How ALEC and the Koch Brothers Could Get a Major Ally Elected to the U.S. Senate

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Thom Tillis, Speaker of the North Carolina House and front runner for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, has deep ties to ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. In the heated primary leading up to the May 6 election, those connections are paying off.

Since he took the role of Speaker in 2013, Tillis has helped pass a raft of corporate-friendly legislation. Many of these bills were based on ALEC models:

In 2013, after Republicans gained control of the North Carolina legislature and governor’s mansion for the first time since 1870, an array of right-wing legislation reflecting ALEC templates swept through the legislature. Both the Raleigh News-Observer and CMD found dozens of ALEC bills introduced in 2013, including measures that promote voter suppression, union busting, public funding of private schools, and the repeal of clean energy laws.

The onslaught of ALEC-influenced legislation in 2013 helped give rise to North Carolina’s “Moral Mondays” movement.

Tillis himself is not only an ALEC member legislator. He’s a member of the ALEC board of directors, a former member of ALEC’s International Relations Task Force, and received ALEC’s “Legislator of the Year” award in 2011.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the group founded and funded by billionaire David Koch, has already spent a whopping $7 million on TV ads attacking Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan. AFP’s ties to ALEC run deep:

AFP has long been a member of ALEC, and both David and Charles Koch have made personal loans to ALEC and funded the group through their foundations. Additionally, a Koch Industries lobbyist sits on the national board of ALEC — along with Tillis.

Art Pope, a North Carolina mega-donor who funds two state-based right-wing think tanks (both of which have been members of ALEC) also reportedly is supporting Tillis’ candidacy. Not coincidentally, Pope serves on the board of AFP.

As we’ve written before, ALEC disrupts democracy not just because of the policies they promote. By writing corporate friendly bills while also funding and promoting the campaigns of politicians who support those bills, they essentially turn legislators into delivery systems – not public servants. But in supporting Tillis and attacking his would-be opponent to the tune of millions, Pope and the Kochs are showing Tillis’ other legislative colleagues that they could benefit by toeing the ALEC line.

Photo via ncdot on Flickr

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Victory! How Working America Helped Save Four Schools From Closure

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Thanks in part to our efforts, on Thursday March 13th Working America members, in conjunction with other faith, community, and labor organizations, delivered over 500 petitions to the Houston Independent School Board protesting the proposal to close 5 neighborhood schools.

The result: the Houston Independent School District (HISD) voted to save four out of five public schools in Houston.

Many consider the decision a major victory for Houstonians who, according to the Houston Chronicle, have already witnessed HISD close 19 schools since 2010.

The HISD decision came after dozens of community protests and thousands of angry parents, teachers, and community members making their voices heard. On the day of the vote, 17 Working America members held a press conference outside of HISD Headquarters and stood in solidarity with other faith, community, and labor organizations to protest the closure of more public schools.

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WA member Sergio Serrano, who wants to send his 5 year old daughter to Dodson Elementary—a school slated for closure, spoke to the media at the press conference and testified in front of the Board of Trustees.  Elisabeth Johnson, an HISD Alumni, and Bernard Sampson, a concern community member, also testified in front of the Board. The message of, save our schools, was strong and clear across the board.

Carol McGregor, one of the seventeen members in attendance, said “It’s clear that this victory was a result of a strong community, standing up for strong public schools. The Houston School Board had no choice but to vote our way. I’m proud to be a part of Working America and a part this win.”

To get involved with Working America in Houston, contact Working America Member Coordinator, Taylor Thompson at tthompson@workingamerica.org.

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Join Us in the Fight To Save Our Schools

The Houston Independent School District (HISD) provides public education to more than 200,000 students.

Recently, HISD made a last-minute proposal to close five neighborhood schools at the end of the 2014 school year. Although three schools have been saved, a Thursday vote will determine if the remaining two schools will close.

If the board chooses to close the schools, students will be forced to travel farther from home and into Houston’s other, already overcrowded public schools. Class sizes will grow, students will receive less individual attention, and overall educational outcomes will worsen.

Texas is 49th out of all 50 states in education spending. We need to invest in our public schools, not make the situation worse than it already is.

In response to this, Working America members decided to take action by engaging local media, community members and key decision makers at the school board.

We’re hosting a press conference tomorrow to discuss the potential closing of the schools, at the HISD Administration building, 4400 W. 18th St., at 4 p.m.

Other actions we’ve taken

Our members Matthew Rigney and Elizabeth Johnson, a former HISD student and daughter of an HISD teacher, headed up outreach to fellow Working America members and the larger community. Together, they signed up 25 new Working America members at a district-sponsored meeting held for those affected by the proposed school closures.

Members also organized a phone bank to follow up with new members and invite them to join in the fight.

“The district may be able to ignore one or two people speaking out about this proposal, but they cannot ignore us all,” Rigney said. “If we really want to stop the attack on public education, we need to build our power through community support.”

Activist Mike Hicks, a single father of an HISD student, spoke out against the plan in a radio interview with KPFT 90.1FM on Friday Feb. 28, saying, “When you close a school, you ruin a community. Families with kids move out in search of other, more conveniently located schools, leaving only empty houses behind.”

Carol McGregor, activist, and mother of four public school-educated daughters, wrote a letter to the Houston Chronicle urging teachers, parents and community members to partner together to change the appalling pattern of overcrowded, underfunded schools.

“How [is the district] considering the closure of five Houston schools when more than 1,200 classrooms are overcrowded? If HISD thinks school closures and bigger classes are acceptable, we’re headed in the wrong direction,” McGregor said.

With little less than a week remaining before the vote, members have set their final plans into motion.

On Thursday, March 13, Working America members will head to Houston Independent School District’s headquarters to raise their voices about this important issue.

Take action now: send a message to the HISD and tell them to keep our schools open.

To get involved with Working America in Houston, contact Taylor Thompson, Working America Member Coordinator at tthompson@workingamerica.org.

Photo courtesy of scarlettgreen on Flickr.

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100,000 Reasons the Extremists Who Run North Carolina Should Be Very Afraid

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When a group equal to one-fifth the population of the state capital shows up to protest your policies, you’re in trouble. Between 80,000 and 100,000 people showed up Saturday at the Moral March on Raleigh, the state capital with some 420,000 residents. The marchers included working families and their allies from around the state and more than 30 other states. A related rally a year ago attracted 15,000 participants. It’s clear that more North Carolinians are becoming upset with the extreme agenda of Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and his allies in the legislature.

The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and a driving force behind the state’s Moral Monday movement, which spawned the march, said: “The governor and the legislature are trying to say we’re in the middle of a Carolina comeback. We got a team of experts, economists, professors, etc., together, and they said we’re in the middle of a Carolina setback. No way you can spin what’s happening to us.”

MaryBe McMillan, the elected secretary-treasurer of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO, wrote a poem on the march. Below is an excerpt:

Why are union members and workers here, today?
We’re here because:

There’s too much corporate greed
And we have families to feed.
There are so few jobs, no decent wages.
Inequality tops the news pages.

CEOs earn more and more
While the rest of us grow poor.
The bosses want their workers cheap,
Meek and docile like sheep.

They move their companies South,
Hoping we won’t give them any mouth.
Well, imagine their surprise
As they watch the South arise.

The reaction to the right-wing policies pursued by McCrory are opposed by much of the state’s public as well. A poll last week gave him a 37% approval rating.  The General Assembly fared even worse, at 32%. Only 23% of the state’s residents think North Carolina is headed in the right direction.

Barber and the other organizers behind the march and the Moral Monday protests have focused on five goals:

  • Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that ensure economic sustainability.
  • Provide well-funded, quality public education for all.
  • Stand up for the health of every North Carolinian by promoting health care access and environmental justice across all the state’s communities.
  • Address the continuing inequalities in the criminal justice system and ensure equality under the law for every person, regardless of race, class, creed, documentation or sexual preference.
  • Protect and expand voting rights for people of color, women, immigrants, the elderly and students to safeguard fair democratic representation.

Learn more about the march and the Moral Monday activities.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Call Me Radical, But I Think A Good Budget Requires More Than “Spirit”

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The following is a guest post from Pittsburgh Working America member Kayleigh Metviner

I participated in a press conference on Tuesday with the local chapter of Working America,  a national economic justice organization, to call for a Pennsylvania state budget that favors education and social services over corporate tax cuts.

A few hours later, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett presented his vision for the state budget, which was not expected to be anything to cheer about. Now, I am a newcomer to Pennsylvania, and I am not going to write in-depth about Pennsylvania-specific politicians and issues. What I am more interested in here is the disconnect between legislation that is both feasible and favored by a majority of citizens, and the legislation that is proposed by Corbett.

Why politicians who face abysmal approval ratings (23 percent for Corbett last week) still try to get reelected is beyond me, but Corbett’s budget proposal is clearly aimed at garnering support this year. And even though most self-identified progressives would rather drink West Virginia’s water than see Corbett reelected, his attempts to pass legislation that appeals to the majority could still be a good thing. Unfortunately, his actual budget proposal makes that very unlikely.

In his speech, Corbett said that his budget sets the agenda in the “spirit” of expanding public education, which…niceBut the state budget doesn’t have a column for spirit, and very few of us have managed to exchange spirit for goods and services.  So where is the money for education coming from?

Mainly from a highly unlikely projected increase in state revenues.  Despite having predicted a budget deficit by the end of the 2014-2015 fiscal year just a couple months ago, and despite revenue having come in short even of that projection in January, Corbett’s spending plan is dependent on a 4 percent increase in revenue this year.

In contrast, the budget that Working America and community members across the state support would see education and social services funded mainly by closing corporate tax loopholes, like the well-known Delaware tax loophole that deprives many states (except Delaware) of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

We presented this proposal before the release of Corbett’s plan because we wanted to make it clear that there is a viable alternative to empty, feel-good promises and more of the same political floundering that leaves the majority of us, in Pennsylvania and around the country, in a perpetual state of disadvantage. Crafting a state budget is undoubtedly a complex matter, but in the face of complexity, let’s turn to logical and equitable solutions, not “spirit.”

Text JOBS to 30644 to join Working America’s movement for economic justice in Pennsylvania.

Photo by onepittsburgh on Instagram

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Dear Governor Corbett: Here’s How You Fully Fund Pennsylvania Schools. It’s Actually Pretty SImple.

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The following is a guest post from Working America member Kayleigh Metviner

Volunteers, supporters, and media gathered at Working America’s Pittsburgh office on Tuesday morning to call for an economically just and fiscally responsible state budget, in contrast to the budget proposal anticipated from Governor Tom Corbett (R-PA) later in the day.

With over 500,000 members in Pennsylvania, Working America is a formidable force in the state, and we are overwhelmingly in support of a state budget that focuses more resources on public education, higher education, and social services.

Our members know that money doesn’t materialize out of thin air, so their calls for well-funded education and social services are accompanied by practical and equitable solutions: closing the Delaware tax loophole that deprives Pennsylvanians of hundreds of millions of dollars a year and expanding Medicaid.

Expanding Medicaid will not only allow more Pennsylvanians to access health care, it also has the potential to lower overall health care costs. On top of this, it will be 100 percent funded by the federal government for the first three years, and that rate would modestly and gradually decrease to 90 percent during years after that. Lowered costs from expanded Medicaid, combined with increased revenues from corporations paying their fair share of taxes will enable our state to fulfill its commitment to our public schools.

Several Working America volunteers read community member comments aloud at the press conference. One member urged Governor Corbett to “budget with greater consideration for education support instead of corporate tax breaks/”  Another wrote: “Please, stop the practice of subsidizing large corporations with taxpayer money when programs and research to help the vulnerable are so needed.”

We want to thank those who shared their stories and urge all Pennsylvanians to continue spreading the word about the real possibilities for economic justice right here, right now.

Text JOBS to 30644 to join Working America’s movement for economic justice in Pennsylvania.

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Winner and Loser of the Week

In a new weekly feature, we’ll be taking a look at the winners and losers of the week in the struggle for the rights of working families. The winner will be the person or organization that goes above and beyond to expand or protect the rights of working families, while the loser will be whoever went above and beyond to limit or deny those rights.

Winner of the Week: Kain Colter and the Northwestern University Football Players

College athletes, who balance a full-time school load with intense athletic workouts are some of the hardest-working people in the United States. Yet the NCAA says it has no responsibility to protect them from potentially deadly injuries, such as concussions, and allows players to lose educational opportunities if they get injured. Colter and a number of his teammates are standing up and saying they deserve better and are attempting to organize a union that would address these and other concerns.

Loser of the Week: Uintah, Utah, Elementary School District Official

A Utah elementary school district official apparently thought the best way to deal with parents who hadn’t given their kids enough lunch money was to order cafeteria workers to give those kids lunches and then take them away and throw them in the trash in front of everyone. Taking food away from children is bad enough, but doing it in a publicly humiliating way is truly despicable. Poverty and hunger matter in the classroom.

Photo by Northwestern Wildcats on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Put a Stop to This: Bad Credit? No Job for You!

Today’s jobless workers face new discriminatory barriers to finding work in a broken economy. Some employers won’t consider out-of-work applicants for job openings. And more and more employers run credit checks, leaving long-term jobless workers, who have likely fallen far behind in their bills and seen their credit scores tank, on the streets.

Today Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced a bill to stop employers from requiring prospective employees to disclose their credit history or disqualifying applicants based on a poor credit rating. Says Warren:

Families have not fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, and too many Americans are still searching for jobs. This is about basic fairness—let people compete on the merits, not on whether they already have enough money to pay all their bills.

Even as the economy is slowly turning around, the recession and financial crisis continue to take a toll on working families. Many of whom are hardworking, bill-paying people who have seen the credit ratings damaged when they or a family member lost a job or a small business and saw the value of their homes plummet. Savings evaporate and payments get missed. Says Warren:

Most people recognize that bad credit means they will have trouble borrowing money or they will pay more to borrow. But many don’t realize that a damaged credit rating also can block access to a job.

While at one time it was common belief that a credit history could provide insight into a perspective employee’s character, Warren says that recent research has shown that an individual’s credit rating has little or no correlation with his ability to succeed at work. A bad credit rating is far more often the result of unexpected personal crisis or economic downturn than a reflection of someone’s abilities.

She also says, “This is one more way the game is rigged against the middle class.”

A rich person who loses a job or gets divorced or faces a family illness is unlikely to suffer from a drop in his or her credit rating. But for millions of hardworking families, hard personal blow translates into a hard financial blow that will show up for years in a credit report.

People shouldn’t be denied the chance to compete for jobs because of credit reports that bear no relationship to job performance and that, according to recent reports, are often riddled with inaccuracies. Click here to become a citizen co-sponsor of The Equal Employment for All Act.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced the bill in the House late last year.

Photo via U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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9 Key Facts About Women Workers Today

Liz Shuler is secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO.

Today, we earn more college degrees and have infinitely more choices, but what has it meant? Take a look:

  • Progress toward gender equality has stalled. Women’s annual earnings are just 77% of men’s.
  • Most (60%) of women’s job gains during the economic recovery have been in low-wage jobs.
  • The unemployment rate for young (ages 16 to 24) women workers is 14.5%.
  • 43% of women working in the private sector are not able to take a single paid sick day when they are ill, and more than half of working mothers (54%) do not have even a few paid sick days they can use to care for their sick children.
  • Women in unions, on average, make 12.9% more than their nonunion counterparts, are 36.8% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and are 53.4% more likely to have participated in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

How can we get progress on gender equality moving again? We could start by raising the minimum wage, enacting family-friendly policies like the FAMILY Act, investing in good jobs and restoring collective bargaining rights so all workers can stand together.

Photo by National Nurses United on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Teachers Take Action for Public Education

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

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