Tuesday, March 24, 2015

BP flees, but ALEC still wreaks havoc on workers

Just when ALEC was starting to succeed in killing states' renewable energy standards, one of its biggest fossil-fuels members decided to stop paying membership dues. On Monday, oil-and-gas giant BP announced it was parting company with ALEC.

ALEC, if you haven't been paying attention, is a corporate escort service that finds willing politicians to, ahem, 'influence' on behalf of polluters, union-busters, privatizers, monopolists and purveyors of dangerous products. For companies that pretend to care about the environment, workers or consumers, exposure as an ALEC member can be pretty embarrassing.

A campaign to expose ALEC's members, of which the Teamsters has long been part, helped force more than 100 organizations to quit. The total market capitalization of the companies that left ALEC in recent years is more than $7.25 trillion.

One company isn't likely to leave ALEC any time soon: Koch Industries, the company the Koch brothers inherited from their father. The Kochs have bankrolled ALEC over the years to weaken unions, lower wages and discourage clean energy. Their motives are purely mercenary and not 'conservative.' Koch Industries, which employs unionized workers and refines and distributes non-renewable energy sources, wants to lower costs and expand its markets.

ALEC had little success fighting state programs to encourage renewable energy -- until recently. In 2013, ALEC's flunkies in state legislatures filed 37 bills to discourage state renewable energy standards. ALEC failed in all 37, and four states even increased their standards.

That changed last year, when ALEC managed to freeze Ohio's renewable energy standard. This year, ALEC actually prevailed upon West Virginia lawmakers to repeal that state's standard for clean energy.

Perhaps BP's departure will end ALEC's string of successes against renewable energy standards. It probably won't have much impact on ALEC's anti-worker, anti-regulatory agenda.

Prevailing wage laws are in ALEC's sights this year. As the legislative sessions reach an end, ALEC has successfully weakened prevailing wage laws in Nevada and West Virginia. Bills to repeal prevailing wage laws are moving through legislatures in Michigan, Missouri, Indiana and Wisconsin. As our friends at the Center for Media and Democracy note,
Prevailing wage repeal, according to Marquette University Law Professor Paul Secunda, "is just another way in the building industry to get cheap labor."... 
Studies have consistently found that prevailing wage laws do not increase government contracting costs, and repeal of prevailing wage laws does not save taxpayer money, primarily because higher-wage construction workers are much more productive.
The worst thing ALEC did this year was to ram a right-to-work bill through Wisconsin's Legislature. ALEC didn't just provide goodies (like free vacations and access to campaign cash) to GOP lawmakers who fought for it. ALEC actually wrote the right-to-work bill and paid for lobbyists to testify for it.

As one a sign held by one Wisconsin protester read,
Unless your name is ALEC, you no longer have a voice in this state.