Rants & Raves for the Week of March 28th, 2011
Looks like to the California GOP just went from mostly irrelevant to completely irrelevant. This week, legislative Republicans blew up negotiations on the Governor’s proposal to allow the people to vote on extending existing taxes to save California from deep budget cuts to schools, public safety and our state’s most vulnerable. Instead of negotiating in good faith, the Republicans refused to compromise, and instead proposed a long list of 53 demands, most of which are an affront to working people. If that’s the way the GOP wants to play it, fine. If they refuse to govern responsibly then we must move forward as a state without them.
Speaking of the GOP and budget negotiations, Senate minority leader Bob Dutton (no stranger to our Rants section) whined this week because, he said, the Governor’s wife, Anne Gust Brown, yelled at him in budget negotiations. Poor Bob. Who knew the man authoring bills to take away the 8-hour day and eliminate key health and safety regulations was so sensitive? You know, Bob, maybe you should start worrying less about your feelings getting hurt and more about the devastation an additional $12.5 billion in cuts would inflict on California’s families and communities.
Republican Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan signed a law this week slashing unemployment benefits for the jobless. Michigan is the first state in the nation to reduce the number of weeks of benefits from the standard 26 down to 20 weeks. The unemployed have been able to depend on 26 weeks of benefits to get them through tough times since 1954. Now, during one of the worst recessions in recent memory, Michigan has reversed 56 years of a dependable social safety net. Not only will the jobless suffer, but local economies that depend on infusions of cash from unemployment checks will also be hit hard the cuts.
April 5th marks the one year anniversary of the devastating explosion at Big Branch mine in West Virginia that took the lives of 29 miners. Now, the owner of the mine, Massey Energy, has just been cited for 166 health and safety and other violations at their eight mines in the area. Really, Massey Energy? This is how you honor the memories of the workers who lost their lives extracting coal to make Massey the 4th largest producer in the world? It’s high time that Massey Energy clean up their act and at the very least meet basic federal health and safety standards. Massey makes 21st century profits in the billions. It’s time that they live up to 21st century safety standards.
Ohio Governor John Kasich is following Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's lead. Kasich just signed SB 5, a bill severely limiting collective bargaining rights from over 350,000 firefighters, nurses, teachers, and other public workers. It’s no surprise that the workers are angry, but in Ohio, even the business community is resisting this attack. While the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the law, they are rapidly losing the support of the members. In fact, at least three members of the Chamber Board have resigned in protest of the Chamber's position. The reality is that businesses that have dealt with unions know first-hand that collective bargaining can build strong labor-management relations and create a happier, more productive workforce. In fact, Michael Broderick, CEO of Turning Technologies Inc, noted that the Chamber's support of the anti-worker law will actually harm the economic climate in the region. It’s nice to see that there are businesses that understand the value of workers’ rights. Now, if only Gov. Kasich (and other GOP governors) would recognize how their anti-worker attacks effect their economies and local businesses.
Florida's loss is our gain. The California High-Speed Rail Authority has officially decided to apply for the $2.43 billion in federal funds for high-speed rail rejected Florida. If awarded, the state would use the money to help complete the 120-mile Merced-to-Bakersfield section of the train route. The Central Valley section of the high-speed rail forms the spine of the entire system, connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco, where work is ready to begin to on the Transbay terminal, creating thousands of jobs. There’s at least one thing we can thank Republicans for- keep rejecting that high-speed rail money; we’re more than happy to take it off your hands!
Most of the state's been puzzled the Republican legislators refusal to let voters decide on whether to extend taxes or make far deeper cuts. But a new poll Ben Tulchin may reveal that true motivation. The poll found that 78 percent of California voters, including 60 percent of Republicans, support increasing taxes on the top one percent earning over $500,000. Wow, even a majority of Republicans think the rich should pay their fair share? If that's where the voters are, it’s no wonder the Republicans in the Legislature won't let us vote.
Union members have never been ones to walk away from a fight. And this week, working families in Wisconsin sent a loud and powerful message to the GOP leaders who voted to strip workers of their rights. Local activists submitted more than 100% of the signatures needed to “recall” Republican state senator Dan Kapanke from office! In just a matter of weeks, volunteers were able to gather 15,500 signatures, a sign of serious voter backlash. This recall effort is just one of a number of recall campaigns against the undemocratic actions of the legislative Republicans who voted to eliminate collective bargaining. Anti-worker politicians in Wisconsin and across the country better take note — you take away our rights, and we will take away your seat.
Would you like some rights with your peanuts? As airlines cut amenities like pillows and meals and slap fees on everything from bag check to earphones and mergers increase, passengers aren’t the only ones who suffer. Workers face a consolidating industry and often uncertain futures. That’s why 2,900 AirTran workers recently voted to join the Machinists union. As members of the union they’ll have a voice in their future and protection during AirTran’s merger with Southwest airlines. Congratulations, brothers and sisters!
Cesar Chavez was a true American hero. He spent his entire life providing voice to those workers who needed it most. To this day, his activism inspires us, and every year on March 31st, we take the time to commemorate his life and dedication to the Labor Movement in California and beyond. We miss you, Cesar. But your legacy will never be forgotten.