Sara Flocks is the public policy coordinator at the California Labor Federation. She is also the founder of Young Workers United. Email her at sflocks@calaborfed.org.

 

 

 


Governor Signs SB 17 (Hernandez)—the strongest prescription drug transparency bill in the country!

Victoria Stuessel is 32-year old wife and mother from La Puente, California. A year ago she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) which is a disabling disease of the central nervous system. She was put on a cocktail of drugs that costs her and her family $7000 a month, even with their health coverage. She also takes six drugs to treat the symptoms of MS that cost over $1,200 a month. When Victoria relapses, she needs a 5-day IV infusion of very expensive high-dose steroids—and she never knows when she’ll need them so it’s impossible to budget for that expense. There is no cure for MS. These are drugs that Victoria will have to take every day for the rest of her life.

Groundbreaking a Major Leap Forward for Job-Creating High-Speed Rail

California has always been a state of visionaries and risk-takers. From Silicon Valley to Hollywood and everywhere in between, creative and innovative thinkers have taken risks to develop new products, new industries and new inventions. Investment by the public in the state’s highways, bridges, universities and skilled workforce has allowed visionaries to make their dreams a reality.

Today, California continues our proud tradition as a leader in both vision and investment. Leaders from labor, business and government gathered in Fresno to break ground on the most ambitious public works project in the country—high-speed rail. California’s 500-mile high speed rail system will connect San Francisco to Los Angeles with the spine built in the Central Valley.

Women Leaders Declare Closing ‘Walmart Loophole’ a Top Priority

Sara Flocks

Women have been hit especially hard by cuts to the Medi-Cal program in recent years. And access to care for women will be even more challenged in coming years if large corporations like Walmart continue to avoid their responsibility to pay a fair share of health care costs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Today in Sacramento, women leaders in the legislature came together with women workers and California NOW to declare protecting women’s health by passing AB 880 a top priority for women this year.

Enterprise Zone Victims at VWR and Blue Linx Demonstrate Need for Reform

Sara Flocks

The loss of a job is one of the worst things that can happen to a worker. The situation is even worse when an employer closes their doors, leaving hundreds of workers jobless, anxious and wondering how to make ends meet. The loss of a job means can mean that workers lose their homes, their security and their ability to provide for their families.

What’s the one thing that could make job loss even more painful? If you lose your job and then have to PAY for your employer to pack up, leave you behind and open their doors elsewhere. And we're not talking about pocket change; we're talking about $700 million or more every single year for the rest of your life. Sounds too crazy to be true, right? Well, welcome to the California Enterprise Zone (EZ) Program.

Teamsters Celebrate Momentous Victory Against VWR

to move the company to Visalia. The deal meant the company would recieve numerous public subsidies and tax breaks, including hefty Enterprise Zone hiring credits, which put state taxpayers on the hook to pay for VWR to turn good, union jobs in Brisbane into low-wage, dead-end, no-benefit jobs in Visalia.

This week, after a months-long legal battle, the workers and the union won an incredible victory when the 5th District Court of Appeals in Fresno reversed a Tulare court’s ruling on the city's approval of a 500,000-square-foot VWR warehouse in Visalia.

Word In From the Academics: “Lowering Business Taxes May Actually Be Harmful”

That was at the same time that a delegation of California’s Republican state legislators (and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom) traveled to Texas to learn why that state had the alleged edge over California on job creation and economic growth.

It was not hard to debunk the fairytales coming out of Texas about job creation, economic growth and the health of the state economy. It was easy to find data showing that Texas suffers from high unemployment, low-wage jobs and a frightening lack of investment in their children’s education or health care.

SB 1161: A Real-Life Telecommunications Horror Story

In horror movies, you always know the victims are in big trouble when they pick up the phone to call for help and the line is dead. When there’s no way to call for help, the audience knows that the victims better get out of there ASAP, or else all hell is going to break loose.  

Unfortunately, California is the hapless victim in a real-life horror movie going on right now. AT&T, Verizon, and their corporate cronies are the villains in this particular horror movie, and they’re cutting the phone lines with SB 1161 (Padilla)—a bill currently on the Assembly floor. We all know what happens next. California consumers and workers are in big trouble and are going to pay the price if this bill makes it into law.

Furthering the Vision of High-Speed Rail

The voices of doom and decline say that high-speed rail cannot be built in California. They’ve tried to stop the forces of progress by calling high-speed rail “a boondoggle” and “a waste.” This is not a new phenomenon. Enemies of progress said the same thing about the Golden Gate Bridge, built in the middle of the Great Depression. They screamed “boondoggle” at every major public works project in the 20th century while California was constructing a world-class infrastructure of freeways, dams, bridges and aqueducts that fostered a golden age of middle-class growth.

The Labor Movement rejects the voices of doom, because we have a vision for California. We know it’s time to invest in California’s future, starting with construction of high-speed rail.

California on the Edge


Big business and their Republican allies have repeated the laundry list of why California’s economy is struggling so many times that it is practically written in stone—Taxes, Regulations, Public Employees. These are the unholy trinity that supposedly crashed California’s economy and threatens to smother any business growth in the future.

The facts, however, contradict the well-worn talking points of big business. The Council on State Taxation, a business-friendly group led by CEOs of major corporations, found that California has a moderate tax burden, taking less in taxes from business than many other states, including the sweethearts of the right, Texas and Florida.

Bleeding Cash Through a Hole in the Tax Code


From President Obama to Governor Brown, politicians tout tax breaks as the way to create jobs and stimulate economic activity. Tax breaks supposedly lure businesses to California and give them incentives to create jobs for the 2.3 million currently unemployed Californians. California has over 82 tax breaks on the books and legislators push for new ones every session as part of job creation packages.

Some experts question the effectiveness of giving corporations billions of dollars in tax breaks with no guarantees that the company will create jobs, or that they won’t move jobs out of state. A recent study by the California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes reported that “One of the biggest criticisms of tax expenditures—and the one most germane to this report—is that they can act like blank checks.”

End-of-Session Legislative Round-up


For the first time in nearly eight years, California has a Democratic governor brandishing the pen as the legislative session draws to a close. The Legislature sent nearly 600 bills to Governor Brown who has until October 9 to sign or veto the measures. Without Schwarzenegger in office to veto any and all worker-friendly legislation, armies of corporate lobbyists descended on the Capitol to kill labor legislation before it could get to Governor Brown. Unions fought back hard, pushing through a number of key pieces of legislation to the governor.

The California Labor Federation moved a package of bills, co-sponsored with affiliates, to protect workers, create and retain good jobs and make sure our public dollars are spent effectively. Over the next week, “Labor’s Edge” will highlight several Labor Federation sponsored bills that would make a significant positive impact on the lives of workers with a signature from Governor Brown.

Here’s a round-up of the Labor Federation's sponsored bills on the Governor’s desk.

There’s a Hole in the Budget Bucket


Uh-oh. It looks like there’s a hole in the bucket Governor Brown is using to bail out the state. After Republicans refused to let voters decide on tax extensions, the legislature scrambled to put together a budget that avoided cutting essential services like education and public safety. In the end, Governor Brown signed a budget into law that depended on $4 billion in projected new revenues to close the gap.

That seems almost too good to be true—just promise to find an extra $4 billion in the couch and the state avoids painful cuts. Well, it is turning out to be too good to be true. If the state doesn’t get $4 billion in revenue, then “trigger” cuts go into effect. Depending on how short the state is, those cuts include more reductions to higher education, increased community college fees, slashing child care and deep cuts to public education. The cuts to K-12 could reduce the school year by 7 days and eliminating school bus service.

Death and Taxes

As a graduate of California’s public schools, community colleges and universities, I would gladly vote to extend temporary taxes that I pay. I would even vote to give myself a tax increase if I knew it would save public education in California. I owe it to the state that educated me to at least pay my fair share in taxes.

But not everyone shares that sentiment. For the last several decades, corporations have employed aggressive strategies to dodge their responsibility to pay state and federal taxes. The outcome is that over the years the share of taxes paid by corporations has declined, shifting more of the burden of paying for roads, schools and services to average taxpayers like you and I (even though corporations clearly benefit from those taxpayer-funded services just as much as the rest of us, if not more).

Blue Shield Puts Profits Before People

I have a friend, Patty, who worked as a waitress to pay her way through college. She worked hard and studied hard, so when she got sick and couldn’t get better, she just chalked it up to stress. For two years, Patty was chronically ill with mysterious and debilitating symptoms. She knew she should go to the doctor, but she didn’t have health insurance through work, and she couldn’t afford to buy insurance and pay for rent and tuition at the same time.  Eventually, Patty ended up in the hospital, where she was diagnosed with a thyroid problem. Since she had not gotten care for so long she had to immediately have surgery, which left her with $10,000 in medical debt.

Patty is just one of the 8.4 million Californians who lack health insurance. Californians who don’t have job-based insurance are left to purchase coverage on their own in the individual market—a maze of complicated and overwhelming options hawked by giant health insurance corporations that know how to make a profit.

Top Ten Reasons to Shut Down Enterprise Zones

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2. TOO EXPENSIVE: Taxpayers have spent $3.6 billion on the program since 1986 and the total cost has grown by 35% each year on average.

3. MONEY FOR BIG CORPORATIONS, NOT SMALL BUSINESS: Major corporations with assets over $1 billion, like Wells Fargo and Nordstrom’s, benefit the most from the program. Even big banks get a cut!

4. REWARDS HIGH TURNOVER: The hiring tax credit is for new “hires” not new jobs and the amount of the credit decreases the longer a worker stays on the job.

5. REWARDS LOW-WAGE JOBS: The hiring credit caps at 150% of minimum wage, meaning that employers have an incentive not to pay higher wages—it doesn’t increase how much free money they get.

Court Ruling Escalates Right-Wing Attack on Health Care Reform


The Republicans have tried to sabotage health care reform since it was introduced—disrupting town hall meetings, spreading lies about the legislation (remember death panels?) and now trying to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act. But Republicans have completely failed at defeating a law that extends health coverage to millions of Americans who are uninsured.

Since they can’t win repeal, Republicans have resorted to trying to dismantle the law piece by piece. They’ve held symbolic repeal votes and launched lawsuits in 28 different states with Republican governors or attorney generals. The lawsuits focus on ruling small pieces unconstitutional, like the individual mandate, in order to take down the entire law. The lawsuits won’t reverse the health care reform law all at once, but they do set the stage for a showdown in the Supreme Court, and it keeps Republicans in the spotlight. Just this week, a federal judge in Florida ruled the entire federal health care reform law void on the basis that the individual mandate was unconstitutional.

In-Home Supportive Services Vital in Tough Economic Times


California’s In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program provides low-income seniors and people with disabilities the care they need to live in their own homes, rather than nursing facilities. IHSS providers care for the elderly who want the familiarity of the homes they’ve lived in for decades, the terminally ill and those who cannot take care of themselves.

Governor Brown’s budget proposes deep cuts to the IHSS program that will dramatically change the lives of homecare providers and those they care for. The cuts include a reduction in the hours of care for the elderly and disabled by 8.4 percent, on top of the 3.6 percent reduction in the last budget. The cuts also eliminate services like housework and meal preparation for more than 300,000 IHSS recipients. Those cuts are particularly painful to clients who depend on their IHSS provider for the only hot meal they have all day—meals that will now be fewer and far between.

Big, Bad Blue Shield

for Californians for the third time since October—adding up to a rate increase as high as 59 percent for some policyholders.  And when Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones asked the corporation to wait 60 days so that he can review their rate increase and to give some breathing room to the 194,000 Blue Shield customers — many who are already struggling to afford health coverage — Blue Shield REFUSED to comply. To make matters even worse, Blue Shield is using the whole fiasco as a way to polish their public image which has been marred by a series of outrageous rate hikes.

Vote NO on Proposition 26 - If Polluters Don’t Pay, Taxpayers Will


The corporate donors to Proposition 26 — including major players in the tobacco, alcohol, soda and oil industries — have poured millions of dollars into Prop. 26. At first glance, Prop 26 doesn’t read like an initiative that multi-national corporations would care much about. The initiative broadens the definition of a tax to include fees—which would raise the votes required to approve a fee from a majority to two-thirds at the state and local level.

So why do these companies care about Prop 26? It turns out that the fees that Prop 26 targets are the fees that oil, tobacco, alcohol and hazardous waste companies have to pay for the pollution and damage they cause to our air and water. Proposition 26 would make it harder to impose those fees, effectively shifting the burden of paying for the costs created by polluters to taxpayers like you and me.

End Budget Gridlock - Vote Yes on Prop 25


Budgets reflect the priorities and values of a state. Public dollars dedicated to schools, safe communities, healthy kids and well-maintained infrastructure demonstrate that a state is committed to creating a high quality of life for residents. California’s budget tells a whole different story. Because California has a two-thirds vote requirement to pass a budget, a small group of partisan legislators can withhold their votes to extract concessions from the majority. As a result, California’s budget process ends up full of corporate loopholes, special favors and worker takeaways—not exactly a reflection of the values of the majority of working people in California.

Could the Future of California Be Even Worse Than the Present?


Governor Schwarzenegger leaves behind a legacy of devastating budget cuts and huge tax giveaways for corporations. In the last two years alone, Schwarzenegger has slashed $32.5 billion from the state budget — and while state workers have endured deep wage cuts, corporations have enjoyed massive new tax breaks. Now, Meg Whitman is on a mission to ratchet up the pain on working people in California — above and beyond the misery that Governor Schwarzenegger has already imposed.

Repeal Tax Breaks for Big Corporations—Vote YES on Proposition 24


In September 2008 and February 2009, Republicans demanded the passage of three massive tax breaks for corporations as part of the budget deal. These tax breaks will tear a gaping hole in the already tattered state budget, and would increase our budget deficit by estimated $1.3 billion every year after they take effect.

The solution to this problem lies in Proposition 24. If passed, Prop 24 would stop the giveaway of billions of dollars in state money to corporations by repealing the three tax breaks enacted in the 2008 and 2009 budget deals. Prop 24 would finally ensure that multi-national corporations pay their fair share to the state for the benefits they receive by doing business in California.

Health Care Reform: What’s New, and What’s Next


President Obama signed historic health care reform into law six months ago this week. Many Californians saw immediate benefits from the new law. Today, several important new provisions of the law go into effect, and millions more will start to see how the health care law benefits them and their families.

As of today, an estimated 1.3 million young adults in California will now be able to stay on their parents' health plans. Insurers are now prohibited from dropping coverage when someone gets sick, and they can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. The abusive practice of placing a lifetime limit on insurance coverage will end today as well, thanks to the federal reform.

Tax Cuts Do Not Pay For Themselves


A core part of Meg Whitman’s purported job creation plan is what she calls “targeted” tax cuts. And by targeted, Whitman actually means “for the rich.” She’s proposing to eliminate the state capital gains tax, which would mean that Whitman herself, and her billionaire buddies, would pay next to nothing in state taxes. The state, however, would lose billions of dollars in revenue.

The nonpartisan California Budget Project just released a new brief entitled “No Free Lunch: Tax Cuts Widen Budget Gaps” that analyzes the impact of tax cuts on the California economy. The CBP brief clearly explains how claims that tax cuts fuel economic growth are tenuous at best, and those cuts can do even worse damage to the economy by reducing state spending

Stop the Cuts, Close the Loopholes!


California was once the envy of the country for our top-notch schools and universities, infrastructure and quality of life. Now California may become the only state in the nation to completely eliminate welfare-to-work assistance and job training for low-income families and their children.

The Governor’s May revision to the state budget proposes $17.9 billion in cuts to state programs, including eliminating welfare-to-work. Over the last two years, state programs have been slashed by $32.5 billion—and there is no relief in sight from this Governor.

Why is Bank of America Not Paying Any Taxes on $4.4 Billion in Income?


Around this time every year, Californians scramble to finish doing their taxes and pay what they owe to the government.

But not everyone is paying their fair share. Forbes Magazine recently analyzed the tax returns of the top 25 U.S. companies and found out that they’re not paying much in taxes. In fact, corporations such as Bank of America, General Electric and Citigroup will not be paying ANY taxes this year — they’re actually getting money back from the government.

Arnold Protects Tax Cheats, Refuses Tax Relief for Struggling Families


At a time when California is facing yet another budget crisis, you’d think Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would want to crack down on tax cheats, especially if it meant that families and businesses would receive some tax relief as a result.

Think again.

This week, the Governor said he would not sign a bill passed by the Legislature to give tax relief to struggling homeowners and renewable energy companies because the bill would also increase the penalty on multi-million dollar corporations and the wealthiest Californians who blatantly cheat on their taxes.