Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Taxpayer-funded ALEC trip for Kansas lawmakers

Kansas lawmakers who advocate small government are taking a taxpayer-funded ALEC trip Aug. 7-9 in Chicago. There they'll be wined, dined, flattered, enriched financially and handed a draft bill to empower corporations at democracy's expense.

Tim Carpenter at the Topeka Capital-Journal broke the story five days ago:
More than two-dozen Kansas legislators, including top Republican leaders of the House and Senate, plan to participate at the national convention in Chicago of an organization dedicated to layering a corporate agenda into politics at state Capitols, officials said Friday. 
House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, and Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, are national board members of the conservative, Republican-oriented American Legislative Exchange Council and scheduled to lead the Kansas delegation from Aug. 7-9. 
State policy allows a subsidy of registration fees for each legislator in attendance, which would be a minimum of $475. Other travel, hotel and meal costs can be covered by taxpayers only if the lawmaker serves in a leadership role in ALEC, said Jeff Russell, director of Legislative Administrative Services.
Oh, the irony.

The Hutchinson News calls it "comically ironic."  

And in a scathing editorial, The Hutchinson News excoriates the Kansas hypocrites:
...a group of self proclaimed budget hawks apparently missed the memo that government spending is the root of all evil, and that even the smallest government expenditure is a misuse of hard-earned taxpayer dollars. 
According to the legislative administrative service, in fiscal year 2012 legislators received $150,666 for convention-related travel expenses. In fiscal year 2013, lawmakers received total reimbursement of $119,528 for such travel – and the upcoming year totals more than $4,875 so far, with the filing deadline not ending until June 30, 2014. 
Kansas lawmakers are certainly free to attend whatever conferences they think will help them become better legislators. But it’s a special type of hypocrisy when a group of legislators who brand themselves as budget watchdogs and small government conservatives eagerly line up for a taxpayer handout to help pay for a voluntary networking weekend in Chicago.
ALEC isn't really about small government. ALEC just wants one thing to be small: constraints on corporate plunder of the public trough. No one should be surprised that self-serving hypocrites are taking part in the looting by taking a taxpayer-funded ALEC trip.

ALEC's stench has wafted all the way across the Atlantic, where the Irish blog Vestibule caught wind of these taxpayer-funded ALEC trips. Vestibule wrote a hilarious send-up of these ALEC "conferences" a few years ago, which we will share with you below:
Now, imagine if you will that you are a Republican lawmaker in a state whose legislature is controlled by your party.  You are approached by persons you admire, with an invitation to attend a conference under the aegis of ALEC.  And let us situate that gathering at some plush and exclusive enclave- Palm Springs, for example. 
There you and your spouse will be met and looked after (families are distinctly welcome)  by business leaders whose names ring with the reassurance of real power- Fortune 500 executives and their staffs. 
You will socialise- play golf on exquisitely maintained courses, dine on the most blissful fare, and exchange neatly patented views with the very men and women who concocted them. You will be flattered and cajoled.  You will be welcomed into circles you have always aspired to enter- assuming you were not born there, a condition of privilege discreetly enjoyed by many state office-holders.  Finally, you will be showered with political support in the form of crucial campaign donations and endorsements. 
And really, all you have to do is attend a two-hour meeting with friendly representatives of, let's say, the commercial prison industry. 
At this meeting you will be presented with a handsome, well-written, entirely serviceable piece of legislation.  It may contain the word "reform" in its title.  (Again, think Humpty Dumpty)
The matter at hand could involve a perfectly reasonable tightening of immigration law.  Or the justified imposition of harsher, more restrictive criminal sentences.  The bill may mandate the laudable establishment of profit-making industries in a state penitentiary system, or the withdrawal of wasteful educational services to undeserving prisoners. 
But whatever the avowed goal of the prefabricated legislation, you may be sure its passage will result in enhanced revenue and power for those companies which drafted the law.
Spot on.

Low-wage strike comes to Chicago, Detroit, Flint, Mich.

They are holding signs and demanding better wages and treatment by the company.
Workers in Chicago picket Whole Foods market over pay, poor treatment.

Hundreds of workers joined the nationwide low-wage strike today, walking off retail and fast-food restaurant jobs in Chicago, Detroit and Flint, Mich. to protest low wages and abuse. It marked the third day of short strikes in cities across the country, part of a nationwide movement to raise wages and end retaliation for organizing a union.

In Detroit and Flint, the low-wage strike forced restaurant closings. Large rallies were held in Chicago outside of Whole Foods, McDonald’s and Checkers, while some fast-food workers took their message to the community.
Workers in other industries have joined the revolt. Teamster paramedics and EMTs in El Centro, Calif., are in the fourth day of a strike to fight low wages paid by Gold Cross Ambulance. Teamsters are even now protesting pharmaceutical distributor McKesson’s retaliations against workers at a Lakeland, Fla., warehouse. They are engaging in a rally and shareholder action at McKesson’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

A wave of labor unrest has hit low-wage employers since last fall, when fast-food workers first went on strike in New York City. Since then, a series of short, sudden one-day strikes captured the news media’s attention and elicited sympathy from a broader public. Revelations of extravagant CEO pay have helped galvanize the movement, as worker productivity rose and wages fell since the end of the 2008 recession.
Today in the Windy City, Fight for Fifteen reported more than 200 employees picketed in front of a Whole Foods market at midday to bring attention to poverty wages and the company’s poor treatment of them. Strikers demanded higher pay and an end to Whole Foods’ arbitrary point system used to punish workers.

Circling in front of the supermarket entrance, video of the event showed energetic employees making clear they are not going to stand for mistreatment anymore. Among the chants heard were:
“Hey workers, I’ve got a story. Let’s tell the whole world this is union territory!” as well as “When workers are under attack what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”

They are demanding better pay and treatment.
Detroit workers demand fair pay at fast-food restaurant.
Earlier in the day, fast-food workers in Chicago, Detroit and Flint made their voices heard both inside and outside restaurants such as McDonald’s and Checkers. McDonald’s employees at different outlets used the same line to criticize the hamburger giant:
Hold your burgers, hold your fries, make our wages super-sized.
Workers also took the low-wage strike into the community. Workers at a McDonald’s in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood, for instance, began handing out leaflets in the surrounding area to raise awareness about their plight. Detroit organizers, meanwhile, used Twitter to call on the public to sign online petitions to show their solidarity with fast-food workers in their push for a living wage.
In all, employees from 80 restaurant chains in Detroit and Flint walked off the job. Organizers in Chicago said workers from 26 fast-food and retail chains were expected to strike as well. They join the low-wage strike started this week by workers in New York City, St. Louis and Kansas City who  are fighting for higher wages and the right to form a union without retaliation.
You can help out by signing the petition here and giving a “Like” to the “Low Pay Is Not OK” Facebook page here.

Teamsters protest retaliation at McKesson today

Teamsters protest McKesson's retaliation against Florida warehouse workers. 
The Teamsters protest of McKesson Corp.'s retaliation against its Lakeland, Fla., warehouse workers is taking place right now during the company's annual shareholder meeting in San Francisco.

Though McKesson employees voted for Teamster representation more than a year ago, the company still will not agree to a first contract that provides decent wages and affordable health care.

McKesson, the largest pharmaceutical distributor in North America hired a union-busting law firm and has threatened and intimidated the workers rather than agree to a contract.

CEO John Hammergren, meanwhile, is looting the company treasury with $131 million in compensation last year -- after McKesson paid nearly $1 billion to settle claims that it stole from taxpayers and customers through price-fixing. 

The Teamsters protest against retaliation at McKesson is just the latest manifestation of labor unrest that's sweeping the country. Today hundreds of fast-food workers in Chicago and Detroit walked off the job, following similar actions in New York, St. Louis and Kansas City. Teamsters are striking Gold Cross Ambulance in El Centro., Calif., to protest low wages and dangerous working conditions. The protests, strikes and rallies are fueled by anger by CEO looting. They are all aimed at the same thing: empowering workers to stand together and fight for fair treatment and living wages.

McKesson faces not just the Teamsters protest. Investors at today's meeting are challenging the election of two directors and demanding changes to the company's compensation policy.

Forbes reports today:
Should one of the largest drug wholesalers have a clawback policy for executives? Two institutional investors believe the notion is overdue for McKesson MCK +0.35%, since the wholesaler has paid more than $1 billion in recent years to resolve regulatory and other legal disputes without publicly disclosing any clawback steps. Meanwhile, McKesson ceo John Hammergren received $131 million in compensation last year. 
And so, the LongView Funds run by Amalgamated Bank and the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust are pushing a proposal to be voted on at the McKesson annual shareholder meeting tomorrow. As they see it, the move will “increase transparency, encourage executive pay-for-performance and discourage senior executives from engaging in behavior that could cause significant financial harm to the company.” 
What do they want? The investors argue that the current McKesson policy is too weak because misconduct is defined as acts that are intentional, regardless of the degree of harm, and they maintain the existing policy sets too high a standard under which clawbacks may be applied. For instance, theft is not covered if the amount of money stolen by an exec does not materially harm the wholesaler.
Stay tuned.

Today's Teamster News 07.31.13

Teamsters, Paratransit employees strike  Lake County Record-Bee ...The Teamsters and 35 employees of Lake County transit went on strike Monday after negotiations with Paratransit management failed to end in an agreement for a new contract...
UNITE HERE/Teamsters: Gate Gourmet faces labor trouble in North America   Enquirer Herald ...Facing crucial votes by workers in the US and Canada, Gate Gourmet, the world's largest independent airline caterer, finds itself headed toward two separate labor disputes that could impact the majority of its unionized North American workforce...
Teamsters, Long Beach Area Trucking Companies in Labor Struggle  Long Beach Business Journal   ...Having secured its first contract for truck drivers working at the Port of Los Angeles, local Teamster organizers are stepping up their efforts to secure contracts for drivers who work for or with other short-haul drayage companies at the twin ports...
Sign Up While There’s Still Time for the Teamster Women's Conference  IBT   ...Don’t forget to register for the Teamster Women’s Conference that will be held September 19-21, 2013 in The Big Easy. Join your Teamster Sisters and Brothers for this dynamic gathering of great speakers, educational workshops and networking. The hotel registration deadline is August 20...
Senate Confirms NLRB Nominees; Board at Full Strength  AFL-CIO Now   ...The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is now fully staffed and able to continue to function to protect workers’ rights after the U.S. Senate today confirmed five members...
More than 200 fast-food workers strike in St Louis, Kansas City  Associated Press least 150 workers walked off the job Tuesday at about 60 restaurants in the St. Louis area, including some in Illinois. She says at least 70 workers in the Kansas City area walked picket lines outside of dozens of restaurants...
Fourth round of arrests made at Wisconsin Capitol  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel   ...Police made a new round of arrests Tuesday at the state Capitol, as opponents of Gov. Scott Walker resumed their singalong protest in the rotunda...
Bloomberg's ban on big sodas is unconstitutional: appeals court  Reuters   ...New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's controversial plan to keep large sugary drinks out of restaurants and other eateries was rejected by a state appeals court on Tuesday, which said he had overstepped his authority in trying to impose the ban...
Food Stamp Cuts Set To Kick In, Congress Not Paying Attention  Huffington Post   ... Regardless of whether Republicans succeed in cutting food stamps this year, the 22 million American households relying on the program will see their benefits drop in November...
Where Did The Good Jobs Go? Globalization, Free Trade And The Demise Of America’s Middle Class   MintPress News   ...U.S.-based multinational corporations decreased their number of U.S. workers by 3.3 million from 1989-2011. Helping to accelerate this shift has been the proliferation of trade pacts like NAFTA, which eliminated nearly 700,000 U.S. jobs since it was first enacted in 1994...
Massive damage but no deaths in blast at central Florida propane plant  CNN   ...Equipment failure and human error likely caused the propane tank cylinders to explode at a central Florida refilling plant late Monday. The blasts at the Blue Rhino plant in Tavares injured eight plant workers...
The Force Behind Bills To Lower Wages and Suppress Workers’ Rights?  In These Times  ...You Guessed It: ALEC. The right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has modeled legislation to strip workers of their rights nationwide...
Georgia AG sues over online payday loans from SD  The Daily Republic   ...State Attorney General Sam Olens has filed a lawsuit against two companies saying they’ve been using the Internet to provide illegal payday loans to Georgia consumers...
Minnesota's child-care union fight is heating up  StarTribune   ...Judge ruled lawsuits to halt unionization effort were premature. Now opposing camps will try to get their messages out to about 12,700 family child-care providers...
Apple Supplier Accused Of Labor Abuses By China Watchdog (VIDEO)  Associated Press   ...A labor rights group Monday accused a Chinese company that makes iPhones for Apple Inc. of abuses including withholding employees' pay and excessive working hours...
FedEx Reaches $21.5 Million Settlement in Overcharging Suit  Bloomberg News ...FedEx Corp. will pay $21.5 million to settle a lawsuit over claims that it overcharged customers by billing for deliveries to businesses and governments at higher residential rates...
Gov. Scott Walker wants to now limit bargaining powers for police and fire unions  Fox6 News   ...The Act 10 law currently limits most collective bargaining powers for most public employees, except for police and fire unions. Now, Gov. Scott Walker has suggested expanding Act 10 to include those unions...
The Outrageous Truth About A $12 Minimum Wage And Your Grocery Bill  NH Labor News   ...Opponents imagine that inflation will skyrocket; some have even claimed that ‘milk will be $10.00 a gallon’ if we raise the minimum wage. Oh, the hysteria. Milk is currently around $3.50 a gallon and that is up 25% from just ten years ago. Is that 25% due to rising wages? Sadly, no – wages in America have declined during that time. Let’s look at a few facts about minimum wage...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

2nd day of fast food strikes hit Kansas City, St. Louis

Fast food strike in Kansas City
Fast food workers walked off the job today in Kansas City and St. Louis, fed up with poverty wages and employer retaliation. The action followed a one-day strike in New York City by hundreds of workers at fast food restaurants such as Wendy's, McDonald's and Burger King.

In Kansas City today, a Family Dollar worker inspired by the fast food strike walked off the job and joined the action.

Andre Houston, a McDonald's crew member in St. Louis, is featured on the "Low Wage Is Not OK" Facebook page. The message: His family relies on his salary just to live. His family can't survive on poverty wages.

Sixty Teamster first responders in El Centro, Calif, are also striking Gold Cross Ambulance for a third day. They're fighting against low wages and substandard equipment that puts patients at risk.

The labor unrest will continue to escalate through the rest of the week with short strikes against fast food companies in Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee. And in San Francisco, McKesson will face a large Teamster protest tomorrow because it retaliates against workers for trying to form a union. 

Time Magazine compared this week's industrywide strikes to the wave of actions that galvanized the labor movement during the 1930s:
This week’s walk-outs seem less about truly unionizing (even though the workers’ efforts have received support from the Service Employees International Union) and more about building public momentum for a higher minimum wage. Instead of taking the traditional route of trying to reach some sort of collective bargaining agreement, they’re betting that an Occupy-style public awareness campaign, based on the idea that their wages are inherently unfair, perpetuate inequality and fail to move them up the economic ladder, will lead to change at either the state or federal level.
Sign the petition demanding no retaliation against fast food strikers here. And give them a Facebook Like here.

Teamsters to protest against McKesson worker retaliation

McKesson Corporation will face a large Teamster protest tomorrow outside its shareholder meeting in San Francisco tomorrow because it abuses workers at its distribution facility in Lakeland, Fla. Though McKesson employees voted for Teamster representation more than a year ago, the company still will not agree to a first contract that provides decent wages and affordable health care.

McKesson, the largest pharmaceutical distributor in North America is retaliating against its Lakeland employees,. The company hired a union-busting law firm and has threatened and intimidated the workers rather than agree to wages they can live on.

The San Francisco-based pharmaceutical distributor is a poster child for corporate greed and corruption.
Accused of stealing from taxpayers and payors by fixing drug prices, it had to pay nearly $1 billion in legal settlements. Then the board allowed CEO John Hammergren to loot the company of roughly $50 million a year, with a pension estimated at $159 billion.

Tomorrow, McKesson will also face an investor backlash inside the shareholder meeting over the company’s excessive executive pay practices and poor corporate governance. The Change to Win Investment Group has called for a vote against Hammergren – as well as two other board members – because of the company’s pay practices and financial and reputational risks arising from widespread price fixing allegations.

Rome Aloise, Teamsters international vice president and president of Teamsters Joint Council 7, said it's no wonder health care costs are rising.
Teamsters won’t stand by while McKesson fleeces workers, investors and the American public.
Stay tuned.

Potential TPP costs keep going up

Looking for another reason to oppose a possible TPP trade deal? How about this -- America could be on the hook for potentially billions of dollars if an international company sues the government because it decides our health and safety rules are getting in the way of its profits.

South Centre, an intergovernmental think tank based in Geneva, Switzerland, details how a biased arbitration system used to decide cases between corporations and countries who are members of bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and “free trade” agreements is driving some nations to the financial brink:
Under these treaties, foreign companies can sue governments if they introduce policies that these companies deem affect their future incomes.  The treaties define “expropriation” to include depriving investors of future profits due to new regulations.
So a tobacco firm has sued Australia and Uruguay for requiring cigarette boxes to have plain packaging. When Ecuador cancelled a contract with an American oil company for violating the terms of the contract, the company won took a case and was awarded US$2.4 billion.
A report released last year by two European groups explains how a small group attorneys working for investors or as arbitrators have benefited from such litigation. The lawyers also encourage big companies to sue governments for potential fat paydays.

Among some of the findings are:
 Only 15 arbitrators, nearly all from Europe, the US or Canada, have decided 55 percent of all known investment-treaty disputes.   This small group sits on the same panels, acts as both arbitrators and counsels and call on each other as witnesses.
 Many arbitrators show a clear bias towards investors.  Several prominent arbitrators have been members of the board of major multinational companies, including those who filed cases against developing countries.
 A few law firms have been encouraging investors to sue governments, as a weapon to weaken or prevent laws on public health or the environment.  These investment lawyers are the new “ambulance chasers” and have fuelled an increase in cases from 38 in 1996 to 450 known cases in 2011.
 Countries have to pay exorbitant legal and arbitration costs averaging over $8 million per dispute, and exceeding US$30 million in some cases.  The Philippines spent $58 billion defending two cases against a German firm.
The U.S could be a huge target for such litigation if it enters into the TPP deal. Our country has more stringent labor, workplace safety, health and environmental rules than many of the 11 other nations we are currently negotiating with as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact. If we agree to the TPP, the only solution to avoid these lawsuits would be to lower our standards. That’s no solution at all.

It's time we negotiate trade agreements that protect American workers, not the big corporations. We should be setting the standards on how to treat workers, produce the best and safest products, and protect the environment. If the TPP is going to sink the workplace standards to the level of sweatshops in Vietnam, we should pass.

ALEC link to official who cheated on charter school grade

There's an ALEC link (what a shock) to the Indiana school superintendent who inflated the grade of an outsourced school run by a wealthy political donor.

Our friends at the Center for Media and Democracy found the ALEC link. We're cross-posting their story below:

New documents show that former Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett -- who now heads Florida's schools -- overhauled Indiana's much-heralded school grading system to guarantee that a charter run by a major campaign donor would receive top marks. These revelations shine a light on the big bucks behind the education privatization agenda, its continued failure to meet the need of students, and provides another instance of cheating to cover up poor educational outcomes.

Bennett had been applauded by education privatizers like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for enacting reforms like school grading, vouchers, and anti-union measures. He was a keynote speaker at ALEC’s December 2011 States and Nation Policy Summit, and the education reforms he pushed were adopted by ALEC in August 2011 as a stand-alone bill called the "Indiana Education Reform Package" -- in no small part because they reflected ALEC model legislation.

"This will be a HUGE problem for us"

Christel DeHaan, a big Republican donor in Indiana and school privatization supporter, gave Bennett an astounding $130,000 in campaign contributions for his 2008 and 2012 elections. But when DeHaan's Christel House charter school received a "C" last September under Bennett's grading system, he and his staff scrambled to fix it, according to emails obtained by the Associated Press.

"They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work," Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence's chief lobbyist.

Bennett had made the A to F grading system a signature item of his 2011 radical education reforms, which he spearheaded with the support of then-Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and ALEC legislators in the state. Bennett often cited Christel House as a model charter school as he secured support for his education overhaul, and according to the emails had assured the Chamber of Commerce and legislative leaders that Christel was an "A" school.

"This will be a HUGE problem for us," Bennett wrote to Neal about the school's "C" grade.

Neal emailed back a few minutes later: "Oh, crap. We cannot release until this is resolved."

"Legislative leadership as well as critics of A-F are going to use this against us to undo our accountability metrics through legislation," Bennett wrote in another email. "I hope we come to the meeting today with solutions and not excuses and/or explanations for me to wiggle myself out of the repeated lies I have told over the past six months."

According to the Associated Press, Bennett's staff scrambled to alter the grading system over the next week, and Christel House's grade jumped twice, eventually reaching an "A."

Indiana Has No Campaign Contribution Limits

In most states, a donor like DeHaan would be prohibited from directly giving a candidate tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, but Indiana has no campaign contribution limits for superintendent.

Bennett, first elected in 2008, raised an astounding amount of money for his 2012 reelection campaign: DeHaan gave $75,000, and was one of Bennett's top donors, behind Wal-Mart heir Alice Walton, another major school privatization funder, who gave him $200,000. Other donors included voucher proponent Eli Broad ($50,000) and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ($40,000).

He also got $45,000 from Hoosiers for Education Reform, a group bankrolled by the DeVos family's American Federation for Children, which itself has run into some campaign finance problems. As CMD has documented, AFC boasted to funders in 2012 that it spent $2.4 million in Wisconsin helping elect nine Wisconsin state legislators, but told the state's Government Accountability Board that it spent only $345,000 that year.

But despite significantly outraising his opponent, voters rejected Bennett and his education reform agenda, in what the head of the teacher's union called the biggest upset in Indiana history.

Money may not have bought that election, but given these latest email revelations, it sure did seem to buy some special treatment.

How Common is Cheating?

For years, educational reformers have promoted the notion that schools need to be run more like a business, with "competition" from for-profit entities and increased "accountability" through testing regimes. But the promised improvements in educational outcomes have not followed, apparently leading some to cook the books.

Perhaps the best-known cheating scandal came from former Washington, D.C., school Chancellor Michelle Rhee, whose controversial reforms had been credited with improving test scores in the District's schools -- an accomplishment that has been cast into doubt by evidence of widespread cheating, where teachers or school officials appeared to change students' incorrect test answers to improve results. Investigations have found extremely high erasure rates that were statistically anomalous, and some charter schools have been cited.

Despite these scandals, both Rhee and Bennett have moved on to greener pastures. After resigning from her position in 2010, Rhee went on to found the 501(c)(4) StudentsFirst, and after Bennett's election loss in Indiana, he was appointed by Florida Governor Rick Scott to head that state's school system.

Day 3: Teamster first responders strike against low wages in CA

Teamster first responders picketing Gold Cross ambulance.
Teamster first responders for Gold Cross Ambulance are on strike for a third day in their fight for a wage that allows them to feed their families and pay for medical coverage.

Sixty of our Teamster brothers and sisters in El Centro, Calif., are standing strong against Gold Cross Ambulance, which pays them starting hourly wages ranging from $8.78 to $9.77  for saving lives as ambulance drivers, EMTs and paramedics. They are members of Teamsters Local 542 in San Diego.

Phil Farias, president of Teamsters Local 542, said the Teamsters deserve a fair wage, better benefits and decent working conditions:
These are dedicated employees who want to do this work, who want to serve their community.
The Teamster first responders are joining a wave of strikes engulfing low-wage employers around the country. Labor unrest is escalating this week with a series of shorts strikes against fast-food companies. Hundreds walked off the job at Wendy's, McDonald's and KFC yesterday in New York. Today low-wage workers went on strike in Kansas City and St. Louis, while more workers are expected to strike in Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee over the next few days.

In California, KYMA News reports:
Alex Ochoa has been working for Gold Cross Ambulance as a paramedic for 13 years. 
"We're running out on calls--we break down going to a call. Or we have a patient on board--A/C's not working in the back. We're handing them ice packs and apologizing to them," Ochoa said.
Despite the 106 degree heat, the employees on strike are out 24 hours a day holding signs near the corner of Imperial Avenue and Vine Street in El Centro.

“Our members are strong and they will stay out for as long as it takes to get a fair contract,” Farias said.

NC Teamsters in biggest Moral Monday protest yet

Moral Monday protesters rallied against the anti-worker Legislature.
Teamsters were among the 10,000 Moral Monday protesters who marched through the streets of Raleigh, N.C., last night to voice their disgust for a slate of anti-worker initiatives approved by the Legislature this year.  It was the largest of the weekly protests that resulted in 925 arrests for civil disobedience.

Lawmakers gutted public education, cut taxes for corporations while raising them for working and middle-class families more and suppressed voting. They cut unemployment and Medicaid benefits. While elected officials disappeared after recessing for the year last week, demonstrators at the 13th Moral Monday event met on the Statehouse grounds before marching downtown through the state capital. Organizers plan to take the show on the road with similar protests scheduled to be held across the state in the weeks to come. The first is planned for Asheville, N.C., on Monday.
Randy Conrad, a Teamsters Local 71 organizer in Charlotte, said several of his members were in attendance yesterday to express their outrage at the direction Gov. Pat McCrory and legislators are taking the state:
We are pretty upset, even those people who voted for them. I can’t wrap my head around what they are trying to accomplish.
Many protesters yesterday were teachers outraged about budget provisions that freeze their pay – already among the lowest in the nation – while ending tenure and taking away salary incentives for them to earn master’s degrees. Several said they could be forced to move elsewhere is search of fairer wages.

Forsyth County teacher Frankie Santoro, who attended the march with fellow teacher Sara Thompson, said:
Without a doubt, we are both thinking of leaving the state. And we believe there will be a mass exodus of teachers from North Carolina.
Denise Jordan, a Guilford County parent who came to the rally with several of her local teachers, said the Legislature went too far:
Enough is enough. You can’t make a state better if we’re going to totally destroy education.
Gov. McCrory and the Legislature are fulfilling the anti-worker agenda pushed by greedy billionaire Art Pope, an ALEC disciple and Benedict Arnold Koch brothers buddy who got himself appointed state budget director after financing a number of radical politicians’ campaigns.
However, Moral Monday organizers -- led by the NAACP’s state chapter -- said they are not backing down and will continue through next year’s election.

Police, firefighters now in Walker's union-busting sights

Wisconsin Job-killer Gov. Scott Walker now says he wants to destroy collective bargaining rights for police and firefighters.

If you're surprised by this, you haven't been paying attention.

Walker exempted police and firefighters in 2011 from his infamous Act 10 in 2011 -- the one that caused massive, month-long protests in the state Capitol. Act 10 was Walker's attempt to crush his political opponents -- unions representing teachers, snow plow drivers, solid waste workers and nurses -- by eviscerating their right to bargain collectively.

Wisconsin's police and firefighters are not stupid. They stood with their public-sector brothers and sisters during the protests.

Walker's plan was clear from the beginning. He was even caught on camera divulging his "divide and conquer" strategy to a billionaire, tax-avoiding donor in January 2011. Now he's putting it into play.

FOX News in Milwaukee reported the story:
 Police and fire unions were exempted from the reforms, but now, Gov. Scott Walker has suggested expanding Act 10 to include those unions. 
“I think now, for those areas, having seen that the world didn’t come to an end for other municipal employees, there might be a greater opening going forward because they’d say, ‘hey, you know, things worked out,’” Gov. Walker said Monday, July 29th... 
Gov. Walker says the reason for that was public safety. 
“If I had one jurisdiction where somebody walked off, or didn’t come to work or slowed down on things, and someone was injured or killed because of that — I said I can’t deal with that,” Gov. Walker said.
The obvious question is why he didn't do it earlier if safety was such a concern?

Maybe he was too busy killing jobs. The fact is things haven't "worked out" for other municipal employees, as Wisconsin's economy has been in the toilet since -- oh, just about the time Walker took office.

Today's Teamster News 07.30.13

Waste Drivers In Michigan Join Teamsters Local 337  IBT   ...On July 26, drivers who transport trash in their tractor-trailer rigs voted overwhelmingly to join Local 337 in Detroit/Port Huron...
Teamsters Still Question Mexican Truck Safety Despite Court Decision  IBT ...The Teamsters today questioned the safety of Mexican trucks after a federal court refused to rehear the union’s challenge to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s cross-border truck pilot program...
Teamster horse-and-carriage drivers lash out on ASPCA’s alleged anti-Christine Quinn moves  New York Daily News   ...Teamsters Local 533 says the ASPCA violated its nonprofit status by giving $450,000 over the past several years to New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, or NYCLASS, which wants to end the horse-carriage industry and runs a website called
Latest UPS Update  IBT   ...As you are aware, the national agreement was approved by a majority of Teamsters who voted. However, 17 supplements and riders were not approved...
Teamster Lake Transit workers vote to strike indefinitely  Lake County News   ...On Sunday, Lake Transit Authority workers, who are members of Teamsters Local 665, voted to strike until they settle their new contract--a move that's expected to result in curtailed services for the county's transit riders...
Massive Cuts Looming for MTD Bus Riders  Santa Barbara Independent   ...Four Lines Face Outright Elimination, Another 13 Threatened With Reduced Service. Unless funding is restored, 50 MTD bus drivers, who are represented by Teamsters Local 186, would be affected by the cuts...
BART And Unions Still Far Apart Before Strike Deadline  KCBS5 News   ...While Bay Area Rapid Transit worker contract talks were scheduled to continue this week, the transit agency’s management and labor unions remain as far apart as ever, offering little hope that an agreement will be made before the strike deadline August 4th...
Misclassification of employees carries penalties (opinion)  ABQ Journal   …This practice of misclassification has created substantial problems for affected employees and for the United States Treasury, the Social Security and Medicare...
Fast food strikes intensify in seven cities  Salon   ...The biggest walkout yet began yesterday morning -- and the strikes could have far-reaching implications for labor…
Teachers crowd final Raleigh 'Moral Monday' protest  Associated Press   ...Thousands of North Carolina teachers and other protesters on Monday staged one of the largest of the almost-weekly demonstrations opposing Republican policy decisions...
Michigan attorney general backs pensioners in Detroit bankruptcy  Global Post   ...Michigan's Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, said on Saturday he would defend retirees who risk losing public pensions because of Detroit's bankruptcy, putting him at odds with the city's emergency manager appointed by fellow Republican Governor Rick Snyder...
Labor playing field needs to be leveled with ideas from both sides of the aisle (opinion)  Oakland Press   ...A recent guest opinion asserted that the passage of so-called Right-to-Work legislation in Michigan led to the state's mild economic recovery. To the contrary, it is highly doubtful that Michigan gained a single high-wage job as a result of Right-to-Work or any other piece of anti-labor legislation...
Quinn signs bill allowing online voter registration in Illinois  Chicago Tribune   ...Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed a measure into law Saturday that will make Illinois the 18th state to allow voters to register online...
Landmark California regulations under federal fire  Los Angeles Times   ...Companies are going through Congress to fight California's stricter workplace, consumer and environmental laws. Gridlock and sympathetic Republicans in the House could work in their favor...
State agencies crack down on local temp worker abuse  Burlington County Times   ...The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor in South Jersey has some advice for employers who think they are not responsible for making sure temporary workers are getting paid minimum wage: Don’t...
Openness lost in privatization  Muskogee Phoenix   ...A push toward the privatization of Oklahoma state services is spawning criticism from those who see the trend as the decline of government transparency and accountability...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Grade changed to A for political donor's outsourced school in Indiana

An outsourced school in Indiana that should have gotten a C for performance instead got an A because it was run by a prominent Republican donor Christel DeHaan.

DeHaan founded the Christel House charter school.She also gave more than $2.8 million to Republicans since 1998, including $130,000 to Bennett.

The Associated Press reported today,
...when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, former Indiana school Superintendent Tony Bennett's education team frantically overhauled his signature "A-F" school grading system to improve the school's marks. 
Emails obtained by The Associated Press show Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan's school received an "A," despite poor test scores in algebra that initially earned it a "C." 
"They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work," Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence's chief lobbyist. 
The emails, which also show Bennett discussed with staff the legality of changing just DeHaan's grade, raise unsettling questions about the validity of a grading system that has broad implications. Indiana uses the A-F grades to determine which schools get taken over by the state and whether students seeking state-funded vouchers to attend private school need to first spend a year in public school. They also help determine how much state funding schools receive.
The Associated Press reported other schools had their grades changed, but only because the grade was changed for DeHaan's charter school. According to AP:
Bennett consistently cited Christel House as a top-performing school as he secured support for the measure from business groups and lawmakers, including House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long.

But trouble loomed when Indiana's then-grading director, Jon Gubera, alerted Bennett on Sept 13 that the Christel House Academy had scored a 2.9, or a "C."

"This will be a HUGE problem for us," Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12, 2012 email to Neal.

Neal fired back a few minutes later, "Oh, crap. We cannot release until this is resolved."
And why were we not surprised to learn that Bennett is now Florida's education commissioner, where he is reworking the grading system?

Teamsters organizing victory in Michigan

Our new Teamster brothers and sisters in Detroit.

Please give a warm welcome to our 55 new brothers and sisters who drive trash in tractor-trailer rigs for Stafford Transportation in Port Huron, Mich. They voted overwhelmingly on Friday to join Teamsters Local 337 in Detroit/Port Huron.

Jim Parrinello, trustee for Teamsters Local 337, said the workers are seeking fair wages and respect on the job:
The workers remained strong and united, and they had a very strong committee of 13, which grew to 25.
The Stafford drivers won even though the company fired the main worker-organizer, Mike Williams. He had refused to give the company the authorization cards signed by workers as management demanded. Teamsters Local 337 has filed charges with the NLRB over the firing. The charges are pending. 

Local President Mike Martin said General President Jim Hoffa stressed the importance of organizing at the Teamsters Joint Council 43 spring delegates meeting.
This victory at Stafford is our second organizing victory since then. Earlier, we won an election at First Student.  
Parrinello thanked Teamsters Local 419 and its members in Canada who came into contact with the Stafford workers. They talked about the benefits of being Teamsters. He also said Teamsters Local 299 President Kevin Moore, who serves on the Joint Council 43 Executive Board, helped make the campaign a success.

Bob Morales, director of the Teamsters Solid Waste, Recycling and Related Industries Division, said:
We’re enthusiastic about organizing many more members across America.

Unions cautioned about surveillance

In These Times cautioned last week about the potential dangers posed by government surveillance to labor unions.

Sam Adler-Bell and David Segal detail the long and troubled history of the federal government spying on unions and their leaders in an effort to quash their activities. But most distressingly, it explains how such efforts continue today. There’s plenty of evidence that the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and other U.S. intelligence agency are working on behalf of Wall Street and multinational corporations:
All this points to the fact that today’s ever-expanding surveillance state should strike fear into the heart of organized labor not only because there is opportunity for abuse, but because there is motive. Thanks to Citizens United, the funding of most major political campaigns by the richest fraction of society, and the increasing coziness of Washington and Wall Street, we’re living in a moment in which the interests of the U.S. government and its representatives are increasingly synonymous with the interests of the wealthy, the banks, and major corporations.
Efforts to monitor labor activists go back to the 19th century, when the Pinkerton Detective Agency surveilled, infiltrated and ultimately brought down Pennsylvania miner activists known as the Molly Maguires in the 1870s.

There has been no shortage of incidents in this century as well, ranging from the New York Police Department wiretapping the phones of labor organizations in 1916 to Sen.  Joseph McCarthy calling union supporters Communists and blacklisting them for employment during the 1950s.
Now with the technology available, surveillance is even easier. The article notes that employers increasingly monitor strikers and other workers deemed “trouble makers” using cameras and videotaping capabilities available on most cell phones:
It’s this reality—that the NSA’s new spying powers represent an extension of the kind of repression regularly engaged in by union-busting employers across the country—that we hope the rest of the labor movement will come to appreciate.

Will it?

Biggest wave of fast-food strikes begins today

Fast-food strike in New York City today.
A wave of fast-food strikes began in New York City today as workers prepare to walk off the job in seven more cities over the next few days. It is likely to be the biggest mobilization of low-wage workers since the short, sudden one-day job actions began in November.

Fast-food workers are striking in restaurants like McDonald's, Papa John's and Wendy's in New York City. More walkouts are planned for Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Mo., and Flint, Mich. The workers demand a living wage and the right to form a union without retaliation.

The success of previous fast-food strikes has given momentum to the growing movement for livable wages. Josh Eidelson, writing in Salon, spoke to a fast-food worker a month ago:
St. Louis Jimmy John’s employee Rasheen Aldridge told Salon that there “was a whole lot of nervousness” when he and three co-workers at his store first went on strike in May. “There was a big chance that I could of got fired,” said Aldridge, “because that’s just how, you know, fast food operates.” But when they returned to work in one piece, he said his co-workers’ reaction was “You know, you guys sort of took the step we all need to do.”
Today's walkout is generating national media attention, as The New York Times, broadcast and cable news networks and the financial press. Steven Greenhouse at The New York Times writes:
Often relegated to the background, America’s low-wage workers have been making considerable noise lately by deploying an unusual weapon — one-day strikes — to make their message heard: they’re sick and tired of earning just $8, $9, $10 an hour. 
Their anger has been stoked by what they see as a glaring disconnect: their wages have flatlined, while median pay for chief executives at the nation’s top corporations jumped 16 percent last year, averaging a princely $15.1 million, according to Equilar, an executive compensation analysis firm. 
In recent weeks, workers from McDonald’s, Taco Bell and other fast-food restaurants — many of them part-time employees — have staged one-day walkouts in New York, Chicago, Detroit and Seattle to protest their earnings, typically just $150 to $350 a week, often too little to support themselves and their families. 
Bloomberg News reports that low-wage jobs are the fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy:
The leisure and hospitality industry, which includes restaurants, is adding jobs faster than any other sector in the U.S. In June, the sector added 75,000 jobs, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fast-food cooks make $9.02 an hour, or about $18,760 a year, on average, according to 2012 data from the Washington-based agency.
The problem of low wages isn't limited to fast-food workers. Today, Hope Yen at the Associated Press reported that 80 percent of adults in the United States struggle to earn enough money at some point in their lives:
Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream... 
Nationwide, the count of America's poor remains stuck at a record number: 46.2 million, or 15 percent of the population, due in part to lingering high unemployment following the recession.

Today's Teamster News 07.29.13

Teamsters On Strike Against Gold Cross Ambulance  Local 542   ..."It is the hope of Teamsters Local 542 that the company realizes the danger that their actions and position has put the residents of the Imperial County in and that they come back to the table with an offer for their employees that will end this strike as soon as possible..."
Exclusive: Signs of declining economic security  Associated Press   ...Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream...
U.S. Multinationals Were Hiring Like Mad in 2011...Abroad   Economic Populist   ...we have a 0.1% increase in hiring for jobs in the United States while MNCs (multinational corporations) increased their hiring abroad by 4.4%...
REPORT: Canceling Sequestration Could Add Up To 1.6 Million Jobs  ThinkPtogress   ...Fully canceling sequestration at the beginning of August would likely add 900,000 jobs to the economy but could add up to as many as 1.6 million, according to a new analysis from the Congressional Budget Office...
The Bogus High-Tech Worker Shortage: How Guest Workers Lower US Wages  PBS Newshour   ...When Bill Clinton was president, wages for American IT workers were climbing and American students were clamoring to become computer scientists. Fifteen years later, average real IT wages are no higher. It is no coincidence that high-tech industries are now using guest workers to fill two-thirds of new IT jobs...
It’s Been A Busy Week Of Protests In America: Teachers, Pensions, Minimum Wage…  Mint Press News   ...Detroit is bankrupt, Chicago just layed off 2,100 teachers, and California Wal-Mart workers are on strike. Across the U.S., a growing number of Americans are fed up with low pay and spending cuts that are touted as a panacea for budget deficit and years of overspending by American cities...
Activists protest outside Wells Fargo executive's San Marino home  Los Angeles Times   ...About 70 anti-foreclosure activists gathered Saturday afternoon outside the San Marino home of Wells Fargo Chief Financial Officer Tim Sloan, testing a city law against political protest in residential areas that was enacted after a previous demonstration at the bank executive’s house...
Fighting Back Against Wretched Wages  New York Times   ...More walkouts are expected at fast-food restaurants in seven cities on Monday...
Unlike American Parents, Prince William Gets Paid Paternity Leave After The Royal Baby Is Born  ThinkProgress   ...the U.K. guarantees a weekly sum of £136.78 (equivalent to $209.78) or 90 percent of a father’s average weekly earnings – whichever is lower – for the duration of leave...
Governor Admits He ‘Does Not Know Enough’ About The Voter Suppression Bill He’s About To Sign  ThinkProgress   ...North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) said Friday he would sign a bill passed by the North Carolina legislature that would become the most suppressive voting law in the nation...
Solidarity Sing Along crowd grows as arrests continue at Wisconsin Capitol  The Cap Times   ...Arrests of protesters continued for the third straight day Friday at the state Capitol, suggesting a renewed effort by Gov. Scott Walker’s administration to silence the ad-hoc “Solidarity Sing Along” group is doing little to stop the daily event...
Let Me Show You Why People Support Scott Walker  Daily Kos   ...Propaganda disguised as news...
Lew: No federal bailout for Detroit  The Hill   ...Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Sunday defended the administration’s decision not to help bail out Detroit, saying that the city would need to negotiate its own resolution with creditors...
California Hunger Strikers Enter Third Week, Face Retaliation  Truth-out   ...The strike encompassed people in two-thirds of California's state prisons and four out-of-state private prisons contracted by California...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Today's Teamster News 07.28.13

Funeral homes win ruling to hold striking Teamsters at bay  Chicago Tribune   ...A judge has granted a temporary restraining order to prevent Teamsters Local 727 from picketing funeral homes and halting alleged harassment of grieving families in its dispute with SCI Illinois Services Inc....
‘Made in Vietnam’ a concern for Teamsters   Cumberland Times-News   ...Teamsters union President James P. Hoffa, along with human rights leaders, say there’s a bleak reality behind imported clothing: Forced labor, child labor and gender discrimination, among other issues...
Will U.S. Face Trade Sanctions for Anti-Smoking Law?  Public Citizen   ...As the World Trade Organization (WTO) deadline passes today for the United States to comply with a WTO ruling against a U.S. ban on sweet-flavored cigarettes targeting youth, the spotlight shifts back to the WTO, which could now authorize trade sanctions if requested by Indonesia, the country that won the WTO challenge...
Prison Labor Booms As Unemployment Remains High; Companies Reap Benefits  Huffington Post   ..."nearly a million prisoners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day..."
SPLC secures release of Alabama man jailed after failing to pay $88 trash bill  Southern Poverty Law Center   ...Though debtors’ prison is supposed to be a thing of the past, a 60-year-old man in Baldwin County, Ala., spent two weeks in jail after failing to pay an $88 trash bill...
You Want a Living Wage With That? Fast Food Workers of N.Y.C. Prep for Another Strike  Village Voice   ...The strike will be their third since November, when fast food workers from Domino's, McDonald's, Wendy's, Taco Bell and other chains organized a massive walkout...
Fast Food, Low Pay (opinion)  New York Times   ... Workers with nothing to lose are demanding a living wage of $15 an hour, and gaining strength and confidence...
Evidence Mounts Agent Provocateurs Used by Brazilian Police  Common Dreams   ...Police sent infiltrators and agent provocateurs into crowds of protesters in Rio de Janeiro Monday—the first day of the Pope's visit to Brazil— as extensive video footage and witness testimony strongly suggests...
Where's the Beef?: The First Thing Obama Can Do By Himself to Create Good Jobs (opinion) Next New Deal   ...He can start with an executive order to boost job quality for at least 2 million workers whose pay is financed by the federal government...
Minimum Wage Hike Would Boost Kids and Workers Out of Poverty  AFL-CIO Now   ...26% of kids younger than 3 are poor and the rate for African American children is 39%. Yet two-thirds of children living in poverty have at least one parent with a full-time, year-round job and many of those are minimum wage jobs...
What parents really think about school reform  Washington Post   ...most parents want strong neighborhood schools — not choices of schools for their children to attend. They don’t want public money diverted to private-school vouchers, or low-performing schools to be closed, or resources being taken away from traditional public schools to be used for public charter schools...
Student Loans Tied to Rise in Market Rates While Wall Street Banks Have Received a Fixed 6% Return from the Government for the Past Century  Wall Street on Parade   ... Loans taken out after July 1 of this year will rise to 3.9 percent for undergraduates; to 5.4 percent for graduate students; and to 6.4 percent for parents taking out the student loans...
The tax break that corporate America wants kept secret CNN Money   ...Oracle, Google, and Amazon are just a few of the hundreds of large companies that have cut confidential deals with the IRS to help lower their tax bills, and critics want the agency to disclose the details of these complex pacts...
Apple’s record cash haul could repay Detroit’s debt eight times over  Quartz   ...Apple now has $146.6 billion in cash and marketable securities on its balance sheet, with some $106 billion kept offshore, the company said during today’s earnings call. That’s a record for the poster-child of tech companies maintaining mountains of overseas green. It’s enough to pay off bankrupt Detroit’s $18.5 billion in debt about eight times over...
New $444 million hockey arena is still a go in Detroit  CNN Money   ...Detroit's financial crisis hasn't derailed the city's plans to spend more than $400 million in Michigan taxpayer funds on a new hockey arena for the Red Wings...
Armed, Masked and Dangerous: the Militias of Privatization vs. the Public Good  TruthOut   ...Wisconsin, the battleground state where Governor Scott Walker has wielded his power with the grace of an elephant in a Crate and Barrel outlet store, has become the scene of armed, mask wearing, camouflaged security outfits patrolling the backwoods on the lookout for eco-terrorist types at the behest of a mining company more than willing to defile the environment for profits...
A voting rights showdown in North Carolina?  CBS News   ...North Carolina, a battleground state that's sure to be one again, is putting in place a new package of measures for voter ID requirements and - importantly - changing its early voting periods, among other measures, steps that many believe have it headed for a voting rights lawsuit...

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Today's Teamster News 7.27.13

Chicagoland Families Stand With Striking Teamster Funeral Directors, Transfer Services to Alternative Funeral Homes  IBT ...Families throughout Chicagoland are supporting striking funeral directors and drivers by refusing to cross picket lines and transferring their funeral services to worker-friendly funeral homes...
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Encouraged By Actions of Canadian Rail Safety Regulator  BLET   ...The following is the official statement from Dennis R. Pierce, National President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen in response to media inquiries regarding the BLET’s reaction to the July 23 Emergency Directive issued by Transport Canada...
DD2 renews contract with Durham School Services  WCSC-5 News   ...Dorchester District 2 has renewed its contract with Durham School Services, the company which provides transportation for its students. The workers are represented by Teamsters Local 509...
Teamsters Picket In WV To Support Tenn. Members  WCHS-8 News   ...Members of the Teamsters union are picketing in West Virginia in support of their union brothers in Tennessee. Picketers set up shop outside the Cummins Crosspoint plant in Cross Lanes Friday morning. See the video here...
UFCW Locals 21, 367 and the Teamsters Stand Together for Fair Grocery Contract  UFCW   ...30,000  members of UFCW Locals 21 and 367 and Teamsters Local 38 in Washington state are covered by contracts at grocers Albertsons, Safeway, Fred Meyer and Quality Food Centers and other local independent stores that are up for bargaining this year. As the companies propose the elimination of healthcare, cuts to pay, and denied paid sick days, the union members have responded with more solidarity than ever...
Banks shiver as UBS swallows $885 million U.S. fine  Reuters   ...UBS will pay $885 million (574.8 million pounds) in a settlement with a U.S. regulator over allegations the Swiss bank misrepresented mortgage-backed bonds during the housing bubble, paving the way for billions more to be paid by other banks...
SAC Capital Is Arraigned on a Raft of Criminal Charges  New York Times   ...the firm was arraigned on a raft of criminal insider trading charges, making it the first large American company to face an indictment in more than a decade. Prosecutors on Thursday announced the case against SAC, run by the billionaire Steven A. Cohen, calling it a “veritable magnet of market cheaters...”
Fast-food workers’ pay protests pick up steam  Washington Post   ...Supporters of a fledgling movement for better pay for fast-food and other poorly paid employees are hoping for a major boost next week when thousands of low-wage workers are expected to walk off their jobs in seven U.S. cities. On Monday, workers are planning to stage one-day strikes at some of the nation’s best known and most profitable fast-food restaurants, including KFC, Wendy’s, Burger King and McDonald’s...
Seattle fast-food workers file wage-theft complaints  Seattle Times   ...Fast-food workers announced the filing of wage-theft complaints against some local restaurants Thursday, as part of an effort to spotlight what some say is an epidemic problem for low-wage workers...
Solidarity Sing Along crowd grows as arrests continue at Wisconsin Capitol  The Cap Times   ...Arrests of protesters continued for the third straight day Friday at the state Capitol, suggesting a renewed effort by Gov. Scott Walker’s administration to silence the ad-hoc “Solidarity Sing Along” group is doing little to stop the daily event...
In Scott Walker era, unions are essential (opinion)  Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel   ...Contrary to the notion in the Journal Sentinel July 23 editorial that Act 10 means public employee unions "lost many of their reasons for being," Wisconsin's lagging economy since Act 10 underscores exactly why these unions are needed more than ever...
Labor Leaders Seek Government Aid for Detroit   New York Times ...Top leaders of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. on Thursday called on President Obama and the Congress to offer an immediate financial infusion to Detroit, which last week became the largest American city ever to file for bankruptcy...
Creditors to fight Detroit insolvency claim  Detroit News   ...“pension funds, unions and unsecured bondholders would receive, in some cases, as little as 10 cents on the dollar” while Bank of American and UBS will get 75 cents...
North Carolina approves nation’s most restrictive voter suppression law  Salon   ...the North Carolina state legislature approved a radical voter suppression bill on a party line vote. The measure, easily the most extreme anti-voter bill passed by any state since the Jim Crow era, now heads to Republican Governor Pat McCrory for his signature. Court challenges — many of them — will most assuredly follow...
Florida can continue purging voters  MSNBC   ...More fallout from the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act came this week as a Federal Appeals court dismissed a lawsuit brought last year that tried to block a Florida voter purge...
Obama and Vietnam’s Leader Pledge Deeper Ties  New York Times   ...Bearing a copy of a letter from Ho Chi Minh to Harry S. Truman, the president of Vietnam met President Obama on Thursday and pledged to deepen trade and military ties with the United States even as they tangled over human rights...
Why a Train Crash like Spain’s is Unlikely To Happen in the U.S.  Time   ...The train that derailed and killed at least 80 people and injured 178 Wednesday night is a harrowing reminder of what can go wrong at high speeds. But experts say that U.S. riders have little to fear from the rails...
Gubernatorial candidate seeks to overhaul public-sector unions  St. Cloud Times   ...Minnesota State Sen. Dave Thompson roused conservative support and drew unions’ ire last year with his sponsorship of a so-called “right-to-work” constitutional amendment...
Illinois Unions Call for Investigation  WTAX News Radio   ...Unions are calling for an investigation into whether business leaders tried to persuade credit agencies to lower Illinois’ bond rating...
Rhode Island Bars Criminal History Questions on Job Applications  JCK Online   ...A new Rhode Island law will prevent employers in the state from asking prospective employees about their criminal history on job applications...
David Simon urges Tribune Co. not to sell the Sun to Koch brothers  City Paper   ...David Simon, who spent 13 years as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun before creating The Wire and Treme, has lent his voice to a campaign urging the Sun‘s owners, the Chicago-based Tribune Company, not to sell the paper to the oil-company heirs and right-wing activists Charles and David Koch...