wage increase and it is unclear he will sign the bill into law. The D.C. wage increase would be phased in a year earlier than the counties, taking full effect by 2016. Not only would the legislation increase the wage from its current rate of $8.25, which is a dollar higher than the national minimum wage, it would index the wage to inflation. Washington, D.C., is set to become one of the cities with the highest minimum wages in the country.
The council also voted unanimously to require employers to provide five paid sick days to tipped workers, who had been exempt from paid sick days rules. The change will protect both workers and customers, who will be less likely to be exposed to illnesses.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, DC, maryland, minimum wage, Paid Sick Days, washington dc
Today, workers from Walmart stores across the country joined with allies to call upon the company with $17 billion in annual profits to pay its full-time workers a minimum of $25,000 a year and for the company to stop punishing workers who stand up for their rights. Rallies were held at more than 1,500 Walmart locations. Working families in nine major cities planned civil disobedience as part of the protests, and arrests were made in numerous cities, including Alexandria, Va., Dallas, Tex., California, and Illinois. Learn more about the action and why its important to stand with Walmart workers at BlackFridayProtests.org.
Text BLACK to 235246 to support the Walmart associates speaking up for their rights. Standard data and message rates may apply.
Below are Twitter highlights from the actions. The Walmart actions can be followed on Twitter at #WalmartStrikers.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: black friday, Jobs, minimum wage, Rights At Work, Walmart
In an 8–1 vote, the Montgomery County, Md., Council passed a new ordinance that would raise the minimum wage in the county from $7.25 to $11.50 an hour by 2017. The new wage will be phased in, rising to $8.40 in October 2014, $9.55 in 2015, $10.75 in 2016 and $11.50 in 2017. After the full phase-in is complete, the annual minimum wage for a 40-hour-a-week worker in the county will be $23,600. Prince George’s County also voted 7–0, with two members absent, to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $11.50 over the next four years.
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett confirmed he will sign the bill into law. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III has expressed concerns about raising the minimum wage and has said he wants the issue to be decided by Maryland General Assembly and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) for statewide action.
Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large), the bill’s primary sponsor, said he was satisfied with the outcome: “I’m very happy. It’s substantively what I wanted. You can make a big difference to people.”
The District of Columbia, which holds a preliminary vote on Dec. 3—is also expected to raise their minimum wage in the near future.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: DC, Martin O'Malley, maryland, MD, minimum wage, Vincent Gray, washington dc
Walmart workers around the country are tired of low wages, insufficient hours and on-the-job intimidation when they stand up for their rights. More and more of them are risking their jobs and their livelihood to demand that Walmart pay them a minimum of $25,000 a year, an amount the company with $17 billion in profits last year can easily afford. Show your support for their Black Friday protests with just a few clicks by participating in a Thunderclap.
A Thunderclap is like an online flash mob via Twitter, Facebook and/or Tumblr. When you go to the Thunderclap page, just click on the button of the social network you want to donate a tweet or post to for the campaign. When the Thunderclap launches on Friday at noon, everyone who has signed up will post automatically on whatever social network they decided to share it on.
Click here to support the Walmart workers who are asking for a living wage of $25,000 a year.
You can also text BLACK to 235246 to find out more ways you can support the Walmart associates. Standard data and message rates may apply.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: black friday, minimum wage, Rights At Work, Walmart
As the story goes, the city of Detroit went bankrupt because of $18 billion in long-term debt, in large part caused by pension and health care benefits. A new report, written by Wallace Turbeville and released today from Demos, says that narrative is inflated, inaccurate and irrelevant to explaining the city’s bankruptcy.
Despite what the city’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr, who was hired by Gov. Rick Snyder (R), says, the $18 billion figure is not relevant to the city’s bankruptcy. To emerge from the bankruptcy, according to chapter 9 of U.S. bankruptcy code, Detroit only needs to address its cash flow shortage, a number that even Orr sets at only $198 million. But that number, much like the $18 billion number, is inflated because it goes with extremely aggressive assumptions for economic trends that are very unlikely to represent what really happens.
When projecting costs, governments often create several projections, often reflecting best-case scenarios, worst-case scenarios and some moderate position in between those two. Governments usually choose the moderate option in order to determine their budget projections. But Orr, Turbeville says, has chosen the worst-case scenario and isn’t at all based on a certain liability that the city will face. Furthermore, Orr includes in that total nearly $6 billion of debt from the Water and Sewage Department debt as city liability, despite the fact that this liability is based on an area much broader than the city. The department covers 3 million people in southeastern Michigan, not just the slightly more than 700,000 people who actually live in Detroit.
Turbeville notes that the city’s operating expenses have declined by 38% since the beginning of the Great Recession. During that same time, the city’s pension obligations only rose by $2 million. Health care expenses increased by 3.25%, less than the national average of 4%. The biggest proportion of increased costs for the city actually comes from debt service and financial expenses related to complex Wall Street investments that amounts to more than pension and health care increases combined. Other key components of the city’s deficit are:
- A significant decline in revenue based, in large part, on the city’s declining population, which contributed to declines in tax revenue and property values.
- A decline of $67 million in state revenue sharing with the city.
- As much as $20 million annually in corporate subsidies that have provided questionable benefits to Detroit.
The report concludes:
Detroit’s bankruptcy is, at its core, a cash flow problem caused by its inability to bring in enough revenue to pay its bills. While emergency manager Kevyn Orr has focused on cutting retiree benefits and reducing the city’s long-term liabilities to address the crisis, an analysis of the city’s finances reveals that his efforts are inappropriate and, in important ways, not rooted in fact. Detroit’s bankruptcy was primarily caused by a severe decline in revenue and exacerbated by complicated Wall Street deals that put its ability to pay its expenses at greater risk. To address the city’s cash flow shortfall and get it out of bankruptcy, the emergency manager should focus on increasing revenue and extricating the city from these toxic financial deals.
Read the full report.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Detroit, kevyn orr, Michigan, pensions, public workers, Rick Snyder, Wall Street
A new report from the Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies shows that two groups of corporate CEOs pushing for cuts to Social Security benefits, such as the “chained” CPI, personally have massive retirement plans. They also have allowed massive deficits to grow in their employees’ pension funds. While these CEOs—members of the Business Roundtable and the Fix the Debt Coalition—sit on retirement funds most people couldn’t even dream of, they have hurt their own employees’ retirement security and are looking to do the same for people who don’t even work for them.
According to the report, more than 25% of Fix the Debt members are also members of the Business Roundtable, including more than half of the Business Roundtable’s executive council. Fix the Debt is made up of more than 135 CEOs and tries to paint itself as very dedicated to serving the public, with the goal of protecting Social Security. The Business Roundtable, which includes more than 200 CEOs, doesn’t even pretend that it cares about public interest.
Members of the Business Roundtable, the report shows, have retirement accounts more than 1,200 times greater than the median retirement savings of U.S. workers near retirement age. When they retire, the $14.5 million fund they average will give them monthly retirement payments of nearly $90,000. The average monthly payment for everyone else is about $70.
While many of the Business Roundtable CEOs don’t even offer their employees pension plans, those who do aren’t exactly managing those funds well. The report found that 10 of the CEOs who do offer pensions plans have funds that run deficits between $4.9 billion and $22.6 billion. CEOs like those in the Business Roundtable and Fix the Debt are major players in the country’s growing retirement security crisis:
Over the past several decades, chief executives have slashed retirement benefits for their employees. Traditional defined-benefit corporate pensions covered 38% of private-sector workers in the early 1990s, compared with just 18% today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of companies providing traditional pension plans has dropped from just over 112,000 in 1985 to 22,697 in 2013.
Read the full report.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Fix the Debt, Medicare, pensions, Retirement Security, social security