Earlier today, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) spoke at a Center for American Progress (CAP) event about Republican attempts to use Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) as a way to cut and undercut the whole Social Security system. Rather than sticking with the conventional wisdom that Republicans, the media and even some Democrats cling to, Brown argues that what we should be doing now is not just protecting Social Security and SSDI, we should be expanding the programs.
Here are 13 important facts about SSDI you need to know to counter the right-wing spin:
1. SSDI provides protection for 90% of America’s workers and their families if a life-changing disability or illness stops them from being able to work and bring in enough money.
2. SSDI pays modest benefits, averaging just $1,140 per month, less than most workers make before they qualify for the program.
3. For 80% of beneficiaries, SSDI is the primary or only source of income, and it provides a drastic increase in the quality of life of recipients who might otherwise live in poverty.
4. The eligibility criteria for SSDI are among the strictest in the world and fewer than 40% of applicants are approved.
5. Nearly 20% of beneficiaries die within five years of first obtaining benefits.
6. Nearly 9 million workers with disabilities receive SSDI benefits, including more than 1 million veterans. More than 150,000 spouses and nearly 2 million children also receive benefits.
7. Beneficiaries pay into SSDI as a portion of their Social Security payroll tax. The current tax rate is 6.2% on the first $117,000 of earnings a worker makes. 5.3% goes to the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund (OASI), the rest goes to the SSDI Trust Fund.
8. Only one-third of private-sector workers has employer-provided long-term disability insurance, and most of those plans often provide less than SSDI. Only 7% of workers who make $12 per hour or less have such insurance. Most private long-term disability insurance plans are too costly for most workers.
9. Most beneficiaries are in their 50s and 60s, with the average age being 53.
10. Fewer than 4% of beneficiaries earned more than $10,000 during the year.
11. The United States ranks 30 out of 34 OECD member countries in terms of replacement benefit payouts for workers with disabilities.
12. A temporary reallocation of how the 6.2% payroll tax is divided between SSDI and OASI would ensure that both trust funds would be able to remain fully solvent until 2033 and would alleviate the shortage in SSDI funds caused by demographic trends.
13. Beneficiaries face a wide range of significant disabilities, with many having multiple impairments, which include:
- 31.8% have a “primary diagnosis” of a mental impairment, including 4.2% with intellectual disabilities and 27.6% with other types of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or severe depression.
- 29.8% have a musculoskeletal or connective tissue disorder.
- 8.7% have a cardiovascular condition such as chronic heart failure.
- 9.3% have a disorder of the nervous system, such as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis, or a sensory impairment such as deafness or blindness.
- 20.4% include workers living with cancers; infectious diseases; injuries; genitourinary impairments such as end stage renal disease; congenital disorders; metabolic and endocrine diseases such as diabetes; diseases of the respiratory system; and diseases of other body systems
Watch the entire event with Sen. Brown and a distinguished panel of experts on Social Security and SSDI. You also can read CAP’s full report on SSDI.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, disability, Health Care, Ohio, secure retirement, Sherrod Brown, social security
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama will visit the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York, where he will call on more federal spending for infrastructure projects. Obama has made numerous proposals to increase spending on bridges, roads and other infrastructure projects, but Republicans in Congress have blocked those efforts. The Tappan Zee Bridge is currently in the process of being replaced, financed by a record $1.6 billion federal loan. The old bridge, which opened in 1955, has fallen into disrepair and is serving a daily capacity above what it was designed for. While Congress has failed to provide the funds needed to move forward, Obama is using alternate methods, such as the loan, to help rebuild the country’s crumbling infrastructure.
“The President will also highlight efforts by the administration to cut through red tape and modernize the federal infrastructure permitting process, and reduce project approval time lines,” the White House official said.
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden will appear in Cleveland to give a speech on similar themes of investing in infrastructure and the economy.
As part of Infrastructure Week 2014, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will speak at a rally on Thursday in front of the AFL-CIO headquarters about the vital need for upgrading our infrastructure and the positive impact doing so will have on the economy.
Putting money in roads and bridges is like planting seed corn. Investing in good jobs yields a good return. When you put seed in the ground, you get something to harvest. When you put cement in the ground, you get roads. When you put steel in the ground, you get train tracks. You get it. But if you don’t put that seed in the ground, that’s not smart. It’s not sensible. It’s not “thinking like business.” It’s cutting yourself off at the knees. And that’s what these politicians are doing to the American economy….
Trumka pointed to a recent American Society of Civil Engineers report that said the country needs to spend $3.6 trillion just to make sure that our current infrastructure doesn’t fall apart, with a similar investment needed to create the next generation infrastructure that will grow the economy.
Follow updates on infrastructure week on Twitter using the hashtag #RebuildRenew and learn more about Thursday’s Jobs and Infrastructure Rally in Washington, D.C., here.
Tags: aflcio, Barack Obama, Cleveland, infrastructure, Jobs, Joe Biden, New York, Ohio, Richard Trumka
The myth put forth by private prison corporations like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group that private prisons are cheaper than public prisons is shattered by a new report from In the Public Interest, thus undercutting the primary rationale for prison privatization efforts across the country. When pushing for contracts with the many states that use private prisons, these corporations claim they are the better option because they can run prisons more cheaply than the government can. But this report not only dispels that idea, it highlights some of the less-than-savory activities the corporations engage in because of the perverse incentives created by these contracts.
The report details several methods through which private prison companies mislead governments and the public about their supposed cost savings, particularly hiding costs of private prisons, inflating public prison costs, benefiting from mandated occupancy minimums and delaying cost increases until after contracts are signed.
Numerous studies have shown that private prisons are more expensive than their publicly run counterparts. The report details a series of meta-analyses of individual studies conducted on the comparative costs between public and private prisons, and all of them found that cost savings, at best, were minimal for private prisons—in many cases, private prisons were more expensive. One of the few studies that showed private prisons to be more cost-effective was funded by the prison companies and is currently the subject of an ethics inquiry at Temple University. A close examination of many of the states that have invested heavily in prison privatization has shown the failure of the “private prisons are cheaper” idea:
- Arizona: The state found private prisons can cost up to $1,600 per prisoner per year, despite private prisons often only housing the healthiest prisoners.
- Florida: Three separate multiyear studies found the majority of the private prisons in the state failed to meet the legally mandated 7% cost savings, while half of the private prisons failed to save any money at all.
- Georgia: In 2011, private prisons cost the state $45.81 per prisoner per day, compared with $44.51 per prisoner per day in publicly run prisons.
- Hawaii: The state found the projected savings of using private prison contractors were based on bed capacity rather than the actual number of people incarcerated and that indirect administration costs were not included.
- New Mexico: Over a five-year period, the state saw its annual spending on private prisons increase by 57% while the prisoner population only increased 21%. A significant portion of the increase was because of automatic price increases included in contracts with the private prison corporations.
- Ohio: The state expected the private operation of the Lake Erie Correctional Institution would save the state $2.4 million a year, but it has turned out to instead cost the state $380,000 to $700,000 a year.
As the report notes:
To maximize returns for their investors, for-profit prison companies have perverse incentives to cut costs in vital areas such as security personnel, medical care and programming, threatening the health and safety of prisoners and staff.
There are several different reasons that savings fail to materialize. CCA and other companies explicitly seek to increase their profits by changing the details of previously signed contracts. They do this by raising the per diem rates the state pays for each prisoner or by requiring occupancy rates of 90% or higher or the state pays for the empty cells in order to reach the required level. Private prison companies cherry pick their inmates and refuse to house more expensive prisoners. Many contracts exclude those higher-cost prisoners, such as those in maximum security, on death row, female prisoners or prisoners that have serious medical or mental health conditions. Companies also make their costs look lower by inflating the cost of public incarceration when making their sales pitch. They can do this by leaving out overhead costs in their prisons, not including costs the state has to pay in either public or private scenarios in the private prison cost but keeping them in the public prison cost calculation, and leaving out the additional costs of overseeing and monitoring private prisons that the state must engage in if it properly oversees its contractors.
At its national convention last year, the AFL-CIO came out in opposition to the privatization of prisons and the profit motive being used to increase incarceration.
Read the full report.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, hawaii, New Mexico, Ohio, outsourcing, private prisons, privatization, Public Safety, public services, public workers, Rights At Work
Anonymous extremists in the Ohio legislature are attempting to change the laws to increase the influence of independent groups in government and make it harder for average Ohioans to know what their government is doing or have any influence on that government.
According to Tim Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO, an anonymous amendment was submitted to a bill currently before the legislature that would eliminate an administrative rule governing campaign finance. This would mean that contractors working for or attempting to work for the state can spend money trying to influence the outcome of elections of the very people who would potentially give them state contracts. Furthermore, Burga said the repeal of the administrative rule would make groups that make independent election expenditures no longer required to disclose who made contributions to them.
Burga condemned the amendment:
This amendment will further tilt the field toward the rich and powerful and their de facto control in running state government. The average Ohioan stands to lose in this arrangement as candidates and elected officials will increasingly turn to independent groups, as opposed to their constituents, for guidance on how to govern our state. We need a state government that is more responsive to the needs of Ohio at large, not less. Therefore, we need to move toward a system of campaign finance that increases the scrutiny of the dark money that is flowing into our state to influence our politics.
The irony should not be lost on any of us that this anonymous amendment was likely written by some of the very independent groups it seeks to empower, and it is doubtful any legislators have heard from their constituents clamoring for such changes to our election laws.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Corporate Accountability, Ohio, voting rights
With a few days to go for Ohio’s uninsured to get signed up on the health insurance exchange, I’m poking my head out of the trenches to report back on my experience signing people up, and to let PB readers in Cincinnati and Canton know how they can enroll before the deadline.
I’ve been with Working America since enrollment began. We’re Champions of Coverage, meaning that our role is to identify uninsured Ohioans and make sure they have the information that they need in order to get signed up.
Primarily, we’re setting up enrollment fairs, where people can get help with the application, talk to a licensed insurance agent about the plans that are available, and sign up for coverage on the spot. And by signing up with a licensed agent through the Working America Health Care program, you’re joining thousands of others to advocate to continuously improve the health coverage that you receive.
Here’s a list of our enrollment events: make sure your friends know about them!
But, enough plugging. Here are two lists: one for wonky readers and one for activist readers…
Four Things I’ve Learned While Signing People Up
1. People are happy with their premium. One of the biggest questions about ACA was whether people would feel like they’re getting a good deal. I’ve only talked to one person that didn’t like his premium, and he was one of the few that didn’t get a subsidy. He was still paying less than he did before, he just wanted it lower.
Almost everybody else feels like they’re getting a good deal.
2. People are not happy with the coverage their job provides. I get an awful lot of sign-ups from people whose job offers them a worse deal than they would get on the exchange. They’re either unhappy with the deductible, the premium, or the network. They want to sign up on the health exchange, but they don’t get a discount because they’re covered through work.
3. Ohioans haven’t heard anything about the law. Part of my rap is “what have you heard about signing up for coverage?” and still most people say “this is the first I’ve heard about the Affordable Care Act”. People are surprised to hear that they have to sign up, and even more surprised that they only have until March 31 to sign up.
4. I’ve stopped calling it Obamacare. People think that “Obamacare” is a plan that you enroll in, like Medicare or Medicaid. Calling it Obamacare makes it harder to explain that they may just be eligible to get a discount on the same private insurance plans that were available a year ago.
When I tell people that “Obamacare” is just potential money that they use to buy private insurance, they all wonder what the big deal was.
And or activists…
Three Things Uninsured People Need To Know Before They Get Penalized
1. After March 31, you can’t sign up. Not only is March 31 the last day to go uninsured without paying a fine, but you also can’t sign up after March 31. The next open enrollment period starts in November for 2015 coverage.
You can enroll in Medicaid at any time, but full time workers likely make too much for Medicaid.
2. You pay for your insurance on a sliding scale. I don’t know why it’s taken so long to get the rap this short, but I describe ACA as “the less you make, the less you have to pay for coverage”.
Most uninsured people have been to a clinic or provider that charges based on income. That’s similar to how the health exchange works when it says “you may be eligible for a tax credit”.
3. Full time + minimum wage = really cheap plans. A full-time minimum wage worker earns $16,536 a year. That person’s Silver plan should be $50 a month, and a Bronze between $1 and $33 a month, depending on age and where she lives. Anything less than 40 hours a week at minimum wage would make her eligible for Medicaid.
Reposted from Plunderbund
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Health Care, obamacare, Ohio
If the United States acted forcefully to end currency manipulation by China and other nations—and there is legislation to provide the government the tools to do so—it could create as many as 5.8 million jobs (40% in manufacturing) and reduce the nation’s trade deficit by as much as 72.5%, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
Currency manipulation is the largest single cause of the U.S. trade deficit, and the Chinese government is the world’s biggest currency manipulator. It deliberately keeps the value of its currency artificially low and that artificially raises the price of U.S. exports to China and suppresses the price of Chinese imports into the United States. This artificial price advantage is one of many pull factors that encourages U.S. businesses to shut down operations here and manufacture in China instead. Says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:
U.S. workers can compete with anyone in the world, but they cannot compete successfully on a lopsided playing field. [Currency manipulation] is a major contributing factor in our lopsided trade relationship with China. Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturing companies and workers bear the brunt of these unfair policies.
The EPI report finds that:
- Eliminating currency manipulation would reduce the U.S. trade deficit by $200 billion in three years under a “low-impact” scenario and $500 billion under a “high-impact scenario.” This would increase annual U.S. GDP by between $288 billion and $720 billion (between 2.0% and 4.9%).
- The reduction of U.S. trade deficits and expansion of U.S. GDP would create 2.3 million to 5.8 million jobs, reducing the U.S. jobs deficit by between 28.8% and 72.5%.
- About 40% of the jobs gained would be in manufacturing, which would gain between 891,500 and 2,337,300 jobs. Agriculture also would gain 246,800 to 486,100 jobs, heavily affecting some rural areas.
Read the full EPI report here.
Bipartisan legislation in Congress (H.R. 1267 and S. 1114) would crack down on currency exchange rate manipulation and hold countries that manipulate their currencies accountable. Trumka says:
We call on Congress to fight on the side of American workers and domestic manufacturers and farmers to put an end to currency manipulation now.
While China is the largest currency manipulator, other nations do so, too. Japan, which is one the 12 TPP nations, (China is not involved) has been accused of weakening the value of the yen to benefit its auto industry.
Currently Japan exports some 130 cars to the United States for every car that U.S. automakers export to Japan. One of the major reason for that imbalance is currency manipulation says the UAW.
As a consequence of Japanese government currency intervention, in a market such as the United States, Japanese imports have seen several thousand dollars in effective subsidies while, at the same time, exports from the United States to Japan have seen several thousand dollars in added costs….The impact of these policies undermines American auto exports and American jobs and the investment they support.
Yesterday, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), both sponsors of S. 1114, said that without currency manipulation rules as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade and investment agreement and other pending trade agreements, Congress is unlikely to approve the trade bills. Says Brown:
The trade agenda is not moving until currency is part of it.
The Obama administration’s is pushing to have the TPP agreement considered under Fast Track rules in Congress.
Under the Fast Track process, Congress can only vote yes or no on the full agreement. It cannot amend or improve the bill.
Sign the petition to Congress to stop bad Fast Track trade deals over the next four years, including the TPP.
Also, if you haven’t signed a letter for a better TPP, do it here.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: china, Jobs, Michigan, Ohio, Sandy Levin, Sherrod Brown, tpp, trade, uaw
In the past few weeks, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has shown a lot of love and respect for the 11 Illinois residents who recently competed for the United States at the Winter Olympic Games. Check out his Facebook page. But, as many people who have left their comments there say, it’s time for Kirk to show some of the same respect and compassion for the state’s more than 99,000 jobless workers who lost their emergency unemployment benefits in December.
Call Kirk at 845-809-4509 if you live in Illinois and tell him the same thing.
You see, like the more than 1.7 million unemployed workers across the country, many jobless Illinois workers are no long receiving unemployment benefits because Republicans in Congress allowed the federal emergency unemployment benefits program to expire Dec. 31, and Kirk was one of the majority of Republicans who voted against renewing the program in January and again this month.
But, as soon as Thursday, Kirk and other Republicans will have a chance to do the right thing and vote on a bill to restore the emergency unemployment benefits program that provides a lifeline to workers after their state benefits run out—usually 26 weeks, but now less than that in many states, thanks to Republican state lawmakers.
Kirk—who has indicated he might support a restoration—is a key vote, along with Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.). If you live in Illinois, Ohio or Indiana, please call Kirk, Portman or Coats today at 845-809-4509 and tell them hundreds of thousands of their constituents and more than 1.7 million Americans need their votes. No matter where you live, please call your senators using the number above and tell them the same thing. Another 1.9 million Americans will out of benefits by June if the program is not restored.
Here are just a few examples of what Illinois voters are telling Kirk on his Facebook page:
Annie Kiser: You have MANY Republican constituents out of work 26+ weeks. THEY VOTE and your “no” on #EUC will cost you, Mr. Kirk #RENEWUI
Annemarie Purcell Diola: Please push for the extended unemployment benefits as soon as possible. My unemployment ran out the 3rd week of December, where I was approved for 10 weeks of Tier 1 EUC, was only able to collect 1 week of it. I have worked my entire life and followed the rules, but my family is suffering!
Michael Greenberger: And A LOT of veterans were unemployed when you PULLED THE RUG OUT FROM UNDER THEM. Why don’t you support jobless people?
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Dan Coats, Illinois, Indiana, Mark Kirk, Ohio, olympics, Rob Portman, unemployment insurance
Last week, the Ohio House of Representatives pushed through two voter suppression bills, previously passed by the state Senate, that would reduce early voting and restrict absentee ballot access. Gov. John Kasich (R) signed the bills into law Friday night. Supporters claim the bills were necessary to prevent voter fraud and to save public resources. Reality says otherwise.
As has been found in other states, claims of voter fraud are largely baseless and almost certainly not widespread enough to affect the outcome of elections or warrant such restrictive bills that would prevent eligible voters from casting their ballot. AFL-CIO’s Michael Gillis describes the situation in Ohio: “Voter fraud in Ohio has been found to be practically non-existent. Cases of voter fraud investigated represented less than five one-thousandths of 1 percent of the 5.6 million ballots cast in Ohio in the 2012 election. Even then, most of those cases were dismissed.”
Gillis notes that the legislation will make it more difficult for students, seniors, people of color and other constituencies to vote. The Toledo Blade agreed with this assessment when it opposed the bills late last year:
But the bill is a solution in search of a problem, because the “evidence” advocates cite of voting irregularities is more anecdotal than systemic. Eliminating the dual activity will simply make it more cumbersome for new voters to exercise their franchise.
The “saving money” argument also fails to pass a basic logic test. Gillis continues:
And as for the “limited public resources” argument, can we no longer afford the most basic democratic functions of our government? The answer to this question should be obvious, if not to the Ohio GOP. One Republican legislator went as far as to say that opposition to these vote suppression bills is “intellectually lazy and highly offensive.” They pretend to be guardians of the ballot when indeed they are undermining the democratic process and are trampling on the most basic civil right we have as citizens.
The Ohio Voter Rights Coalition goes into greater detail with the flaws of these two bills in a letter that asked Kasich to veto the bills.
For many decades, women and [people of color] fought for the right to equally participate in the franchise. Ohio had been on the right path to continuing to provide access to fair elections. These bills are taking us in the wrong direction, yet you, Governor, can stand up for voters and for democracy by vetoing S.B. 205 and S.B. 238 to prevent the erection of barriers to the ballot box and more importantly the establishment of procedures that undoubtedly will cost qualified voters the right to have their votes counted. We hope we can count on your support to expand, rather than reduce, voter rights.
It’s hard to imagine what Kasich’s real motivations might be in preventing Democratic-leaning voters from casting their ballot. Gillis lays it out:
The irony that the first election that these laws will impact is the Governor’s re-election bid is not lost on Ohioans. A Quinnipiac poll this week showed Governor Kasich polling at just 43 percent and has been losing ground to his challenger, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. Given his shriveling popularity in the state, will the governor have the political courage to stand up for the voting rights of those he intends to govern or will he cynically narrow voting rights in his own political interest? Ohioans are watching and so should all who are interested in a functional and unfettered democracy.
The new laws will be in effect before ballots begin being cast in the 2014 governor’s race.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: John Kasich, Ohio, voting rights
Politico Magazine released a comprehensive report comparing all 50 states using 14 different indicators of quality of life. In their ranking, the five bottom states (Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama) are all so-called “right to work” states.
Four out of five of the states with the highest quality of living, according to the study, are free bargaining states: New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont, and Massachusetts.
The study confirmed something that more and more working Americans are learning every day: “right to work” laws are wrong for everyone.
Quick review: “Right to work” laws require unions to extend their services to all employees in a bargaining unit, whether or not they pay dues. By making dues optional, “right to work” laws force unions to spend more resources on collecting dues than on advocating for their members–both at the workplace and in the political arena. It’s a roundabout method of de-funding unions that has been instituted in 24 states.
The Politico Magazine study used rankings from the Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI, and data on math and reading scores, average income, life expectancy, crime, home ownership, infant mortality, and more.
As 2014 kicks off with legislators and big-money donors pushing “right to work” and other collective bargaining restrictions in–at the very least–Missouri, Oregon, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, it’s important to make it very clear what effects these laws actually have, versus what their proponents claim they have.
A few effects of “right to work” are not disputed by its proponents. The key sponsors of the collective bargaining restrictions Missouri, for instance, openly admit that wages would go down if the law is passed. Indeed, wages in “right to work” states are 3.2 percent lower that in free bargaining states. Essentially, it’s like the average worker is paying an annual $1,500 fee for living in a “right to work” state. (Other reports have found “right to work” states have higher poverty rates, fewer workers with employer-based health insurance, and higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities.)
But when you combine income with a host of other factors, as the Politico Magazine ranking does, the picture doesn’t get better for “right to work” states. Overall, 15 “right to work” states rank in the bottom 20.
The Politico Magazine ranking is not the definitive scientific report on quality of life. But it does confirm yet again that in places where workers’ right to organize is deceptively circumvented and wages decrease, other important life-quality factors decrease as well.
As legislators push these laws across the country, we should consistently require proof to back up their claims. The actual numbers don’t look too good for them.
Tags: Alabama, ALEC, arkansas, louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Right to Work, Rights At Work, Tennessee, Vermont, wages
A year ago, in one of the most shocking reversals in the state’s history, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a “right to work” bill into law behind closed doors as more than 12,000 protesters raged outside.
Right wing groups crowed, saying union restrictions in the home of the auto industry meant the labor movement was on its last legs. They talked about which states would go next.
And then, nothing.
Well, not nothing. But what anti-worker pundits said would be a domino effect was more like a cricket effect. In 2013, no state passed a “right to work” law.
Incorrectly-named “right to work” laws put restrictions on contracts union workers can make with employers. They ban fair share clauses which require that workers pay dues to have the protection of the union. Unions are left in the position of providing services without being able to fund those services, and they starve.
“Right to work” laws have nothing to do with freedom. They are simply a tactic to defund unions and weaken the ability of workers to advocate for themselves. And it shows: states with “right to work” laws have lower wages, higher poverty rates, and more workplace injuries and fatalities than free bargaining states.
In 2013, workers didn’t stand for it.
In Missouri, where Republicans controlled supermajorities in both the state House and Senate, some legislators pursued a “paycheck deception” bill, which restricts unions’ ability to make political contributions. Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) called it a step toward a “right to work law.” Based heavily on an ALEC model bill, paycheck deception moved swiftly through Republican-lead committees.
But workers, union and non-union (including hundreds of Working America members), made their voices heard. Emails, letters, and phone calls flooded legislative offices in Jefferson City. The bill passed the Senate after an 8-hour Democratic filibuster, but House legislators were getting skittish. Bill proponents were having a hard time answering simple questions about why additional restrictions on union dues were needed. Support for the bill dwindled with each test vote.
“Paycheck deception” passed the House by a narrower than expected margin, and Speaker Jones prepared to move on to “right to work.” But Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed paycheck deception, calling it unnecessary. By the September veto session, too many moderate Republicans had abandoned the effort, and the bill died outright.
Did Republicans get the message? Absolutely not. In December special session centered around tax incentives for Boeing, a small group tried and failed to insert “right to work” language. ALEC member Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Springfield) called it “a good opportunity to begin that fight” ahead of 2014.
In Ohio, the anti-union effort has centered around gathering petitions to get “right to work” on the 2014 ballot. As we know, you need to get a certain number of signatures to get an issue on the ballot. For Ohio, that number is 385,000, and you always want extra signatures in case some are validated.
The Tea Party group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom started circulating petitions in February 2012. After 20 months, they announced they have collected 100,000 signatures.
At this rate, as Ohio bloggers at Plunderbund noted, the anti-union group would need 40 m0re months to put “right to work” on the ballot. And since they’ve already burned through $118,000 in paid petition gatherers, chances are they’d run out of money first.
Let’s compare that with 2011, when Gov. John Kasich and Republicans in the legislative rammed through the union-busting Senate Bill 5. The bill passed on March 30. On June 29, after only 3 months, We Are Ohio delivered 1.3 million signatures to the Secretary of State to get a repeal of SB 5 on the ballot. In November, SB 5 was repealed by 60 percent of voters.
What’s going on here? What the Tea Party and the anti-union forces in Ohio don’t get is that once you get past a small group of billionaires and right-wing ideologues, there is no desire to restrict collective bargaining in Ohio. None. People are looking for good jobs, affordable health care, and decent schools to send their kids.
Meanwhile, the 2011 battle over Senate Bill 5, largely ignored by the national media, still reverberates throughout the Buckeye State. Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican supporter of SB 5, lost a Senate bid despite more than $19 million in outside aide. Mitt Romney haplessly flip-flopped on SB 5 and consistently delivered an anti-union message, lost in Ohio in part because of union members of all political stripes voting for his opponent. And in 2013, SB 5 supporter Toledo Mayor Mike Bell was ousted, while a Tea Party-backed pension-cutting amendment was rejected in Cincinnati by a 57-point margin.
In Oregon, the story is even shorter. An Portland attorney named Jill Gibson Odell is sponsoring a “right to work” initiative in her state. Odell is excited about the “national money to be had” to assist her campaign, so she’s not even pretending “right to work” is something Oregonians themselves want. In 2013, little to no progress was made on getting the issue on the ballot, and popular Gov. John Kitzhaber said he will publicly oppose it. Meanwhile, workers in Portland got paid sick days, and a statewide sick leave ordinance is expected to pass in 2014.
What to expect in 2014? Well, as the AP reports, the main targets for “right to work” proponents are Missouri, Ohio, and Oregon, showing that these folks have learned nothing from the past year. While their efforts stall, Americans of all political persuasions are starting to support minimum wage increases, sick leave, wage theft protections, and progressive tax codes in increasing numbers.
Working America will be vigilant to mobilize against any “right to work” measure, wherever it crops up. But make no mistake: Michigan wasn’t the start of a domino effect. It was a wake up call. And outside the right-wing think tank bubble, American workers are fully awake.
Photo by detroitfreepress on Instagram
Tags: ALEC, Eric Burlison, Jay Nixon, Jobs, John Kasich, john kitzhaber, Josh Mandel, Michigan, Mike Bell, Missouri, Mitt Romney, Ohio, Oregon, Paid Sick Days, paycheck deception, Right to Work, Rights At Work, SB5, Tim Jones