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

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Palermo’s Agrees to Reinstate Eight Fired Workers

In a settlement reached with the Palermo Workers Union and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Palermo’s Pizza has agreed to return eight fired workers to their former jobs with back pay.

The company also has agreed to post a notice in its Milwaukee plant informing workers of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act and to hold a union election.

The workers have been on strike since June 1, 2012, to protest unfair labor violations, workplace safety and to call for a voice on the job. After the workers requested that Palermo’s recognize their union and bargain with them over serious workplace problems, Palermo’s fired more than 75 workers.

Raul de la Torre, an organizing committee member of the Palermo Workers Union, says:

Palermo’s Pizza repeatedly violated our rights to join a union. This agreement confirms that Palermo’s used threats, intimidation, surveillance, discrimination and retaliation to deny the freedom to choose a union voice.

The United Steelworkers (USW) union has been working closely with both the fired Palermo’s workers and those currently on the job who are seeking a union voice. USW District 2 Director Mike Bolton called the settlement positive but also a disappointment.

It took much too long to get even this small bit of justice for these workers. And unfortunately, they will be going back to jobs where union-busters have created such an atmosphere of fear and intimidation that a democratic election is not possible. So for Palermo’s to claim they want a union election is a travesty of justice—they know that 75% of employees already expressed support for a union when they signed a petition calling for union representation over a year ago, and that most of those workers—more than 100 former employees—will never get to vote because they were fired for speaking out.

The Palermo Workers Union says there still are numerous issues related to the labor dispute at Palermo’s Pizza that remain outstanding.

  • There is a pending NRLB settlement with BG Staffing, a temp agency that was the employer for numerous fired union supporters.
  • The NLRB is currently investigating recent charges that Palermo’s illegally fired an African American employee who was engaged in pro-union activity at work.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is expected to open an investigation into Palermo’s refusal to release federally mandated records of injuries, which have been requested by a lawfully designated representative of numerous employees.
  • Palermo’s so far has refused requests from elected officials to provide evidence that they fulfilled promises to create family-supporting jobs with some of the $48 million in taxpayer money they have received in recent years, including loans they received, via the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

Read more about the settlement from the Palermo Workers Union.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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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

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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.”


“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

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Michigan Senate Republicans Prove That, Actually, They Love Intrusive Government Regulation

Down with big government, cry Michigan Republicans!

Except when it comes to workers’ rights.

Yesterday the Michigan Senate voted 25-13 to pass a sick leave “preemption bill,” SB 173, which bans cities and towns from passing their own laws regarding earned sick leave. 25 Republicans voted in favor, while all 12 Democrats and one Republican (Sen. Tory Rocca of Sterling Heights) voted against.

Now, this might seem like a strange law for Michigan to pass, since no city or town in Michigan has a sick leave ordinance on the books, and no city or town in Michigan is currently considering such an ordinance.

But this isn’t about Michigan. This is about ALEC and its nationwide efforts to quash the momentum behind paid sick days, using politicians like bill sponsor Sen. Mark Jansen (R-Grand Rapids) merely as delivery systems.

This is a law modeled after one Gov. Scott Walker passed in Wisconsin in May 2011, which overrode the will of Milwaukee voters who had overwhelmingly passed a paid sick days ordinance three years earlier.

At the ALEC national conference in 2011, attendees were given copies of Walker’s paid sick days preemption law. As PRWatch blogger Brendan Fischer describes, legislators were also handed a “target list” and “a map of state and local paid sick leave policies prepared by ALEC member the National Restaurant Association.”

This law keeping cities and towns from making their own decisions on this issue makes no sense for Michigan. Michigan just happens to be on a list of boxes for ALEC to check, so they can continue a status quo where workers show up to work sick, or get fired for taking care of a sick child, simply because they have no other financial option.

Having passed the Senate, SB 173 is now on a fast track through the House. Seems like legislators can be super efficient when they want to restrict workers’ rights, and when ALEC has already written out a bill for them.

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Michigan Moms and Workers vs. Restaurant Industry and ALEC

Lawmakers in Michigan are still pushing a bill that would keep cities and towns from making their own decisions about paid sick days laws. We call them “preemption bills” – restaurant lobbyists and their allies call it the “kill shot” to paid sick days.

The bills in the House and Senate are ALEC model bills, inspired by none other than Wisconsin union-buster Gov. Scott Walker. Quick story: In early 2011, Walker pushed and passed a preemption law in Wisconsin, completely invalidating the will of Milwaukee voters who had just passed a sick days ordinance.

The restaurant lobby was so excited that they handed out copies of the bill to attendees of ALEC’s August 2011 meeting.

And, as if by magic, preemption bills have been introduced in Michigan, Mississippi, Washington, Arizona, Indiana, and Oklahoma. Such laws are already on the books in Wisconsin and Louisiana. Just this week, a preemption bill passed both houses of the Florida legislature. Textbook ALEC.

In Michigan, along with statewide mothers’ organization Mothering Justice, Working America delivered petitions signed by over 2,500 Michiganders to the Michigan Restaurant Association and the state legislature.

All workers deserve the opportunity to earn paid sick days, so that not another person has to make their choice between going to work sick and not making rent, or not being able to eat, or not being able to care for their child.

But even the threat of workers in a few cities and towns having this basic right has the restaurant lobby and ALEC running scared, using their politician pawns to introduce ridiculously undemocratic preemption bills that won’t create a single job. Since when did these “small-government” obsessives get into the business of telling cities and towns how to conduct their business?

Join us. Tell the Michigan legislature to stand with workers, mothers, and democracy – not ALEC and the restaurant lobby.

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When It Comes to Sick Days, Michigan Republicans Love Big Intrusive Government

When someone tries to raise the minimum wage, improve our health care system, or generally try to fix anything, a chorus of conservative anti-worker bigwigs cries foul about big government intruding in their lives.

But when a state passes a law to preempt cities and towns from making their own decisions about allowing workers to earn sick days, those same voices are silent.

Case in point: Michigan.

Legislation recently approved by committees in the Republican-controlled House and Senate would prohibit counties, townships and cities from adopting policies that requires employers to provide paid or unpaid leave not required under federal or state law.

The bill is HB 4249 in the House, sponsored by Rep. Earl Poleski (R-Jackson), and SB 173 in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Mark Jansen (R-Grand Rapids). Both bills have been passed by their respective committees.

If you look closely at the bills, you’ll notice they are startlingly similar to bills introduced in Florida, Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Washington.

Why? You guessed it: it’s an ALEC model bill!

Not only is it an ALEC bill, it’s an ALEC bill inspired by Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who pushed and passed his own sick leave preemption bill in May 2011. It was one of his first acts as governor, and it overrode a sick leave ordinance that Milwaukee had passed overwhelmingly in 2008.

70 percent of Milwaukee voters want the policy? “Who cares?” says the preemption bill. It’s the very definition of big government intruding on local control that so many conservatives claim to hate.

PRWatch blogger Brendan Fischer describes what happened next:

Meeting attendees were given complete copies of Wisconsin’s 2011 Senate Bill 23 (now Wisconsin Act 16) as a model for state override. ALEC’s Labor and Business Regulation Subcommittee at the time was co-chaired by YUM! Brands, Inc., which owns Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

Legislators attending the Labor and Business Regulation Subcommittee meeting were also handed a target list and map of state and local paid sick leave policies prepared by ALEC member the National Restaurant Association.

As one Republican operative put it, these bills “deliver the kills shot” to efforts to allow workers to earn sick days. In addition to Wisconsin, such laws are already on the books in Louisiana and Mississippi.

We’re fighting back in Michigan, where we’ve sent almost 18,000 messages to state lawmakers. Join us: Tell the Michigan legislature to stand with the people, not ALEC.

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Gov. Walker Refuses Job Creation Measure as Wisconsin Slips to 44th in Growth

We live in a crazy, ever-changing world, but some things don’t change.

It may be 2013, but Scott Walker is still a terrible governor, and Wisconsin is still suffering under his policies.

Even as new numbers showed the national unemployment rate slipping in February 2013, those same numbers showed Wisconsin heading in the completely wrong direction. Wisconsin is now ranked 44 out of 50 in job growth, and is being outpaced by all of its neighbors:

The new numbers, based on the most accurate current measures available, show Wisconsin with an estimated 2,790,000 non-farm positions as of January 2013 — up 44,600 jobs or 1.6 percent since January 2011 when Gov. Scott Walker took office.

By comparison, Indiana ranked No. 9 with a 3.8 percent job growth rate over the past two years; Minnesota was No. 10 with 3.7 percent growth; Michigan was No. 12 at 3.6 percent; Iowa was No. 24 at 2.9 percent and Illinois No. 30 at 2.3 percent job growth.

Overall unemployment in Wisconsin also rose in January 2013 from 6.7 to 7 percent (February data has not yet been released). The state gained 12,400 private-sector jobs by lost about 10,600 public sector jobs, with a net gain of only 1,800.

Gov. Walker promised during the 2010 campaign to create 250,000 new jobs during his first term. As of January 2013, there has been a net gain of 44,600 jobs, or less than 18 percent of that promise.

What’s worse is that Walker has walked away from Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which would allow many of Wisconsin’s 235,000 uninsured adults to afford health care. In addition to making a political point on the backs of Wisconsin’s uninsured, Walker also passed up the opportunity to create about 10,500 new health care jobs, and increase economic activity by $1.3 billion.

But no worries, everybody. Even with the sour jobs numbers and his signature union-busting achievement under legal assail, Gov. Walker is still thinking about his future as a possible presidential candidate.

To Walker, the glass is 18 percent full, not 18 percent empty.


Photo by keegstra on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

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It’s Far From Over: Scott Walker Resumes the Republican War on Voting Rights

Did you think voter suppression would end on Election Day? Think again. The corporate-backed Republican-led war on our voting rights is still chugging.

None other than Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced on Monday that he would like to end the state’s same-day registration law:

Wisconsin is one of nine states that allow voters to register at their polling place on the day of the election, and that’s often credited with helping make Wisconsin’s voting rate one of the highest in the country. Since the Nov. 6 election, both Walker and incoming Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) have said they’re considering ending the practice, which goes back to 1976 in the state.

And what reason would Gov. Walker, who also pushed through a voter suppression ID law in 2010, have for ending the successful practice of same-day registration?

“States across the country that have same-day registration have real problems because the vast majority of their states have poll workers who are wonderful volunteers, who work 13-hour days and who in most cases are retirees,” Walker said at the library, responding to a question from an audience member about election safeguards. “It’s difficult for them to handle the volume of people who come at the last minute. It’d be much better if registration was done in advance of election day. It’d be easier for our clerks to handle that. All that needs to be done.”

So. Gov. Walker is saying that because he feels bad for the overworked poll workers many of whom are retirees, no one should be able to register to vote at the polls.

Excuse us for our disbelief that Gov. Walker supports this policy because he’s interested in helping workers. No state executive in the country, or even in recent memory, has been more committed to attacking workers’ rights and collective bargaining, not to mention the wages, benefits, and pensions of public employees.

Here’s the real reason Walker is seeking to end the 36-year practice: it helps people vote. Wisconsin has the third-highest turnout rate in the country: in part because of the state’s strong civic tradition, but also because same-day registration helps transient Wisconsinites (like students, young people, minorities, and low-income workers) exercise their rights. Two weeks ago, 48,000 voters took advantage of same-day registration in Milwaukee, helping boost turnout in that city to 87 percent.

If the 2012 election proved anything, pro-worker candidates succeed when more people turn out to vote. Walker knows this, so he has a consistent standard operating procedure when it comes to voting rights: restrict at all costs. Act 23, Walker’s voter ID law that was found unconstitutional in April, would have cost the state’s DMV an extra $6 million, despite his frequent protestations that the state is “broke.”

We have a better idea. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Chris Coons (D-DE) have introduced the FAST Voting Act in the Senate, which would provide states resources to address election reform. In the House, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) has introduced the SIMPLE Voting Act, which would require all states to institute 15 days of early voting, and ensure that each precinct sufficient poll workers.

Those policies would benefit the overworked poll workers Walker is pretending to care about. But his true agenda is and has always been restricting voting rights. He also doesn’t have a history of listening to ideas that are not his.

Photo by keegstra on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

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Our 2012 Endorsements

Working America has endorsed the following candidates and ballot initiatives in the 2012 election. These endorsements do not cover all the candidates and ballot issues in which we have a stake, but they all reflect the passion of our members and the values of our organization.

On November 6, please consider the following as you go to vote:

Barack Obama for President

Elizabeth Warren for U.S. Senate, Massachusetts

Claire McCaskill for U.S. Senate, Missouri

Martin Heinrich for U.S. Senate, New Mexico

Sherrod Brown for U.S. Senate, Ohio

Tim Kaine for U.S. Senate, Virginia

Tammy Baldwin for U.S. Senate, Wisconsin

Joe Miklosi for U.S. Congress, Colorado, 6th District

Ed Perlmutter for U.S. Congress, Colorado, 7th District

Betty Sutton for U.S. Congress, Ohio, 16th District

Mark Critz for U.S. Congress, Pennsylvania, 12th District

No on Proposal 1, Michigan

Yes on Proposal 2, Michigan

Yes on Issue 2, Ohio

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