Rants &amp; Raves for the Week of January 17th

Rants & Raves for the Week of January 17th, 2011

First, they went after healthcare. Then wages, and pensions. Now, the management at the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco is stepping up its ongoing attacks on its workers – this time, they’re going after the modest fund that helps workers fight foreclosures, navigate immigration laws and deal with other tough legal issues. Even though the fund has no financial impact whatsoever on the employer, Hyatt management is still trying to block it, in the latest of a string of hostile tactics aimed at bullying workers into taking drastic cuts to their benefits and wages, but the workers aren’t taking it lying down. This week, more than 600 hotel workers rallied to protest the management’s latest anti-worker attack.


Despite all of the blustering Republicans in the House about jobs and the deficit, it’s pretty clear what their REAL priority is. That would be paying back the greedy health insurance industry that helped elect them. This week the Republican-controlled House passed a repeal of the landmark health care reform law that will provide health insurance to millions of America, lower costs and stop insurers from denying coverage to those who have pre-existing conditions. Fortunately, the Republican move to strip coverage from those who need it was a meaningless drill. It’s a non-starter in the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Obama has vowed to veto any such legislation. 


Blue Shield really has some nerve. The health insurance giant wants to jack up health insurance rates 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 company 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. Yet another reason why the state legislature desperately needs to pass a law to regulate these out-of-control rate hikes.


Child labor laws, Social Security and Medicare…what do all three have in common? Well, according to Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), they're all unconstitutional overreaches of federal power. In a disconcerting YouTube rant recently making the rounds, Sen. Lee reveals his harrowing and completely discredited constitutional philosophy that Congress has no authority, for example, to ban whites-only lunch counters or even to enact a federal minimum wage. We're anxious to learn how his fervent belief in Congressional powerlessness jibes with the fact that he's now, um, a member of Congress.



A great new report this week confirms what California's labor movement has known since 2002: our landmark Paid Family Leave (PFL) law effectively provides critical paid time off for those with a new child or sick loved one–all at virtually no cost or inconvenience to employers. In fact, PFL can generate substantial cost savings for employers who provide their own paid sick leave, vacation or disability benefits. Several other states are currently considering similar programs — here's hoping the study helps usher in a new era of progressive legislation to balance the needs of work and family.


Props to new Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. John Garamendi for sticking to their campaign promises to defend health care reform from right-wing attacks. This week, AG Harris announced the California is joining eight other states in signing on to a “friend of the court” brief to defend the Affordable Care Act against a lawsuit that claims that parts of the health care law are unconstitutional. And Rep. Garamendi this week went on Fox News to lambast the Republicans who are going after health care, in particular the “Patients’ Bill of Rights”, which protects individuals from the worst insurance industry abuses. California is fortunate to have such strong advocates for health care.


It seems like much of Washington has lost track of our #1 priority – putting people back to work – with the exception of AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka. In an address at the National Press Club in DC, Trumka urged President Obama to make next week’s State of the Union address a “call to action, a call to invest in our future, to create jobs, to be the country we can and must be… We have just been through one lost decade—when America’s standard of living fell, when our wealth shrank, when millions lost their homes, when young people could not find work America cannot afford another lost decade.” Well said, President Trumka.