The Five States With the Lowest Quality of Life Have This In Common.

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Politico Magazine released a comprehensive report comparing all 50 states using 14 different indicators of quality of life. In their ranking, the five bottom states (Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama) are all so-called “right to work” states.

Four out of five of the states with the highest quality of living, according to the study, are free bargaining states: New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

The study confirmed something that more and more working Americans are learning every day: “right to work” laws are wrong for everyone.

Quick review: “Right to work” laws require unions to extend their services to all employees in a bargaining unit, whether or not they pay dues. By making dues optional, “right to work” laws force unions to spend more resources on collecting dues than on advocating for their members–both at the workplace and in the political arena. It’s a roundabout method of de-funding unions that has been instituted in 24 states.

The Politico Magazine study used rankings from the Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI, and data on math and reading scores, average income, life expectancy, crime, home ownership, infant mortality, and more.

As 2014 kicks off with legislators and big-money donors pushing “right to work” and other collective bargaining restrictions in–at the very least–Missouri, Oregon, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, it’s important to make it very clear what effects these laws actually have, versus what their proponents claim they have.

A few effects of “right to work” are not disputed by its proponents. The key sponsors of the collective bargaining restrictions Missouri, for instance, openly admit that wages would go down if the law is passed. Indeed, wages in “right to work” states are 3.2 percent lower that in free bargaining states. Essentially, it’s like the average worker is paying an annual $1,500 fee for living in a “right to work” state. (Other reports have found “right to work” states have higher poverty rates, fewer workers with employer-based health insurance, and higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities.)

But when you combine income with a host of other factors, as the Politico Magazine ranking does, the picture doesn’t get better for “right to work” states. Overall, 15 “right to work”  states rank in the bottom 20.

The Politico Magazine ranking is not the definitive scientific report on quality of life. But it does confirm yet again that in places where workers’ right to organize is deceptively circumvented and wages decrease, other important life-quality factors decrease as well.

As legislators push these laws across the country, we should consistently require proof to back up their claims. The actual numbers don’t look too good for them.

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12 Ways the State Policy Network Could Assault the Rights of Working Families in 2014

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

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3 Labor Movement Victories You Didn’t Hear Anything About

Working America canvassers are pounding the pavement every day to fight for jobs and democracy. But according to Washington Post inside-the-Beltway columnist Dana Milbank, the labor and progressive movement is “in the fetal position.” “The failed gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin showed that momentum is against Democrats and their allies,” he writes.

Since June 5th, we’ve lost count of the number of Very Serious opinion pieces about the demise of the labor movement. Outside the DC bubble, however, it’s a different story. Using new tactics and old-fashioned gumption, workers are standing up all over the country, putting their jobs on the line, and advocating for a better life.

Here are three such instances that you didn’t hear anything about:

1,200 Poultry Workers Win Union Representation in Alabama. Bet you didn’t think we’d start in Alabama! But in the traditionally anti-union Deep South, workers at the Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Russellville voted overwhelmingly on June 12 to join the RWDSU, the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union. “The workers at Pilgrim’s Pride know they deserve better and have proven there is a better way,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum, “This resounding vote will be heard by poultry workers throughout the South as a message of hope.”

The key issue at Pilgrim’s Pride weren’t wages and benefits, but perhaps the more deep-seeded issue of respect: the right to redress grievances and have input into the operation of the plant. “We had no respect from management, and absolutely no voice in anything that affected us,” said sanitation worker Cheryl Kowalski.

The folks at Pilgrim’s Pride didn’t take kindly to the unionization attempts. According to RWDSU, .  The company held weeks of captive audience meetings where they threatened massive layoffs and hinted at the possibility of plant closure if the workers voted for the union. Desperate to cut off dialogue between workers, the company booked conference rooms at nearby hotels to try to deprive the workers of a meeting space. But after a month of this, says poultry production worker Sharon Hill, “I knew we were going to win – I could see it in the employees’ eyes…We finally had hope in the plant that someone would help us.” The final vote was 706 to 292.

Workers’ rights – 1. Desperate anti-union tactics – Zero.

Kaplan ESL Teachers in New York Join the Newspaper Guild. The education company Kaplan, Inc. made $2.5 billion in revenues last year, yet their employees were having trouble getting paid time off for sickness and navigating the complex compensation system. Professional tutors, many with masters degrees, were getting paid “at an assortment of illogical hourly rates as low as the $7.25 minimum wage,” said Newspaper Guild President Bill O’Meara.

Teachers at three Manhattan Kaplan centers voted 2-to-1 to join the Newspaper Guild of New York, Local 31003, CWA. “This is, of course, a great day for teachers at Kaplan,” said Kaplan teacher Danny Valdes. “But I hope that this shows teachers that we can increase standards industry-wide by coming together to organize.”

Striking Pizza Workers Undeterred in Post-Recall Wisconsin. Thousands of Wisconsinites volunteered in the fight to recall Gov. Scott Walker. But for workers at Milwaukee’s Palermo’s Pizza, the dedication was two-fold – they were going door to door while on strike.

Recently management has come down hard on the workers, using the threat of immigration audits to intimidate the mostly Latino workforce. “The company has used the issue of an ICE audit and the process involved in that as a means to bust the union organizing drive,” says Voces de la Frontera Executive Director Neumann-Ortiz, “in addition to other forms of retaliation.” Palermo’s is also allegedly firing workers who participate in the strike, which is illegal.

60 to 80 percent of Palermo’s workforce is on strike, and a diverse coalition of Wisconsinites who just put their governor up for recall is standing with them. On Tuesday, the Catholic social justice advocates “Nuns on a Bus” rallied with the striking workers, and Riverwest Cooperative Grocery Store just announced a boycott of Palermo’s products. The national pressure on Palermo’s to act is building.

Photo via The Newspaper Guild of New York

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Thousands Launch Selma to Montgomery March

by Tula Connell – Reposted from the AFL-CIO NOW Blog

Thousands of AFL-CIO union members, civil rights, community and faith activists yesterday began a five-day re-enactment of the historic 1965 Selma to Montgomery, Ala., civil rights march.

Sunday marked the 47th anniversary of the historic Civil Rights march from Selma-to-Montgomery, and the week-long series of events will focus attention on new attacks on voting rightsimmigrantsworkers’ rights and education.

If you can’t be there in person, you can be there online. Click here to sign a pledge of solidarity with the marchers and tell us why you are joining the virtual march. Your comments will be shared with the marchers on the ground so they know there are tens of thousands standing with them.

See more photos here and check out photos on the Facebook page of AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker, who is among leaders of the march and has posted photos of Martin Luther King III, the Rev. Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders.

Photo from Arlene Holt Baker on Facebook.

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