Ohio’s Assault On Workers’ Rights


In the largest political protest the state Capitol has seen in 15 years, thousands of demonstrators descended on the Ohio statehouse yesterday to protest Gov. John Kasich‘s (R) bill taking away workers’ collective bargaining rights. The demonstrators, estimated at 8,500 strong, are speaking out against a bill that would “dramatically curtail bargaining powers of government workers, as the state becomes the latest flash point in the fight over union rights.” While much of the focus in recent weeks has been on Wisconsin, Ohio Republicans are taking a page from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) playbook to use the state’s budget woes as a pretext to cripple public sector unions with their own legislation, Senate Bill 5. Ohio’s bill would actually “go further than the one in Wisconsin by also affecting police officers and firefighters,” but unlike in the standoff in Wisconsin, Democrats in Ohio “don’t have the numbers to walk out and delay a vote.” The Ohio Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee approved the changes today , which come in the form of a 99-page amendment to the bill. The committee’s chairman, state Sen. Kevin Bacon (R) worried he would not have enough votes to bring the measure to the Senate floor after Republican Sen. Bill Seitz (R), a committee member, said he would oppose it. Seitz even wrote an op-ed to the Cincinnati Enquirer warning the bill “overreach[es].” In a stunning move this morning, the Republican leadership yanked Seitz off the Labor committee, replacing him with a supporter of S.B 5 ahead of the vote.

READ THE BILL : The bill and its amendment would enact “sweeping changes” to the state’s existing collective-bargaining law, allowing only “wages, hours, and terms and conditions” to be subject to collective bargaining, while health care benefits, pensions, and other issues would not. As many labor supporters have noted, however, management could simply unilaterally dock workers’ benefits packages to compensate for any pay increases gained through collective bargaining. More disturbingly, the bill would ban strikes. The penalty for illegal striking would be termination, the docking of twice the workers’ daily pay rate, or even 30 days in jail. It would also end binding arbitration as the method for resolving police and fire contract impasses, replacing it “with a completely unworkable, unfair system.” “Such an arrangement, said Jim Gilbert, head of the union representing most police officers in Franklin County, would almost certainly lead to a preordained outcome [of] which the employer approves.” On top of all this, S.B.5 and its 99-page amendment would limit paid vacation and sick leave. Kasich has said the bill is necessary to solve the state’s fiscal issues, and has even claimed it will help bring jobs to Ohio. But as Ohio Progressive blog Plunderbund noted, “Senate Bill 5 isn’t about creating jobs in Ohio” and Kasich knows it. Showing a stunning lack of faith in his bill’s ability to deliver jobs, Kasich recently told Newsweek that unemployment may remain high through the next election. “We have a long way to run. If the jobs come in ’13, then God bless them,” Kasich said.

THE OPPOSITION : As in Wisconsin, public employee unions started opposition to the bill, but it quickly spread to other labor groups, then to concerned citizens and groups who have not directly affected by the legislation, but also don’t want to see their state become a unfair place for workers. “Firefighters, teachers, nurses, labor unions and others” arrived early yesterday morning for the biggest turnout yet in a week of protests, and are expected to be back in front of the statehouse today. Without collective bargaining, state employees would be at the mercy of all-powerful employer with little recourse. Columbus firefighter Lt. David Blair told the Columbus Dispatch that for him, the issue is more than money. “For me, it’s about safety. Our fire gear is subject to negotiation. If they take away the tools to do our job, people will perish,” he said. And it’s not just labor unions and their allies. The Catholic bishops of Ohio weighed in against the bill, saying they “encourage leaders in government, labor, and business to pursue changes that promote the common good without the elimination of collective bargaining. We urge continued good faith in ongoing negotiations.” And Seitz, a Republican, wrote in his op-ed that “[t]he bill is flawed because it says the employees’ only rights in that case are to work under a perpetual wage freeze, with management dictating the outcome. This reduces collective bargaining to a sham .” Moreover, the 99-page amendment was released only Monday, and legislators are expected to vote on it today, giving them almost no time to read or consider it. There’s not even a summary from Ohio’s Legislative Service Commission, the state’s version of the Congressional Research Service. As Seitz wrote, “Neither will I support a bill without taking time to read and understand it.”

BETTER WAYS TO FIX THE BUDGET : Opponents of the bill note that the current collective bargaining law works just fine. Indeed, the number of public employee strikes plummeted after the law was enacted in 1983, and has remained low ever since. Yet Kasich argues that unions are crippling the Ohio government. But more importantly, as in Wisconsin, kneecapping unions will do little to solve the state’s budget woes. Kasich claims his union busting would save the state $1.3 billion, but if Kasich is serious about solving the budget problem, he would abandon his political attack on the unions and focus on things that would actually make a difference. One way to do this would be to crack down on the state’s special interest tax dodging and tax breaks for the rich. The Progress Report identified a number of areas in which this would be possible. Kasich could end Ohio’s 2005 tax cuts for the wealthiest to make them pay their fare share. Restoring the income tax rate to 7.5 percent on those making over $200,000, and creating a new 8.5 percent rate on income above $500,000 would generate $950 million a year. The state could also end tax credits and benefits for wealthy Ohioans who don’t need them. These include a tax exemption for Social Security and railroad retirement, the limiting of which could help save $55 million, a homestead property tax reduction, which could help save $118 million, among others. Ending some of these unnecessary tax credits may even find big bipartisan support. For example, Ohio actually has an “income-tax deduction for gambling losses,” the elimination of which could save the state $80 million every two years. The fact that Kasich and his Republican colleagues haven’t considered these options exposes his efforts for what they are — union busting in the guise of sound fiscal policy.

President Obama endorsed a commonsense, bipartisan proposals


Yesterday, President Obama endorsed a commonsense, bipartisan proposal from Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana regarding implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Under the law you helped enact nearly one year ago, states get the chance to try innovative reforms, as long as those reforms don’t add to our deficit while meeting the goals we all share: affordable, accessible care for the American people.

The new bipartisan proposal — the Empowering States to Innovate Act — would allow states to implement health reforms that work for them starting in 2014 — three years sooner than the date originally laid out in the Affordable Care Act.

President Obama has made it clear that he is open to good ideas from both sides of the aisle about how to make care better and more affordable.

He’s living by those words — and this announcement is an important step in building on health reform.

Watch the President’s remarks on his endorsement of the plan and learn more about it, and then pass this along to folks you know who are interested in the future of health care in America.

As the President has said, now is not the time to re-fight the battles of the past two years, or roll back the progress we’ve made.

But solutions like this one will allow us to continue moving health insurance reform forward, building and shaping it so that it works for every state — and every American.

He knows that good ideas don’t necessarily come from one person, one party, or one state — that the best solutions are simply the ones that work.

And he knows it’s not the loudest voice in the room — but the most reasonable — that ultimately provides real leadership.

Take a look at a video of the President’s remarks about his endorsement of the new proposal here, and pass it on:

http://my.barackobama.com/EmpoweringStates

Thanks,

Mitch

Mitch Stewart

Director

Organizing for America

Take Action: Support the Women of Wal-Mart


As you may already know, the women of Wal-Mart have taken their fight for fair pay all the way to the Supreme Court.

Today the National Women’s Law Center, together with the American Civil Liberties Union and 32 other organizations, took a stand in support of the women of Wal-Mart by filing a friend-of-the-court brief in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the Supreme Court case.

Pledge now to Stand with the Women of Wal-Mart and to continue to fight against pay discrimination. www.nwlc.org

The brief tells a shocking story. Women at Wal-Mart on average earned $5,000 less than men, even though women tended to have higher performance ratings and more seniority. Women also were less likely to be promoted to store manager positions and had to wait significantly longer for promotions than men.

As our new fact sheet highlights, scores of statements from women employed at Wal-Mart describe the gender stereotyping women regularly faced on the job. The claim in this case is that these sorts of stereotypes affected pay and promotion decisions at Wal-Mart because of Wal-Mart’s company-wide reliance on unchecked, subjective decision making by individual managers.

At the heart of this case is an important question — Is Wal-Mart too big to be held accountable?

We don’t think so. The Supreme Court has long held that when informal personnel practices lead to a discriminatory result, a class of employees can challenge this practice. The Supreme Court should rule that under these laws, there is no such thing as “too big to be held accountable.”

We will keep you updated on this case and provide opportunities to take action. Cases like this remind us of the profound and lasting impact our courts have on women and their families and why it’s important to confirm federal judges who understand the impact of the law on individuals and who are willing to hold powerful corporate interests accountable when they violate the law.

Will you pledge to Stand with the Women of Wal-Mart and continue to fight against pay discrimination?  www.nwlc.org

Thank you for continuing the fight against pay discrimination.

Sincerely,

Fatima Goss Graves

Vice President for Education and Employment

National Women’s Law Center

Wisconsin …help fight “class warfare”


The Club for Growth and other right-wing interest groups are flooding Wisconsin’s airwaves right now with ads in support of Governor Walker’s attacks on working families.

We’re fighting back with an ad about the people hurt hardest by his attacks. Our film crew interviewed folks in the street in Madison. Their stories are honest, powerful, and wrenching. One woman called Walker’s budget “class warfare” against working families.

People in Wisconsin need to see this powerful new ad. Can you chip in $3 to help us air it? Click on link below to take a look and donate.

http://act.boldprogressives.org/go/3173?akid=3460.392150.xdci1n&t=3

We’re running this ad with our friends at Democracy for America. We can win this fight, but we need to keep ramping up the pressure, day by day.

Thanks for being a bold progressive.

— Adam Green, Stephanie Taylor, Jason Rosenbaum, Amanda Johnson, and the PCCC team

P.S. Tune in to MSNBC at 8pm tonight for Lawrence O’Donnell‘s show. We’ll be on discussing this ad!

RepoWEr America …


Inspiring. That’s the word that came to mind as I looked through some of the stories you sent us that share what your communities are doing about climate change.

Over the past few weeks, more than a thousand of you wrote in to tell us how you are doing your part to solve the climate crisis. And I was thrilled to learn how many of you are taking action — in your workplaces, schools, your local governments, and in your own homes.

Now, I’d like to invite you to read some of these stories. Will you take a moment to read a few of the inspiring stories we’ve received about people like you who are helping us solve the climate crisis? Click below to read the stories on our blog.

http://acp.repoweramerica.org/climate-stories

Read about a teacher who found effective ways to save energy at a Montessori school in Lexington, Kentucky. Or read about new solar panels that will provide 20% of the energy needs for the Cincinnati Zoo.

There may still be people out there who wonder if a clean energy future is achievable. Your stories prove that it is possible. All across America, people are standing up and taking steps that put us on a path to solving the climate crisis — creating momentum for the change we need around the world.

Click here to read some of the stories about people across the country addressing climate change.

Sincerely,

Maggie L. Fox

President and CEO

Alliance for Climate Protection