In the last three years, nine states have added new laws that prohibit local governments from passing paid sick leave ordinances. Seven of these laws were passed in 2013 alone and 14 states introduced such legislation in the last year, Think Progress reports. In every state where local preemption bills have passed on paid sick leave, members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) were among the co-sponsors of the legislation. In most cases, corporate lobby groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business and the National Restaurant Association also have been involved heavily in passing the laws. It’s bad enough these groups oppose paid sick days for working families, but they don’t even want democratically elected officials deciding on policies—they want to prevent these policies from even coming up for a vote.
Corporate groups routinely argue that paid sick leave ordinances will harm businesses, but the evidence so far rejects those claims. Bryce Covert of Think Progress writes:
Before 2010, Georgia was the only state to have such a pre-emption law, since then Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin have added them. This push comes as a direct response to local governments showing real momentum in passing paid sick leave ordinances. Six cities and the state of Connecticut have passed paid sick days laws and other cities are considering joining them in protecting workers, customers and employers from the negative effects of sick employees.
On Wednesday, the Missouri Senate considered overriding Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of Senate Bill 29, the paycheck deception bill, which would put unnecessary restrictions on union members’ voice in the political process. After 35 minutes of debate, the motion to override failed 22-11, with Sen. Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau) joining a unanimous Democratic caucus. Sen. Gary Romine (R-Farmington) was absent from the vote.
This is the end of a long journey for the paycheck deception bill in Missouri. In March, Democrats in the Senate lead a 7-hour filibuster of the bill before Republicans cut off debate to pass it. Different versions of the bill with various exemptions bounced around between the state House and Senate.
Eventually, the bill passed both houses, but with far below the support needed to override a veto. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill, calling it “unnecessary,” a simple argument that the bill’s supporters never directly refuted. Their failure to give any reason for the bill, other than political retribution and marching orders from ALEC, was reflected in today’s vote.
“With his veto, Governor Nixon stood up for the basic rights of Missouri’s everyday heroes – and bipartisan opposition to this unfair bill in the House and Senate means SB 29 will not become law,” said Hugh McVey, President of the Missouri AFL-CIO. “Although wealthy corporate special interest groups pushed for this paycheck deception bill that would take away the voice of teachers, nurses, social workers and other middle class Missourians, with bipartisan opposition the veto override fell short.”
We hope the failure of SB 29, along with the failure to advance a so-called “right to work” bill, will be a wake up call to Missouri politicians that Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike want more jobs, not fewer rights for workers.
“Politicians in Jefferson City need to start working on job creation instead of making it more difficult for me to do my job,” said John White, a developmental assistant from Sikeston. “As a union member, I voluntarily contribute to giving a voice to all workers, and I don’t need extremist legislators to get in the way of my freedom to make that decision. Plain and simple, these extremist proposals would do nothing but impede my rights as a worker.”
The following is a post from Maine Rep. Diane Russell
The most memorable moment I have in my political life, by far, is leaving the Maine House in tears, stunned that the majority party had repealed four decades of Election Day Registration – all so they could win elections. It was the moment when I truly questioned whether our democracy would survive, or whether people were even listening.
We had been blindsided by the sudden and unexpected onslaught of anti-voter rhetoric. OpEds and FAQ sheets circulated faster than we could imagine. Those of us fighting the bill in the Legislature were outmaneuvered even when we exposed the hypocrisy and even lies that were being put before us. For every legislative aid in Maine, there are about ten to twelve lawmakers – so how was such a coordinated push even possible? We couldn’t catch up, let alone respond.
Thankfully, the people were listening. In fact, it was the people of Maine who restored my faith in our future. One by one, they picked up petitions and in under a month had collected enough signatures to put the question to the ballot. On Election Day, 60 percent of Mainers resoundingly voted to protect the voting rights for themselves, their neighbors and even students.
But where did this even come from? This was four decades of sacred ground, upended overnight with a well-coordinated legislative and public relations offensive.
The source, it turns out, was the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). While our registration laws were under attack in Maine, a chorus of cries began to erupt from across the country as newly red states pushed restrictive voter ID bills effectively disenfranchising voters. At one point, the Brennan Center estimated 5 million people would be left behind under the new laws. It was only when Ari Berman outlined what was happening in his Rolling Stone article, “The GOP War on Voting,” did the tide finally begin to change – and the truth finally get told.
We now know, of course, that it’s not just voter rights that ALEC had set its sights on. They were pushing the castle doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws; rollbacks to environmental protections; opposition to women’s rights; anti-worker legislation and the list goes on. They worked with the GOP to effectively gut Maine’s model public campaign financing laws – enacted by the people through referendum – that open doors for good people to run for office, devoid of the potential for quid-pro-quo donations. Citizens are again picking up pens to put Clean Elections back on the ballot and to restore it.
In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, people and companies began piecing together the connection between castle doctrines and voter suppression – and the blatant racial bias inherent in both. Under unprecedented pressure from the public, companies began canceling their ALEC memberships. ALEC, itself, even dismembered its notorious task force that tied public safety with voter laws, formerly chaired by the NRA. (Yes, the NRA actually chaired the committee that approved the vigilante and voter registration model bills.)
Flash forward a bit, and it turns out tech companies such as Yelp are now partnering with ALEC. Let’s set aside the intelligence of climbing on board the Titanic after even the rats have left, and analyze their rationale for a moment.
Yelp, a highly popular online consumer review company, has stated that its support is related specifically to so-called SLAPP legislation which uses lawsuits to effectively undermine free speech. If consumers write negative reviews about a company and then are “slapped” with a frivolous lawsuit, they might become less inclined to write said reviews. In legal terms, this is known as “chilling speech.” On the point of protecting Free Speech in this one legal area, Yelp and ALEC agree. Working with the other side is just part of politics, right?
While this generally is true, the problem in this case is that it ignores all the other rights that are being stripped from people because of this organization. It ignores the fact that a young kid was gunned down because he was armed with a hoodie, some skittles and an iced tea. It ignores the fact that they are the architects of laws that suppress voting rights for minorities. It ignores their work to write and pass (with the Corrections Corporation of America) legislation like Arizona’s SB1070 that used racial profiling to target undocumented workers.
On a simply pragmatic note, it ignores the fact that countless other companies – who had previously aligned with ALEC to work on their own “very specific” issue areas – canceled their memberships as soon as they realized the host of other laws with which their name was now being associated. For a company like Yelp who has built its brand entirely on the consumer reviews of other brands, this concept should be rather self-evident.
It was pretty self-evident to Yelp’s members who, in just one day, posted more than 2,500 reviews (nearly all negative) about ALEC and Yelp’s new relationship – on the company’s own web platform. Further, @Yelp was peppered all day with outraged tweets from across the country.
If Yelp – and other tech companies – are serious about protecting First Amendment rights then I’m all in and will commit to working with them to do just that. However, there are better, more ethical means to accomplish this goal than joining an organization who helped lay a foundation for the “he was armed with Skittles” defense.
We found out this week that Yelp, the popular online reviewing company, has joined up with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is the organization behind bad legislation like “Stand Your Ground” laws and the anti-immigrant policies in Arizona. Yelp customers were horrified, but then responded in really creative ways. The fight isn’t over though: join us and tell Yelp to cut all ties with ALEC.
This week, we found out that Yelp had joined ALEC
Don’t know ALEC? They bring together corporations and legislators to write “model bills.”
The legislators can then take the bills home to their states and try to pass them into laws.
You’ve probably heard of some of these bills…
Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070 law.
Wisconsin’s union-busting law.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images
Florida’s Shoot First aka “Stand Your Ground” law.
So people were kind of mad when they found out Yelp had joined up with ALEC.
Then Maine State Rep. Diane Russell had an idea.
“Why not tell Yelp how we feel about ALEC by reviewing it on Yelp?”
In 24 hours, over 2,400 people had reviewed the American Legislative Exchange Council on Yelp.
Some compared ALEC to a restaurant.
Others asked why Yelp hadn’t taken the route of 40+ other corporations and left ALEC.
Some just listed ALEC’s more infamous members.
But the truth is, a lot of us like Yelp. We don’t want them to support ALEC.
Because no matter your intent, when you give ALEC money, you are supporting their agenda.
A quick primer: ALEC is an organization that fosters relationships between state legislators, conservative think tanks, and large corporations. ALEC says they are just allowing lawmakers to exchange ideas, but they are also drafting legislation, called “model bills” – with a great deal of input from the corporations themselves – to distribute and pass in the various states.
ALEC has succeeded for decades in part by operating under the radar. The last 18 months, however, have been different.
Several high profile and widely-criticized pieces of legislation have been traced back to their original source. Arizona’s SB 1070, the controversial “papers please” immigration law, had its birth in an ALEC committee. The recent union-busting bills in Wisconsin pushed by Gov. Scott Walker are also ALEC-inspired, and Walker himself was an ALEC member.
Most significantly, the Stand Your Ground/Shoot First laws, which gave legal protection to George Zimmerman when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, were concocted by National Rifle Association lobbyists and ratified by an ALEC committee.
In the wake of the controversy around these and other laws, the public became increasingly aware of ALEC and the dramatic influence corporations have in the writing of our state laws.
Has ALEC now been exposed? This week definitely showed they are on the ropes. Jay Riestenberg of the AFL-CIO compiled a collection of press clips from the last few days on ALEC and the Chicago protest.
ALEC might not yet be a household name, but their nefarious corporate-driven travesty of lawmaking is finally seeing some sunlight.
The Center for Media and Democracy today released a new report on the American Legislative Exchange Council, examining the extreme conservative organization’s powerful and growing influence in the states. The report identifies more than 450 bills introduced by state legislators that copied ALEC’s model bills, with West Virginia and Missouri leading the way with the most bills. Across the nation, 84 of these proposed laws passed.
Key findings about ALEC bills passing in states across the country:
117 bills to enact “right to work” for less laws, pre-empt local living or minimum wage ordinances, privatize public services, eliminate defined-benefit pension plans, or undermine the rights of workers to collectively bargain. Fourteen of these passed.
11 states introduced bills to prevent or eliminate local paid sick leave ordinances.
52 bills to create or tighten voter ID laws that reduce voter participation. Five of these passed.
139 bills to weaken public education by transferring taxpayer money to for-profit private schools and other methods. Thirty-one of these passed.
71 bills to make it harder for citizens to hold corporations responsible when their products or services injure or kill consumers. Fourteen of these passed.
77 bills that weaken environmental protections or lower state investments in renewable energy. Seventeen of these passed.
10 “stand your ground” bills that allow gun owners more latitude in using guns if they feel threatened. Two of these passed.
When ALEC was born, Richard Nixon was president. Gasoline was 40 cents a gallon and the minimum wage was $1.60 an hour. Forty years later, ALEC legislators seem to be hankering for this bygone era, pursuing an agenda to roll back renewables, expand the use of fossil fuels, and suppress wages and benefits for even the lowest-paid American workers.
Meanwhile, America’s working families are standing up and fighting back against ALEC’s extreme agenda. Thousands protested ALEC-inspired “stand your ground” laws with a “die-in” outside ALEC’s 40th anniversary meeting in Chicago today, while working family advocates such as Tim Burga of the Ohio AFL-CIO traveled to Illinois to protest ALEC’s broader agenda:
“Ohioans have seen firsthand what happens when shady corporate interest groups write the laws,” he said in a news release. “We saw an unprecedented attack on workers’ rights in SB 5 and an egregious attack on voting rights in HB 194. They both had ALEC’s fingerprints on them.”
Jorge Ramirez, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, added:
Working men and women turned out in massive numbers not just from Chicago but from Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana and elsewhere, joining faith and community leaders to push back against ALEC’s anti-worker, anti-democracy agenda. Our hope is that this is yet another step forward in exposing this shadow organization and the extent to which their work harms families and communities across our country.
Information about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) working in secret to push state-level policy to more extreme levels is coming to lightmore and more and America’s working families are starting to stand up to the group’s corporate-driven agenda. While ALEC’s agenda is all over the policy map, the organization has a particular focus on pushing new laws that attack working families and undercut the rights of workers, both in the workplace and in retirement. Here are eight of the most dangerous and most widespread ways that ALEC is targeting workers and their right to a voice on the job.
8. Voter ID Act: Laws directly based on or similar to ALEC’s Voter ID Act have been introduced in recent years in nearly every state, with more than a dozen states passing or strengthening such laws in the past three years. These laws disproportionately affect working families, senior citizens, people of color and residents of rural areas and help elect legislators who vote against the rights and needs of workers.
7. Paycheck Protection Bills: ALEC has at least four different versions of this legislation, each one more extreme than the last, that were introduced 20 times in various states in 2013. These bills range from requiring that each employee sign an annual form authorizing that their union dues be allowed to be used for political purposes to preventing payroll deductions from being used for union dues. These bills provide no additional rights to workers and do nothing more than weaken the ability of workers to collectively bargain by depriving unions of the funds they need to fight on behalf of their members.
6. Direct Union Assaults: Through model legislation such as the Election Accountability for Municipal Employee Union Representatives Act and the Decertification Elections Act, introduced in Idaho and Arizona, respectively, ALEC is seeking to make public employees vote over and over again to retain their union status, giving ALEC and other groups the opportunity to flood workers with anti-union propaganda.
5. Public Employees’ Portable Retirement Option Act: Through this and similar bills, 10 states have attempted to weaken or eliminate defined-benefit pension plans and replace them with defined-contribution plans, which make retirees depend on the market for how much money they have for retirement and health care.
4. Council on Efficient Government Act: As Orwellian a name as any in the ALEC arsenal, this legislation does nothing but use government money to create a commission to figure out ways to privatize government services. In other words, yet another example of ALEC attempting to get taxpayer money into the hands of private corporations without any accountability or taxpayer recourse.
3. “Right to Work” Act: This incredibly misleadingly titled legislation gives no one any new rights and does nothing but prevent employees from paying for the benefits that unions earn on their behalf. So-called “right to work” for less states end up paying their workers a lot less than states that don’t have such laws. In 2013, 15 states introduced this legislation.
2. Parent Trigger Act: These laws give parents the option, once a majority of parents sign a petition, to change a public school into a charter school, give students vouchers or close the school. Seven states have passed parent trigger laws similar to the ALEC bill. Parent Trigger laws force parents to make a bad choice—either stick with a poorly performing school, or take drastic actions that are likely to make things worse, do little to help students and are a boon for corporate groups that run private schools. Meanwhile one of the best tools for helping working families reach the middle class—public education—gets less and less funding.
1. Wage Protections: In 14 states, ALEC model legislation attacking wage protections were introduced. The bills sought to weaken or eliminate laws that require prevailing wages, living wages or minimum wages. Big corporations heavily support these efforts, which would only serve to lower wages for workers.
On Thursday, Aug. 8, working families and other opponents of the ALEC agenda will be rallying at the conservative group’s convention in Chicago. Those who are in the area can RSVP online.
Down with big government, cry Michigan Republicans!
Except when it comes to workers’ rights.
Yesterday the Michigan Senate voted 25-13 to pass a sick leave “preemption bill,” SB 173, which bans cities and towns from passing their own laws regarding earned sick leave. 25 Republicans voted in favor, while all 12 Democrats and one Republican (Sen. Tory Rocca of Sterling Heights) voted against.
Now, this might seem like a strange law for Michigan to pass, since no city or town in Michigan has a sick leave ordinance on the books, and no city or town in Michigan is currently considering such an ordinance.
But this isn’t about Michigan. This is about ALEC and its nationwide efforts to quash the momentum behind paid sick days, using politicians like bill sponsor Sen. Mark Jansen (R-Grand Rapids) merely as delivery systems.
This is a law modeled after one Gov. Scott Walker passed in Wisconsin in May 2011, which overrode the will of Milwaukee voters who had overwhelmingly passed a paid sick days ordinance three years earlier.
At the ALEC national conference in 2011, attendees were given copies of Walker’s paid sick days preemption law. As PRWatch blogger Brendan Fischer describes, legislators were also handed a “target list” and “a map of state and local paid sick leave policies prepared by ALEC member the National Restaurant Association.”
Having passed the Senate, SB 173 is now on a fast track through the House. Seems like legislators can be super efficient when they want to restrict workers’ rights, and when ALEC has already written out a bill for them.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), its corporate backers and extremist Missouri lawmakers may have won the first round in their drive to silence working people with a paycheck deception bill, when the House gave it final approval (86-69) earlier this week.
But thanks to a strong mobilization by Missouri working families and their unions and allies, the close vote—that included several Republicans who voted against the bill—means that Gov. Jay Nixon’s (D) expected veto cannot be overridden. It takes a two-thirds majority vote to override.
Paycheck deception laws, like the one proposed in Missouri, create burdensome restrictions that interfere with union members’ rights to participate in the political and legislative process. These laws also weaken the ability of working people to advance working-family issues such as legislation that would create jobs and stop job outsourcing.
After the bill’s passage, Mike Louis, secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO, told reporters:
This bill is all politics. Not one Missouri worker testified in favor of S.B. 29, and that’s because this bill has nothing to do with helping working people. Public workers in this state have faced an uphill fight for collective bargaining rights and are 50 in the nation in pay.
In fact, dozens of Show-Me State workers created a Tumblr blog, Working Voices, and recorded video messages speaking out against paycheck deception. Union, community and faith activists were a major presence at the state Capitol in Jefferson City during hearings and votes and helped shine a spotlight on the anti-workers’ legislation through actions in several cities and towns.
Bradley Harmon, the president of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 6355, said:
This law is about protecting right-wing extremists and their corporate buddies, not about protecting anyone’s paycheck. That’s why we call it ‘paycheck deception.’
The bills in the House and Senate are ALEC model bills, inspired by none other than Wisconsin union-buster Gov. Scott Walker. Quick story: In early 2011, Walker pushed and passed a preemption law in Wisconsin, completely invalidating the will of Milwaukee voters who had just passed a sick days ordinance.
All workers deserve the opportunity to earn paid sick days, so that not another person has to make their choice between going to work sick and not making rent, or not being able to eat, or not being able to care for their child.
But even the threat of workers in a few cities and towns having this basic right has the restaurant lobby and ALEC running scared, using their politician pawns to introduce ridiculously undemocratic preemption bills that won’t create a single job. Since when did these “small-government” obsessives get into the business of telling cities and towns how to conduct their business?