Rants &amp; Raves for the Week of February 14th

Rants & Raves for the Week of February 14th, 2011


When you hear about a “right to work” state, it sounds like a great place with guaranteed employment for all, right? In fact, what “right to work” really means is “right to work for less.” A new study the Economic Policy Institute confirms that so-called “right to work” states, where they ban union shops, have lower wages and fewer benefits for ALL workers. The reality is that strong unions raise wages and protections for all workers-and that's why the corporations are pushing so hard to break unions with “right to work” laws.


Apparently, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker thought that threatening to bring out the National Guard would somehow silence the state’s public sector workers, who could lose their right to collectively bargain if the Governor has his way. He thought wrong. Tens of thousands of workers and supporters hit the streets of Madison this week, to fight back against the Governor’s union-busting attacks on workers. And rightfully so, seeing as how it wasn’t the workers who caused the budget shortfall, but in fact the Governor himself, who deliberately turned a surplus into a budget shortfall doling out unnecessary tax cuts. May the protests in Wisconsin be a message for Republican governors in other states (including Ohio, where similar attacks on workers’ rights are coming from the government) – Workers united will never be defeated! 


With record-high unemployment and wages falling behind, you would think legislators would be trying to make things better for working families. But apparently, California workers got it too good, because Senator Bob Dutton wants to cut their overtime pay and take away their lunch breaks. Three new bills would eat away at the 8 hour day and make most workers work through lunch. Even with productivity at all-time highs, workers just can't get a break!


Speaking of Senator Dutton, he has the dubious distinction of being the first person EVER to receive two rants in the same week. In addition to wanting to strip workers of overtime and meal breaks, he also thinks that California voters should have no say in our future. In an interview with the Sacramento Bee, Dutton vowed that he and his fellow Republicans would block any attempt Gov. Brown to put budget solutions before voters. How Democratic of you, Bob.


Studies show that 40% of Californians receive no employer paid sick leave benefits, despite the fact that approximately 100% of Californians occasionally get sick. Enter working families champion Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) and her AB 400—legislation to guarantee all California workers at least 5 paid days off per year to recover from illness, care for a sick loved one, recover from domestic violence or even bond with a new baby. A law that would allow workers to keep their jobs while caring for themselves and their families? That’s something 100% of Californians should be able to agree on.


Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) isn’t waiting around hoping and praying that the economy will recover on its own. She’s proposed her own “stimulus for the people” legislation which would extend unemployment benefits 14 weeks. As hundreds of thousands of Californians exhaust their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, the extension would be the safety net they need to pay the rent and keep food on the table for the families. And it will help jumpstart the economy—those UI checks get spent in the local economy on basic necessities, which in turn helps business and creates jobs. Sounds better than tax cuts for the rich as an economic stimulus, doesn’t it?


Teamster members delivered a sweet, yet strong, message to legislators this Valentine’s Day – End the ‘Sweetheart’ Enterprise Zones!. Teamsters gave out boxes of chocolates with stickers calling on legislators to support Gov. Brown’s plan to eliminate the failed Enterprise Zone tax credit program and save our state billions. The Teamsters have first-hand experience with EZs —their employer is closing their union shop in Brisbane and moving to an Enterprise Zone in Tulare County — eliminating good union jobs. And in exchange, taxpayers are giving the company tax breaks to the tune of $37,000 PER EMPLOYEE that they hire non-union in Tulare. So we’re all paying for union-busting, and that’s just disgusting. It’s time to eliminate the Enterprise Zone program!


At last we have a Governor who understands that slashing all state workers to minimum wage is not only mean-spirited but also bad economic policy! This week, Governor Jerry Brown dropped the lawsuit filed former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to force Controller John Chiang to cut state worker wages during a budget stalemate. Workers have no say over whether a budget is done on time and should not be held hostage in that negotiation. Schwarzenegger’s attacks on state workers have already devastated their families and Sacramento businesses. It’s about time we got to work on fixing California’s real problems and stopped scapegoating workers.


When it comes to high-speed rail, Florida’s loss is California’s gain. This week, Fla. Governor Rick Scott decided to nix his state’s high-speed rail plan, meaning that the $2 billion in federal funds that were originally allocated to Florida are now up for grabs. While this may be bad news for Florida, it’s great news for California, which is well-positioned to secure at least part of Florida’s $2 billion. So we’d like to thank Governor Scott for the money and the jobs that go along with building high-speed rail.