A new editorial from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch highlights the recent revelations about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its influence on state legislators. In particular, the editorial takes umbrage at a proposed loyalty oath for ALEC members that would have required them to place the extremist pro-corporate organization above the needs of constituents and the state and national constitutions:
Last week, British newspaper the Guardian published a series of stories based on secret ALEC documents obtained by reporters. Among the most insidious items was a loyalty oath the organization has proposed for the state chairs of its legislative members.
It reads: “I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first.”
Imagine that, a Republican like state Sen. Ed Emery of Lamar, a man who claims to be a constitutional conservative, putting ALEC first, over his voters, over his oath to the state, over the very constitution he claims to value.
The former ALEC-chairman for Missouri, current Speaker of the House Tim Jones, R-Eureka, is doing his part, as well, supporting anti-union right-to-work legislation for 2014 even while pushing through special session legislation intending to lure thousands of union Boeing jobs to the state.
The editorial takes a strong stance against the influence of ALEC on the state:
Missouri voters should consider such front organizations as offensive to democracy.
Mr. Emery and his ilk can believe what they want, but they should play no part in allowing corporations to hide their agendas, and their lobbying expenses, by pretending to be something they are not. The proof is in ALEC’s actions, which, as Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank outlined, hid itself behind closed doors in a meeting last week in the nation’s capital, pushing reporters away while claiming they had nothing to hide.
No, ALEC exists solely to hide. To hide money. To hide agendas. To hide its hijacking of democracy.
Sure, working families have been under attack for years, but people across the country are rolling up their sleeves and fighting back to protect workers’ rights and raise living standards for everyone. Here are 10 ways they’re doing it:
1. Increasing the Minimum Wage
Four states (California, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island) have increased their state minimum wage in 2013, and on Nov. 5, New Jersey voters will vote on a ballot measure to increase their minimum wage.
2. Passing “Buy America” Laws
Three states (Colorado, Maryland and Texas) passed laws in 2013 to ensure that the goods procured with public funding are made in the United States.
3. Ensuring Paid Sick Days
Portland, Ore., Jersey City, N.J., and New York City became the latest three cities to adopt standards for paid sick days in 2013.
4. Protecting Immigrant Workers
In 2013, six states (California, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon and Vermont) have enacted protections for immigrant workers, including access to driver’s licenses and education.
5. Cracking Down on Businesses That Cheat Workers
Texas passed legislation in 2013 to crack down on businesses that cheat employees by treating them as “independent contractors” who lack worker protections (such as minimum wage and overtime protection, and eligibility for unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation).
6. Giving Workers the Right to a Voice on the Job
In 2013, some 15,000 home care workers in Minnesota won collective bargaining rights through state legislation, as did 10,000 in Illinois and 7,000 in Vermont. Thousands of other workers around the country have enjoyed organizing wins, too: 7,000 electrical workers, more than 5,000 Texas public school teachers, taxi drivers in New York and other cities, telecom workers, college and university faculty, EMS drivers, hotel and casino workers and domestic workers, to name a few.
7. Protecting Your Privacy on Social Media
Nine states (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington) have passed legislation in 2013 to prohibit employers from requiring access to your social media passwords or information as a condition of employment.
8. Fighting for LGBTQ Equality
Five states (Colorado, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Vermont) have passed legislation banning workplace discrimination or recognizing marriage equality.
9. Protecting the Rights of Domestic Workers
Two states (California and Hawaii) have passed legislation in 2013 to protect the rights of domestic workers. California’s Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights will benefit about 200,000 domestic workers, and Hawaii’s will benefit some 20,000 domestic workers.
10. Protecting Voting Rights
Twelve states (California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia) have passed legislation protecting voting rights in 2013, while voting rights legislation was vetoed by the governors of Nevada and New Jersey.
Madison Kimrey of Burlington, North Carolina won’t be able to vote for another six years. But North Carolina’s new sweeping voter suppression laws, some of the most stringent restrictions on voting rights our country has seen since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, has drawn her ire all the same.
The 12-year-old spoke at the first Moral Monday event held in Alamance County, about 60 miles west of where massive protests rocked the Raleigh this spring. Kimrey first spoke up in July, when Gov. McCrory dismissively gave out cookies and cake to protesters. She started an online petition asking Gov. McCrory to sit down and eat the baked goods with her so they could discuss his voter suppression bill and other policies. It attracted nearly 13,000 signatures.
Gov. McCrory called the request “ridiculous” and said Kimrey was a “prop for liberal groups.” Understandably, this surprised and insulted Ms. Kimrey.
“I am not a prop,” she told the crowd at the Alamance Country Moral Monday event, “I am part of the new generation of suffragettes and I will not stand silent while laws are passed to reduce the amount of voter turnout by young people in my home state.”
Kimrey also started NC Youth Rock to encourage young North Carolinians to vote and lobby representatives on behalf of young people.
“I’m going to do everything I can to get the opportunity for North Carolina teenagers to pre-register back by the time I turn 16 in four years,” Kimrey said, “but I can’t do this alone.”
Madison Kimrey is just one of the thousands of North Carolinians who are sick and tired of the attacks on voting rights, women’s rights, and workers’ rights in their state. If you’re in North Carolina and want to get involved with Working America, contact Catherine Medlock-Walton at email@example.com or (336) 292-4179.
If Texas working families and their unions are going to turn red, right-wing, “right to work” for less Texas blue and replace the corporate-beholden, anti-union politicians with lawmakers who will respect the rights of workers, “We’ll have to do it one [state] House district at a time,” Richard Shaw, secretary-treasurer of the Harris County (Texas) AFL-CIO Council, told participants at the Winning for Texas Workers action session at the AFL-CIO 2013 Convention this afternoon.
Shaw explained how Working America’s pilot program in one Harris County district, with just 970 union members, was able to canvass and talk with nonunion residents about the issues they care about and sign up 9,600 new members to the AFL-CIO’s community affiliate. Focusing on those new Working America households with voter registration and get-out-the-vote effort, “we ended up winning.”
A second campaign in Houston, focusing on wage theft, is building similar results and finding out that nonunion families’ concerns—good jobs, education, health care and more—mirror those of the union movement, he said, and are building blocks to growing political strength.
Texas AFT President Linda Bridges and Marvin Ragsdale of the Ironworkers described how their unions’ associate member programs are helping build not just political power, but organizing strength also.
Bridges said Texas AFT is in the second year of a 10-year plan with the goal of winning a legislative majority that will support and pass collective bargaining for public employees. Not quite two years in, nearly 8,000 teachers and other school employees in 800 school districts have joined the associate members program that is growing new locals and building on existing ones.
The Ironworkers in Houston have just begun an Ironworkers associate member program that Ragsdale described as a ”gateway to full Ironworkers membership” for the nonunion construction workers and their employment with union signatory employers. He said:
We are communicating with workers we have not in the past and find that their issues are the same.
Cristina Tzintzun, executive director of the Workers Defense Project, is working with immigrant construction workers in Austin. She said some 50% of the state’s workers are undocumented, making them vulnerable to exploitation. But in Austin and in partnership with the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Council, they have been able to win regulations requiring rest breaks, safety training and other worksite rule that state law doesn’t require. In addition, the partnership has helped win new wage theft laws and laws against misclassifying workers as independent contractors.
Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller explained how, even with a deep red legislature, a united group of Texas unions and progressive organizations have been able to defeat some egregious anti-worker efforts.
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.
The North Carolina legislature isn’t in session. But outside the capital of Raleigh, the Moral Monday movement continues unabated. Thousands turned out to voice their opposition to the extremist policies set forth by Gov. Pat McCrory and his allies in the legislature, from voter suppression to a reactionary tax plan to his treatment of public school teachers.
The three protests spanned the state: Charlotte, the biggest city; Burnsville, in the west closer to the Kentucky border; and Manteo, on the eastern coast.
Meanwhile, the Gov. McCrory’s backwards agenda is having an effect on his poll numbers. Public Policy Polling, the most accurate pollster in the 2012 election, found that only 39 percent approve of McCrory, while 51 percent disapprove. The North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) is doing even worse, with only 24 percent approval. Half of voters, including 21 percent of Republicans, say the NCGA is making their state a national embarrassment.
Here are some incredible images from yesterday’s three-city Moral Monday rally. Thanks to all who tweeted, Tumbl’d, and otherwise shared their photos with the world.
The following is a post from Maine Rep. Diane Russell
The most memorable moment I have in my political life, by far, is leaving the Maine House in tears, stunned that the majority party had repealed four decades of Election Day Registration – all so they could win elections. It was the moment when I truly questioned whether our democracy would survive, or whether people were even listening.
We had been blindsided by the sudden and unexpected onslaught of anti-voter rhetoric. OpEds and FAQ sheets circulated faster than we could imagine. Those of us fighting the bill in the Legislature were outmaneuvered even when we exposed the hypocrisy and even lies that were being put before us. For every legislative aid in Maine, there are about ten to twelve lawmakers – so how was such a coordinated push even possible? We couldn’t catch up, let alone respond.
Thankfully, the people were listening. In fact, it was the people of Maine who restored my faith in our future. One by one, they picked up petitions and in under a month had collected enough signatures to put the question to the ballot. On Election Day, 60 percent of Mainers resoundingly voted to protect the voting rights for themselves, their neighbors and even students.
But where did this even come from? This was four decades of sacred ground, upended overnight with a well-coordinated legislative and public relations offensive.
The source, it turns out, was the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). While our registration laws were under attack in Maine, a chorus of cries began to erupt from across the country as newly red states pushed restrictive voter ID bills effectively disenfranchising voters. At one point, the Brennan Center estimated 5 million people would be left behind under the new laws. It was only when Ari Berman outlined what was happening in his Rolling Stone article, “The GOP War on Voting,” did the tide finally begin to change – and the truth finally get told.
We now know, of course, that it’s not just voter rights that ALEC had set its sights on. They were pushing the castle doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws; rollbacks to environmental protections; opposition to women’s rights; anti-worker legislation and the list goes on. They worked with the GOP to effectively gut Maine’s model public campaign financing laws – enacted by the people through referendum – that open doors for good people to run for office, devoid of the potential for quid-pro-quo donations. Citizens are again picking up pens to put Clean Elections back on the ballot and to restore it.
In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, people and companies began piecing together the connection between castle doctrines and voter suppression – and the blatant racial bias inherent in both. Under unprecedented pressure from the public, companies began canceling their ALEC memberships. ALEC, itself, even dismembered its notorious task force that tied public safety with voter laws, formerly chaired by the NRA. (Yes, the NRA actually chaired the committee that approved the vigilante and voter registration model bills.)
Flash forward a bit, and it turns out tech companies such as Yelp are now partnering with ALEC. Let’s set aside the intelligence of climbing on board the Titanic after even the rats have left, and analyze their rationale for a moment.
Yelp, a highly popular online consumer review company, has stated that its support is related specifically to so-called SLAPP legislation which uses lawsuits to effectively undermine free speech. If consumers write negative reviews about a company and then are “slapped” with a frivolous lawsuit, they might become less inclined to write said reviews. In legal terms, this is known as “chilling speech.” On the point of protecting Free Speech in this one legal area, Yelp and ALEC agree. Working with the other side is just part of politics, right?
While this generally is true, the problem in this case is that it ignores all the other rights that are being stripped from people because of this organization. It ignores the fact that a young kid was gunned down because he was armed with a hoodie, some skittles and an iced tea. It ignores the fact that they are the architects of laws that suppress voting rights for minorities. It ignores their work to write and pass (with the Corrections Corporation of America) legislation like Arizona’s SB1070 that used racial profiling to target undocumented workers.
On a simply pragmatic note, it ignores the fact that countless other companies – who had previously aligned with ALEC to work on their own “very specific” issue areas – canceled their memberships as soon as they realized the host of other laws with which their name was now being associated. For a company like Yelp who has built its brand entirely on the consumer reviews of other brands, this concept should be rather self-evident.
It was pretty self-evident to Yelp’s members who, in just one day, posted more than 2,500 reviews (nearly all negative) about ALEC and Yelp’s new relationship – on the company’s own web platform. Further, @Yelp was peppered all day with outraged tweets from across the country.
If Yelp – and other tech companies – are serious about protecting First Amendment rights then I’m all in and will commit to working with them to do just that. However, there are better, more ethical means to accomplish this goal than joining an organization who helped lay a foundation for the “he was armed with Skittles” defense.
That’s what North Carolinians have been trying to tell the country every Monday for the past three months by turning out in the thousands for Moral Monday protests.
One of the main grievances of the Moral Monday protesters is this bill signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory that restricts early voting, enacts narrow photo ID requirements for voting, and keeps individual cities and towns from dealing long lines.
But it’s not just the one bill. As Rachel Maddow describes above, it’s a systematic, years-long effort to transform democracy in North Carolina, down to the local level.
The two most egregious examples cited by Maddow are:
-The combining of three voting sites around Appalachian State University into one, as well as the deliberate removal of campus voting, creating a situation where 9,300 people must vote at one location that has 35 parking spots
Information about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) working in secret to push state-level policy to more extreme levels is coming to lightmore and more and America’s working families are starting to stand up to the group’s corporate-driven agenda. While ALEC’s agenda is all over the policy map, the organization has a particular focus on pushing new laws that attack working families and undercut the rights of workers, both in the workplace and in retirement. Here are eight of the most dangerous and most widespread ways that ALEC is targeting workers and their right to a voice on the job.
8. Voter ID Act: Laws directly based on or similar to ALEC’s Voter ID Act have been introduced in recent years in nearly every state, with more than a dozen states passing or strengthening such laws in the past three years. These laws disproportionately affect working families, senior citizens, people of color and residents of rural areas and help elect legislators who vote against the rights and needs of workers.
7. Paycheck Protection Bills: ALEC has at least four different versions of this legislation, each one more extreme than the last, that were introduced 20 times in various states in 2013. These bills range from requiring that each employee sign an annual form authorizing that their union dues be allowed to be used for political purposes to preventing payroll deductions from being used for union dues. These bills provide no additional rights to workers and do nothing more than weaken the ability of workers to collectively bargain by depriving unions of the funds they need to fight on behalf of their members.
6. Direct Union Assaults: Through model legislation such as the Election Accountability for Municipal Employee Union Representatives Act and the Decertification Elections Act, introduced in Idaho and Arizona, respectively, ALEC is seeking to make public employees vote over and over again to retain their union status, giving ALEC and other groups the opportunity to flood workers with anti-union propaganda.
5. Public Employees’ Portable Retirement Option Act: Through this and similar bills, 10 states have attempted to weaken or eliminate defined-benefit pension plans and replace them with defined-contribution plans, which make retirees depend on the market for how much money they have for retirement and health care.
4. Council on Efficient Government Act: As Orwellian a name as any in the ALEC arsenal, this legislation does nothing but use government money to create a commission to figure out ways to privatize government services. In other words, yet another example of ALEC attempting to get taxpayer money into the hands of private corporations without any accountability or taxpayer recourse.
3. “Right to Work” Act: This incredibly misleadingly titled legislation gives no one any new rights and does nothing but prevent employees from paying for the benefits that unions earn on their behalf. So-called “right to work” for less states end up paying their workers a lot less than states that don’t have such laws. In 2013, 15 states introduced this legislation.
2. Parent Trigger Act: These laws give parents the option, once a majority of parents sign a petition, to change a public school into a charter school, give students vouchers or close the school. Seven states have passed parent trigger laws similar to the ALEC bill. Parent Trigger laws force parents to make a bad choice—either stick with a poorly performing school, or take drastic actions that are likely to make things worse, do little to help students and are a boon for corporate groups that run private schools. Meanwhile one of the best tools for helping working families reach the middle class—public education—gets less and less funding.
1. Wage Protections: In 14 states, ALEC model legislation attacking wage protections were introduced. The bills sought to weaken or eliminate laws that require prevailing wages, living wages or minimum wages. Big corporations heavily support these efforts, which would only serve to lower wages for workers.
On Thursday, Aug. 8, working families and other opponents of the ALEC agenda will be rallying at the conservative group’s convention in Chicago. Those who are in the area can RSVP online.
As the bill expected to disenfranchise 318,000 North Carolina voters, heads to the Senate Floor, protests are growing as people at the capitol and all over the state take action against this massive assault on one of the basic functions of a democracy.
“HB 589 which will eliminate same day registration, shorten early voting, eliminate state-supported voter registration drives, purge voter rolls and empower vigilantism at the polling place, is another example of the avalanche of anti-worker bills proposed since Gov. Pat McCrory took office,” said Working America State Director Carolyn Smith. “North Carolina is at the heart of the battle against an extremist takeover of the state by politicians who do the bidding of corporate executives, and seek to dismantle the most basic components of a democracy.”
The law comes on the heels of the recent destruction of the state’s unemployment insurance system, massive cuts to public schools and a tax plan that promises to shift more of the burden from the rich to the poor.
Working America, which has nearly 30,000 members in North Carolina, has launched a petition and is talking to people at their homes and in their communities about the effect this and other bills will have on North Carolina’s democracy. It is organizing lobby days and have delivered several thousand petitions calling for an end to the attack on voting.
“We are watching, we are mobilizing and this will not go unanswered,” Smith said.