Rants & Raves for the Week of July 12th, 2010
Green chemistry was supposed to give us new tools to protect consumers and workers from dangerous chemicals using the best scientific and health data. But scientists and environmentalists are now crying foul, calling the latest Green Chemistry regulations issued the State of California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control “a chemical company’s wish list.” Even the state’s own Green Ribbon Science Panel has criticized the regulations, saying their recommendations were ignored.
Workers are often the canaries in the coal mine, exposed to chemicals daily long before health impacts are fully understood. It is essential the Green Chemistry process be reformed to ensure that workers, not chemical companies, are protected.
We already know how devastating it is for families when unemployment benefits run out. It has now been 45 days since Congress failed to authorize an extension of unemployment benefits, leaving almost one million Californians with no where to turn. Job seekers outnumbers job openings at least 6 to 1. A million people with no way to make ends meet will also take a heavy toll on our economy, jeopardizing any chance at recovery.
A new report the Economic Policy Institute found that extending unemployment benefits actually resulted in job creation. The increased spending that resulted from the benefit extensions lead to more than a million new jobs. This report underscores the shortsightedness of the refusal to authorize a benefit extension. Families will be plunged into poverty, while the fragile economic recovery will be severely undermined.
Yesterday marked a major victory for working families: Congress passed landmark financial reform to prevent the reckless and abusive practices that lead to our economic collapse. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act includes:
- A strong consumer protection agency to prevent predatory lending;
- New tools to allow long term investors to hold corporate boards accountable;
- New authority to give bank regulators to prevent future bailouts;
- Limits on the availability of banks to make risky bets backed taxpayer funds.
The hard-fought victory was won through the efforts of workers across the country, marching and demonstrating to hold Wall Street accountable. In the words of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, “Today’s vote represents a historic shift of power—away from big bankers and CEOs to working families and Main Street.”
In the wake of the Massey mine explosion, the greatest mining accident in 25 years which killed 29 miners, mine workers are demanding new health and safety protections. On Tuesday, the House Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing on proposed legislation to toughen mine safety. The new law would make it illegal to provide a tip-off of looming inspections, toughen whistleblower protections for miners who expose unsafe work practices, and ensure that miners receive full pay for the time that the mine is closed due to safety infractions.
The Governor was so determined to wage war on state workers that he took Controller John Chiang to court to force him to cut worker wages down to the federal minimum wage. This morning, a Sacramento Superior Court ruled against Schwarzenegger, giving state workers a respite from the wage cut. The issue will return to court in late July.
Today's victory comes on the heels of another court ruling against Schwarzenegger's furlough policy. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion this week not only invalidating the furlough of workers at the State Compensation Insurance Fund, but upholding a lower court’s ruling that the workers are owed back pay. When will the Governor drop his overzealous campaign against state employees and do what’s right for the people of California?
Meg Whitman is not only the wealthiest gubernatorial candidate in California history, she is also the most anti-union. She has launched a war against the California Nurses Association, demanding their member list and setting up a website to attack them. Yet when they have challenged her to come speak to real nurses, she is nowhere to be found. Well the nurses won’t take that attack lying down. Yesterday, more than 1,000 nurses showed up at Whitman’s home to call her out for a corporate agenda that’s bad for working people and bad for patient safety.