ALEC Politicians Won Big On Tuesday, But Corporations Are Still Leaving

Logo of the software group at the entrance to the headquarters in Walldorf

Joni Ersnt. Scott Walker. Thom Tillis. Many of Tuesday night’s Republican winners have strong ties to ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which brings together legislators and corporate lobbyists to write corporate-friendly legislation.

But while these current and former ALEC members got a boost from their connections and affiliation with the bill mill (in the case of Tillis, the boost came in the form of record spending from dark money groups like the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity), ALEC itself is in dire straits.

The day after Tillis and others claimed victory, the German software company SAP formally cut ties with ALEC.

The [SAP] spokeswoman told Manager that the company abandoned ALEC because of its “merkwürdigen” (strange) positions—such as its support for Stand Your Ground laws, climate denial, and opposition to solar energy deployment.

SAP joins American counterparts like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Yelp in ending their affiliation with ALEC.

Ever since the secretive organization came onto the public’s radar in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin killing and the press around the “Stand Your Ground” laws they developed, an estimated 93 corporations and 19 no-profits have cut their ALEC ties.

Why is this a big deal? While a lot of information on ALEC is not public, we know that corporations pay at least $5,000 to become members and sit on the organization’s various task forces. When these companies leave–or decline to renew their membership–that means ALEC has fewer resources to recruit legislators, take them on lavish trips, or ply them with expensive steak dinners. It also means ALEC has less capacity to produce model legislation that weakens wages, attacks the rights of workers, stifles clean energy, and privatizes everything from schools to parking meters.

Tillis and his friends are in, but SAP is out. Who is next?

UPDATE. From Center for Media and Democracy’s Nick Surgey, writing in the Huffington Post:

SAP is a particularly big loss for ALEC, because its representative at ALEC, lobbyist Steve Searle, is the Chair of ALEC’s corporate board, and the former corporate chair of ALEC’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. As a leader within ALEC, Searle would have helped drive the ALEC agenda, and would have had inside knowledge of what ALEC has planned for 2015 to continue to stonewall action to tackle climate change.

Photo by Manager-Magazin.de

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Horrible: Supreme Court Allows North Carolina’s Voting Restrictions to Go Forward

North Carolina AFL-CIO photo

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday allowed key parts of one of the most restrictive voting rights laws in the nation to go forward. A federal appeals court had enjoined the provisions and North Carolina officials asked the Supreme Court to stay that ruling.

The majority of justices who voted to stay the appeals court ruling that would have reinstated same day voter registration during the early vote period and allowed the counting of ballots that were cast in the wrong precinct did not comment on their reasoning.

But Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, who dissented, wrote that allowing the two provisions to stand “risked significantly reducing opportunities for black voters to exercise” their right to vote.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted (5–4) the Voting Rights Act by eliminating a provision that allowed the federal government to step in and preserve the people’s right to vote in all or parts of 16 states with long histories of voter discrimination.

Justices Ginsburg said Sotomayor said North Carolina’s new restrictions on voting “likely would not have survived” scrutiny under the Voting Rights Act.

Studies show that in North Carolina, African Americans were more likely to use same-day registration than other groups. The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and organizer of the “Moral Monday” protests, said:

Tens of thousands of North Carolina voters, especially African American voters, have relied on same-day registration, as well as the counting of ballots that were cast out of precinct, for years.

The ruling means that Friday is the last day North Carolinians can register to vote. Find the latest information on voter requirements from the North Carolina Board of Elections.

The 2013 North Carolina law was pushed by extremist lawmakers, including North Carolina House Speaker and current U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis and Gov. Pat McCrory (R). It directly targets the voting power of working people by shortening early voting periods, imposing restrictive voter ID requirements in 2016, along with eliminating same-day voter registration. The law faces further legal challenges next year.

USA Today reports that Tillis trails Sen. Kay Hagen (D) by just two percentage points. Figures from the North Carolina State Board of Elections show that more than 21,000 voters registered and voted on the same day during the early voting period in 2010, and more than 6,000 voters were able to have their ballots counted even though they voted in the wrong precinct.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on Wisconsin’s strict voter photo ID law soon. Last week, the court allowed new voting restrictions in Ohio that severely curtailed early voting opportunities to go forward.

In a video posted Monday on the Department of Justice website, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said:

The early voting times targeted for cancellation, including weeknight and Sunday hours, previously provided critical opportunities for many people to get to the polls [and] disproportionately affect people with child care responsibilities, hourly salaries and reduced access to transportation—people who may have difficulty getting to the polls at any other time, and who are much more likely to be low income or minority individuals.

The Fair Elections Legal Network says that over the past two years, more than 30 states have introduced legislation or enacted laws that would curb voters’ access to voting. Find out more here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Union YES! American Airlines Passenger Service Agents Win Largest Organizing Victory in the South in Decades

Union, YES! American Airlines Passenger Service Agents Win Largest Organizing Victory in the South in Decades

In what Communications Workers of America (CWA) heralds as “the largest labor organizing victory in the South in decades,” passenger service agents at American Airlines voted to form a union after a 19-year struggle.  In the vote announced today, 86% of the 9,000 agents who voted favored the union, which will now represent 14,500 agents, the vast majority of whom live in the South. American Airlines agents in the West are represented by the Teamsters and the two unions form a joint CWA-IBT unit to bargain with the airline.

Nearly three-quarters of the agents work in Texas, North Carolina, Florida and Arizona and several thousand are home-based reservations agents.  The wide range of jobs the members work include: reservations, ticket and gate agents, baggage service agents, customer assistance representatives, customer service supervisors, club representatives, passenger operations center representatives and special service counter agents.

About the result, CWA said:

The vote clearly shows that workers who can make a fair choice about union representation want bargaining rights. New American agents are concentrated in southern states and work at diverse locations, including large and small airports, call centers and at home. Across every group, they voted for bargaining rights and union representation.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke about the broader importance of the victory:

Clearly, one of the largest labor organizing victories in the South in decades is a historic day. But it also shows that the future of the U.S. labor movement is alive, as these workers can be found at airports, call centers, even working from home. The right to collectively bargain will always be what our working family fights for.

The agents themselves were ecstatic about the victory. Richard Shaughnessy, who has been an agent at Miami International Airport for 27 years, said:

The merger between American Airlines and US Airways is an exciting time for all of us. But even more exciting is our victory today. We’re the front-line employees who interact with our customers every day, and we are looking forward to a positive relationship with management to make this merger ‘work’ for all of us. We are anxious to get to the bargaining table.

Carroll Locklear, a home-based reservations agent in Texas, said:

I’ve been with American Airlines for 18 years, and through all of those years I have been praying for this day. We have been the odd employees out for so long because we were the only employees without union representation. Gone are the days that management can take what they want when they want. This will be a win-win for all of us.

Eula Smith, a customer service agent in Charlotte, N.C., added:

We feel stronger now with this vote. I’m a 60-year-old woman with 42 years with this employer. You can’t live in the South and make a decent wage unless you are in senior management in a corporation or belong to a union. We need this. We need not just a union, we need CWA.

Ken Grunwald, a 23-year reservations agent at the call center in North Carolina, said:

I’m proud to remember everyone over the years who worked so hard for our union voice, who never gave up in the face of adversity, and who gave their blood, sweat and tears so that we would have the opportunity to celebrate this victory today. It’s a victory for all American Airlines employees! I’m so excited to think that we will finally be able to negotiate a legally binding contract. We now all have each others’ back.

Janet Elston, an agent at Dallas International Airport, concluded:

Nineteen years ago, a handful of agents started a drive to obtain representation for [American Airlines] airport and reservations agents. Many hundreds of activists have spent thousands of hours over the years to get us to today’s election result. They never wavered and never, ever gave up. We have finally achieved what most thought was impossible: union representation for our work group. Now we’ll begin a new working relationship with our company, with a legal binding contract.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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ID Required: Use These Photo ID’s To Vote In North Carolina

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Starting in 2016, voters will be required to show a photo ID in order to cast their ballots in person.

Supporters of the law claim it will reduce voter fraud, yet voter fraud has been negligible. More likely is that they wish to suppress the votes of the many groups of people who may find the photo ID hurdle too much to overcome. These groups include blue collar laborers, minorities, students, youth, and the elderly.

Acceptable IDs include:

  • a NC driver’s license,
  • a NC identification card,
  • a US passport,
  • a  US military ID or Veterans ID card,
  • or a tribal enrollment card from a federally or NC recognized tribe.

Please note: No student IDs will be accepted, not even ones from North Carolina state colleges and universities.

Due to perfectly reasonable circumstances, not everyone has a photo ID. For some residents, obtaining one is a difficult task.

As a Quaker, I know many folks at the Quaker-run retirement homes in Greensboro. Many of them are elderly and obtaining a photo ID may prove difficult. Many have been too unhealthy to drive for years and therefore they don’t have valid driver’s licenses. As well, because they do not drive, transportation to a DMV office is difficult. Some often do not have relatives or friends nearby to rely on to drive them to get a photo ID. One woman I know there was permanently injured in an automobile accident years ago.  She has no reliable transportation anywhere. Additionally, finding the documents required for such an ID (such as a birth certificate or marriage license) can also be an obstacle.

Everyone should be able to cast a ballot unhindered. Demanding a photo ID creates nothing but a problem for people who have been voting without incident for years. Especially because it was passed to solve nonexistent fraud. We must elect people who will erase the photo ID requirement.

Photo courtesy of Theresa Thompson via Flickr.

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You Should Know: The End of Same Day Registration in North Carolina

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Same-day voting registration laws help improve and equalize the democracy process, but did you know that it’s now illegal to register and vote on the same day in NC?  The republican controlled legislature eliminated same day registration last year, a backwards step for our voting process.  Under the new law, voter registration must occur at least 25 days prior to an election.

In 2007 the state general assembly passed a law that made same-day registration legal and voter participation increased immediately.   More than 100,000 North Carolina residents registered and voted simultaneously in the 2008 and 2012 general elections.  Demos, an organization dedicated to public policy, conducted research comparing same day vs. non same day registration states.  The findings illustrated that same day registration states had higher voter participation than those without same a day policy.

The law,even  showed increased voter participation, especially for certain social groups.  Although youths (18-25) comprised 12% of voters in 2012, they were 33% of same day registration voters; Blacks made up 34% of same day registrants/voters.  Illustrating even greater racial ramifications to the current law, Blacks utilized same day registration/voting more than Whites in 2012, according to Dr. Michael Herron and Dr. Daniel Smith, two political science professors.

This law is important to me. I don’t believe that my parents participated in the civil rights movement to have their offspring jump through voter suppression hoops similar to the ones that existed in the 1950’s and 60’s.  Things should progress, not be repeated under less obtrusive schemes.

Remember, same day registration is now illegal.  Get registered to vote today…the right you save may be your own!

Photo courtesy of Theresa Thompson via Flickr.

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Medicaid Expansion Myths DEBUNKED

medicaid

Gov. McCrory recently rejected the federal plan to expand Medicaid and left 319,000 North Carolinians without health care in the process. But is Medicaid expansion really that bad? Take a look at some common myths, and the facts, below:

MYTH: Now that the Affordable Care Act is law, there’s no need to expand North Carolina’s Medicaid program.

FACT: Quite the opposite, actually. Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act are meant to work in tandem and one doesn’t negate the other. The purpose of expansion is to give individuals who can’t afford coverage under the ACA a shot at obtaining health care; without it, over 300,000 North Carolinians are without health care.

MYTH: Expansion will bankrupt the state!

FACT: Not at all. Contrary to popular belief, expansion won’t drain the state of its resources. In fact, North Carolina is losing out on nearly 5 million federal dollars a day by not expanding its Medicaid program. Additionally, Medicaid spending has decreased by 11 percent since 2008.

MYTH:  Medicaid is a welfare system for those who don’t work, and the expansion plan is no different.

FACT: In reality, Medicaid expansion was conceived with hardworking people like you in mind. If Medicaid were expanded in North Carolina, it would include individuals with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. Currently, 65% of Medicaid recipients come from working families.

MYTH: The majority of North Carolinians are against expanding Medicaid.

FACT: Actually, the majority of North Carolinians—58% to be exact—are in favor of expanding the social health care program.

 

Photo courtesy of NatalieMaynor via Flickr.

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Moral Monday’s Focus on Education Gets Lawmaker’s Attention

Photo via Hannah Rose Mendoza's facebook page

More than 1,000 North Carolinians called on the state legislature to restore funding for public school students’ education and to back off its attack on teachers’ rights and its support of school privatization in a Moral Monday rally at the state Capitol in Raleigh.

The Moral Monday protests began last year in response to Gov. Pat McCrory’s (R) and the Republican legislature’s extremist agenda that has attacked voting rights, education, the environment, unemployed workers, health care and women’s rights.

Showing Moral Monday’s mounting pressure and its growing state and national high profile, for the first time a leader of the legislature met with the protesters who had been prepared for a sit-in and possible arrest.

North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R) met with some 15 teachers and student outside his office for about two hours. According to news reports, it was an occasionally heated but mostly civil conversation about the cuts to public education funding, the elimination of nearly 700 teaching assistants, public funds for private school vouchers and tying teacher raises to eliminating tenure rights.

While protesters said they appreciated that Berger met with them, they said they would continue their drive to protect students and public education. Bryan Proffitt, a 10-year teacher, said:

I won’t be satisfied until my students have what they need and our schools aren’t bleeding every day….We’ll be back if these conditions are not met. The reality is, with all the media attention we’re getting right here and all this conversation, we’re going to be back with a whole lot more folks.

The Next Moral Monday on June 16 will focus on workers’ rights.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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North Carolina Welcomes Back the Legislature with Pots & Spoons

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Yesterday, we came out to support the NC State AFL-CIO for the second annual Pots and Spoons protest to mark the beginning of the short session for North Carolina’s Legislature.

The last two years have been marked by a regressive voter suppression law, cuts in education spending, and the rejection of Medicaid Expansion that would benefit close to half a million of our most vulnerable workers.

Hundreds of supporters were joined by union members, teachers, and lots of Moral Monday activists who are all calling on the legislature to change course and stop the attacks on North Carolina workers.

This protest was modeled after cacerolazos, protests that are common among peoples’ movements in South America and Spain. People bring a pot and a spoon and bang loudly to get the attention of politicians and decision-makers.

Legislators were entering their chambers with a chorus of clanking metal from the growing coalition of North Carolina progressives who are fighting back against legislators who are determined to roll back a century of progress.

As we gathered across from the legislative building on Wednesday, we were proud to stand with our coalition partners during this legislative session to remind these officials who they are supposed to represent.

Join the Moral Movement for North Carolina’s working families – text VOTENC to 30644.

Photo by NC AFL-CIO ON Flickr

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Senator Casey Urges Governor Corbett to Give Up the Fight on ALEC-Backed Voting Law

Bob Casey, senior senator from Pennsylvania, is urging Governor Tom Corbett to end his attempts to enact that state’s controversial voter suppression law.

“At every turn Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law has been rejected by the courts,” Casey wrote to Corbett’s office, “Continuing this appeal will only continue to cast a cloud of uncertainty over residents who are rightly concerned that this law will prevent them from exercising their right to vote.”

The letter comes three days after a Commonwealth Court judge denied the Corbett administration’s request to reconsider their January decision that struck down the law.

The Pennsylvania law, based on an ALEC model bill and championed by ALEC member legislators like Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, required that voters must show specific kinds of photo identification to cast a ballot. The legislature passed the bill in March 2012 knowing that  750,000 Pennsylvanians, many of them seniors, minorities, and low-income workers, did not have this type of ID.

While Gov. Corbett and his allies in the legislature pushed enormous cuts to education and public services, the state spent $7 million in a bungled, widely mocked attempt to enact the new voting restrictions.

After the law passed in March 2012, Working America members and organizers were able to reach estimated 642,000 Pennsylvanians with information about what they would need to vote. This year, our members are mobilizing in North Carolina to educate their community about that state’s new stringent voting restrictions; which, not coincidentally, is also based on an ALEC model and promoted by ALEC member legislators.

We don’t yet know if the Corbett administration will appeal the ruling and take the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. But we hope he decides instead to follow the advice of Sen. Casey and thousands of others who want the governor to focus on creating more jobs, not fewer voting rights.

Photo by Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. on Facebook

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New FLOC Campaign Brings Justice to N.C. Tobacco Farm Workers

ITUC photo

Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) President Baldemar Velasquez’s appearance before British American Tobacco’s shareholders meeting in London on Wednesday kicks off a new intensive campaign to win justice and workers’ rights for thousands of farm workers in North Carolina.

Many farm workers who harvest and tend tobacco often live in labor camps with inadequate or nonfunctioning toilets and showers and other substandard conditions, suffer from illnesses resulting from nicotine poisoning and exposure to dangerous pesticides and work long hours for below-poverty wages.

Velasquez says the new initiative “will ensure Reynolds American takes real action to give American farm workers the voice they deserve.”

At the London meeting Velasquez and a number of allies, including the AFL-CIO and the global union movement, will urge British American Tobacco to use its influence as a 42% stakeholder in Reynolds American Inc. (and a major customer) to persuade Reynolds to respect and protect the human and workers’ rights of its migrant tobacco farm workers and to meet international labor standards, including the right to freedom of association and worker representation.

On May 8, several hundred FLOC members and supporters will march and rally outside the Reynolds American’s shareholder meeting in Raleigh, N.C. On that day, more than 50 FLOC supporters, including the NAACP and other civil rights and faith leaders will question Reynolds American CEO Daniel Delen about what FLOC says is his failure to guarantee freedom of association.

This summer, FLOC organizers and members will reach out to the estimated 5,000 North Carolina farm workers in the tobacco industry and help them gain a voice on the job. The “Respect, Recognition, Raise!” campaign will highlight farm worker demands for dignified working conditions and adequate housing, recognition of the right to join a union and negotiate with their employer for fair terms and the raising of wages to an equal and fair wage for all workers.

In late July, two of the 41 members of the British Parliament who have supported the fight for farm worker justice, will join Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and FLOC leaders in tour of the tobacco labor camps.

Click here and sign a petition from the International Union of Food Workers (IUF) to British American Tobacco Chairman Richard Burrows asking him to urge Reynolds to guarantee the human right to freedom of association and worker representation on its contract farms by signing an agreement with FLOC.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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