organized labor

BOYCOTT PEARSON NOW!

Pearson, ALEC, and the Brave New (Corporate) World:
Stand Up to Pearson Now!

(Publisher’s Note: We have revised our Boycott Pearson boycottinformation for clarity and in order to add additional research – please use this version, posted April 29, 2012, when sharing.)

 

Supporters of Public Education,

The curtain has been pulled aside recently from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), exposing the seedy underbelly of our democracy. Organizations like ALEC circumvent the democratic process in favor of corporations. Financial resources are used to influence public officials and provide model legislation meant to easily pass through state houses of governance. Recent examples include infamous “Stand Your Ground” laws and others that seek to limit the voting rights of marginalized populations. Education reform legislation is also part of ALEC’s agenda, with substantial sponsorship from corporate funds to divert the flow of valuable taxpayer dollars away from public schools.

ALEC-inspired advocacy for public education reform typically follows a path to privatization; that is, viewing educational practices vis-à-vis economic and capitalist principles. Strict school choice models, vouchers, private charter management organizations, and the erosion of collective bargaining rights are all examples of the economic management of public education. As opposed to a valuable public good, certain entities prevalent in the education reform debate are forcing schools to motivate themselves by profit and competition. What it means to be an educated person (e.g., college and career ready), what is important to teach (e.g., common standards), and how success is measured (e.g., standardized tests) are currently under significant transformation without the thorough vetting via democratic processes. And with the frustration and confusion ensuing from rapid developments occurring behind closed doors, outside the public spotlight of democracy, there are large corporations conveniently present to sell us products that will solve all of our problems.

Pearson is one such entity that as of late always seems to be at the right place and precisely at the right time. In other words, just as new legislation is passed, as new educational mandates are set, Pearson is suddenly able to provide the legions of educators and school systems clamoring for some kind of answer with just the right product. How can this be? In recent years, this once relatively small publishing house turned itself into a massive provider of a range of educational products, from traditional print materials for the K-12 sector, higher education resources and technology solutions for public school systems. It is one thing to have various products to sell and to allow the marketplace to judge their success or failure. It is another matter to reorganize the rules so that Pearson products are all one needs to buy to satisfy a range of emerging Federal and State education mandates.

For better or for worse, education reform in the United States is largely controlled by legislation. It appears then that Pearson is successfully implementing a two-pronged approach: grease the democratic process in their favor so that certain rules must be followed and from the other side perfectly match their own products so they have exactly what can be bought to satisfy those requirements. Pearson, through connections to ALEC, has become the dominant provider of education resources and services in the K-12 and post-secondary markets. The following are some of the affiliations that made this perfect alignment possible:

  • Pearson acquired the Connections Academy, whose co-founder and executive VP is Mickey Revenaugh, is also the co-chair of the ALEC Education Task Force. In September of 2004, Connections Academy was sold to an investor group led by Apollo Management, L.P. In the fall of 2011, Pearson acquired Connections Education, establishing a leading position in the fast-growing virtual school segment and the opportunity to apply Connections Education’s skills and technologies in new segments and geographic markets.
  • According to Pearson’s website: “Pearson Education and the University of Phoenix (a subsidiary of Apollo Management Group), the largest private (for-profit) university in the United States announced a partnership which will accelerate the University’s move to convert its course materials to electronic delivery.” [emphasis added]. As such, Pearson will certainly provide the materials and the mode of transmission. It must also be stated here that many for-profit universities have been under investigation for student loan fraud and unethical recruitment practices. The CEO of AMG, Charles (Chaz) Edelstein, was Managing Director of Credit Suisse and Head of the Global Services group within the Investment Banking division, based in Chicago. He is also on the Board of Directors for Teach for America, which is a provider of temporary and inexperienced teachers and also frequently associated with corporate education reform. One prominent name in this regard is TFA alum Michelle Rhee, the failed former Chancellor of DC public schools.
  • America’s Choice was also recently acquired by Pearson. This organization is directly associated with the Lumina, Broad, and Walton Foundations, all active members of ALEC. They each promote so-called “innovations” that appeal to the corporate and for-profit mindset.
  • Bryan Cave, LLP is the lobbying firm for Pearson. Edward Koch is currently one of the partners at Bryan Cave. Edward Koch sits conveniently and comfortably on the board for StudentsFirst NY, a branch of the national initiative StudentsFirst, which is the brainchild of failed former Chancellor of DC public schools Michelle Rhee. It must also be stated that Rhee’s tenure is under a dark cloud of investigation for rampant test cheating and tampering in the district.
  • Pearson is contracted with Stanford University to deliver the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) to more than 25 participating states. According to Pearson’s website, “TPA is led by Stanford University, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and Pearson.” Furthermore, “Pearson’s electronic portfolio management system will support candidates, institutions of higher education, and state educational agencies by providing registration and account management services, submission of the portfolio for scoring and results reporting.” [emphasis added]. Pearson provides the administrative management skills and broad-based technology and delivery systems that will support the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) and bring it to a national scale. Stanford University’s Office of Technology Licensing (OTL) selected Pearson to provide these needed services for the TPA. Let it be known that the U.S. Dept. of Ed. is currently considering teacher preparation programs to be evaluated based on accountability measures similar to public schools.
  • Sir Michael Barber is the current Chief Education Advisor for Pearson. It is no secret that Mr. Barber is a powerful advocate for the free-market approach to education, including union busting, merit pay, and turning public schools into privately run charters.
  • Pearson contracts with Achieve to manage the PARCC assessments. Achieve is funded by Lumina, State Farm (both members of ALEC) and The Alliance for Excellence in Education (AEE). AEE chairman Bob Wise is a regular contributor to and participant with the ALEC educational agenda. Moreover, PARCC awarded Pearson a contract in January to develop a new Technology Readiness Tool, which will support state education agencies to evaluate and determine needed technology and infrastructure upgrades for the new online assessments. Pray tell, who will sell those upgrades?
  • The Tucker Capital Corporation acted as exclusive advisor to The American Council on Education (ACE) and Pearson on the creation of a groundbreaking new business that will drive the future direction, design, and delivery of the GED testing program.
  • The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) partners with a whole cast of other organizations that promote a corporate, anti-public education reform agenda. CCSSO Central “partners” include (among others) McGraw-Hill and Pearson. CCSSO Director Tom Luna works closely with Jeb Bush, whose associations with ALEC and corporate-reform are too numerous to mention.
  • GradNation is a special project of America’s Promise Alliance, sponsored by Alma and Gen. Colin Powell. Grad Nation sponsors include State Farm (ALEC), the Walton Foundation (ALEC), AT&T (on the corporate board of ALEC), The Boeing Company (ALEC), the Pearson Foundation and Philip Morris USA (ALEC). The GradNation Summit list of presenters reads like an ALEC yearbook.
  • Gen. Colin Powell sits on the Board of Directors for The Council for Foreign Relations, which issued an “Education Reform and National Security” report (co-chaired by Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice, directed by Julia Levy). The report states, among other things, that: “The Task Force believes that though revamping expectations for students should be a state-led effort, a broader coalition … including the defense community, businesses leaders, the U.S. Department of Education, and others … also has a meaningful role to play in monitoring and supporting implementation and creating incentives to motivate states to adopt high expectations. The Defense Policy Board, which advises the secretary of defense, and other leaders from the public and private sectors should evaluate the learning standards of education in America and periodically assess whether what and how students are learning is sufficiently rigorous to protect the country’s national security interests.” [emphasis added].
  • According to Susan Ohanian: “In the introduction to the Education Reform and National Security report, Julia Levy, Project Director, thanks ‘the several people who met with and briefed the Task Force group including the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Mary Cullinane formerly of Microsoft [Philadelphia School of the Future] [now Vice President of Corporate and Social Responsibility for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt], Sir Michael Barber of Pearson and David Coleman of Student Achievement Partners …’ They were briefed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Pearson.”
  • Pearson has partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create a series of digital instructional resources. In November 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave ALEC $376,635 to educate and engage its membership on more efficient state budget approaches to drive greater student outcomes, as well as educate them on beneficial ways to recruit, retain, evaluate and compensate effective teaching based upon merit and achievement (the Gates Foundation recently withdrew its support for ALEC under the heat of public pressure). However, their billions of dollars still flow to other far-reaching organizations dedicated to dismantling public education.
  • The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards is a private-sector member of ALEC. Bob Wise (Chairman, of NBPTS) and Alliance for Excellent Education presented on “National Board’s Fund Initiative to Grow Great Schools” at the Education Task Force Meeting at the 2011 ALEC annual picnic. According to the NBPTS website, they “announced that it has awarded Pearson a five-year contract for the period 2009-2013 to develop, administer and score its National Board Certification program for accomplished teachers. Pearson will collaborate with NBPTS to manage its advanced teacher certification program in 25 certificate areas that span 16 subject areas.”
  • Pearson has also acquired partnerships with companies to deliver PARCC, SAT testing, GED testing, and was the central player (through Achieve) in the design of the National Common Core Standards. The GED Testing Service, while wholly owned by the American Council for Education, entered into a joint venture with Pearson to transform the GED for some 40 million adult Americans (one in five adults) lacking a high school diploma. This is an entirely new market.

Even with all of Pearson’s efforts, they are not the only game in town. McGraw-Hill is another publisher forging similar connections and making money hand over fist due to NCLB-mandated reading programs like Open Court and SRA Reading Mastery. Of course, after billions spent on Reading First and the McGraw-Hill materials, the federally funded evaluation of the program showed no increase in reading comprehension by third grade. McGraw-Hill is also one of the biggest test publishers in the U.S. and publishes the CTBS, the central competitor to Pearson’s illustrious SAT-10.

The legislation forced upon states to adopt the curriculum (i.e., the Common Core) and its required testing measures (i.e., PARCC) essentially eliminates the possibility of consumer choice (supposedly a key concept in free market ideology) and requires that taxpayer dollars for education be handed over to Pearson and McGraw-Hill as the sole providers of nearly all educational resources available to the schools. It is frightening that Pearson, profiting billions from public education, is simultaneously operated by and sponsors organizations that promote the destruction of public education. It is essentially forcing the public to pay for the demise of its own education system.

It is possible that Pearson and its allies will deny and attempt to refute the information bulleted above. Perhaps the magnitude of their efforts will project the magnitude of their guilt. Whatever the semantics here, if a connection is really an association, if ownership is actually sponsorship, or if partnership actually means membership, it is interesting and coincidental that the above cast of characters constantly find themselves associated with each other. Additionally, the common friend to all seems to be Pearson.

If Pearson is truly interested in profit, as all corporations typically are, then consumer pressure is the best way to be heard. We at United Opt Out National are calling on everyone to take a stand against Pearson by doing any or all of the following:

  • Refuse to buy their materials or adopt them in your courses or for personal use.
  • Bring these concerns to local PTAs, school boards and libraries.
  • If required to use Pearson products due to professional obligations, do so under public protest.
  • Promote the use of ACT rather than SAT, as SAT is a Pearson product.
  • Inform Pearson of your actions.
  • If you are in higher education, discuss your concerns with your local Pearson representative, informing them that for these purposes you are not going to adopt their materials in any of your courses.

Raise public awareness so the brakes can be put on this madness. Please click here to see Education News’ sample letter, which you are encouraged to share so that others may refuse Pearson products.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This article is written by or from a variety of publications on EducationViews.org on March 11, 2013 and is published in Education News.
Education Newshttp://educationviews.org/boycott-pearson-now/#
Please visit their site to read the Pearson Boycott Letter
and to sign your name and intention to Boycott Pearson
in their Comment Section by clicking here

Lawmakers Lambaste Money-Losing Prison Industries Program

Lawmakers Lambaste Money-Losing Prison Industries Program

We have been posting about an investigation into prison labor violations in Nevada.  Three posts by VLTP Executive Director Bob Sloan, which you can access here, here, and here.  After exposing this to the entire Nevada State Legislature, Governor Sandoval (R), AG Masto (D), and Union leaders, and aided by an interview on the Dana Gentry Show just over a month ago, the ball started rolling fast. 

Elected leaders and Union leaders realized that they were being  at the least, misled by DOC Chief Cox and Nevada Department of Corrections Public Information Officer Brian Connett (who, not so incidentally, also NCIA logo  serves as the head of NCIA and is likely guilty of a serious conflict of interest) and reacted quickly to the information provided to them by Bob.

 

Today, elected officials had a special hearing to address the information about Messrs. Cox and Connett.  Many questions were obviously formed from the Cox and Connettinvestigative report that Bob had  researched and submitted to the Legislature, Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State.

The following article from the Las Vegas Sun – complete with Bob’s comments – show that there are a lot of powerful people who are very upset and embarrassed about being defrauded.  The disgust was bipartisan, as the impact on Nevada taxpayers and the abuse of prison laborers united both progressives and conservatives in condemning the actions of Cox and Connett.

There is still a lot more to happen until this situation is fully and properly resolved, including what to do about the legal transgressions and tax issues. This issue will be discussed next at an open meeting of the Nevada commission sometime later this month. Bob Sloan will be writing his own article on the events to date, but for now I’d like to present you with the MSM Newspaper coverage of today’s events to bring you up-to-speed on what is happening as the result of Bob’s investigation for VLTP.  All emphasis is mine.

————————————-

From the Las Vegas Sun, by   (contact)

Friday, March 8, 2013 | 4:03 p.m. CARSON CITY — Legislators lambasted the state’s prison industry program Friday. They bemoaned the financial losses the program has incurred during the past few years and further decried the possibility that prisoners could be unduly competing with the private sector for scarce jobs.

“It appears that at some point the reserves are going to run out, but in the meantime, it’s a loss-loss across the state,” Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said at a legislative committee meeting, noting that the state would lose money and the private sector could lose jobs.

The prison industries program uses voluntary prison labor to run various shops with some proceeds from sales paying for restitution and room and board for prisoners; the prisoners receive training and skills they can later use to find a job when they are no longer incarcerated.

Department of Corrections chief Greg Cox conceded that the program has been a money loser during recent years but still defended the merits of the Silver State Industries program.

“We have been able to say historically this is helping us operate our facilities, it’s a good management tool, and it provides vocational training,” he told legislators. “The cold hard facts are now that we have to aggressively look at what industries are not turning a profit.”

The prison industries’ furniture and metal shop, auto and upholstery shop, and drapery shop have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars during the past few years.

Others, like the mattress, print and garment shops have turned small profits. But those surpluses aren’t enough to offset losses in the other shops, and the department has been drawing down reserves as a result.

“This is a clear track into the dirt, and without substantial retooling, it’ll be in the hole,” Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, said.

Bobzien and Assemblyman Michael Sprinkle, D-Sparks, tried to wrangle an answer from Cox about which programs would be cut and what the department would do to get its industry program on a sustainable track.

Cox said he’s “very pessimistic” about future revenues and that “when resources go, of course programs will go.”

He cited the auto shop, the biggest money loser, as one program that could be under the chopping block.

Cox faced further criticism for the prison industry’s public-private partnership with Alpine Steel, which owes the state about $400,000.

The company also got a below-market rate lease to operate within High Desert State Prison, which Bobzien called an unfair subsidy.

The challenge of convincing a business to work within a prison environment necessitated the need for a cheap rate, said Nevada Department of Corrections Public Information Officer Brian Connett. (note: there’s a whole lot of conflict-of-interest here).

Danny Thompson, of the AFL-CIO, also protested Alpine Steel’s use of cheap prison labor.

“They’re displacing people who are out of work with prisoners,” he said. “There’s no way you can compete. … I have 300 out-of-work ironworkers who are not criminals.”

He said Alpine Steel produced steel girders for a construction project at the North Fifth Street Bridge in North Las Vegas.

Calling into question the quality of prison labor, he said the potential lack of certification and training for prison laborers could lead to unsafe construction on a public road over Interstate 15.

The company’s owner, Randy Bulloch, testified to legislators that his company did no work on girders for that project and that the prison laborers have required certifications.

Cox also said Alpine Steel is on a payback program and is no longer operating within the state’s prison system, although that could change in the future.

and now for Bob’s comment posted to the Las Vegas Sun’s article:

  1. By bobsloan

March 8, 2013 8:32 p.m. Director Cox seemed to be at a loss for solutions to the many problems surrounding his prison industries – and on how to damper the criticisms aimed at him because of the industry program. Some obvious solutions that could have been suggested to the legislature today never came up in the responses the NDOC Director and his Deputy provided to pertinent questions. They could have suggested ways to stop the industries from losing money, such as enforcing collection of lease payments, owed salaries for staff.

Reevaluate all facility leases private companies enjoy with prison industries and increase them comparable to similar leases in the private sector – you know at the rate all other Nevada businesses pay for manufacturing space. They could have suggested not extending credit (tax dollars) to companies partnering with the prison industries. The decision on reducing lease rates to private companies on publicly owned property or facilities should not be a decision made by a Deputy Director, rather one made by the Board of Prison Commissioners.

Taxpayers rely upon Director Cox to protect their interests. Entering into leases that cost those taxpayers as much as $90,000 per year in potential income does not generate trust – or a lessening in deficits. To use such low cost leases as an “incentive” to encourage companies to bring manufacturing to the prison industries is an expenditure that should be authorized at a higher pay grade. It was disheartening to learn that after owing the state more than $400,000 for four years the company in question was offered an agreement to repay the money over an additional four year+ period without even interest penalties. Director Cox added insult to injury by declaring that if Alpine Steel’s work picked up he would reopen the prison industry to him.

That statement alone left the impression the Director was willing to move forward with a partnership that has already cost the state nearly a half million dollars – and let that company amass more debt as if the NDOC can extend state subsidies in the face of legislative objections or concerns.

Conservative lobby group behind push to lower minimum wage

Politicians backed by conservative group Alec have introduced 67 laws in 25 states aimed at reducing minimum wage levels

AARP Hosts Job Fair For Workers Over 50 In New York

Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The conservative lobbying group Alec has been behind a major push against the pay rates of low-wage American workers by sponsoring or supporting scores of new laws aimed at weakening their protections, a new survey has found.

Since 2011, politicians backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has hit the headlines for previous campaigns on voting rights and gun laws, have introduced 67 different laws in 25 different states on the issue.

The proposed laws are generally aimed at reducing minimum wage levels, weakening overtime protection or stopping the local creation of minimum wage laws in cities or states. Using language similar to “model bill” templates drafted by Alec, they were put forward by local politicians who are almost always Republican and affiliated with the powerful conservative group.

Critics say Alec is backed by powerful corporate groups that are seeking to draft legislation that serves their business interests. “Public scrutiny is the best weapon against their agenda,” said Jack Temple, a policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, which advocates on workers’ rights and drew up the report.

Eleven of the 67 bills eventually became law. They included an Arizona bill weakening public sector wage contracts, an Idaho bill preventing state and local government from adopting some wage laws and New Hampshire legislation that repealed that state’s minimum wage law.

The phenomenon has come as the US economy struggles to recover from the impact of the Great Recession. Even though corporate profits are high and the stock market has soared to new record levels, job growth has been tepid and real wages largely stagnant as the economy has shifted in a low-wage direction. One study has found that around 60% of jobs lost during the recession were middle or high wage while some 58% of new jobs in the recovery have been in low-wage sectors.

“With real wages for low wage workers already declining in the post-recession recovery, the last thing America’s workers need is frontal assault on pay and overall compensation by state legislatures,” said Christine Owens, Nelp’s executive director.

Indeed, President Barack Obama called for a rise in the minimum wage in his state of the union address in January, though many experts see such a move as unlikely to pass Congress. Alec, meanwhile, denies it is attacking workers’ rights. “I feel that the Nelp report unfairly casts Alec as a suppressor or oppressor of American workers. We are not against employees of companies. Rather, we believe the market should dictate wages,” said an Alec spokesman.

Alec has come under fire several times in recent years for its campaigns. After drawing serious criticism from civil rights groups for its backing of stand-your-ground gun laws and also voter ID legislation, Alec decided last year to abandon campaigning on social policy issues in favour of concentrating on economic policies.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This article is written by Paul Harris and is posted at http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/mar/06/alec-minimum-wage-report
The Guardian home

Michigan Firefighters Under Attack

FLINT FIREFIGHTERS JUST CAN’T CATCH A BREAK

One could say the name Flint, Michigan is apt when it comes to sparking fires — real and political. The city has suffered a rash of troubling arsons over the past few yeFlint Michigan arsonars, some of which have been partially resolved with the arrest and plea deal of a gang of arsonists responsible for up to 100 fires. The city’s east side alone suffered a whopping 145 intentionally set blazes in 2010, accounting for 30 percent of Flint’s 486 known arsons that year.

Indeed, Flint is a city on fire, and under siege….

The fiscally challenged municipality is under assault from the State of Michigan when it assigned an Emergency Manager to run its government — usurping elected leaders, thereby suspending democratic rule and rendering elections meaningless. Under emergency management the city has suffered terribly through brutal cut-back management practices that have decimated public sector services.

Already the most violent city in the nation, Flint also takes the honor of being the arson capitol of the country according to the FBI — with its record number of self-immolations earning it that dubious title. The firefighting costs there are astronomical. Businesses are frantically attempting to protect themselves through enhanced alarm systems.

Private security firms refuse to pay-up for false alarms

Privately-owned security  companies frequently act as the conduit for public protection of a business community — be it fire or police response, they expedite the automated 911 request. Skittish Flint businesses are arming themselves with hair-trigger alarms through these private contractors, whose state-of-the-art systems are generating numerous and costly false alarms. In the last five months of 2012, the city responded to hundreds of false alarms, resulting in 1600 invoices for a $134,000 total, at $79 per response — expenses the beleaguered city cannot bear, yet they are not being reimbursed by the business community.

Traditionally, individual businesses are directly billed by the city for a false call, but Flint opted to run the billing liability through the security companies themselves — a controversial move. Those corporations should have contracts that pass along false alarm fees to the contracting company, where applicable. But it seems, few of them wish to tack-on the cost of false alarms to client invoices. They’re counting on the problem just going away — and are simply not paying what’s owed the city.

As if the lack of support among the business community wasn’t enough, Flint firefighters are also under political attack.

Mackinac Center doesn’t want firefighters to receive incentives to live in Flint city limits

The Flint housing market has been hammered by an economic downturn for flint michigan real estatemany decades prior to the national economic bubble collapse. Many neighborhoods are largely empty, and vacant homes invite crime. The Genesee County Land Bank is responding by developing a program that would give a 30 percent discount on foreclosed homes to firefighters and police officers willing to move into the city. The homes have been rehabilitated through grants from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

This would raise occupancy and make the neighborhoods safer through the presence of police and firefighters. Fire response time is another attractive factor.

It’s a win-win. Who wouldn’t agree?

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is throwing water on the plan claiming that granting Flint firefighters and police officers a discount is “preferential treatment” that is not fair because private businesses can’t get in on the action for their employees. (Private businesses with a costly unpaid false alarm flint michigan firefightersaddiction). Mackinac Center goes on to outrageously claim that Flint and Detroit firefighters are already over-compensated and, here’s the kicker…they are placing direct blame for Flint’s fiscal crisis on the firefighters. Read their over-the-top screed here.

We certainly agree that public sector legacy costs are problematic for all municipalities during stressful economic times…BUT, to blame Flint firefighters for the problems of that city is beyond the height of hubris — it’s reprehensible.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

democracy tree logo

Michigan House Reintroduces Education Achievement Authority Bill

Michigan House Reintroduces Education Achievement Authority Bill

After failing to pass HB 6004 last year, Rep. Lisa Posthumus-Lyons is at it again sponsoring HB 4369.

The impetus behind the legislation is to codify into Michigan Compiled Law the no EAAEducation Achievement Authority. In addition to the state seizure of local control of financially struggling schools, it suspends collective bargaining in the bottom 5 percent of schools — an ugly provision reminiscent of the failed federal law, No Child Left Behind, in which schools that did not meet AYP (adequate yearly progress) were summarily punished regardless of important contributing factors.

Just as with the Emergency Manager law, a racial component emerges again…

The law was crafted to continually punish the bottom 5 percent, no matter how much progress they made, and history shows that the lowest performing schools tend to be located in poor urban areas. HB 4369, like its Emergency Manager parent, facially-speaking, did not have a racial component, but in practice — well, that’s another matter.

It’s not as if we didn’t see this coming.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

democracy tree logo

Documents Released on RTW Protest in Michigan

images[1]Questions where asked when Michigan State Police unleashed two platoons of troopers last December to take drastic measures, including arresting and spraying protesters and locking down the Capitol building for 4 1/2 hours during the contentious Right-to-Work debate.

Some of them have been partially answered this week, but the explanation is a weak one at best. As reported by the Lansing State Journal, documents filed in Ingham County Circuit Court reveal that State Police Captain Kevin McGaffigan ordered the lockdown based on communications with authorities in Wisconsin about their experience with protests at the Madison Capitol building. Claiming the measures where for the “safety” of the protesters and the the Capitol building itself. McGaffigan said the following:

 “Over the last year, the MSP has been in contact with authorities in the state of Wisconsin and discussed the protests that occurred at its Capitol building resulting in millions of dollars of property damage,”

Attorney General Bill Schuette admits that the Michigan State Police did not consult with his office or with lawmakers when reaching their unilateral decision to shut-out democracy. Schuette went on to say that the action was not a violation of the Open Meetings Act, an opinion that was supported by Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette the day after the protests.

Say what they will, it still sounds like the actions of a fascist government to this writer.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

democracy tree logo

NDOC & Silver State Industries – Meet the Exploiters – Expose on Prison Labor in Nevada Pt. II

Second in a Three Part Expose on Prison Labor in Nevada Displacing Workers

(Reposted from January 11th)

By Bob Sloan – Prison Industry Consultant

SSI GarmentWorking on the “Chain-Gang” was how prisoners were punished for their crimes in days gone by – and people who had been victims of crime were happy.

Then we became “civilized” as a society and changed laws, regulations and opinions that eliminated these hard forms of punishment and degradation.  Instead of harsh working conditions we made sentences longer, believing that to be more humane.  Parole was abolished; possession of a “joint” was enough for a mandatory five years in prison.

Problem was, all this incarceration was costing taxpayers ever more in corrections costs.  Lawmakers sought ways to reduce the ever-increasing expense of incarceration.

An idea was born: create prison industries where prisoners could be put to work to “earn their keep” and reduce the incarceration costs borne by taxpayers.  Soon another idea was floated, let private manufacturers gain access to the prison run factories and further reduce the expense of housing, feeding and providing medical care to prisoners.  Inmates can be taught work ethics, products made by them will cost us less and recidivism will be reduced…and once again the people were happy.

Problem is, this program has created more opportunity for crime and exploitation – of the prisoners themselves. Instead of prison populations shrinking, they grew.  This growth was due to more laws, stiffer sentences, the war on drugs and increasing penalties.  Alongside that population the prison industries grew even faster with more inmates came more job positions.

This labor force exists in a near vacuum; no voice, no representation, disallowed from unionizing (though today an estimated six hundred thousand to one million men and women are working in prison industries nationwide), sentenced to hard labor by courts.  DOC’s assign them to jobs, and if they have existing skills needed, they are put to work in prison industries.  Industry managers seek skilled inmates with long sentences in order to quicken production, maintain shipping schedules and dependability.

Court challenges under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) about wages and deductions are mostly denied with prejudice – meaning the plaintiff is prohibited from ever filing such claims in the future.

In Florida and Nevada (just two of nearly 40 states involved), percentages of what little wages earned are taken back and given to the prison industry to help expand or create new work programs.  This aspect itself violates one of the key tenets of the federal prison industry program referred to as the “PIE Program” and there are other more critical violations resulting in our jobs being lost to prisoners.

This expose will bring to light the existence of a national network of individuals, corporations, a private association, agencies and branches of state and federal government involved in exploiting inmate labor, profiting off that exploitation and pursuing the transfer of tens of thousands of jobs from communities to prisons across the country.  Nevada ranks high on the list of states involved in violating the trust of their citizen workers, small businesses and exploiting prisoners delivered into their care.

In Nevada the prison industries are managed by Director James “Greg” Cox and Deputy Director, Brian Connett.  Previously one individual held both of those positions as prison industry programs were developing back in the last quarter of the 1900’s – Howard Skolnik.  He set the stage for what is occurring today and now, Cox and Connett carry on in his stead.
Howard Skolnik

Harold Skolnik

Running an entire state prison system is a daunting task.  Housing, medical care, work programs, staffing, budgeting, and regulatory and Legislative compliance impacting prisons.  The Director of Nevada’s Department of Corrections is James “Greg” Cox.  He has deputy directors assigned to the various divisions of the DOC, and in general I believe that Director Cox and his Deputies are doing an admirable job.  The one exception to my observation involves the DOC’s Prison Industrial Program.

One of Cox’s responsibilities is the operations of the prison industrial work programs.   His Deputy Director for Industrial Programs is Brian Connett, in charge of running Silver State Industries (SSI) Nevada’s prison industries program.  Messrs. Cox and Connett are responsible for insuring that the prison industries are operated properly under state and   federal laws.

Cox and Connett

            NDOC Director, Greg Cox  |                        Deputy Director, Brian Connett

Supervising and operating Nevada’s prison industries involves approving new products, new factories, partnerships with private companies, and compliance with all applicable state and federal laws and regulations.   These are the responsibility of the Nevada Interim Finance Committee’s Committee on Industrial Programs.

For that committee to perform its duties properly, they obviously have to know and understand the parameters of the federal PIE Program’s mandatory requirements (1) that govern the use of inmate labor used by private companies.  Before they can implement any new projects, they must, among other responsibilities, notify existing competitive businesses as well as involved labor groups—after all, how can they judge whether a new prison industry will unfairly impact local labor or unfairly disadvantage competing businesses if they do not fully understand the provisions put in place by Congress to guard against such interference to free-market forces?

Unfortunately in an interview with a member of that committee, I was told he was not fully aware of the PIE Program’s mandatory requirements, and that concerned him.  He did not know that local businesses were required to be contacted prior to operational start-ups or production of new products.  More importantly, he had not been advised by anyone within NDOC or Silver State Industries that labor groups were also to be consulted.  How then can he serve on this committee without this knowledge?  How can the committee control the federal program in which Silver State Industries is participating – and how can it possibly certify to the federal government that it is, and will remain, in compliance with rules of which the members are unaware, as is required by law? This style of “consulting” is quite obviously insufficient to ensure compliance.

The federal program of prisoner training began with the passage of 18 USC 1761 in 1979. This law is known as the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (commonly called PIECP or PIE Program).  (2)

Under this program Congress allowed private companies to gain access to inmate labor in order to “train” the inmates and provide skills which they could later utilize upon release.  Congress put in place nine mandatory requirements.  Failure to comply is supposed to subject violators to federal imprisonment for up to two years and/or a fine of $50,000.00 and loss of PIECP certification.

The Department of Justice outsourced policy determinations, enforcement, compliance reviews and investigations of non-compliance to a private organization in 1995–the National Correctional Industries Association.  The NCIA, (3) which is a trade group representing prison industries, their staff, employees, vendors, suppliers and companies using prison labor.  Since this transfer of program oversight, there have been a total of -0- prosecutions for violations.  As you read the following you will be appalled at how such a zero-sum figure is possible…
Once the NCIA assumed a duty of crafting policy for this program, they began to interpret the nine mandatory requirement in the light most favorable to their corporate members, (4) adjusting annual assessment determinations to reflect alterations designed entirely by them.  The NCIA made these alterations and the entire program was changed.

The mandated prevailing wage requirement was changed to minimum wage scale computed to the 10th percentile, and allowed these prison industries to institute a pre-training program where wages could be reduced to as little as $.20 per hour. (5)

In December, 2010 the BJA (Bureau of Justice Assistance) issued a Back Wage Policy (6) that unequivocally reinforced the prevailing wage requirement and refuted the wage assumptions made by the NCIA. (7)

The claim that lower wages are fair to “competitor manufacturers” is false.  Furthermore, in Nevada a high percentage of inmates working in the industry are serving long sentences or life terms (as reported by CNN) (8), meaning that the skills they are taught will likely never be applied in the private sector.

A Florida report containing research provided to Governor Scott by his 2010 transition Law and Order team found that 28% (9) of the prison workforce was comprised of lifers or prisoners serving sentences with ten or more years remaining until release.  So what transferable skills are they learning?

Silver State Industries has set the PIE Program maximum wage for all inmate workers at the 10th percentile of the state/federal minimum wage.  Unless the “prevailing wage” is set by the state OES (10) at minimum wage for all occupations in NV, the NDOC is out of compliance with the mandatory wage requirement.

The NCIA also determined that mandatory notification to local labor groups, unions and competing private businesses about new or existing industry projects or products, could be satisfied by informing local Chambers of Commerce, or advertising in classified sections of newspapers.  Compliance review personnel were told these requirements were already on file with the NCIA and had been verified (11) and would not be a part of the annual compliance review.

These changes resulted in a substantial reduction in wages to inmate workers, creating a huge and low paid labor force used to attract business owners seeking to expand operations or reduce labor costs.  The NCIA produced a video entitled “Cutting Through The Perceptions” (12) to be used in marketing prison labor to private companies.  By neglecting to pay proper wages and neglecting to notify labor and free enterprise, prison industries began to expand and grow quickly as one would expect.

As the video shows, this prison program is not for training, it is a way to provide skilled labor to private companies to reduce labor costs, increase production and avoid typical “benefits” they would have to pay to private sector employees.

This brings us to the current situation involving Silver State Industries and Alpine Steel in Nevada, and complaints lodged with the Board of State Prison Commissioners by XL Steel and others who have also complained about unfair competition and the loss of private sector jobs to inmate labor.

This all serves to show you how the PIE program has been manipulated, changed and altered to provide the maximum savings to companies involved in prison labor, while paying the least possible wages to a truly captive workforce.

Now that you readers understand the laws which are involved, I will document the specific violations committed in Nevada involving those regulating the state DOC and Silver State Industries.

Recent reports (13) from Las Vegas reveal it recently came to the attention of companies competing with Alpine Steel in the structural steel fabrication industry, that Alpine had been using prison labor as a means of undercutting all competitors on projects requiring bids.  Labor unions were unaware of the PIECP program.  Union officials had no understanding of the PIE Program or that they were to be consulted prior to the startup of any PIE project or industry.

It defies belief that SSI could have been reviewed by the NCIA in 2011 (14) and found in full compliance…except for one little conflict-of-interest kept from the public and apparently also from the Nevada legislature and the Board of State Prison Commissioners:  NDOC Deputy Director Brian Connett is also President of the NCIA (15) with a responsibility for ensuring, enforcing and certifying full compliance of all state prison industries to the BJA.

Harder yet to comprehend is how Mr. Connett has been able to enforce and certify industry-wide compliance, when he and Director Cox claim to have not known or understood the regulations while just now admitting SSI and NDOC are in violation?

The NCIA receives a sizable grant from the BJA (out of tax dollars) to perform compliance duties, essentially receiving a subsidy for self-oversight of an industry generating annual sales of $2.4 billion dollars. (16)

Under questioning by Governor Sandoval and others at a recent meeting of the State Board of Prison Commissioners, Director Cox admitted (17)that his “agency has not been performing necessary checks to ensure inmate work programs are not taking jobs from private industry workers.”  Mr. Cox went on to say, “The process has not been followed, it should have been.”

Mr. Cox indicated that, “he will develop regulations to require that prison industry programs be approved by the Prison Commissioners Board, chaired by Gov. Brian Sandoval.”

However, new regulations are not necessary.  Existing Pie Program regulations need enforcement and true oversight provided by someone other than those participating in the program.  SSI’s inmate workers for Alpine Steel are a prime example of the lack of enforcement.  Alpine pays inmates working as structural steel fabricators the state minimum wage of $8.25 per hour (18) and no benefits.  The Nevada OES sets the mean hourly wage for such skills at $17.63. (19)

Even using the NCIA’s 10th percentile rate, these workers should be receiving no less than $11.63 per hour.  Competing companies in the structural steel industry in Las Vegas and elsewhere in Nevada pay workers the median wage of $16.91 per hour plus benefits.  Without factoring benefits, private companies are thus required to pay more than double the rate paid by Alpine.  A serious disadvantage prohibited by the PIE Program wage requirement, and contrary to congressional intent.

When you multiply this discrepancy times the number of participating states, and times the number of inmates employed in the program, you can see and understand the massive wage savings provided to companies such as Alpine Steel and those discussed below.  It also helps to understand why so many of our jobs are “going to prison” literally.

Compliance problems are no stranger to Mr. Connett.  In his previous position as the PIECP Program Manager with PRIDE Enterprises, Inc. operating Florida’s entire prison industry, Connett cut corners similarly.  In the third and final segment of this expose to be published next week, I will introduce and discuss the documented corruption to which Mr. Connett was a participant. Suffice to say, Brian Connett brought a substantial amount of baggage with him to Nevada.

The controversy involving Alpine Steel is merely the latest in a series of problems with compliance by SSI.  Former NDOC Director Howard Skolnik was involved in a scheme involving inmate wage deductions when he served as Deputy Director of Industrial Programs.

In 1990 Skolnik petitioned the BJA  (20) for a determination that would allow Nevada to deduct 5% of all inmate wages earned and use those funds to expand prison industrial programs.  He was advised there were four approved deductions and no additional deductions could be imposed by his department.

This denial should have been clear and final, but in 1991 the Nevada legislature amended NRS 209.463 to allow for the 5% deduction Skolnik requested and the BJA ruled was impermissible. (21)
In 2003 Howard Skolnik advised (22) the Legislative ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY that there were three deductions taken out of prisoner pay – 24.5% for room and board, 5% for victim restitution fund and a 5% deduction that went to a fund for the expansion of new industry programs.

Obviously the NDOC and Silver State Industries were intent upon creating a fund whether or not the controlling authority over this federal program permitted it.  In 2011 the Legislature “swept” $948,000 from this Capital Improvement Fund. (23)

Just as obviously inmates are being misused as slave labor, underpaid on PIE projects, with a maximum amount taken back as “deductions.”  The ongoing use of unauthorized and thus illegal deductions taken from inmate PIECP wages and then used as a slush fund by the Nevada Legislature, serves as out and out theft amounting to tens of thousands of dollars  (24)

This was all covered up in reports to the BJA through reviews conducted by Mr. Connett’s – formerly Mr. Skolnik’s – NCIA organization, allowing the 5% deduction to stand and certifying to the BJA that Nevada was in full compliance.

2008 NCIA Board

Both Connett and Skolnik held positions upon the NCIA board simultaneously in 2006 when Connett was the PIE Program Manager with PRIDE Enterprises in Florida.

Previously, Connett and the CEO of PRIDE also sat side by side on the NCIA board when PRIDE was committing acts later deemed illegal.

The Alpine/SSI partnership is not the only partnership that is being operated questionably in Nevada – and paying minimum wages.  Several other companies also have been given access to inmate labor and are possibly involved in displacing local workers and/or unfairly competing in the marketplace.

Thomson Equipment Company, Inc. (now Silver Line Industries, Inc.). Silver Line is owned by entrepreneurs out of New Zealand, Malaysia, and Thailand, partnered with a company in Oregon, to use inmate labor to manufacture or refurbish heavy equipment such as water trucks.

In March of 2006 the serving Deputy Director of Industrial Programs advised (25) the NEVADA LEGISLATURE’S INTERIM FINANCE COMMITTEE’S COMMITTEE ON INDUSTRIAL PROGRAMS that Thomson had been acquired by new owners in Australia and New Zealand – and water trucks were shipped from Bangkok for inmates to renovate.  (It was cheaper to use American inmate labor plus ocean freight costs than to use Thai labor!)

By 2008 when Mr. Skolnik was serving as Director of the NDOC, he and Mr. Connett advised (26) the same committee that Thomson had changed its name to Silver Line Industries.  Skolnik further advised as part of full disclosure that his daughter worked for the parent company in New Zealand.

It is unclear if Skolnik’s daughter secured her job before the 2006 acquisition of Thomson, or if that occurred after Mr. Skolnik was elevated to the Directorship of the DOC.   In either case this should have raised an issue of ethics to the members of the Industrial Programs Committee, had they been interested, a conflict-of-interest in the relationship between the NDOC Director and a family member working for a company operating under his authority.  Silver Line Industries ultimately withdrew from the PIE Program.

Another company, Jacob’s Trading Company (27) (JTC) partnered with SSI for years, but left SSI late last year.  JTC is an inventory liquidator for Wal-Mart and other large retailers.  Inmates remove bar codes, labels and other identifiers to the retailer then repackage the items and JTC sells the products through distributors to after market retailers.  Of course Wal-Mart denies (28) that they or any of their vendors or contractors uses inmate labor – period. These products are shipped back and forth across state lines, and thus come under PIECP authorization.  JTC’s operation in Nevada (29) is substantial:

“In Nevada, the entire JTC operation is housed inside the Southern Nevada Women’s Correctional Facility (30) in North Las Vegas. Jacobs is the only private employer of female prisoners in Nevada. In 2000, a female prison laborer working 40 hours a week kept just over half of what she earns. After several deductions mandated by the state prison department, she took in about $460 per month. That’s net pay of $2.67 an hour…”

Another company operating under the PIE Program was Shelby American, manufacturer of the Shelby Cobra sports cars.  Dozens of inmates at the facility received an hourly wage of at least the federal minimum to build every part of the car except the engine.  Shelby American has also closed operations with SSI but is still listed as a PIE Program participant under SSI’s certification.

In September 2012JTC closed operations at SSI’s facilities, and Like Alpine Steel, they left owing the state $115,819.44 in unpaid leases and other expenses.  According to the October figures provided to the Interim Finance Committee, SSI’s project failures have Nevada taxpayers on the hook for more than $600 thousand dollars in unpaid operating expenses or lease payments.

 There will be much more on Howard Skolnik and Brian Connett in the third and final article that will expose Mr. Connett’s efforts to avoid complying with PIECP requirements, as well as out-and-out theft of private companies while partnered with PRIDE Enterprises.   In one particular industry, Connett deliberately failed to register the industry as a PIECP operation with the BJA, resulting in prisoners receiving as little as $.20 per hour for their labor for five years…and huge profits for PRIDE and the companies partnered with PRIDE.

Last, I will further expose the NCIA and explain why they have been so successful in advancing an agenda of using inmate labor to enrich a handful of companies, their organization – at the expense of America’s taxpayers and struggling workforce.

FOOTNOTES AND EXHIBITS:

(1)https://www.ncjrs.gov/html/bja/piecp/bja-prison-industr.html

(2) http://www.nationalcia.org/piecp-2/piecp-final-guideline

(3) http://www.nationalcia.org/

(4) http://www.nationalcia.org/wp-content/uploads/Final-PIE-2011-Assessment-Summary-Report-Nov.-2011.pdf

(5)  The Training Wage Exception to the 10th Percentile Wage Floor

“BJA determined in 2006 that wages must be set at or above the 10th percentile, as defined by the State Department of Economic Security Agency. BJA takes the position that this is a “generous interpretation of comparable, yet still fair to competitor manufacturers because of the “lack of education, training, and experience typical of the inmate labor force.” The one exception to the 10th percentile requirement is that inmate workers may be paid a training wage that falls below the 10th percentile if “their employment agency provides express written agreement of a wage less than the tenth percentile for a limited training period.”

(6)  https://www.bja.gov/Funding/PIECPBackWagePolicy.pdf

(7)  It reads in part:    Background:
“18 USC 1761 (c), the statute authorizing the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP), states that PIECP inmates must “have, in connection with PIECP work, received wages at a rate which is not less than that paid for work of a similar nature in the locality in which the work was performed. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) 1999 PIECP Guideline gives the State wage setting agencies authority to make wage determinations for PIECP workers that are comparable to those in effect for similarly situated workers.” (Emphasis mine)

(8) http://archives.cnn.com/2000/LOCAL/pacific/06/27/rjo.prison.work/index.html

(9)  http://www.scribd.com/doc/46041590/FL-Governor-Elect-Team-Report-on-DOC-and-PRIDE-2010

(10) http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nv.htm#00-0000

(11)  http://www.nationalcia.org/wp-content/uploads/09-10-PIE-Assessment-Report.pdf

(12)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUJHaELZQrc

(13)  http://www.lvrj.com/news/company-complains-prison-program-prevented-private-industry-jobs-183857541.html?login=y

(14)  http://www.nationalcia.org/wp-content/uploads/Final-PIE-2011-Assessment-Summary-Report-Nov.-2011.pdf   (@pg. 4)

(15) http://www.nationalcia.org/about/board-of-directors

(16)  http://www.phewacommunity.org/images/Presentation_to_the_Congressional_Black_Congress.pdf

(17) ibid. 13

(18)  http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/america.htm#content

(19)  http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes512041.htm
BLS - occupational wages(20) https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/Digitization/132363NCJRS.pdf

(21)   NRS 209.463  Deductions from wages earned by offender during incarceration; priority of deductions.  Except as otherwise provided in NRS 209.2475, the Director may make the following deductions, in the following order of priority, from the wages earned by an offender from any source during the offender’s incarceration:

1.  If the hourly wage of the offender is equal to or greater than the federal minimum wage:

(a) An amount the Director deems reasonable for deposit with the State Treasurer for credit to the Fund for the Compensation of Victims of Crime.

(b) An amount the Director considers reasonable to meet an existing obligation of the offender for the support of his or her family.
(c) An amount determined by the Director, with the approval of the Board, for deposit in the State Treasury for credit to the Fund for New Construction of Facilities for Prison Industries, but only if the offender is employed through a program for prison industries.

(The same deduction is taken from the wages of inmates earning less than minimum wage.  Emphasis mine)

(22) http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/72nd2003/Minutes/Assembly/JUD/Final/1738.html

(23)  http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Interim/76th2011/Exhibits/Industrial/E062512A.pdf

(24)  http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Interim/76th2011/Exhibits/Industrial/E092111E.pdf
NV Dept of Corrections - Prison Industries Payroll Assessment(25  http://www.leg.state.nv.us/73rd/Interim/StatCom/Industrial/Minutes/IM-Industrial-20060313-1152.html

(26)  http://www.leg.state.nv.us/74th/Interim_Agendas_Minutes_Exhibits/Minutes/Industrial/IM-Industrial-042408-10093.pdf

(27)  http://www.jacobstrading.com/index.html

(28)  http://walmartfacts.com/reports/2006/ethical_standards/documents/Wal-MartStandardsforSuppliers.pdf

(29)  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/al-norman/walmart-prison-labor_b_2224743.html

(30)  http://archives.cnn.com/2000/LOCAL/pacific/06/27/rjo.prison.work/index.html

 

Michigan GOP Lawmakers Get Out-smarted on RTW

images[1]With the union-busting intentions of Michigan’s Right-to-Work law poised to take effect on March 27th, faculty members at various universities are quietly contemplating (and certainly already negotiating) extensions of their current contracts. Existing contracts are exempt from the deleterious effects of RTW, so organized labor views this as an opportunity to stave-off the retrograde law while they work on various legal and legislative avenues to neutralize it.

The Battle Creek Enquirer reports that Michigan State University and Lansing Community College are in secret talks, and that Wayne State University and Western Michigan University are openly exploring the contract extension option as a way to maintain stable relations with faculty. However, Michigan House Republicans see it differently and are grumbling that they may use this as an excuse to withhold funding from any institution that extends contracts.

These lawmakers have a grossly bloated perception of public animosity towards unions.

The University of Michigan recently collaborated with Michigan Public Policy Survey late last year on an extensive research project that found that Michigan’s local units of government were satisfied with their union relationships and negotiations.

Additionally, a RTW study conducted by the Michigan State University School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, published in January 2011 by the Employment Policy Research Network, examined the economic impact in all 50 states over a three year period, comparing and contrasting RTW states to those that had strong labor standards. Among their key findings:

  • “…high wages increase aggregate demand in the state leading to increased economic activity.”
  • “Right-to-work laws and taxes seem to have no effect on economic activity. Similarly, unionization has little effect on economic activity.”
  • “…unionized firms are able to use productivity enhancements to offset any higher costs associated with collective bargaining.”
  • “…results suggest that the benefits of Right-to-work laws and tax reductions may be more political than economic.”

But, GOP lawmakers aren’t interested in facts when there are campaign contributions to be had. Their threats to withhold funding may be nothing more than bluster, but they count on not having their bluff called.

Democratic Rep. Sam Singh, who represents the East Lansing area, told the following to The Battle Creek Enquirer: “I think it’s a dangerous precedent for the legislature to be involved in contract negotiations between a university and its employees.”

Indeed.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

democracy tree logo

Bills filed as NC legislature begins in earnest

A look at some of the bills filed at the North Carolina General Assembly on Wednesday, the first work day for the 2013 session:

— House and Senate Republicans filed bills identical bills that would block the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and leave it to the federal government to build the state’s online marketplace for health insurance. The Senate version was expected to be heard in committee Thursday and possibly reach the floor later in the day.

— A House bill makes clear group homes — not just adult care homes — can benefit from $40 million set aside last summer to provide financial stability to facilities that provide personal care services for residents who no longer qualify for Medicaid coverage. House Republicans aimed to put the measure on the floor Thursday. (unregulated group homes–a breeding ground for fraud and using funds that licensed adult care homes could be using)

— A House bill would let voters decide whether to place in the state constitution the state’s right-to-work status — meaning union membership can’t be a requirement for employment and other provisions. Other proposed amendments in the bill would make clear collective bargaining between local or state governments and unions is illegal and would affirm the right of workers to vote by secret ballot to determine whether they want union representation. House Speaker Thom Tillis, (R-ALEC) R-Mecklenburg, and Senate leader Phil Berger, (R-ALEC) R-Rockingham, have said they’re interested in a right-to-work amendment. (Of course they are, it’s ALEC’s goal to eliminate all unions.)

— Another proposed amendment in a House bill would let voters decide whether private property condemnation by state or local governments should be barred except for a “public use,” such as highways or government buildings. Similar bills have passed in the House only in previous sessions.

— Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, filed his own constitutional amendment that would make the superintendent of public instruction an appointed position, rather than the current elected position. Legislators and the public have debated the issue for decades.

— Tillis is the primary sponsor of a bill that would amend the state constitution to limit the time a speaker or Senate leader can serve in the post to four years. A term-limits bill passed the House in 2011, but Berger has preferred limiting the time to eight years.

— As expected, Tillis is the primary sponsor of a bipartisan bill that would again seek to give $50,000 to the living victims of North Carolina’s previous forced sterilization program. A similar bill passed the House in 2012, but Senate Republicans wouldn’t support it. House Minority Leader Larry Hall, D-Durham, also is a primary sponsor.

— A bill filed by Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, would raise the mandatory retirement age for judges from 72 to 75.

— Some House Republicans are again seeking to allow concealed weapon permit holders to bring their guns into restaurants where alcohol is served unless there’s a notice prohibiting them from doing so. A similar provision was debated in 2011 but ultimately did not remain in a gun-carry bill that ultimately became law. The bill also would exempt from public records laws the information collected by local sheriffs from people with concealed handgun permits.

— A bill filed by Sen. Stan Bingham, R-Davidson, would revoke the driver’s license of a motorist who passes a stopped school bus that’s picking or dropping off passengers for as long as three years if the action results in fatally striking someone.

— House members filed a bill creating new or tougher penalties for people who make methamphetamine or who possess a key ingredient in making meth after they’ve already been convicted previously of making meth.

Republicans Applaud the Slow Death of the US Postal Service–VIDEO

“The USPS announced that it will end mail delivery on Saturdays this year.  Republicans in Congress have been waiting for this moment.  Ed Schultz talks to Rep. Gerry Connelly, D-VA, and letter carrier Audrey Himes about what can be done to save the postal service.”
U.S. Postal Service Reports Yearly Loss Of 15.9 Billion Dollars

This is the description of a segment on The Ed Show tonight.  You can watch the video by clicking here.

But this is not quite the full underlying story of the USPS’s predicament that it claims to be, as readers of www.vltp.net know.  Ed stops short of noting that this goes beyond the Republican Party, this goes to their owners – corporations, and their legislative “arm” – ALEC.  I guess that ALEC and the Republican Party are already so intertwined as to be indistinguishable–and that is before the new Republican Study Group-ALEC-Heritage Foundation (now headed by Jim DeMint) formal alliance as reported on in The Center for Media and Democracy‘s PR Watch by Brendan Fischer, please click here for link).

And of course, Ed Schultz needs to comply with MSNBC’s apparent business decision not to talk about ALEC–except when they otherwise make the news.

But I am very surprised about Truthout’s reporting of this.  Truthout is an excellent source for a wide range of information, and their copyrighted reports on The Other ALECs (which we re-printed with their permission here and here) go further than anyone other than VLTP or CMD’s Sourcewatch at identifying the various members of The Cabal.

Why am I surprised?  Well, here is a link to Bob Sloan’s expose on ALEC, The Koch Brothers, and the USPS as published here some 10 months ago.  And here is a link to an infographic in our Photo Gallery showing the Koch network of right wing associates.

But here is what I just don’t get:  If you treat the symptoms rather than treating the disease, you do not arrive at the cure.  If we are to neutralize ALEC then we must talk about them.  As Bob Sloan’s article showed, yes, republicans carried the bill through Congress.  Republican Members of ALEC.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

video and description were posted at:

The Ed Show
Feb. 6, 2013
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/45755822/ns/msnbc-the_ed_show/#50725523

(please note that this clip has been edited to remove the other stories being introduced in the show’s opening)