Rants & Raves for the Week of March 14th

* California GOP legislators refuse to allow public to vote on tax extension * Rep. Bachus claims Wall Street reform is a 'job killer' * House Republicans vote to eliminate high-speed rail funding * Costa Mesa City Council lays off 50% of city workers * 

* Wisconsin judge blocks union-stripping law * 100,000 Wisconsin workers rally for justice * Blue Shield rescinds excessive rate increase * Vice President Biden and Labor Secretary Solis step up to support workers' rights *

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Biden, Solis Tell Workers: ‘We Need Collective Bargaining’

Tens of thousands of working people under attack from Republican governors in 12 states received some high-level support and encouragement yesterday. In a virtual town hall meeting sponsored by the unions of the AFL-CIO, SEIU, the National Education Association (NEA), Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Teamsters.Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told the workers the Obama administration will stand with them and will stay with them to make sure their rights are protected.

Joined by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in the call, the Vice President opened with a quote from President Obama saying that “We can’t have a strong middle class without unions.” Then Vice President Biden added, “You built the middle class. This fight is not about wages or benefits; it’s about trying to break unions. We absolutely, positively need collective bargaining.”

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Michigan Workers Set to Rally Against Gov. Snyder’s Attack on Democracy

Thousands of Michigan union, community, student, faith and other activists are on their way to Lansing today for a massive rally to protest Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) blatant assault on democracy with his “financial martial law” bill that won final legislative approval yesterday. The so-called emergency managers bill would allow Snyder to declare a “financial emergency” in a city or school district and appoint a manager with broad powers, including the ability to fire local elected officials, break teachers’ and public workers’ contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services—and even eliminate whole cities or school districts without any public input.

Like Republican Govs. Scott Walker (Wis.) and John Kasich (Ohio) and others who have mounted an unprecedented and coordinated assault on workers’ rights and middle-class jobs, Snyder claims the new law is simply a tool to address the state’s budget woes. But his own policies—including an 86 percent cut in corporate taxes accompanied by tax increases on working families and cuts to school budgets—strip away the claim’s veneer.

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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.

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Rants & Raves for the Week of March 7th

* Wisconsin GOP rams through union-stripping bill * Rep. McCarthy denounces high-speed rail in California * Congressional Republican budget would impact tsunami warnings * Michigan governor uses 'fiscal emergency' as excuse to throw out union contracts *

* SF Hilton hotel workers win major contract victory * “Mad Men” stars launch new video to support high-speed rail * Wisconsin workers stand up to Walker * Transportation Security Officers begin historic union vote *

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Municipal Bankruptcy Threatens Workers, Communities and the Economy

When I was growing up, my dad was a union laborer, helping build tunnels and bridges throughout the Bay. He could be old-school and had a lot of rules I didn't like (no slurping my straw at a restaurant, no backtalk, no whining when he brushed my hair too hard) so I got more than my share of spankings.

But there were a few of my dad's rules that I took to heart and one of the most important ones was that your word is all you got. He told me that you live by your commitments or you get no respect. We all learn that lesson at some point, right?

But now it sounds like those who have spent decades preaching personal responsibility have changed their minds about what that means. Conservative superstar Newt Gingrich recently proposed that states be allowed to declare bankruptcy for one specific purpose: to break commitments made to workers and retirees.

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Trumka: ‘Wisconsin Moment’ a Historic Opportunity to Move America Forward

This Wisconsin Moment is a historic opportunity to come together and shift the national focus back to creating jobs and building middle-class living standards, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said today.

Speaking to the Campaign for America’s Future Summit on Jobs and America’s Future in Washington, D.C., Trumka said the “corruption of democracy” in Wisconsin presents a challenge and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for progressives.

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Hotel Workers and Hilton Worldwide Reach Momentous Settlement in San Francisco

and Hilton San Francisco Union Square today announced a tentative agreement to end an eighteen month labor dispute in San Francisco. The settlement comes as similar agreements were reached in Chicago and Honolulu, and signals a major breakthrough in citywide hotel negotiations.

The contract settlement – which is subject to a ratification vote this Friday – was reached during negotiations last Thursday, and was finalized over the weekend. It is a four-year agreement, back to August 2009 and forward to August 2013. It provides for continued, fully-paid health benefits, pension improvements, $2.00 in total wage increases, and workload reductions. 

With this settlement, UNITE HERE has called an end to the boycott of the Hilton San Francisco Union Square and is encouraging customers to book events at this property.

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Why Wisconsin Matters to ALL Workers

I recall vividly my first union job. At the age of 16, I joined the Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union as a supermarket clerk. I remember the good wages in my first paycheck and the sense of pride I felt when I received my first union card.

Back then, about a quarter of all private sector workers were union members. Collective bargaining allowed us a path to a better life. The standard of living rose, not just for those of us in a union, but even for those who weren’t. But today, too few workers have the right to bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions. Years of assaults by corporations on the freedom to join unions have taken a terrible toll.

As the protests rage on over Gov. Scott Walker’s politically motivated attempt to strip Wisconsin’s public workers of collective bargaining, there’s too little discussion in the media about the decline in bargaining rights for private sector workers. Instead, opportunistic politicians like Walker have used the current economic crisis to help further their agenda to divide the middle class.

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Rants & Raves for the Week of February 28th, 2011

* Blue Shield claims 59% rate increase is “reasonable” * Amazon.com fights to preserve free pass on taxes * After legislative trickery, SB 5 passes in Ohio *

* Study finds health care reform cap will save Californians billions * Numerous opinion polls find strong public support for collective bargaining * Senator Yee stands up against attacks on UC unions * Labor Secretary Solis speaks out for workers rights * California to recieve Florida’s high-speed rail funds *

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