Most Wisconsin Republican Senators Who Support Limiting Early Voting Rights Have Voted Early Themselves

In a stunning display of hypocrisy, 15 of the 17 Wisconsin state senators who voted to restrict early voting hours in Wisconsin have themselves voted early.  Senate Bill 324 would prohibit voters from casting their ballots early before 8 a.m. or after 7 p.m. on weekdays or at any time on weekends. The total number of hours that early voting ballots, which are submitted as absentee ballots, can be accepted under the legislation cannot exceed 45 hours a week.

Scott Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, condemned the hypocrisy:

That these senators would vote to make it harder for their fellow citizens to cast an early ballot in elections, just as almost every single one of them has, is an almost unbelievable act of hypocrisy….Elections are the one time everyone—regardless of age, race or income—is equal. Our government ought to be making it as convenient as possible for legal voters to participate in our democracy. But apparently these Republican senators believe they deserve to be more equal than others.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , ,

Don’t Be Fooled: Insurance Companies, Stubborn Politicians Are Behind High Insurance Premiums

blog_fiorehc

The health insurance industry is reacting badly to President Obama’s announced health care “fix” — which would allow customers to keep health plans that may not meet minimum standards.

“This decision continues different rules for different policies and threatens to undermine the new market, and may lead to higher premiums and market disruptions in 2014 and beyond,” said Jim Donelon, president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

That response lead cartoonist Mark Fiore to ask: when doesn’t the health insurance industry react to an event by raising premiums?

Remember during the health insurance Wild West before health care reform, when premiums were skyrocketing, not to mention loads of people getting dropped from their plans? Remember leading up to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, when premiums rose? That suddenly seems like so long ago. Remember the insurance companies complaining about rising premiums before? Me neither.

Mark Fiore’s cartoon above, “A message from the Health Insurers of America,” is a good reminder that private insurance companies are responsible for high premiums, and that they will take the opportunity to pad their profits more often than not.

Since I am a self-employed cartoonist, I’ve been living in the health insurance wilderness for quite a while. My family’s plan was canceled, like all those other people you’ve heard about lately.

Fiore’s solution? Kicking his old insurance company to the curb and getting a better deal from his state’s new health exchange, California Covered — even more affordable with subsidies.

Since I’m not holding my breath that my insurance provider will “un-cancel” me, let alone offer my previous plan at the same price, off to California Covered I go! Once I’m there, thanks to generous subsidies, my premium will be lower than before. Ah, America!

Do insurance companies deserve all the blame? No sir. You can also lay the burden at the feet of Republican governors and legislators who have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, leaving more than 5 million Americans without access to affordable coverage. That means more people using the emergency room, which means higher overall health care costs, which means — you guessed it — higher premiums for everyone.

If you don’t believe the effect that stubborn governors can have on health care costs, just compare average premiums in Minnesota (Medicaid expanded) and Wisconsin (Gov. Scott Walker refuses Medicaid expansion). Due to the difference in Medicaid eligibility and a better review of rates in Minnesota, the average Wisconsinite is paying $1,800 more than the average Minnesotan.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Here’s Why Governor Sean Parnell Is Wrong To Leave 40,000 Alaskans Without Affordable Coverage

Screen Shot 2013-11-17 at 5.26.29 PM

Alaska’s Republican Governor Sean Parnell announced Friday that he would be refusing federal funds to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and others who have made a similar decision, Gov. Parnell described his decision in vague terms:

Parnell said the Affordable Care Act involved a combination of parts.

“Many of those pieces are failing,” Parnell said. “Can states trust the federal government to not cut and run on its share?”

He described Medicaid as already one of the state’s most costly programs.

That’s why the federal government is paying for 100 percent of Medicaid expansion until 2020, at which point they’ll pay for 90 percent. Gov. Parnell is refusing a policy that will come at no cost to his state for years.

As for the “pieces” of the Affordable Care Act that Gov. Parnell says are “failing,” it’s certain that Medicaid expansion is working quite well.

The number of people lacking health insurance in Oregon, for instance, was halved in just two weeks, with more than 60,000 people signing up.

Kentucky has one of the most successful health insurance exchanges in the country, with more than 5,000 enrollees in the first month. But even there, five times as many people have successfully joined the Medicaid rolls.

While the private insurance-based Health Insurance Marketplace has had an uneasy rollout, the public, single payer-esque Medicaid expansion has worked phenomenally. If Gov. Parnell was serious about implementing parts of the law with a proven record, he would accept Medicaid expansion in a heartbeat.

But like Govs. Walker, Perry, McCrory and others, Parnell is less interested in giving his constituents access to affordable health insurance than he is in making a political statement. And as a result, insurance premiums are higher for everyone, and thousands remain unable to access the care they need.

Photo by wonderlane on Flickr

Tags: , , , , , , ,

What’s Behind Wisconsin’s High Health Insurance Premiums? His Name Is Scott Walker

blog_walkerpremiums

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s rejection of federal Medicaid money and his “hands-off approach to rate regulation” has lead to higher than average health insurance premiums in the Badger State.

How high? Up to 99 percent higher than in its neighbor (and longtime rival in all things) Minnesota.

Robert Kraig, the executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said a report he co-authored shows that “rates are much higher in Wisconsin than in Minnesota, despite having similar geographies and similar underlying medical costs.”

Kraig said Wisconsin insurance exchange premiums for a single person are an average of 79 percent to 99 percent higher than premiums in Minnesota, before tax credits are applied. He said the average Wisconsinite will pay $1,800 more annually for health care.

Wisconsin is one of the more than two dozen states whose governors or legislators have blocked federally funded Medicaid expansion.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government is assisting states with expanding Medicaid coverage to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, closing the gap between those who qualify for traditional Medicaid coverage and those who can buy health insurance on the state exchanges. Many states, including Minnesota, have accepted the expansion as a no-brainer.

But as part of the Supreme Court’s decision last June, states cannot be required to accept these federal funds, leading many governors like Texas Gov. Perry, Virginia’s Bob McDonnell, and Wisconsin’s Walker to “stand up to Obamacare” by saying no to these funds.

So in states like Wisconsin, the coverage gap persists, pushing about 92,000 low-income Wisconsinites onto the health exchanges. Low-income people, on average, have more medical needs, so adding thousands of them to the exchange pool leads to higher premiums — for everyone.

In Milwaukee, average cost of health insurance is 112 percent higher than Minnesota’s average; in La Crosse, WI, it’s 136 percent higher. Yikes.

It’s not just the Medicaid expansion. Under Gov. Walker, Wisconsin’s Office of the Commissioner of Insurance has been very laissez-faire about challenging insurance rates, while Minnesota has “exercised a rigorous rate of review,” according to the Cap Times. Kraig’s study found that such reviews have lowered Minnesota’s rates by up to 37 percent. “We have taken in Wisconsin a clearinghouse approach,” Kraig said, “The insurance company says, ‘Here’s our rate in the exchange’ and the state of Wisconsin says ,’OK.’”

Back to Scott Walker. Not only is Walker up for reelection next year, he’s also laying groundwork for a presidential campaign. Accepting Medicaid expansion through Obamacare would be an anathema to Walker’s Tea Party base and his corporate backers; he can’t say that out loud, which is why his explanation for rejecting the funds has been vague and elusive.

By rejecting Medicaid for ideological and political reasons, Walker is continuing the pattern he’s held since taking office: it doesn’t matter if it makes life worse for Wisconsinites, it only matters that he holds onto power.

Tell Gov. Walker to end the games: accept federal funds for Medicaid now.

Tags: , , , , ,

Scott Walker Unironically Tweets About Labor Day. We Respond.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made himself a household name when in 2011 he worked with his legislative allies to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers. At the time he said this would help the state create jobs, but later told his donors it was part of a “divide and conquer” strategy to destroy his opposition.

Over the next two and a half years, Gov. Walker worked around the clock to make life harder for Wisconsin workers: killing the state earned income tax credit, using relief for foreclosure fraud victims to plug holes in his budget, cutting the state’s BadgerCare health insurance program, shifting funds from public to private education, banning cities and towns from making their own sick days ordinances, and attempting to end same-day voter registration and enact strict voter ID laws.

He is now making a name for himself by passing the back for his state’s job crisis, arresting people for singing, and for wanting really badly to be president.

So when Gov. Scott Walker, who has worked around the clock to destroy the labor movement in Wisconsin, tweeted “Happy Labor Day!” yesterday, the responses came fast and uniformly furious.

At Working America, we hypothesized that maybe Gov. Walker was confused about what Labor Day was. Labor Day celebrates all that has been accomplished by workers who have banded together for a better life; accomplishments like fair wages, sick days, health care, voting rights, and corporate accountability. Accomplishments that Gov. Walker has made a career of rolling back.

We decided to respond to Gov. Walker’s Labor Day tweet by borrowing a phrase from The Princess Bride’s Inigo Montoya. Retweet if you agree.

Tags: , , , ,

14 Worker Struggles To Pay Attention To This Labor Day

Sure, to some people #LaborDayIs about barbecues and fashion rules. But #LaborDayIs also about, you know, labor. Today, workers across the country are struggling for decent wages, safe workplaces, affordable healthcare, and even basic civil rights.

North Carolina’s Moral Monday

North Carolina's Moral Monday

Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) and the North Carolina legislature have passed huge cuts to state unemployment insurance, an overhaul of the state tax code, big education cuts and the nation’s strictest voting restrictions. Lead by the NC NAACP’s Rev. William Barber, North Carolinans of all stripes have gathered by the thousands to for huge weekly “Moral Monday” protests to stand up to Gov. McCrory’s agenda.

Learn more about Moral Monday and check out some sweet protest photos.

Oh and thanks to @sherierb for the thumbnail photo.

The Wisconsin Solidarity Singers


The Wisconsin Solidarity Singers
After the huge protests in 2011 against Wisconsin’s new collective bargaining restrictions, Gov. Scott Walker and his allies changed the rules at the state Capitol Building in Madison, requiring protesters to have permits. His reasoning? Um, none.

The Wisconsin Solidarity Singers had been gathering in the Capitol every day to protest the Walker agenda through song, and suddenly their gatherings were illegal. Singers started getting arrested. In response, hundreds of Wisconsinites joined their singing brethren to stand up to the ridiculousness of the arrests and the broader anti-worker Walker agenda.

Learn more about the Solidarity Singalong and read more intrepid reporting on the protests from John Nichols.

The fast food strikers

The fast food strikers

tumblr.com

On August 29, fast food workers in 58 (!!!) cities went on strike for better wages and a voice at the workplace. Learn more from Josh Eidelson and check out some awesome strike photos on our Tumblr.

Walmart associates seeking respect

Walmart associates seeking respect

Walmart, the nation’s largest employer, pays low wages, inconsistent schedules, and little to-no health benefits. But across the country, Walmart workers are organizing primarily for respect at the workplace.

Learn more at ForRespect.org.

Philadelphia teachers, students, and parents

Philadelphia teachers, students, and parents

First, Gov. Tom Corbett cut over a billion dollars from public education in Pennsylvania. Then Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and school officials demanded $133 million in concessions from school employees. Philadelphia teachers, students, and parents are marching, striking, and even fasting to call attention to their city’s school crisis.

Houston wage-earners fighting against theft

Houston wage-earners fighting against theft

Houston workers are fed up with employers committing wage theft – not giving a last paycheck, making employees work after punching out, etc. – and are pushing the Houston City Council to pass a wage theft ordinance.

Learn more from the Down With Wage Theft campaign.

Washington, D.C. retail workers

Washington, D.C. retail workers

The D.C. City Council passed the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA) in July, which raised the minimum wage for big box retail workers to $12.50/hour. Walmart responded by freaking out and threatening to cancel construction of their D.C. stores. Mayor Vincent Gray has still not made up his mind about whether to cave to Walmart’s wishes or stand up for D.C. retail workers at stores like Walmart, Best Buy, Macy’s, and Target.

Learn more about the LRAA and D.C. retail workers.

Albuquerque minimum wage workers

Albuquerque minimum wage workers

In the 2012 election, Albuquerque voters passed a minimum wage increase with 66 percent of the vote. But in 2013, Albuquerque’s Republican Mayor Richard Berry and members of his city council refused to enforce the new law.

No joke, they are actually telling workers who make as little as $4 or $5 an hour to hire private lawyers to sue their employers. That’s their solution.

Needless to say, Albuquerque workers aren’t taking this lying down. Working America and allies have launched a “Got Your Raise?” campaign to pressure city officials and educate workers about their rights. Learn more about the situation in Albuquerque or click here if you prefer your news in “Breaking Bad” form.

Concert tour dancers and choreographers

Last year, music video performers won a groundbreaking union contract after, establishing workplace standards for the industry after decades of advocacy.

Now, the Dancers’ Alliance and SAG-AFTRA are launching #theUNIONIZEtour to ensure that performers on concert tours have workplace protections, access to affordable health care, and a fair shot at gigs.

Watch the video above and learn more here.

LGBT workers in 29 states

LGBT workers in 29 states

Thanks to the activists who came before us, we have federal laws saying that you can’t be fired for being old, female, pregnant, or disabled (yay!). Unfortunately, in 29 states, there are no such protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender workers. That’s why workers’ rights and LGBT groups are organizing to pass a strong Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Learn more from Pride at Work.

Transgender workers in 33 states

Transgender workers in 33 states

Add Maryland, Delaware, New Hampshire, New York to the map above. Pride at Work has great information on this too.

Domestic workers

Domestic workers

Millions of domestic workers, mostly women, are employed by households and businesses across the country. Most of them have little to no worker protections – no minimum wage, overtime pay no nothing.

State by state, domestic workers and allies have worked to pass “Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights” to establish basic protections. Ai-Jen Poo, founder and director of theNational Domestic Workers Alliance (and Working America board member #plug) toldThe Nation that President Obama might soon bring domestic workers under the protections of the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which would be “one of the most significant victories for low-wage workers of this administration.”

Learn more about the Ai-Jen and the NDWA.

Mississippi auto workers

Mississippi auto workers

Auto workers at Nissan in Mississippi have been trying to exercise their basic right to form a union, but are getting blocked by the company. Lethal Weapon/workers’ rights star Danny Glover has been active in calling attention to the situation. Not only that, but Nissan workers in Brazil, France, and South Africa have expressed solidarity. Learn more at DoBetterNissan.org.

Danny Glover: He’s not too old for this. #LethalWeaponJoke

Solidarity in Brazil.

No big deal, it’s just Common. (!!!)

Finally: 11 million undocumented workers and their families

Finally: 11 million undocumented workers and their families

Establishing a path to citizenship isn’t just about immigration. It’s about bringing millions of undocumented workers out of the shadows, where they are currently vulnerable to every employer abuse imaginable.

Learn more about the connection between workers’ rights and immigrant rights here.

What did we leave out?

What did we leave out?

There’s a lot more going on that we didn’t cover. Feel free to keep the list going in the comments below, and visit WorkingAmerica.org for more information on how you can get involved.

Respoted from BuzzFeed

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

North Carolina Unemployment Rises As Attacks on Workers and Voters Continue

The radical policies of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and his legislative allies is having the opposite effect they said it would.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate rose to 8.9 percent in July, higher than the national average of 7.4 percent. That makes it the fifth highest in the nation.

Moreover, the sectors that grew are those that have the lowest wages:

Over the past 12 months, the leisure and hospitality sector has added 21,500 jobs, more than any other sector.

[N.C. Justice Center public policy analyst Allan] Freyer said that U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that those jobs pay an average of $8.30 an hour.

“That says the state’s growth opportunities are in ultra-low-wage jobs,” Freyer said. “That’s not the direction we want to be going.”

In recent months, Gov. McCrory and his allies enacted enormous cuts to unemployment insurance, which Bill Rowe of the N.C. Justice Center called “one of the most radical, is not the most radical proposals in the country.” They also passed a tax plan that lowers income tax and corporate while slicing the earned income tax credit for struggling families.

Gov. McCrory claimed both measures would help “job creation.” The same refrain was used by Gov. Scott Walker for his actions in Wisconsin to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers and his own tax plan that ended the state earned income tax credit. Wisconsin is also experiencing economic woes, also falling behind the rest of the country on employment.

What both governors are ignoring is that we know the path to prosperity: higher wages, public investment in infrastructure and education, and a tax plan that asks the rich to pay their fair share. Not the exact opposite.

But as McCrory’s recent voter suppression law shows, he’s not really interested in what the people think. He’s more interested in following the Walker model of ALEC-inspired, pro-corporate, anti-worker governance. In both North Carolina and Wisconsin, hundreds have gone to jail in recent weeks for protesting the state’s leadership.

If you’re in North Carolina, join our fight for working families by emailing Catherine at cmedlock-walton@workingamerica.org.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

40 Years Later, ALEC is Finally Being Exposed

Nearly 3,000 protesters took to the Chicago streets yesterday outside the 40th anniversary meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

A quick primer: ALEC is an organization that fosters relationships between state legislators, conservative think tanks, and large corporations. ALEC says they are just allowing lawmakers to exchange ideas, but they are also drafting legislation, called “model bills” – with a great deal of input from the corporations themselves – to distribute and pass in the various states.

ALEC has succeeded for decades in part by operating under the radar. The last 18 months, however, have been different.

Several high profile and widely-criticized pieces of legislation have been traced back to their original source. Arizona’s SB 1070, the controversial “papers please” immigration law, had its birth in an ALEC committee. The recent union-busting bills in Wisconsin pushed by Gov. Scott Walker are also ALEC-inspired, and Walker himself was an ALEC member.

Most significantly, the Stand Your Ground/Shoot First laws, which gave legal protection to George Zimmerman when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, were concocted by National Rifle Association lobbyists and ratified by an ALEC committee.

In the wake of the controversy around these and other laws, the public became increasingly aware of ALEC and the dramatic influence corporations have in the writing of our state laws.

Has ALEC now been exposed? This week definitely showed they are on the ropes. Jay Riestenberg of the AFL-CIO compiled a collection of press clips from the last few days on ALEC and the Chicago protest.

ALEC might not yet be a household name, but their nefarious corporate-driven travesty of lawmaking is finally seeing some sunlight.

Associated Press, Conservative conference draws lawmakers, picketers

Free Speech Radio News, Records show ALEC used secretive fund to finance junkets for legislators

The Huffington Post, How the ALEC Agenda Forced Chicago’s School Closings

The Nation, ALEC Convention Met With Protests in Chicago

The Nation, ALEC’s Illegal Past?

The Nation (blog), An Exposed ALEC Faces Mass Protests and Calls for Scrutiny

Salon, ALEC convention protests: Labor vs. lobbyists

In These Times, Labor and Civil Rights Groups Descend on ALEC Conference

Examiner.com, ALEC holds its 40th Conference in Chicago under clouds of secrecy

Truth Out, Protesters Condemn ALEC’s Push to Privatize Public Education

Progress Illinois, Hundreds Protest ALEC’s Conservative Agenda In Chicago: ‘Get Out Of Our City’ (VIDEO)

Public News Service, ALEC’s 40th Birthday Draws Protests

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Legislators head to Chicago for ALEC retreat

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio AFL-CIO head said he will protest at Chicago meeting of group that sought to limit unions

News & Observer, Few ALEC bills passed NC legislature, watch dog group finds

Capital Times, Morning briefing: ALEC takes beating

Mint Press News, Do Lavish Trips Funded By ALEC Count As ‘Lobbying’ — Or Bribery?

Media Matters, WSJ’s Defense Of ALEC Lacks Disclosure That News Corp. Is A Member

Chicagoist, Protesters Stage Die-In At Palmer House During ALEC Conference

Riverfront Times (blog), Stand Your Ground: Dick Durbin Pressures Anheuser-Busch, Corporate Backers of ALEC

Wisconsin Gazette, ‘Die-in’ staged at ALEC conference to protest Stand Your Ground laws

Lawyers.com, ALEC Helps Big Business Invade Local Lawmaking State By State

Wall Street Journal, Durbin Wants a List

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A Nonpartisan Ethics Organization Just Named the Worst Governor in America. The Contest Wasn’t Even Close.

The nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has declared Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker the “Worst Governor in America.”

Even though he had fierce competition from fellow Republicans Tom Corbett and Susana Martinez, this is a choice CREW had no trouble making:

In the past he’s employed illegal tactics and abused his power to round up votes, but Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) didn’t have to break a sweat to win this contest. For racking up a record that has veered from unethical conduct to staggering incompetence, CREW’s voters awarded Gov. Walker the title of Worst Governor in America.

Gov. Walker had made his name in 2011 by ramming through unprecedented restrictions on the collective bargaining of public workers, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg:

Gov. Walker also presided over illegal activity and wasteful spending at a public-private partnership that he and the state legislature created to promote economic development.  Additionally, a long-running investigation into Gov. Walker’s tenure as Milwaukee County executive and his 2010 gubernatorial campaign resulted in criminal charges against several of his aides.  CREW cited these scandals and others in naming Gov. Walker to the second edition of its Worst Governors in America report.

“Scandal and embarrassment seem to follow Gov. Walker wherever he goes,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Given his inability to competently handle the most basic responsibilities of his office and willingness to overstep his authority to help his donors, it’s no wonder CREW’s voters recognized him as a singularly terrible American governor.”

Currently, Scott Walker is under fire on multiple fronts. In June, Wisconsin was ranked 49th out of 50 in job creation by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Over the past few weeks, dozens have been arrested in the Wisconsin state capitol for the simple act of singing, under new protest restrictions Walker’s administration put in place. Just yesterday, Walker shocked many of his former political allies by suggesting expanding his union-busting Act 10 to include police officers and firefighters as well.

All this, and Scott Walker is not-so-secretly laying the groundwork for a presidential run.

Read the full report.

Photo by GageSkidmore on Flickr

Tags: , , , ,

PHOTOS: In Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, Teachers and Others Arrested for Singing


Photo by @RWwatchMA on Twitter

For three days straight, police have made multiple arrests in Wisconsin’s state Capitol.

Their crime? Singing.

Well, more specifically, their alleged crime is violating a new rule in the Capitol requiring permits for groups of 20 or more. The rule was passed in the wake of the enormous worker uprising in Wisconsin in 2011 that included massive gatherings in the state Capitol.

A Wisconsin judge ruled on July 8 that the demonstrators must acquire a permit before bringing a group of more than 20 people into the capitol for a protest.

Police have delivered daily warnings to the Solidarity Sing-Along members since the 11th, but Wednesday was the first day they actually made good on their threats. However, Wednesday’s arrests appear to have only angered the group, and they returned Thursday over 100 strong.

As of Thursday, the arrest count was 29. Today, Friday, arrests are continuing this afternoon.

“First arrest in #ourhouse today: a kindergarten teacher,” tweets @SaraBlackthorne.

Other musical groups gathering outside of the Capitol in solidarity.


via @ScottWalkerWatch on Twitter

“In @GovWalker’s Wisconsin,” tweeted @OneWisconsinNow, “out-of-state donors IN, free speech OUT.”

Heartbreaking.

“Walker is afraid of singers,” reads one sign.


Photo by @leslieamsterdam on Twitter

“She looks like a hardened criminal,” @polymath22 notes sarcastically.

Finally, let’s note that not all police officers are on board with the arrests.


Photo via @leslieamsterdam on Twitter

Tags: , , , ,