Our Common Good

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as ‘right-to-work.’ It provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works.’ Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining… We demand this fraud be stopped.”  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

That’s the line of Michigan State Police cars lined up and ready for confrontation action.
Tomorrow’s rally at the Michigan Capitol Building is going to be HUGE. Seriously, check this out.



CATA, the city bus service is detouring some of their routes.
They’re also increasing the number of officers that will be on duty and they will use force if needed to remove protesters:



If demonstrators attempt to occupy the Capitol — as happened in Wisconsin two years ago amid protests over collective bargaining legislation — Adamcyzk said they will remove them “as professionally as possible” when the Capitol closes Tuesday evening.
The Capitol closes 30 minutes after the House and Senate have adjourned for the day, but no earlier than 5 p.m.
“If you’re a passive protester, we’ll just carry you out of here and you will be arrested. If you’re an aggressive protester, we will use force as necessary to remove you,” Adamcyzk said. “We do not want to arrest anyone. It doesn’t serve any purpose to allow yourself to be arrested. Voice your opinion, leave when you’re supposed to leave and come back to protest another day.”



Also, some schools are shutting down tomorrow because so many of their teachers — members of a public employees union — have notified them they will be absent:



At least two Michigan school districts have announced plans to cancel classes Tuesday – the same day some teachers and other union protesters are expected to converge at the state Capitol to protest right-to-work legislation.
Warren Consolidated Schools in southeast Michigan is canceling school “due to the number of staff who has notified us that they will be absent” Tuesday, according to a letter from Superintendent Robert Livernois posted on the district website.



Meanwhile, a group of Michigan Democratic Congressmen and U.S. Senator Carl Levin met with Governor Rick Snyder today to voice their outrage at the actions being taken by him and his Republican colleagues.



Calling the fast-moving ‘right-to-work’ legislation moving through the Michigan Legislature a “Michigan cliff,” the Democratic members of Congress said they urged Gov. Snyder to put a stop to it.
The Democratic Michigan delegation, including Sen. Carl Levin, and Reps. John Dingell, John Conyers, and Sander Levin, and other members of the delegation attended the meeting with Snyder.
They held an hour-long private meeting with him about the ‘right-to-work’ legislation this morning. {…}
Michigan Sen. Carl Levin said the delegation was blunt with the Governor in their urging to veto the bill.
“We’re not sure he understood how these unions worked,” said Levin during a press call with reporters after the meeting.
Gov. Snyder has said the ‘right-to-work’ issue is about workers freedom to choose.
“I believe most Michiganders and most Americans believe [that workers should] have the ability to choose whether they want to belong to an organization or not.” Snyder said during an interview with Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press last week.
“That is absolutely false,” said Rep. Sander Levin (D) on the call with reporters. “There is no requirement that people join a union.”
Union membership is not a requirement in a ‘union shop.’ But all workers do have to support the union financially.
Sen. Levin said he pointed out to Gov. Snyder that unions are required to provide equal benefits to everyone in the workplace, even though not all employees are required to join the union.
“The governor said it incorrectly. And today, I don’t think he understands what it is really about,” said Rep. Levin.






More.

That’s the line of Michigan State Police cars lined up and ready for confrontation action.

Tomorrow’s rally at the Michigan Capitol Building is going to be HUGE. Seriously, check this out.

CATA, the city bus service is detouring some of their routes.

They’re also increasing the number of officers that will be on duty and they will use force if needed to remove protesters:

If demonstrators attempt to occupy the Capitol — as happened in Wisconsin two years ago amid protests over collective bargaining legislation — Adamcyzk said they will remove them “as professionally as possible” when the Capitol closes Tuesday evening.

The Capitol closes 30 minutes after the House and Senate have adjourned for the day, but no earlier than 5 p.m.

“If you’re a passive protester, we’ll just carry you out of here and you will be arrested. If you’re an aggressive protester, we will use force as necessary to remove you,” Adamcyzk said. “We do not want to arrest anyone. It doesn’t serve any purpose to allow yourself to be arrested. Voice your opinion, leave when you’re supposed to leave and come back to protest another day.”

Also, some schools are shutting down tomorrow because so many of their teachers — members of a public employees union — have notified them they will be absent:

At least two Michigan school districts have announced plans to cancel classes Tuesday – the same day some teachers and other union protesters are expected to converge at the state Capitol to protest right-to-work legislation.

Warren Consolidated Schools in southeast Michigan is canceling school “due to the number of staff who has notified us that they will be absent” Tuesday, according to a letter from Superintendent Robert Livernois posted on the district website.

Meanwhile, a group of Michigan Democratic Congressmen and U.S. Senator Carl Levin met with Governor Rick Snyder today to voice their outrage at the actions being taken by him and his Republican colleagues.

Calling the fast-moving ‘right-to-work’ legislation moving through the Michigan Legislature a “Michigan cliff,” the Democratic members of Congress said they urged Gov. Snyder to put a stop to it.

The Democratic Michigan delegation, including Sen. Carl Levin, and Reps. John Dingell, John Conyers, and Sander Levin, and other members of the delegation attended the meeting with Snyder.

They held an hour-long private meeting with him about the ‘right-to-work’ legislation this morning. {…}

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin said the delegation was blunt with the Governor in their urging to veto the bill.

“We’re not sure he understood how these unions worked,” said Levin during a press call with reporters after the meeting.

Gov. Snyder has said the ‘right-to-work’ issue is about workers freedom to choose.

“I believe most Michiganders and most Americans believe [that workers should] have the ability to choose whether they want to belong to an organization or not.” Snyder said during an interview with Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press last week.

“That is absolutely false,” said Rep. Sander Levin (D) on the call with reporters. “There is no requirement that people join a union.”

Union membership is not a requirement in a ‘union shop.’ But all workers do have to support the union financially.

Sen. Levin said he pointed out to Gov. Snyder that unions are required to provide equal benefits to everyone in the workplace, even though not all employees are required to join the union.

“The governor said it incorrectly. And today, I don’t think he understands what it is really about,” said Rep. Levin.

More.

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In the last few years, conservatives have made significant contributions to political organizations that have pushed the state to the right on core economic issues, and explicitly pushed right to work as a top goal (see the graph above):

Americans for Prosperity–Michigan, the group founded by the billionaire Koch brothers, has a relatively new chapter in Michigan that has produced pamphlets extolling right-to-work reforms. This week, the group set up a heated tent outside the capital to support Snyder’s law and bused activists to Lansing to counter labor protesters.

The Mackinac Center is a right-wing think tank in Michigan that issues pro-“right to work” reports, sponsors an anti-labor legal foundation and produces an array of other content, from a Pininterest page to short videos explaining why Michigan should adopt right-to-work. The center has gone on a media tour, touting Snyder’s move this week on CNN, Fox Business and much of the Michigan press. Notably, the group recently started two of its own media outlets, Michigan Capitol Confidential and Watchdog Wire Michigan.

These organizations are part of a more aggressive political force that is adept at controlling the twenty-four-hour news cycle and managing coalitions. Unlike ordinary business lobbies that simply support right-to-work, these advocacy groups go out and shape public opinion through broad messaging and content development, which in turn is used for organizing around policies.

Both AFP and the Mackinac Center are backed financially by the billionaire DeVos family, which has sought to control public policy debates through state-level nonprofits. Donors Trust, the nonprofit foundation used by wealthy conservative donors to anonymously finance activism on the right, has heavily funded AFP and Mackinac in the last three years. Doug DeVos chairs a nonprofit that has mobilized influential executives in the state to support right to work in Michigan.

The model isn’t new. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) relied heavily on Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin and a state-based think tank called the MacIver Institute to build political support for his effort to curtail union rights. In Ohio, Governor John Kasich (R-OH) worked closely with another business-backed group, the Buckeye Institute, for his attempt to crush local unions.

On the left, the only comparable group in Michigan is Progress Michigan. Progress Michigan, which is backed by several local unions, brought together a coalition of progressives to oppose right-to-work, and demonstrated at the capital in Lansing this week. Although Progress Michigan has leveraged a sizable local union membership base to make up for its small budget, as the chart I created above shows, it hasn’t been able to compete financially with the right.

Now that the right-to-work fuse has been lit, establishment groups on both sides of the ideological divide have entered the fray, including local chambers of commerce and the Tea Party on the right, and unions on the left. Working America, the AFL-CIO affiliate, has helped mobilize people for protests today. But in terms of shaping the ideological debate—it’s important to realize that the anti-labor forces have worked for years through groups like Mackinac and AFP to set the stage.

After making a big deal of publicly supporting the Affordable Care Act, Walmart—the nation’s largest private sector employer—is joining the ranks of companies seeking to avoid their obligation to provide employees with health insurance as required by Obamacare.

It was not all that many years ago that Walmart announced, in response to harsh criticism over the low pay provided to Walmart ‘associates’, that the company would provide a healthcare benefit to its part-time, low earning employees. The uncharacteristically generous nod to worker needs was short lived as the company partially pulled back on the commitment in 2011, citing premium rate increases that Walmart deemed beyond their capacity to pay.

Now, Huffington Post is reporting that the party is over for many more existing Walmart employees, along with all employees hired after February 1, 2012 that the company can classify as “part-time.”

According to the 2013 Walmart “Associate’s Benefit Book”— the manual for low-level Walmart employees—part-time workers who got their jobs during or after 2011 will now be subject to an “Annual Benefits Eligibility Check” each August.

Employees hired after Feb. 1, 2012, who fail to average the magic 30-hours per week requiring a company to provide a healthcare benefit, will lose their healthcare benefits on the following January. Part-time workers hired after Jan. 15, 2011, but before Feb. 1, 2012, will be able to hang onto their Walmart health care benefit if they work at least 24 hours a week.

Anyone hired before 2011 will not be cut off from the company provided health insurance.

Of course, Walmart carefully controls employee work schedules and will have the opportunity to design worker hours in a manner that will keep employees at a level below the threshold required to accomplish company healthcare benefits pursuant to the law.

While there have been increasing reports of American employers reacting to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act by making plans to cut employee work hours so that these companies may deny health insurance as a benefit of employment—particularly in the restaurant and fast food industries—it appears that Walmart has been planning this move all along.

The Merck Foundation says the Boy Scouts’ exclusion of gays from its ranks and leadership positions conflicts with giving guidelines and the company’s nondiscrimination policy.
Let me be clear,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “We are not going to abandon the waterfront. We are not going to leave the Rockaways or Coney Island or Staten Island’s South Shore.” But he added that the city “cannot just rebuild what was there and hope for the best.”

“We have to build smarter and stronger and more sustainable,” he added, while conceding that the city had yet “to determine exactly what that means.
NYC Mayor Bloomberg vows to put more people in harms way. (via climateadaptation)

current:

“Promised Land” is part buddy comedy. The chemistry between Damon and McDormand as gas company executives who travel to a rural Pennsylvania town in a beat-up truck to hoodwink the locals into allowing their big corporation to drill for natural gas on their properties is spot-on and filled with zingy one-liners and playful pranks.

The movie is also a well-scripted romantic comedy, with a love triangle between Krasinski’s environmental activist, Damon (the two men co-wrote the screenplay) and a local schoolteacher, played by an adorable Rosemarie Dewitt.

Although “Promised Land” attempts to do the whole Erin Brockovich–style little guy versus big corporation thing, the audience will not necessarily walk out of the theater and pick up a Frack No More placard.

But that might be OK. “Maybe expecting people to go out and protest fracking is too much,” Thompson explained to me, saying that we just shouldn’t set the bar so high. “But if it becomes a big hit and lots of people go to see it, if they walk out of that movie knowing what fracking is, that’s a pretty big step. That’s all you can really expect a fracking movie to do.”

First, raising the Medicare age is terrible policy. It would be terrible policy even if the Affordable Care Act were going to be there in full force for 65 and 66 year olds, because it would cost the public $2 for every dollar in federal funds saved. And in case you haven’t noticed, Republican governors are still fighting the ACA tooth and nail; if they block the Medicaid expansion, as some will, lower-income seniors will just be pitched into the abyss.

Second, why on earth would Obama be selling Medicare away to raise top tax rates when he gets a big rate rise on January 1 just by doing nothing? And no, vague promises about closing loopholes won’t do it: a rate rise is the real deal, no questions, and should not be traded away for who knows what.

So this looks crazy to me; it looks like a deal that makes no sense either substantively or in terms of the actual bargaining strength of the parties. And if it does happen, the disillusionment on the Democratic side would be huge. All that effort to reelect Obama, and the first thing he does is give away two years of Medicare? How’s that going to play in future attempts to get out the vote?

If anyone in the White House is seriously thinking along these lines, please stop it right now.
~Paul Krugman

Bill Kristol has a great column… (in which) he says, quote, ‘Every great cause begins as a movement’ — this is an Eric Hoffer quote that he applies to the GOP — ‘Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.’ And that’s exactly what happened. You had the great conservative revolution of 1980, and you had Heritage and a lot of other organizations grow up out of that, and all the other intellectual thrust, politically, was on the Republican side from 1980, say, to 1990. The Democratic Party was tired; liberalism was exhausted.

But that (conservatism) turned into a business. We saw a couple of Republican consultants get paid tens of millions of dollars; and then it becomes a racket, and that’s where you have a lot of people running around saying harsh things that sell books, and push ratings, and lose elections… And that’s where we are: conservatism is a racket for a lot of people to get very, very rich.

Federally-funded community health centers (CHCs) are a significant part of the safety net. They provide care to low-income Americans, most of whom either have no health insurance or rely on Medicaid. The G.W. Bush Administration expanded CHCs dramatically, and the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama does so even further, to the point they may serve as many as 30 million Americans a year in the near future. While seeing CHCs as laudable, many progressive health care policy analysts have fretted that the care provided in these centers is not at the same level of quality as that received by privately insured patients in other settings. A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that this is indeed the case.

The research team examined over 30,000 ambulatory care visits to assess quality measures such as providing adequate medications for chronic illnesses, screening for high blood pressure, counselling patients about the need for exercise and the like. The quality of care provided in CHCs was compared to that provided by primary care doctors in private practice.

The difference in health care quality across the two settings was profound: CHCs provide much better primary care than do private practice doctors. Of the 18 quality measures examined, CHCs were superior on 11, equal on 6 and inferior on 1. When the researchers adjusted the findings for difference in patient characteristics, private sector care was not superior in any respect, and was on most indexes significantly worse.

The wolf, known as 832F to researchers, was the alpha female of the park’s highly visible Lamar Canyon pack and had become so well known that some wildlife watchers referred to her as a “rock star.” The animal had been a tourist favorite for most of the past six years.

The wolf was fitted with a $4,000 collar with GPS tracking technology, which is being returned, said Daniel Stahler, a project director for Yellowstone’s wolf program. Based on data from the wolf’s collar, researchers knew that her pack rarely ventured outside the park, and then only for brief periods, Dr. Stahler said.

This year’s hunting season in the northern Rockies has been especially controversial because of the high numbers of popular wolves and wolves fitted with research collars that have been killed just outside Yellowstone in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Wolf hunts, sanctioned by recent federal and state rules applying to the northern Rockies, have been fiercely debated in the region. The wolf population has rebounded since they were reintroduced in the mid-1990s to counter their extirpation a few years earlier.

Many ranchers and hunters say the wolf hunts are a reasonable way to reduce attacks on livestock and protect big game populations.

This fall, the first wolf hunts in decades were authorized in Wyoming. The wolf killed last week was the eighth collared by researchers that was shot this year after leaving the park’s boundary.

The deaths have dismayed scientists who track wolves to study their habits, population spread and threats to their survival. Still, some found 832F’s death to be particularly disheartening.

“She is the most famous wolf in the world,” said Jimmy Jones, a wildlife photographer who lives in Los Angeles and whose portrait of 832F appears in the current issue of the magazine American Scientist.

* Women’s wages dropped 4.4 percent in states where unionized companies made union dues optional. (Men’s wages were 1.7 percent lower).

* The hit to wages was higher among non-whites. Blacks and Hispanics were paid 4.8 percent and 4.4 percent less than their non-union peers.

* On average, annual wages and benefits are $1,500 lower in RTW states than for comparable workers in non-RTW states — for both union and nonunion workers.

* Right-to-work laws widened the pay gap between men and women.