New Jersey state workers who live over the state border could soon find themselves being forced to move. A proposal bill would require current state, county, and municipal workers to establish residency in the state within 30 months of the passage of the bill. New employees would be required to move in state within four months of being hired. The measure additionally impacts employees of the educational system and would include state colleges. The proposal was drafted by State Senator Donald Norcross and Gov. Chris Christie has expressed his support.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie admits he misspoke on the campaign trail. Jesse Russell reports:
By Doug Cunningham
Nurses and other SEIU healthcare workers trying to defend their health care benefits are being locked out for a week at Alameda County, California’s two jails. Dona Chapman is a nurse who participated in a one-day strike Tuesday. The workers gave notice they would be staging a one-day strike to protest proposed cuts in their health care benefits. Prison Health Services responded with the one-week lockout when workers tried to return to work Wednesday.
Members of Congress and a bipartisan group of mayors today announced new legislation they say will create or save up to 1 million public- and private-sector jobs. Jobs saved would include those such as firefighters, police and teachers and others whose jobs are in jeopardy because of local government budget cuts.
The nation’s economic crisis is forcing states and municipalities to cut jobs that are critically important to local communities. State and local governments and school districts face $178 billion in budget deficits this year alone. Last month, AFSCME members across the country rallied in state capitals to urge legislators to raise revenue to save needed public services.
The Local Jobs for America Act, developed with mayors, county officials and others, also contains job-creation strategies to enable small businesses to help hundreds of thousands of individuals get private-sector jobs. A bill number has not yet been assigned.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, made the announcement along with Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Phil Hare (D-Ill.), Elizabeth Kautz, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Ronald Loveridge, president of the National League of Cities.
Speaking this morning on CNBC, Miller said:
If we lose another million jobs over this year, it’s going to impact our local communities. And these are vital services. They’re health services, fire fighting services, police services, parks and recreation services, health inspections, housing inspections. These are what keep the civil side of America together. To have the loss of these jobs doesn’t serve the national economy and certainly doesn’t serve the local economies and the quality of life in our schools and our communities.
Specifically, the bill allows for community block grants to local governments to fund jobs providing local services for two years. The money is allocated as follows:
- $75 billion for 750,000 jobs providing needed local services with $52.5 billion directly to communities with at least 50,000 residents.
- $22.5 billion directly to governors to distribute to communities with fewer than 50,000 residents-job creation funding will sent to towns, counties, or private non-profits outside communities eligible for the funding above. Local governments will apply to the governor for the funding.
- $23 billion to help states support an estimated 250,000 education jobs; $1.18 billion to put 5,500 law enforcement officers on the beat; and $500 million to hire and retain fire fighters
- $500 million for approximately 50,000 additional on-the-job training positions slots to help private business expand employment.
A panel of 24 victims of insurance industry abuse and their families told their heart-rending stories directly to members of Congress this morning and asked the lawmakers to listen to the American people and pass health care reform that works for us, not Big Insurance.
Marcelas Owens is spending his 11th birthday telling lawmakers it’s time to provide real health care to all Americans. Marcelas, who lives in Seattle, lost his mother, Tiffany, in 2007. She was too sick to work and lost her job as manager of a fast-food restaurant. She also lost her health insurance. She died of pulmonary hypertension at age 27.
Today’s forum on Capitol Hill, where Congress is debating how to fix the nation’s broken health care system, follows nationwide rallies yesterday, including one in Washington, D.C., where we told Big Insurance that blocking health care reform is a crime.
Members of Congress also heard from Leslie Boyd of Asheville, N.C., whose uninsured son died in 2008 at age 33 after a delayed diagnosis for colon cancer because he could not afford colonoscopies. Boyd’s husband also recently suffered a heart attack after his insurance company delayed approving his doctor’s request for a stress test.
They heard from Marcus Grimes of Woodbridge, Va., a former teacher who lost his sight because he did not have the $3,000 down payment for doctor-recommended surgeries that would have saved his sight (see video above). Speaking to the rally yesterday, Grimes said:
When you leave here to go to your congressman, go to your senator and tell them: “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.” We ask you senators. We ask your representatives. What side of history do you want to be on? We should have no more people dying….We stand as one. We walk softly, but we carry a big stick.
The forum on Capitol Hill, and yesterday’s rally, were sponsored by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), a coalition of more than 100 organizations, including the AFL-CIO and many union affiliates. You can read the stories of all 24 victims of insurance abuse here.
Wendell Potter, a former vice president of insurance giant CIGNA and now senior fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy, moderated today’s forum. He points out the insurance industry is trying to drown out the voices of ordinary Americans in the health care debate.
The insurance industry is working hard, spending millions of our premium dollars, on a propaganda campaign designed to either kill reform or make sure reform benefits insurance companies and their shareholders far more than average working Americans.
The big for profit-companies that now comprise a cartel in the industry are accountable first and foremost to their shareholders, and they will promise to do whatever it takes to meet those shareholders’ expectations and the expectations of a handful of enormously influential and powerful financial and investment analysts.
Less than a week after agreeing to negotiate with fired teachers at Central Falls (R.I.) High School and their union, the school superintendent is delaying the talks.
In a statement, Jane Sessums, president of the Central Falls Teachers Union, an AFT affiliate, urged Superintendent Frances Gallo to “resume negotiations with the teachers union and to accept (Rhode Island Education) Commissioner Deborah Gist’s offer to provide impartial mediation.”
We must not keep this school, its students, teachers and staff on tenterhooks any longer.
The school superintendent fired all teachers at Central Falls High on Feb. 23. She agreed March 3 to resume bargaining and include the union in all discussions on a comprehensive education plan that will help students and teachers succeed. The move followed a nationwide public outcry, with thousands signing an online petition to tell school officials the students deserve better and they should work with teachers to build on improvements at the high school. (Keep the pressure on the Central Falls school administration. Sign a petition here.)
On Tuesday evening, a group of about 40 current and former Central Falls High students held a candlelight vigil in honor of the fired teachers and staff. Priscilla Villa, 18, a freshman in college told the Providence Journal:
All the teachers here have been a big part of my life. The teachers here inspired me to go to college.
The teachers union has presented a comprehensive education plan to transform the school, Sessums said. The proposal includes serious recommendations for implementing high school reform programs that have succeeded in other low-performing districts and it needs to be an integral part of what the parties discuss when they return to the table, she added.
As we have consistently said, the Central Falls Teachers Union is ready to resume negotiations. We are committed to a reform plan that will put Central Falls High School on a pathway to excellence. Delaying negotiations is done at a cost to the students of Central Fall High. We urge Superintendent Gallo to reconsider her ill-advised resistance to beginning that process.
The nation’s political leaders have a choice: They can strike out on a new economic course for America that will turn around the nation’s economy or they can give in to political paralysis and yield to the demands of the financial and corporate elites.
Speaking Friday before a Harvard University study group on “Working Class Revolt,” AFL-CIO President Emeritus and Harvard Fellow John Sweeney and AFL-CIO Policy Director Damon Silvers said policymakers failed to heed the union movement’s warnings against a campaign of radical federal deregulation and corporate empowerment—one that celebrated private greed over public service.
Those policies led to flawed trade deals that accelerated outsourcing, financial deregulation designed to promote speculation and the dismantling of our pension and health care systems. As a result, the enactment of these types of policies has now culminated in the worst economic decline in living memory.
Sweeney told the group that while our leaders are debating, the public is “angry and clamoring for action and results that work for them.”
The momentum is building for grassroots activism to push back against Wall Street and those who stand in the way of what needs to be done to turn our economy around.
Sweeney is a resident fellow during the spring term at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. The institute is part of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and resident fellows participate in the intellectual life of the Harvard community and lead weekly study groups on a range of topics. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler will address the study group this week.
The key to turning around America’s economy, Sweeney said, is to create new, good jobs.
The labor movement is mobilizing and organizing union members, communities and allies all over the country in a major fight for jobs. The plan is to restore and create good jobs and we will be holding our elected leaders and accountable for what they do or don’t do to take action. We will also hold the private sector accountable—the Wall Street banks that caused the crisis and companies that destroy jobs—and we will stand with anyone in the business community that is working to create good jobs. We plan to be in the street wherever the fight for jobs is being fought.
Silvers told the assembled students and academics that the roots of our economic crisis come from trying to have a low-wage, high-consumption economy.
The only way to get out of this is to have an economy built on good jobs. We can start by creating the 11 million jobs that were lost in this economic crisis.
Although United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard was unable to attend the study group, Sweeney quoted some of what he described as Gerard’s passionate thoughts about the need for good jobs.
Our members are losing patience with talk; they desperately want action now. We need job-creating action that is bold, swift and sustained. The United Steelworkers are ready to roll up our sleeves and help President Obama get our economy back on track by getting Americans back to work.
|Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President William George leads a discussion on tapping into economic recovery funds with union leaders from across the state.|
Yael Foa, AFL-CIO senior field representative for the Northeast Region, sends us this report on union efforts in Pennsylvania to tap into federal economic recovery funds to create jobs across the state.
The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO recently sponsored two first-of-their-kind forums to provide union leaders with specifics about where and how American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) dollars are being spent in our state. We also examined how union leaders can identify opportunities to access economic recovery dollars for job creation and training programs. Nearly 300 union leaders from across the state took part.
Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President William George framed the agenda this way:
Billions of dollars of federal stimulus dollars are flowing into cities and towns across Pennsylvania. We want to be sure that our unions and their members take advantage of every opportunity to put these funds to work in creating and protecting good jobs. Some of our unions have been very successful at leveraging this money on behalf of their members. These conferences provide all of our unions the opportunity to put this information and knowledge to use for their members and their communities. Our top priority is Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Now. The road to economic recovery and prosperity is good jobs that support workers and keep local economies strong and vibrant.
George strongly encouraged union leaders to work closely with their local elected officials, members of Workforce Investment Boards, state agencies and other entities to identify opportunities to access ARRA funds in their communities.
Jim Kunz, business manager for Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 66 in Pittsburgh, described the steps Local 66 takes to track funding for upcoming projects and work with signatory contractors and contractor associations to identify stimulus-funded construction jobs. Some local leaders also make competitive adjustments to their collective bargaining agreements to help contractors win bids for these jobs—all of which helps to keep more union members working in these tough economic times. Said Kunz:
There are so many baskets of stimulus dollars going in so many directions that it takes a lot of time and effort to find and track these dollars, but we believe in the long run it will be worth it. Better we get them instead of the open shop companies who will use them to undermine our wages, benefits, and working conditions.
At the forum in Plymouth, union leaders highlighted a stellar example of how the recovery act works to save and create jobs. Gamesa, a wind turbine manufacturer with its headquarters in Spain, employs United Steelworkers (USW) members at its manufacturing plants in Ebensburg and Fairless Hills, Penn.
Last November, the company was forced to lay off 79 workers at their Ebensburg facility due to a drop in new orders. But because of the stimulus-funded Green Energy Works wind grant program, Gamesa turbines will be used by the three wind farm developers that received a total of $22.8 million in grants last month, which enabled Gamesa to bring back the laid-off workers and hire an additional 50. The grants also will create 257 more jobs at the three large-scale wind farms in Pennsylvania.
Rob Witherall, USW lead negotiator of Gamesa, made the case that “rebuilding our economy means rebuilding our manufacturing base.”
Every good-paying manufacturing position supports up to five other jobs. We believe the best use of our U.S. tax dollars is exactly what it is being used for here: creating and saving good U.S. jobs.
Warning to college students: Joining in solidarity with low-wage workers on your campus can be hazardous to your freedom of speech.
At Vanderbilt University, members of Vanderbilt Students of Nonviolence recently met with campus workers to talk about working conditions for the lowest-paid employees and hammer out concrete actions all could take to make Vanderbilt a safer and more just place to work and learn.
Instead, they found out what life can really be like outside the campus green and inside the U.S. workplace. In a letter to the editor signed by seven members of the student nonviolence group and those in the Living Income for Vanderbilt Employees organization, they described how university management attempted to intimidate them.
The meeting was intended to be a safe place for workers and students to meet—we had heard rumors that due to a dictatorial contract and management hostility, it’s challenging for employees to claim that space. Despite being warned, we were shocked when we got our own taste of the intimidation that workers apparently experience when they try to talk and organize among themselves.
Throughout the meeting, university management stationed people to watch who went in and out of the doors, taking notes; after the meeting, they searched the trash cans for anything we might have thrown away and talked about whether they had gotten any photos of the meeting (”no luck,” they sighed).
The eerie feeling of our own administration’s surveillance was matched by the surreally conspicuous way in which they conducted it. Marta Stinson (a Human Resources manager who removed her name tag and refused to tell us who she was, but put her ID back on as soon as our meeting ended) stood just outside the room in the space behind an open door and the wall, putting one eye up against the crack to peer through. She came into our meeting room and stood in the corner, watching us, eventually marching up to the table (interrupting a worker explaining the attitude of management toward workers) and demanded that we stop handing out fliers and surveys. In a bizarre twist, she denounced our meeting, and not her intrusion, as “inappropriate,” before storming back out of the room to make a phone call.
Generally, this type of management intimidation occurs when workers are seeking to form a union—64 percent of private-sector employers interrogate workers about union activity—and worse. The campus employees are looking for a voice at work—they’re already represented by the Laborers—but if this account is accurate, it points out the extent to which university management fears campus-wide solidarity. A lesson for us all.
Read the full letter here.