Rants & Raves for the Week of January 31st, 2011
Senate Republicans, led Sen. Rand Paul (R- Tenn.), are stalling the Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill, jeopardizing over 280,000 jobs, simply to kill a provision that extends basic health and safety protections to flight attendants and other aircrew workers. They don't even care that denying that protection to these workers puts all passengers at risk due to unchecked sanitation, air quality, temperature and humidity levels, noise and blood borne pathogens on airplanes. No wonder flight attendants have a much higher rate of on-the-job injury rate than the national average.
On a related note… less than a year after Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) won a major victory in their nine-year fight to bargain collectively, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration bill intended to strip them of that protection — even though numerous studies have shown that unions bring a safer workplace, a more experienced workforce, and in this case, better security. All workers deserve a voice at work, especially those charged with protecting public safety, and even the TSA agrees – just today, the TSA Administrator announced he will grant partial collective bargaining rights to the TSOs.
This is the thanks we get? After the Big Banks caused a global economic meltdown in 2008, the public generously bailed them out to the tune of $700 billion. In return, we asked for a couple rules to prevent the worst abuses that caused the crash. The banks' response has been, well, less than grateful. Blaming the new financial regulations, banks are getting rid of free checking for their customers who can’t afford to maintain a high balance. That’s right, the wealthy won’t have to pay fees, just those who live paycheck to paycheck and can least afford the pinch of fees. Really, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase? That’s how you say thank you? You could have just sent a card.
If you are a football fan, savor Sunday’s Super Bowl, because when the Packers and Steelers leave the field that may be the last game in a long time. The National Football League (NFL) owners say they will lock out the players next season unless they agree to outrageous givebacks. And when the National Football League Players Association recently tried to get a clear message out to fans in a TV commercial that simply says to the owners, “Don’t lock us out. Let us play,” CBS refused to air the ad. Even if you are not a football fan, you should be concerned because a lockout won’t only impact football players and fans. Stadium employees will be jobless. Sports bars, police officers who provide stadium security, restaurants, hotels and others who work supporting the game also will be hurt. In fact, 4.8 million workers will feel the impact, and $4.5 billion in revenue will disappear from 32 cities around the nation.
Congrats to the 35 engineers and professional employees in PG&E’s Electric Transmission Planning department, who voted overwhelmingly this week to join the Engineers and Scientists of California, Local 20 IFPTE (which already represents roughly 2,500 technical and professional employees at PG&E). These electric transmission engineers are in charge of planning routes and projects for electric transmission lines and managing the connections of new renewable energy sources like wind, solar and biogas energy plants to the PG&E grid. We’re proud to welcome these innovative, ‘green’ workers into the labor movement.
We have all seen firsthand the damage that a “superstore” can do to a community: low wage jobs replacing good jobs, small businesses forced to close, increased traffic, and environmental harm. While some cities require a study of such impacts, others get with little review. This week, State Senator Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) said he will introduce a bill to require a study of the impact that these supercenters will have on a local economy. Sen. Vargas recognizes that if we’re serious about job creation and economic recovery, we have to hold companies accountable for the promises they make to our communities, and ensure that small and local businesses are protected so that we don’t end up swapping good jobs for bad ones.
After 18 hours of negotiations that began Thursday at 8:30 a.m., the National City Elementary Teachers Association (NCETA) and the National School District signed a tentative contract at approximately 2:30 a.m. this morning. The settlement prevented a strike today the district’s 354 teachers that was scheduled to begin today. Congrats to the teachers on this hard-fought victory!
A week after Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) announced that Republicans will push to eliminate federal help to families facing foreclosure, state leaders were singing a different tune. On Monday, Assemblymembers Mike Eng, Mike Feuer, and Norma Torres, chairs of Assembly Banking, Judiciary, and Housing Committees respectively, held a town hall meeting in Los Angeles to ask the community whether the government has done enough to protect homeowners from foreclosed homes and plunging home values. At least our state leaders understand that the foreclosure free-fall has devastated our state and local finances and that more must be done to get our economy back on track and protect California families. Maybe Issa should take a page out of their book and listen to his constituents, and not just to the banks.
US Senate Democrats on Wednesday slapped down a symbolic—though very telling—Republican drive to repeal the landmark health care reform bill approved last year. If successful, the Republican attack would have delivered President Obama a budget-busting, health care benefit-slashing monster that no one, least of all our most vulnerable, could have afforded. Democrats, thankfully, held strong on a 51-47 party line vote, highlighting both their ability to organize when necessary and assert their power when appropriate.