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El_Johns

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Member since: Wed Dec 11, 2013, 03:23 PM
Number of posts: 1,805

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Corporate Extortion: A 21st Century Business Imperative?

It should come as no surprise to anyone that corporations pit local governments against one another in an effort to secure lucrative financial incentives to bring their business to (or remain in) the competing localities. Executives lobby hard at the city, county, and state levels for tax credits, cash payments, and other inducements. In the past, they might have promised to bring jobs to the cities or states in return for generous incentive packages...



At the same time, you can bet that if elected officials sought new regulations to improve water quality or worker safety, those same companies would strenuously resist them, arguing that the free market should not be weighed down by new rules. There’s a caveat to the oft-repeated phrase, “government’s not the solution; it’s the problem.” Corporate America has virtually one voice here: governmental intervention is good when it benefits corporations and Wall Street, but not when it protects workers, consumers, or the environment...

In a recent 3-part series, The New York Times writer Louise Story describes the extent of the practice:

States, counties, and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies. The beneficiaries come from virtually every corner of the corporate world...

The Times looked at more than 150,000 awards nation-wide and compiled a searchable database of incentives by location.

The database allows researchers to search by state or by company name to uncover a massive corporate welfare system that costs some states as much as 30% of their annual budget. In many localities, the already diminished tax base is being redistributed to corporate coffers. It’s one more example of the race to the bottom that drives communities’ living standards down and drives corporate profits up.


http://www.workingclassheroes.me/?p=2277

Raising The Minimum Wage, Increases Employment And One City Proved It

Many states and large cities have already moved to increase the minimum wage above and beyond the federal minimum of $7.25. San Francisco was one of the early leaders in pushing up the minimum wage. In fact the city raised their minimum wage in 2004 and indexed it to inflation. Currently the minimum wage in San Francisco is $10.74, well above the federal minimum, and even more than the proposed $10.10 federal minimum wage increase.

The fact that San Francisco raised the minimum wage almost a decade ago has given us a real life test bed for how it will impact the local economy. The results were staggering. In San Francisco between 2004-2011, private employment grew by 5.6%. Neighboring towns also benefited from the increase. The entire Santa Clara Country saw a 3% increase in private employment.

More importantly employment in the food service industry grew by 17.7%, debunking the myth that raising the minimum wage will cost low-wage workers their jobs.

That is not to say that there were not drawbacks to raising the minimum wage. There was a minor (2.8%) increase in prices at local fast food restaurants compared to the surrounding areas. This increase would mean that your $2.00 hamburger now costs $2.06. This is hardly the massive inflation that some people claim.

The minimum wage increase in San Francisco also benefited low-wage employers. According to Ken Jacobs, chairman of the US Berkley Labor Center, turnover in low-wage jobs “decreased by 60%”, which saves employers from having to spend additional money to hire and train new workers.

Americans overwhelmingly support raising the minimum wage. The Quinnipiac University Poll showed that 71% support an increase. The Washington Post Poll found similar results, 66% support an increase.

http://nhlabornews.com/2014/01/raising-the-minimum-wage-increases-employment-and-one-city-proved-it/

APWU to Launch National Campaign Against Outsourcing USPS Services to Staples

Protests Begin in San Francisco and San Jose Tues., Jan. 28



SAN FRANCISCO — Members of the American Postal Workers Union, joined by community activists, will launch protests against a deal between the U.S. Postal Service and Staples to move mail services into Staples stores. The first protests in the nation will begin in San Francisco Tuesday morning and later move to San Jose in the afternoon.

In October, USPS announced a no-bid agreement to open postal counters with limited service in more than 80 Staples stores. The Staples-operated and staffed postal counters will open on a trial basis in four markets across the United States: Northern California, Atlanta, GA, Pittsburgh, PA and Central Massachusetts. After the trial period, the Postmaster General has said the plan is to expand to 1,500 stores.

WHO: Members of the American Postal Workers Union, community activists, individuals who regularly use postal services

WHAT: Protests outside Northern California Staples stores

WHEN/WHERE: 10 a.m., Jan. 28th, Staples, 1700 Van Ness, San Francisco

4 p.m., Jan. 28th, Staples, 121 Bernal Road, San Jose

“All Americans should have access to a full-service post office,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “Although first-class mail is declining, package delivery is growing, largely due to e-commerce. This is when we should be expanding the post office to offer longer hours and more options, such as public notary and basic banking. Instead, we are giving customers fewer postal services as a result of this no-bid sweetheart deal with Staples. If we’re going to have mini-Post Offices located in Staples stores, they should still be operated by USPS workers.”

Staples has been struggling recently, shutting 40 stores in the last quarter. The publicly-traded company runs a low-wage operation, with high employee turnover, designed to deliver bulk commodities to customers.

Although the USPS handles 160 billion pieces of mail each year – 40 percent of the world’s total – mail is not a bulk commodity. Each package is individually addressed, and requires individual handling.

During this time of rampant identity theft, privacy and security are of concern to millions of postal customers. Uniformed USPS employees are required to take an oath and pass a background check before they can handle mail and make credit card transactions. Retailers, such as Staples, cannot offer the same assurances.

“Without public debate and despite claims to the contrary, the USPS is moving to shutter the reliable neighborhood post office and move work to Staples and other for-profit businesses,” said Dimondstein “Our union wants to shed a light on this bad deal. We’re confident that when the public learns what’s going on they will say, ‘Staples, when it comes to mail without USPS workers – no sale.”

http://nhlabornews.com/2014/01/apwu-to-launch-national-campaign-against-outsourcing-usps-services-to-staples/


Staples started with backing from private equity firms including Bain Capital; Bain co-founder Mitt Romney served on the company's board of directors for the next 15 years, helping shape their business model.[7]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staples_Inc.


Almost three decades after helping to launch Staples (SPLS), Bain Capital and a number of other private-equity firms are reportedly exploring a buyout bid for the office supplies retailer.

http://www.foxbusiness.com/industries/2012/09/14/back-to-bain-private-equity-firms-swirl-around-staples/

National Labor College to close.

In 1969 AFL-CIO President George Meany founded a labor studies center under the direction of Fred K. Hoehler Jr. to promote education and training opportunities for union leadership and rank-and-file members...

On November 6, 1974, AFL-CIO President George Meany dedicated the George Meany Center for Labor Studies, located on the former campus of Xaverian College. The property was purchased from the Xaverian Brothers by the AFL-CIO for $2.5 million in 1971...

In 1997 under the leadership of AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney, the center received authorization to grant baccalaureate degrees by the State of Maryland Higher Education Commission and became an independent institution of higher learning and renamed the National Labor College. By 2004, National Labor College had become fully accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.[6]

In the fall of 2006 the new Lane Kirkland Center opened on the National Labor College campus, to provide upgraded facilities, and to greatly expand the college's hosting capabilities. At the time, the college hoped to promote the Kirkland Center as "America's union hall." However, the center is included in the planned sale of the campus in 2012.[4]

In 2009, the college entered into a partnership with Penn Foster Education, a career college subsidiary of the Princeton Review in order to develop a distance education program. The program was ended by the college in November, 2011, because of the slow growth of the program and the financial difficulties of the Princeton Review.[9] The college intended to use the facilities developed under this program to build its own program of distance education.[9] The losses from the joint program were in part responsible for the 2012 decision to close the college's campus and function in online education only.[4]

On November 12, the National Labor College Board of Trustees directed Peinovich and the college's officers to develop a plan to close the college due to the institution's ongoing financial difficulties.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Labor_College




Princeton Review is a private for-profit test prep company owned by Charlesbank Capital Partners, a private-equity firm.

Penn Foster is a private company specializing in distance education: high school, vocational, and college, purchased in 2009 by Princeton Review.


Ironically, there are labor issues surrounding the closing:

“Our union, comprised of professionals and faculty members, calls on the National Labor College and the AFL-CIO to ensure that the student body has a seamless path to finish out their degrees, and that the college meets its contractual obligations to its union-represented staff. How the closure proceeds will reflect greatly on the labor movement, its values and how it honors its obligations to union members, both as students and employees.

The National Labor College was founded and supported by the AFL-CIO to help working families and union members pursue higher education as the cost of college has become increasingly out-of-reach for many American families. A recent report by the College Board found that for 2013-2014, the median tuition and fees price tag was over $11,000 — not including room and board. Since the college’s founding, the AFL-CIO has always subsidized tuition for union members to make the cost of attendance affordable. The AFL-CIO and the National Labor College should continue to work together to ensure moral and contractual obligations to students and staff are met.”

http://nhlabornews.com/2013/11/will-the-national-labor-college-uphold-their-agreements-to-workers-and-students/

Postman who spent 17 years in prison after wrongful conviction says he is a 'greater person' for it

A postman who spent 17 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of attempted rape says he is a 'greater person' for his miscarriage of justice.

Victor Nealon, 53, says he 'wants justice' and is considering suing the police after being given a life sentence in January 1997 for the attempted rape of a 22-year-old woman.

But despite spending almost a third of his life behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, Mr Nealon says he has no bitterness towards the prison system, and insists the experience was a positive one.

Mr Nealon, from Redditch in Worcestershire, was finally freed from HMP Wakefield on December 13 after DNA evidence from the woman's blouse was examined, which revealed another unknown man was the perpetrator.

He maintained his innocence throughout his spell in prison, even though it meant serving the full life sentence instead of pleading guilty and being released after serving half.

Mr Nealon believes his original defence team were 'incompetent' and says that while on trial he came close to confessing as it appeared the only way to get a lighter sentence.

He said: 'The police never had any evidence against me but my legal team in the trial were incompetent but I wasn't to know that at the time. I had never been at a trial before.'

Mr Nealon added: 'The evidence has always been freely visible. I have had 17 years of this so now it is time for justice… I want my life back.'

On how he found prison to be a positive experience, Mr Nealon said: 'Really I am a greater person for this experience, all experiences are valuable. Like Nelson Mandela said 'there is no easy walk to freedom''.

He added: 'I have called for the police to re-open the investigation and I think the victim should as well… Surely the bigger interest is justice for the victim - she has never received any apology.'

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2532164/Postman-spent-17-years-prison-wrongful-conviction-attempted-rape-says-greater-person-victim-miscarriage-justice.html

Suddenly everyone's coming out of the woodwork to talk about Christie's pay to play tactics.

What that tells me is that this is how politics really operates. They're only talking now because it's "safe" as Christie has been deemed expendable publicly.

Maybe in some places it's more "genteel" & covert, maybe in some places there's more of less of it, but it's not some unique corruption.

Grassroots and Dark Money Groups Building Media Campaign for Right to Work in PA

The never-ending push for Right to Work (for less) legislation in Pennsylvania is on the move again, but this time there’s more of a tangible campaign targeting the conservative base. For 14 straight years, State Representative Daryl Metcalfe has introduced some form of Right to Work legislation, but this year’s legislation was introduced by State Representative Bryan Cutler (Lancaster, PA). Last January, Jen Stefano from the Koch Brothers funded American’s for Prosperity in Pennsylvania held a press conference with Representative Metcalfe and announced that the legislation will become law. Currently, it appears that dark money groups tied to right wing think tanks like The Franklin Center and Greenhouse Solutions are teaming up with a conservative activist from Southeastern Pennsylvania, and are astroturfing a social media and media campaign by using Facebook and Twitter accounts to push anti-union news and rhetoric from “independent” media outlets.

The players in this story are Simon Campbell – a conservative grassroots activist from Yardley, PA, dark money think tanks, and astro-turfed media and social media outlets. Simon Campbell is a local conservative activist from Bucks County PA. He jumped on the scene in 2005 when he was elected to the Pennsbury School District. The cause-celeb he ran on was a teacher bashing and anti-teacher strike platform. While sitting on the Pennsbury School Board, Campbell started Stop Teachers Strike. In 2013, Campbell’s four year term on the local school board was up and he and his colleagues were sept off board. Weeks after the election, Campbell founded a 501.4(c) organization called Pennsylvanians For Union Reform, and thanks to his non-profit social welfare status, Campbell’s group is able to receive a whole lot of dark money. Campbell’s resume as a right-wing activist has him giving speeches at luncheons or sitting on training sessions at Koch funded think-tanks like the statewide Commonwealth Foundation and Americans for Prosperity.

Then there’s a growing social media campaign. It appears that Campbell has been running a Pennsylvanians for Union Reform facebook page since June 2013, and has amassed over 20,000 followers. That’s either one hell of a grassroots campaign or Campbell’s group has a few thousand sitting aside for social media promotion. Then the page regularly posts stories from Pennsylvania media outlets that deal with union issues, but the majority of the posts come from two “independent” media outlets, Media Trackers and Watchdog Wire. Out of the two media outlets, Media Trackers is more savvy when it comes to hiding their funding sources and who is actually writing their articles....

But 95 percent of its 2011 funding came from DonorsTrust, a spin-off of the Philanthropy Roundtable that functions as a large “donor-advised fund,” cloaking the identity of donors to right-wing causes across the country (CPI did a review of Franklin’s Internal Revenue Service records).[18] Mother Jones called DonorsTrust “the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement” in a February 2013 article.[19]Franklin received DonorTrust’s second-largest donation in 2011.[18]

The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation,[20] a conservative grant-making organization.[21]

The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM),[22] a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network,[23] which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation.[24] Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation.[25] SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.

What we are witnessing are the cogs turning in the right-wing infrastructure gearing up for an attack on public sector workers in 2014. There has been a quiet 14-year movement to make Right to Work a possibility in Pennsylvania, and now the volume is being ratcheted up a few notches. We are witnessing a “grassroots,” social welfare, non-profit group that has the potential to collect dark money run a social media campaign that is pushing for one issue; screwing workers’ rights. The social media campaign, run by Pennsylvanians for Union Reform, is constantly pushing anti-union rhetoric from dark money dominated non-profit media outlet, like Media Trackers, or the Koch Brother funded, Franklin Center’s communication’s department at Watchdog Wire. This is how the right wing infrastructure, with all their minions, all their think tanks and all their communications departments are going to try to undercut labor laws in Pennsylvania just like they did in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Florida in 2011.

http://nhlabornews.com/2014/01/grassroots-and-dark-money-groups-building-media-campaign-for-right-to-work-in-pa/

The Outrageous Truth About A $12 Minimum Wage And Your Grocery Bill

Every time I even mention the idea of raising the minimum wage, I am immediately attacked on social media.

Opponents imagine that inflation will skyrocket; some have even claimed that ‘milk will be $10.00 a gallon’ if we raise the minimum wage. Oh, the hysteria. Milk is currently around $3.50 a gallon and that is up 25% from just ten years ago. Is that 25% due to rising wages? Sadly, no – wages in America have declined during that time. Must be some other economic force at work. (Read “Even Dairy Farming has a 1%” here.)

So, what if we raised the floor to a living wage, and paid non-tipped employees a minimum wage of $12.00 per hour? Oh, more hysteria. Opponents claim that will drive our costs up so much we will be unable to eat!

Let’s look at a few facts about minimum wage.

Who gets paid minimum wage? People opposed to raising the wage claim that ‘minimum wage workers are kids in high school; adults do not make minimum wage’. The fact is 25% of minimum wage workers are below the age of 19 – which means that 75% of all minimum wage earners are above the age of 20. That means they’re adults – not high school kids. In fact, almost half of all minimum-wage earners are above the age of 25.

Another fact: 64% of all minimum wage earners are women. Of that a whopping 66% are women above the age of 20.

Another fact: More than a third of minimum wage workers (35.8 percent) are married, and over a quarter (28.0 percent) are parents. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that if Congress raised the minimum wage, it would raise the standard of living for more than 21 million children.

Walmart employs about 2.2 million people – almost 2% of America’s workers, these days.

If the minimum wage is raised to $12.00 an hour, 37% of Walmart employees would see a raise ranging from $3,200 (part-time workers) to $6,500 (full-time workers). Another 14.6% would see a raise between $1,670-$2,640 per year.

Now, let’s assume that Walmart passed every penny of the minimum wage increase onto customers, r ather than taking it out of profits or dividends. What would that mean to consumers? The average customer would see an increase of $12.49 per year – about 46 cents per visit – if Walmart executives passed the total cost along, rather than cutting their profits.

A closer look at Walmart’s dividend payments: corporate “insiders” own more than half of Walmart’s stock. Once again, the people who run the company personally benefit from decisions about profits paid out as dividends.

For example, Walmart Director Jim Walton owns 10.5 million shares of the company. This year, the company paid out $1.88 per share in dividends. That means Director Walton received more than $19.7 million in dividends (which are taxed at about half the rate as executive salaries).

Walmart President and CEO Michael Duke owns about 1.2 million shares of the company – that means he personally received about $2 million in dividend income this year.

All that money to corporate executives. And some people claim Walmart can’t afford to give raises to its workers?

http://nhlabornews.com/2013/07/the-outrageous-truth-about-a-12-minimum-wage-and-your-grocery-bill/

What Happens in Detroit Won't Stay in Detroit

It’s amazing, the stuff you can find on the Internet these days. Step-by-step instructions for all sorts of things, including – oh, yeah – how public employers can relieve themselves of retirement obligations through the Chapter 9 bankruptcy process. Like they’re trying to do in Detroit, right now. And reading through Ice Miller’s description of the process – right here, if you’re interested – it sure doesn’t seem all that hard.

http://www.icemiller.com/pdf/Chapter9_Bankruptcy_Benefits.pdf


And then there’s the timeline.

I’m not even going to try to figure out which chicken came before which egg. The newest emergency manager law became effective in March. The law firm Jones Day was awarded a $3.35 million contract as Detroit’s “restructuring counsel” in March. Jones Day partner Kevyn Orr was named Detroit’s emergency financial manager in March. (Or maybe by then he was a former partner? Attorney Orr resigned from the firm sometime in March.) Different media reports give different dates; and from this many miles away, it’s impossible to figure out what happened in what order.

And then there’s the law firm.

I’m human; I can’t help but sometimes judge a law firm by its clients. And Jones Day’s client list includes Koch Industries, as well as Mitt Romney’s old firm, Bain Capital.

And then there’s the lawsuit, filed by Jones Day lawyers, challenging a ban on political contributions by foreign sources (including foreign corporations). And then there’s the lawsuit, filed by Jones Day lawyers not long before last year’s election, challenging an Obama administration regulation regarding insurance coverage. (Also can’t help but wonder at all the work this law firm is apparently doing for free!)

And then there’s the attorney.

According to his official bio, Attorney Orr worked for the FDIC’s Resolution Trust Corporation in the 1990s; and while there, his duties included “serving as the agency’s chief lawyer responsible for the agency’s participation in the Whitewater investigation.” Yeah, you read that right: the Whitewater investigation.

Starting to think that maybe there’s politics involved here, somehow?

And then there’s the Governor.

Last December was a busy month for Gov. Rick Snyder. Not only did he push through a new emergency manager law, to replace the one rescinded by voters, he also pushed through a Right to Work bill. Read “GOP, Koch Brothers Sneak Attack Guts Labor Rights in Michigan” here. (Yes, there’s the Koch brothers, again.) He was so effective at pushing stuff through the Legislature that the Washington Post named him “The Scott Walker of 2014”.

Got a headache yet?

The big trouble here is, whatever happens with Detroit – with its very expensive law firm, with its history of highly-political cases…

… whatever happens in Detroit will set a legal precedent for other politicians and other employers who may want to relieve themselves of their obligations to public workers. Yesterday’s USA Today even has an interactive graphic; read “Detroit not alone under crushing pension obligations” here.

So… you think you’ve got retirement benefits? Think again.

That Ice Miller report has a state-by-state breakdown of the requirements to go through the Chapter 9 bankruptcy process. Including a note that, when the report was published, Michigan didn’t have any law authorizing a municipality to declare bankruptcy. Which it didn’t, until Governor Snyder and the Republican-led Legislature pushed through “The Local Financial Stability and Choice Act” last December… just days after pushing through the Right to Work bill.

If it’s happening in Detroit, it can happen almost anywhere.

http://nhlabornews.com/2013/07/what-happens-in-detroit/

Canadian NGOs aided in the Haitian coup that overthrew Aristide

The genesis for Nikolas Barry-Shaw and Dru Oja Jay’s book, Paved with Good Intentions: Canada’s Development NGOs from Idealism to Imperialism (Fernwood Publishing, 2012), was the discovery that Canadian development non-governmental organizations (NGOs), even those considered progressive, aided in the 2004 coup to overthrow Aristide in Haiti. They gave resources to his opponents, and continued to demonize Aristide and his grassroots movement, Lavalas. The authors, members of Haiti Action Montreal (linked with Canada Haiti action network), were especially shocked at the stance of Alternatives, a Montreal based group, and began to question the role of NGOs in general.

Their first realization was that these organizations are not really non-governmental. The major development NGOS, supposedly operating to bring democracy and prosperity to poorer nations, normally receive half their budget from the Canadian government...NGOs wishing to receive funding could not criticize Canadian foreign policy; the radical groups of the 1970s were defunded and the remaining ones were “increasingly in bed with the government.

The Canadian development NGOs are part of a worldwide explosion of the same. Some were created to deal with the social costs of International Monetary Fund rules. These promoted anti-poverty measures that did not interfere with neo-liberalism, which entailed a rollback from social welfare, end of subsidies of local industry and agriculture, privatization of government services, and shrivelization of the civil service.

The universe of NGOs is now enormous. They have been sent by the West to salvage nations torn by invasions, overthrows, and exploitation. In the process they co-opt many members of the leadership class, drawing in both government employees and activists from grassroots political and social movements, as they pay high wages by local standards, and offer travel and other benefits. The NGO as an agent of imperialism is not new—remember the missionaries—but the scale is.

The authors report 10,000 NGOs in Haiti, providing 80% of the basic services. Policies of the puppet government eliminating tariffs and importing cheap food, along with food aid, helped to destroy the agricultural economy. Peasants then migrated to the city, where there were no jobs and built shoddy houses compounding the earthquake devastation...

Barry-Shaw and Jay conclude that “NGOs do more harm than good overall. While providing small, temporary benefits to poor recipients . . . NGOs are simultaneously an extension of the ‘development’ apparatus used subjugate and exploit the Global South.”

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/20/same-old-road-to-hell/
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