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Category “Unions”

Cartoon of the Day

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals Uphold Act 10

So unions, you want to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court?

Deal­ing unions their lat­est loss in court, a fed­eral appeals court Fri­day upheld Gov. Scott Walker’s tight lim­its on col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing for most pub­lic employees.

The rul­ing by the three-judge panel upheld a Sep­tem­ber deci­sion by U.S. Dis­trict Judge William Con­ley in Madi­son that the law known as Act 10 does not infringe on the rights of gov­ern­ment workers.

Act 10 does not vio­late the First or Four­teenth Amend­ments to the United States Con­sti­tu­tion. We there­fore affirm the dis­trict court’s judg­ment in favor of the state,” the rul­ing reads.

The law stip­u­lates that gov­ern­ment employee unions can nego­ti­ate over wages but noth­ing else, and that any pay increases can be no higher than the rate of infla­tion, except where vot­ers approve them by ref­er­en­dum. The law also dic­tates that unions can­not be rec­og­nized by the state or local gov­ern­ments unless 51% of all poten­tial mem­bers — not just those vot­ing — sup­port the union in annual elections.

Two unions rep­re­sent­ing local employ­ees through­out Dane County sued in July 2011 in fed­eral court in Madi­son con­tend­ing the law vio­lates their rights to free­dom of asso­ci­a­tion and equal pro­tec­tion under the law.

This dif­fer­ence is likely of no com­fort to plain­tiffs, but the First Amend­ment does not require an affir­ma­tive response from gov­ern­men­tal enti­ties; it sim­ply requires the absence of a neg­a­tive restric­tion,” Con­ley wrote in his own deci­sion last year. “Under Act 10, gen­eral employ­ees remain free to asso­ciate and rep­re­sent employ­ees and their unions remain free to speak; munic­i­pal employ­ers are sim­ply not allowed to listen.”

Act 10 is still before the Wis­con­sin State Supreme Court, with a rul­ing expected in the next cou­ple of months.

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Cartoon of the Day

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Cartoon of the Day

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H-1B Visa Reform Would Have At Least Made Sense

Let me pref­ace this post by say­ing: “I’m not for amnesty, just san­ity.”

While largely dead for the rest of the 2013–14 con­gres­sional cal­en­dar, there were some things I per­son­ally would have liked to have seen touched in an immi­gra­tion pack­age or sep­a­rate bill.  (You know, that piece­meal approach talked about, but appar­ently not going to be tried.)

At the top of that list is “H-1B Visa Reform.”

H-1B” is, like most visas issued by the State Depart­ment, one of a vari­ety of work visas granted to immi­grants who are tem­po­rary work­ers inside the United States.  H-1B’s are a spe­cialty type of visa which only are avail­able to the fol­low­ing qualifications:

  1. You must be a for­eign national.
  2. You must have already earned a col­lege degree.
  3. Said degree must be in a career related to what are called “STEM” (Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, Engi­neer­ing & Math) fields.

The visas last for three years and can be renewed for another three for a total of six years; and with their employ­ers spon­sor­ship, they can gain cit­ize That stay can be up to ten years, only if you are work­ing for a defense con­trac­tor.  They are highly-coveted by tech­nol­ogy firms in Sil­i­con Val­ley such as Google, IBM, Face­book and Oracle.

Annu­ally, 65,000 new H-1Bs are issued, with an addi­tional 20,000 to eli­gi­ble immi­grants already in the coun­try who get­ting their col­lege degrees. Esti­ma­tions are that since the pro­gram began around 2,000, over 850,000 H-1Bs have been issued.

So why reform them and what to do?  The com­mon answer — accepted on both sides — has been to lift the annual quota.  Why? Because the world is a com­pet­i­tive work­place, and despite con­stant inter­est in com­puter sci­ences and IT, Amer­ica isn’t gen­er­at­ing enough of them fast enough.  Also, other nations also have sub­stan­tial tech­nol­ogy sec­tors them­selves and will grab up these wouldbe employees.

In the most recent pod­cast episode for the center-right web­site Ric­o­chet, renowned polit­i­cal ana­lyst Michael Barone told a story of how a Cana­dian diplo­mat prayed that Amer­ica didn’t change its immi­gra­tion pol­icy towards high-skilled work­ers (the ones sought through the H-1B pro­gram) because then all these folks could come to Van­cou­ver, Cal­gary and Toronto.  British Colum­bia is well-known to be the high-tech hub match­ing its neigh­bors south of the bor­der in Wash­ing­ton State and Sil­i­con Valley.

It is this exact thing which makes the immi­gra­tion debate as a whole so frus­trat­ing.  While we’re fight­ing over what is clearly a hor­rific Sen­ate bill, both sides need to take a moment, fig­ure out where there is actual con­sen­sus on immi­gra­tion — like visa reform, which has noth­ing to do with amnesty much if at all — and craft a bill.

Any­one who still demands a full, “com­pre­hen­sive approach” (Chuck Schumer, I’m look­ing at you.) should be barred from the room.  Ham­mer out some­thing that works, not just for those get­ting the H-1Bs’, but for the U.S. econ­omy as well.

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Not One Actual Fast Food Employee Protested in Green Bay

The hilar­ity of this, and the fact that numer­ous Green Bay-area media even reported this (I first saw it myself on the local ABC affil­i­ate, WBAY’s online cov­er­age) is a kudos to their jour­nal­is­tic integrity.

About a dozen peo­ple stood out­side the McDonald’s on Main Street in Green Bay Thurs­day chant­ing for higher wages and unionization.

It is a sol­i­dar­ity action in sup­port of work­ers on strike in Mil­wau­kee, Madi­son and Wausau,” said Nicole Collazo-Santiago, project orga­nizer for the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of State, County and Munic­i­pal Employ­ees in Mil­wau­kee. None of the pro­test­ers were McDonald’s employees.

Empha­sis added by me.

How pathetic and sad must the state of the Amer­i­can labor move­ment be that its come to this: Try­ing to recruit the most tran­sient of work­ers — fast food and gro­cery store employ­ees (i.e. Walmart)?

What, no one’s thought of going after pizza deliv­ery dri­vers yet?

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Meanwhile…in Illinois

Just pass­ing this along.

Leg­is­la­tors passed an over­haul of the state public-employee retire­ment sys­tem Tues­day, cut­ting ben­e­fits for work­ers and retirees in a move that sets up a likely court bat­tle with orga­nized labor.

Sup­port­ers say the Illi­nois pen­sion leg­is­la­tion is expected to save $160 bil­lion and will fully fund the retire­ment sys­tem over 30 years.

We’re here today because the cost of our present state sys­tems are sim­ply too rich for the resources avail­able,” said House Speaker Michael Madi­gan, a Democrat.

Gov. Pat Quinn, a Demo­c­rat, is expected to sign the bill into law.

Illi­nois has seen its credit rat­ing fall in recent years to the low­est among U.S. states as it has strug­gled to address a gap in its pen­sion funds that is near­ing $100 billion.

The mea­sure also gives Chicago offi­cials a tem­plate to fol­low as they move to address the city’s own pen­sion cri­sis; Chicago’s credit rat­ing is among the low­est for major U.S. cities.

The pen­sion cri­sis is not truly solved until relief is brought to Chicago,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “With­out pro­vid­ing the same relief to local gov­ern­ments, we know that tax­pay­ers, employ­ees, and the future of our state and local economies will remain at risk.”

The Illi­nois over­haul pack­age relies on ben­e­fit cuts, includ­ing reduc­ing the annual cost-of-living increase for retirees and rais­ing the retire­ment age for younger workers.

Iron­i­cally, the plan is being attacked on two fronts.  Orga­nized labor (as expected) is scream­ing bloody mur­der about the changes and plans on going to go to court to chal­lenge the law as soon as the ink on Quinn’s sig­na­ture is dry.

On the other side is the few con­ser­v­a­tive think tanks which oper­ate in and around Spring­field, which don’t think the leg­is­la­tion goes far enough to keep the state from even­tu­ally hav­ing to file for bank­ruptcy.  They’ve called the bill a ban­dage on a open wound which will not be enough.

I tend to agree with the think tanks here, but the real­ity that Illi­nois is even doing this given all the “hey” Quinn tried to make about Act 10 in 2011, is kind of nice to enjoy.

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Amazon Wants to Build in Kenosha

All for this for a num­ber of reasons.

1) Any­thing that gets me what I’ve ordered from Amazon.com, be it a book, game, tech gad­get or Christ­mas nick-nack for my mom, it will now arrive about two days faster.

2) This will drive lib­er­als nuts with Walker on the jobs front.  Espe­cially since Ama­zon wants to open it in the Fall of 2014, right in the mid­dle of the guber­na­to­r­ial campaign.

3) Ama­zon is noto­ri­ously anti-union. (Read here.)  So it will drive the #WIU­nion folks nuts.  Makes you won­der if there’s an effort going on right now behind the scenes in Kenosha to try to kill the project until Ama­zon puts in a union shop.  (Just a hint here, it ain’t gonna hap­pen.  Ama­zon will not let unions in.)

One of the world’s best known com­pa­nies wants to bring lots of jobs to Kenosha. City lead­ers have con­firmed inter­net giant Ama­zon is seek­ing to build a mas­sive dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ter East of I-94 and 38th Street.

It’s a project we haven’t seen in Kenosha in a long time with the eco­nomic down­turn,” said Alder­man Dan Prozanski.

Prozan­ski said the com­pany plans on cre­at­ing more than 1,000 full-time jobs. He said the aver­age start­ing pay will be around $13 per hour.

Ama­zon will invest around $250 mil­lion dol­lars. The sprawl­ing facil­ity will be around 1.5 mil­lion square feet. That’s slightly larger than the foot­print of Miller Park.

This is going to be a huge facil­ity, prob­a­bly replac­ing either its facil­ity in Ken­tucky or Indi­ana as a way to bet­ter ser­vice the upper Mid­west.   Keep in mind this is part of a mas­sive nearly $14 Bil­lion project where the com­pany is build­ing ware­houses and dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ters across the globe.

They plan on open­ing three in Poland alone.

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Cartoon of the Day

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Orga­nized labor’s top pri­or­ity this Labor Day. Pretty pathetic ain’t it?

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Quote of the Day

I spent a good half-hour Thurs­day night on the phone with Sean Hack­barth (of the Amer­i­can Mind) talk­ing sports.  Specif­i­cally, whether the NFL dodged a bul­let with its set­tle­ment with retired play­ers and their fam­i­lies over the reported $765M it will spend in deal­ing with concussion-related injuries and illnesses.

While we both agree that no one put a gun to these men’s heads to play foot­ball, but the league clearly hid safety data and didn’t want change hel­met ven­dors because it would effect its cur­rent deal with league spon­sor Rid­dell.  (Rid­dell does make a fine hel­met for what it is worth, but no hel­met is concussion-proof, or may ever be.)

Any­way, my point was that I felt the NFL got off easy.  It spent much of the late 90s and early 2000s either in denial or cov­er­ing up con­cus­sion data and the over­all $765M it will be pay­ing out is small when com­pared to the amount of rev­enue the NFL will be gen­er­at­ing ($10B, expected in 2013, and $25B by 2025 accord­ing to esti­mates), so it wouldn’t be hurt­ing for cash.

Also, given the way that the NFL pays for things, it wouldn’t be the league itself which will be pick­ing up the tab.  It will be the tele­vi­sion con­tracts it will charge Dis­ney (ESPN), Fox, CBS, and Com­cast (NBC) when they expire in 2022.  So, the NFL isn’t going to cry over a lost billion.

In fact, accord­ing to ESPN’s “Out­side the Lines,” attor­neys for the play­ers were ini­tially seek­ing $2B in dam­ages while attor­neys for the league were using every trick in the book — prob­a­bly writ­ten by attor­neys who defended the tobacco com­pa­nies — to bring that fig­ure down.

Part of the NFL’s strat­egy to bring the play­ers’ mon­e­tary demands down included point­ing out that years of lit­i­ga­tion would have the effect of deny­ing the play­ers — many of who needed med­ical and finan­cial assis­tance — the help they needed.

Some play­ers and their fam­i­lies have crit­i­cized the $765 mil­lion set­tle­ment as too small to mat­ter for an indus­try that gen­er­ates nearly $10 bil­lion annu­ally. Includ­ing legal fees, which have not been deter­mined, the finan­cial bur­den to the NFL is likely to approach $1 bil­lion. If a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of play­ers were to exer­cise their right to opt out of the set­tle­ment agree­ment, Brody has the option of not accept­ing the set­tle­ment over­all or issu­ing a rul­ing on the league’s motion to dis­miss the lawsuit.

Per­haps I’m too empathic to some of the icons of the game who are suf­fer­ing from demen­tia and the like (such as Pack­ers Hall of Famer Willie Wood, who is now in hos­pice care out­side Wash­ing­ton, DC), but it’s hard to cel­e­brate the start of a new NFL sea­son this Thurs­day when you see the busi­ness side of it on full dis­play and just how lit­tle and com­plete dis­re­gard for the human life which made the league the suc­cess story it was in the first place.

Of course, as the work of guys like Mike Ditka, Bart Starr, and Jerry Kramer con­tinue to point out, lord knows the NFLPA — the play­ers’ union — hasn’t done its own due duty when it came to pen­sion, health care and the like for many of the greats the game had who are no in their 70s and 80s.

Just like the mobile quar­ter­back, greed is all the rage in the NFL and NFLPA these days.

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