Rants & Raves for the Week of January 24th, 2011
A Wal-Mart on every corner? Sounds far-fetched, but it could be reality in San Diego if the retail mega-giant gets its way. This week, Wal-Mart launched an aggressive campaign to repeal San Diego’s Ordinance to Protect Small and Neighborhood Businesses (which simply requires big-box stores like Wal-Mart to complete an economic impact study before opening up shop) in order to fast track the opening of 12 – yes, 12 &ndandash; new Wal-Mart stores in the city of San Diego. It’s no surprise that Wal-Mart is bending over backward to avoid that economic impact study – the company is notorious for paying poverty wages to its employees, which causes a ripple effect through community, dragging down wages for all workers. In fact, studies show that the opening of a single Wal-Mart can drag down earnings for grocery workers 1.5 percent. Just imagine what a dozen Wal-Marts would do to San Diego.
This weekend, billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch (the deep pockets behind California’s anti-environment Prop 23, opposition to health care reform, the Tea Party, the Cato Institute and countless other “astro-turf” right-wing front groups) will be meeting with fellow billionaires behind closed doors to strategize ways to undermine our democracy and impose their self-serving agenda on America’s middle class.The Koch brothers and their cronies usually meet in secret. Not this time. Hundreds will gather in Rancho Mirage on January 30th for the “Koch-Busters” rally to expose the Kochs' broad influence, nefarious tactics, and destructive impact on our lives.
Today the panel charged with investigating the roots of the financial collapse concluded that it was entirely preventable and was the result of massive financial deregulation and irresponsible lending practices. Ironically, we continue to hear Republican politicians claim that regulation is to blame for our prolonged recession. Hey guys, read the report! The point of regulation is to protect families from foreclosure, consumers from fraud and abuse, workers from workplace injury. Increased financial regulation could have kept us from entering this economic collapse that now threatens the American Dream. So the next time you hear that regulations are the problem, be sure to take it with a large grain of salt.
Chevron is supposedly “greening” their image installing solar panels on schools and on the sites of polluting oil refineries. Turns out the “green” part is the millions in taxpayer dollars Chevron is raking in from exclusive contracts with school districts. Unlike most other public projects, solar panels are exempted from California’s competitive bid requirements, which prevent backroom deals and save taxpayer money. LOTS of money. On just one project, the Peralta Community College District in Oakland, taxpayers could have saved an estimated $1.5 million using a competitive bid process. At a time when we’re supposed to me counting every dollar, the government is mindlessly funneling millions to Chevron when we could be getting a better deal elsewhere. That’s why we’re supporting SB 118 (Yee), a bill to stop Chevron’s monopoly and reintroduce competitive bidding on solar panel installation.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's big business agenda has given us plenty to rant about, but we like to give credit where credit is due, and this week, the Chamber of Commerce gets its very first rave. It's not often the Chamber joins Labor on an issue (ok, almost never), but this week, Chamber President Tom Donohue joined AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka in endorsing the infrastructure investment plan that President Obama laid out in his State of the Union address. Now that Business has seen the light and agrees with us on something that’s good for the nation, let’s hope that Republicans and Democrats follow suit to support the President's bold agenda to build a 21st century infrastructure.
Newly elected Assembly Member Michael Allen (AD 7) comes from labor and also from a background in nursing. So when the workplace injuries happening at Napa State Hospital escalated into the murder of an employee, he responded immediately with demands that staff be better protected. Today, he is hosting a forum, along with State Senator Noreen Evans, to hear from workers and the community about how to improve worker and patient safety at the Hospital. Our members are on the front lines and they know best how to protect their patients and reduce risks to staff.
Although nationally, union membership is on the decline, here in California, unions are bucking the trend. According to a new report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, unionization in California actually grew over the last year, from 18.3 percent in 2009 to 18.6 percent in 2010. And it’s no coincidence that California workers (union and non-union) earn on average 10% more than workers in other states, because according to the Economic Policy Institute, “Unions have set norms and established practices that become more generalized throughout the economy, thereimproving pay and working conditions for the entire workforce.” In other words, Higher Union Membership = Higher Wages = Better Economy. Now THAT’S the union difference!