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
It’s not every day you see a credit card company making a decision that benefits consumers.
Visa, one of the world’s largest credit card companies, has dropped its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This decision comes just one year after ALEC awarded its “Private Sector Member of the Year Award” to Paul Russinoff, Visa’s Vice President of State Relations.
What is ALEC? This will help get you started, and here’s all our past ALEC coverage. ALEC is an organization that brings corporations and elected officials together to vote — as equals — on corporate-friendly “model bills.” The model bills are then distributed to various state lawmakers who introduce them in state legislatures. ALEC develops about 1,000 bills a year, and approximately 20 percent become law.
Some of ALEC’s greatest hits: Arizona’s anti-immigration “papers please” law (SB 1070), Wisconsin’s union-busting 2011 budget, multiple so-called “right to work” laws, Pennsylvania and North Carolina’s voter suppression laws, and Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” gun law.
Visa is one of 50 companies to publicly cut ties with ALEC in the last two years. However, a recent expose in The Guardian shows that ALEC has lost closer to 60 corporate members, losing a third of its projected income.
As more and more people find out about ALEC’s record of restricting voting rights, stomping on the rights of workers, creating barriers in the court system, blocking transparency, preempting local democracy, and privatizing our schools, the less desirable it is for both corporations and lawmakers to associate with them.
Photo by @phillipcantor on Twitter
Tags: ALEC, Corporate Accountability, credit cards
Something had to give.
Amid one of the most turbulent periods in Walmart’s history and ahead of thousands of Black Friday protests against the company’s treatment of workers, CEO Mike Duke has stepped down.
“Walmart has been heading in the wrong direction, and it’s a testament to the pressure the company is feeling that they’re changing leadership at this moment,” said OUR Walmart member Tiffany Beroid, an associate at Walmart #1985 in Laurel, Maryland.
This move comes after an enormously embarrassing week for Walmart.
Over 400 news outlets reported on a photo of food drive bins set out for associates to donate to other associates. The revelation sparked criticism from all quarters, including actor and businessman Ashton Kutcher, who tweeted his barbs to more than 15 million followers. Late night talk shows like Stephen Colbert lampooned the store’s actions: “Anyone can afford food at Walmart, except people who work at Walmart.”
In addition, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), fully staffed after years of Republican-lead obstruction, announced a decision to prosecute Walmart for illegal firings and threats against striking workers. More than 117 Walmart associates were unfairly fired or disciplined after multi-city strikes last June, according to OUR Walmart.
To top it off, Walmart associates and allies are building momentum toward nationwide protests of the company’s low pay and disrespect toward workers on November 29, Black Friday. In the past month, workers have walked off the job in Chicago, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Miami, Cincinnati, and Seattle, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. Port drivers at trucking companies that are part of Walmart’s supply chain also went on strike last week.
CEO Mike Duke will be fine, however. In 2012, he was paid $23.2 million, or about 1,034 times more than the company’s average worker.
Duke’s successor will be Michael McMillon who was previously CEO of Walmart International. McMillon ran the company’s international division during a period the New York Times reported that Walmart was making illegal bribes to Mexican officials.
Tiffany Beroid issued a challenge to the incoming CEO: “We sincerely hope that Mr. McMillon will answer the country’s calls for Walmart to publicly commit to paying $25,000 a year, providing full-time work and ending its illegal retaliation against its own employees.”
Let’s keep up the pressure. Join us and stand up for Walmart workers at a Black Friday event near you.
Photo by @unitehere on Twitter
Tags: CEO Pay, Corporate Accountability, Walmart
“The Hunger Games” are real. If you’re familiar with the books and movies, or have at least heard of the “Hunger Games” phenomenon, you’re probably aware that the series tackles some pretty serious issues of poverty and economic inequality that hit way too close to home. If you’re not, here’s some background.
“The Hunger Games” takes place in the fictional world of Panem, which is a dystopian North America sometime in the far off future. All the wealth in the country is concentrated in the Capitol and people in the 12 districts are constantly in fear of starvation. Everything the people in the districts produce, whether it is coal, grain, machinery or clothing, is controlled by the Capitol. People are forbidden to hunt or grow their own food, thus relying on the Capitol’s meager grain and oil rations. To punish the people of Panem for District 13′s rebellion (the Capitol wiped out the region in a nuclear war), each year two teenage tributes from each of the 12 districts must sacrifice their lives in an arena where they fight to the death, with only one victor remaining.
While the story is fictional, it reminds us of a lot of the issues surrounding economic inequality we see today. Some sobering facts:
- Nearly all—95%—of the income gains from 2009–2012 have been captured by the wealthiest 1%.
- In recent years, the wealthiest 1% have gotten richer and richer, while the median household income is down 8% since 2000.
- Wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of national income since 1966, while corporate profits are now the largest share of national income since 1950.
- The federal minimum wage, $7.25, hasn’t risen since 2009. The tipped minimum wage, $2.13, hasn’t risen in two decades.
- One in 6 people in America are hungry and 1 in 5 children are.
Check out 8 Ways Economic Inequality in America Is Like the “Hunger Games.”
“The Hunger Games” bestseller books and blockbuster films represent a rare opportunity where these issues of social and economic justice are being widely discussed in pop culture and in homes across the United States.
Check out this video from the Harry Potter Alliance:
Disclaimer: Having a union doesn’t guarantee no workplace injuries on the job, but union mines have 68% fewer fatal injuries than nonunion mines.
Working families, union members and leaders are joining the online movement to lift up these issues of economic inequality and poverty using the “Hunger Games” as a jumping off point. Check out oddsinourfavor.org, where you can join the “resistance” and post a photo doing the “salute,” the symbol of solidarity of the working people.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Corporate Accountability, hunger, hunger games, inequality, Jobs, mineworkers, minimum wage, Rights At Work
The following is a guest post from Janet Sparks, a Walmart associate and shareholder.
I’ve worked at Walmart in Baker, La., for eight years, and I’ve been a Walmart shareholder since I started. Times are tough for Walmart customers, but I want you to know that times are tough for many Walmart associates, too. We are stretching our paychecks to pay our bills and support our families. Many of us are not getting as many hours as we used to and that makes it even harder. Now the new associates in my store are not even hired as permanent employees. They are hired as temps with no benefits—not even a discount card.
So when I think about the fact that our CEO Mike Duke made more than $20 million last year—more than 1,000 times the average Walmart associate—with all due respect, I have to say, I don’t think that’s right. Most of his pay came from bonuses. At the store where I work, associates have received only two quarterly bonuses in the past five years. And the last one was just $26.17. As hard as we work, I think we deserve better, so do our customers and so do our shareholders.
That’s why I am asking you to join me and send a letter to the the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) supporting a law that would require companies to disclose CEO-to-worker pay ratios. Investors deserve to know what workers are earning compared to CEOs at the companies they invest in.
If you’ve got a pension, retirement plan or even college savings for your kids, then you’re a stakeholder—and it’s time for corporations to be held accountable to you when it comes to their executive pay scales. The SEC’s comment process is the first step.
Send a letter to the SEC supporting this law today.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, CEO Pay, Corporate Accountability, louisiana, Walmart
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:
Business growth and job growth have been strong under Seattle’s law. Job growth also has been strong in San Francisco and its law enjoys strong business support. The policies in Washington, D.C., andConnecticut have come at little cost for businesses. In fact, expanding D.C.’s current law would net employers $2 million in savings even with potential costs factored in. On the other hand, the average employerloses $225 per worker each year, thanks to lost productivity when they get sick and can’t take paid leave.
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.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: ALEC, Arizona, connecticut, Corporate Accountability, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, kansas, louisiana, mississippi, North Carolina, Paid Sick Days, Tennessee, Wisconsin
The top ten highest paid chief executives in the country all took home more than $100 million last year, with two of them earning billion-dollar paychecks.
“I have never seen anything like that,” said Greg Ruel, who authored a report on executive compensation released Tuesday by GMI Ratings. “Usually we have a few CEOs at the $100 million-plus level but never the entire top ten.”
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg took home more than $2.2 billion, and Richard D. Kinder of Kinder Morgan, Inc. took home more than $1.1 billion.
The case of Kinder is deceptive. In 2012, his base salary was $1, but he made a billion dollars selling restricted stock. That followed a nearly $60 million profit from stock in 2011.
GMI’s poll of 2,259 American companies — accounting for salary, stock options, bonuses, and the like — found an average increase in executive compensation of 8.47 percent. For the top 1,000 companies, however, that number jumps to 15.47 percent.
Meanwhile, median household income has remained flat at $51,017. Adjusted for inflation, there was almost no measurable increase between 2011 and 2012.
Worker wages haven’t only remained flat over the same period, they have “fallen about 9 percent from an inflation-adjusted peak of $56,080 in 1999,” writes The Guardian’s Dominic Rushe.
So why are CEOs getting rewarded? Stock option packages are supposed to “align the interests of senior executives with shareholders,” writes GMI, but “the unintended consequences of these grants is often windfall profits that come from small share price increases.”
In other words, these huge stock options are supposed to give CEOs the incentive to make sure their company does well, but mostly it incentivizes them to seek small, sometimes short-term stock jumps. Put another way, it’s not in the immediate self-interest of these immensely powerful people that the economy as a whole does well, or even that their own companies do well in the long run.
There are efforts to make sure, at the very least, that these compensation systems are transparent. The SEC is considering a rule that would require companies to disclose the ratio of CEO compensation and the pay of the typical worker. In 2012, CEOs of major corporations took home an average of 354 times more than the average worker (up from 42 times in 1982, 201 in 1992 and 281 in 2002) but that’s just from data that’s available.
Tell the SEC companies must disclose CEO-to-worker pay ratios.
Tags: CEO Pay, Corporate Accountability, wages
We already know CEOs of major corporations took home 354 times more pay than the average rank-and-file U.S. worker in 2012. Now, we have the opportunity to see what CEOs make compared with the typical worker in their own companies.
A rule proposed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would require companies to disclose the ratio of total compensation between CEOs and the pay of the typical worker. The SEC rule is part of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Major corporations like Walmart really don’t like this, which is why we need your help.
If you want more transparency when it comes to what CEOs are paid compared with the people that make those companies run, please send a letter to the SEC supporting this rule. The comment period ends Dec. 2.
Tell the SEC companies must disclose CEO-to-worker pay ratios.
If you are an investor, make sure you identify yourself as one in the letter.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Corporate Accountability, Wall Street, Walmart
As reported before, congressional Republicans are engaged in a long-term strategy to destabilize the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) in what appears to be an effort to privatize mail processing and delivery and enhance profits for their campaign contributors in the corporate world. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has sponsored a bill (H.R. 2748) that would prohibit the USPS and postal unions from negotiating protection against layoffs in future contracts. Conveniently for Issa and his allies, the USPS missed a $5.6 billion payment to a fund to cover health benefits for future retirees.
But, as multiple sources have reported, including Salon’s Josh Eidelson, the “crisis” at the Postal Service is totally a problem created by congressional Republicans and their allies in the George W. Bush administration. USPS missed that $5.6 billion payment for two reasons related to legislation passed in 2006. The first is the requirement that the USPS, unlike any other entity private or public, pre-fund 75 years of retiree benefits over a decade, something that isn’t necessary or a good business strategy. The second part of that law that is hampering USPS now were new rules that limit the Postal Service’s ability to raise stamp fees or offer other products and services that could bring in additional revenue. The importance of these two requirements can’t be over-estimated:
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe testified this month in Congress that the pre-funding made up $32 billion of USPS’ $41 billion net loss since the requirement went into effect. For perspective on that remaining $9 billion, consider that a 2011 study from Accenture, commissioned by USPS, estimated that by diversifying its services as other countries’ mail agencies have, the Postal Service could’ve brought in an additional $74 billion from 2003 to 2008.
So, without the irresponsible 2006 Republican law, the USPS could very easily have had net profits of $33 billion or more, while expanding services. Postal Service workers and their unions not only condemn the 2006 law, but they reject some of the supposed “fixes” that are currently in Congress:
In a Monday email to Salon, National Rural Letter Carriers Association President Jeanette Dwyer warned against “drastic measures that will only harm this great institution, the Americans who rely upon it, and the employees who serve it with determination, integrity, and pride.” American Postal Workers Union Executive Vice President Greg Bell told Salon that the Carper–Coburn bill represented “part of the agenda toward privatization,” both by driving customers away to private companies and by deepening the Postal Service’s long-term crisis. “From our perspective,” said Bell, “that is what this is all about.”
There is legislation in the Senate that would address the real problems the USPS faces, sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.):
Sen. Sanders told Salon that a bill he’s introduced, which unions back, would “give the tools the Postal Service needs to succeed in the 21st century and ensure the speedy delivery of mail.” In contrast, he charged, both Carper’s and Issa’s approaches “will force the Postal Service to provide fewer services and lead to the loss of more than 100,000 jobs in the midst of a severe recession. That’s not the way to save the Postal Service, that’s the way to dismantle it.”
Photo by National Association of Letter Carriers on Facebook
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Bernie Sanders, Corporate Accountability, Jobs, Postal Service
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.
The debate over the bill was strange. Democratic senators including Gina Walsh (D-Bellafontaine) and Paul LeVota (D-Independence) addressed question after question to supporters of the bill, including the primary sponsor Sen. Dan Brown (R-Rolla), which never got answered. The supporters of SB 29 seemed unaware and uninterested in the fact that union members can already opt out of political contributions. Progress Missouri extensively reported SB 29’s similarity to an ALEC model bill, and the wide overlap between ALEC members and SB 29 supporters.
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.”
Tags: ALEC, Corporate Accountability, Missouri, paycheck deception, Rights At Work