Dark Money, Honey: How a Koch Ring Got Busted

 of a settlement between the state of California and two political campaign organizations linked to the Koch brothers fittingly coincided with the centenary of the first scientific explorations of Los Angeles’ La Brea Tar Pits. The history of the tar pits is pretty straightforward: For at least 38,000 years, thick, petroleum-based asphaltum has oozed up from fissures at the site, a noxious goo that long ago entrapped hapless animals as well as the predators that tried to feast on them.

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‘Build Your Dreams’ Electric Bus Co. Fined for Exploiting Workers & Cutting Safety Standards

Kenneth Quinnell

It was with great excitement that California elected officials welcomed the Chinese company Build Your Dreams (BYD) to build electric buses in places like Lancaster, Long Beach and Los Angeles. Hopes were high that BYD's Zero Emissions buses would clean the air, and hundreds of Angelenos would go to work in BYD's new downtown Los Angeles office, earning paychecks to support their families.

But this weekend, news reports revealed that the company's promises of jobs and quality products couldn't be more hollow. The California Department of Industrial Relations issued BYD numerous citations on Oct. 10, fining the company $79,250 and requiring it to pay $20,000 in back wages to 22 employees.

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Service is Service: Why I’m Giving Back to My Fellow Veterans

Danny Marquez

In the mid-1970s, I enlisted in the United States Army and served for three years from 1976 to 1979 as a missile systems repairman for the Cobra Helicopters (TOW) missile system. I was stationed at Fulda Germany in the 11th Air Cav, where I achieved the rank of Sargent E-5. When I returned from my tour of duty overseas, I utilized my “veterans preference” to land a good union job at the U.S. Postal Service, and I’ve been there ever since — more than 33 years.

But these days, returning veterans don’t have the same opportunities that I did. Far too many are jobless, homeless and struggling with physical and mental effects of their military service. Those brave men and women who served our country have earned – and deserve – our respect and support when they come home. That’s what inspired me to launch the non-profit Veterans Partnering With Communities, Inc. in 2011. 

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FPPC Levies Record Fines Against Dark Money Groups

Steve Smith

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission today sent a strong message to shadowy out-of-state corporate special-interest groups and donors trying to influence our state’s elections by levying record fines for contributions to committees that supported Prop 32 and opposed Prop 30.

According to the Sacramento Bee, “In a campaign finance case watched around the country, California's political watchdog has levied a $1 million fine against two non-profit groups for inappropriately laundering money during last year's ballot initiative wars … The commission also sent letters to two California committees demanding they pay the state general fund more than $15 million they received from groups that didn't properly report the source of their funds.”

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Virtual Schools: Cyber Pie in the Sky?

Gary Cohn

Sandy Hellebrand was concerned. She needed to find a school that could educate her son Gabriel, who has autism and was about to enter high school.

Hellebrand thought she had found the perfect solution: She would enroll Gabriel and her two younger children in Sky Mountain Charter School, one of a rapidly-growing number of virtual schools in California and across the country.

After all, she reasoned, the school would provide excellent online instructional materials and instructors to guide Gabriel’s individual needs. Since Sky Mountain is a publicly funded school – although not a traditional brick-and-mortar one – the state of California would pay for her children’s education.

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Charter School Sustainability or Student Achievement?

Gemma Abels

Most charter schools promise higher test scores than conventional public schools, and Rocketship charters have been the loudest proponent of a test driven approach. Let’s set aside for a moment the problems with the test and the problems caused by teaching to the test and excluding other educational experiences. Charter schools would have us measure their success by looking at API (Academic Performance Index) scores. So how does Rocketship do? The answer is poorly.

At a recent charter workshop held at the Santa Clara Office of Education, board members said that they should consider the sustainability of a charter school in their approval process. The largest charter school network in Santa Clara County is Rocketship Education, and the county Board must be impressed by their sustainability because there will eventually be twenty Rocketship schools in the county.

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BART Strike Ends—Unions & Management Reach Tentative Agreement

Rebecca Band

After more than five months of contentious negotiations, BART’s largest unions, SEIU 1021 and ATU 1555, announced last night that they’ve reached a tentative agreement with the transit agency and the four-day BART strike is officially over. Trains began running again this morning, and service is supposed to be fully operational by this afternoon.

The agreement is centered around a fair compromise on pension and healthcare costs. It also provides for reasonable wage increases, in addition to some work rule changes that allow for innovation and input from workers.

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Honoring Those Who Fought for the American Dream

 (OCEA). We have the honor and privilege to host the first annual Veterans + Labor event honoring those who have served our great country.

I’m a proud Marine and Veteran of the Vietnam War, so Veterans Day is particularly personal—it’s a day I remember all my friends who didn’t make it home and wonder what they’d think of how things are going in America today.

Sometimes, as we fight against the drum beat of attacks against rights for workers—attacks that erode the middle class—I wonder myself: Is this what we fought for?

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The BART Strike Could Have Been Prevented - But Management Said ‘No’

John Logan

Now that a second BART strike is upon us, let’s be clear about one thing: this strike is absolutely unnecessary and could easily have been prevented. In the final days of negotiations, the unions had accepted management’s demands for higher employee healthcare contributions. They had already agreed to a pension deal that was favorable to management. They had in place a framework for a deal on pay that was acceptable to both sides and which represented a further reduction – after several significant reductions in the previous two weeks – in the unions’ wage proposals. And contrary to what has been reported in the media, the unions had made important concessions on work rules and were prepared to submit the few remaining of disagreement to expedited voluntary arbitration.

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Three Things You Need to Know about the BART Strike

Steve Smith

After months of negotiating in bad faith, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) management last night left BART workers no other option but to go on strike. What a shame. It didn’t have to come to this.

With all the misinformation swirling about on the BART strike, there are a few things to clear up.

Here are the three things you need to know about the BART strike (h/t to Pete Castelli of SEIU 1021).

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