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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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