Chicago

Activists, Union Workers and Chicagoan’s Prepare for ALEC’s August Conference

Activists, Union Workers and Chicagoan’s Prepare for ALEC’s August Conference

by Bob Sloan

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) plans to celebrate their 40th birthday from August 7th to the 9th this year.  A big event for this predominantly conservative organization, to be sure.  The birthday bash coincides with ALEC’s Annual Meeting – one of several key events held annually where corporate prepared legislation is introduced to more than 2,000 state lawmakers to be carried back to their home turf and introduced as proposed new laws.

This year the ALEC Annual Meeting will differ from 37 of the previous 39 such meetings as activists, American workers, protesters and Anarchists are preparing a rousing “welcome” for ALEC’s members – corporate and legislative – when they arrive in Chicago.  Similar protests and rallies against ALEC have marked each of their yearly events since April 2011 when a small group of students and liberal activists held the very first Anti-ALEC protest in Cincinnati.  Following that protest a whistleblower came forward and released hundreds of secret ALEC documents and proposed “model legislation” to the Center for Media and Democracy.  CMD launched “ALEC Exposed” at PRWatch and published the documents for American’s to read, evaluate and discuss.  As more and more citizens became aware of ALEC, the groundswell of anger over such manipulation of our daily lives by a corporate “charity” grew…as did the number of protests.

Following Cincy, protesters and activists followed ALEC to New Orleans for the next meeting…then to Phoenix, Charlotte, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City and now they’re preparing for Chicago and perhaps the largest turnout of protesters yet.  The growth of ALEC protesters has grown in part due to the involvement of America’s workers – union and non-union – who continue to suffer job losses and lack of available jobs due to ALEC’s pursuits of Right To Work (for less) and other initiatives to abolish organized labor or diminish their voices.  In Oklahoma this spring, the AFLCIO and Teamsters organized the ALEC protest and are again at the front in Chicago.  Their involvement and reporting on ALEC’s non union activities has attracted other strong unions such as AFSCME to participate in the Windy City protest.

At each subsequent ALEC event, the numbers of protesters have grown as more and more has become known about ALEC and their activities.  The public has become knowledgeable about some of the more oppressive laws beneficial to corporate interests disseminated by ALEC and passed through lobbying and campaign contributions from ALEC’s corporate membership.  These include such laws and initiatives as; Right To Work, voter ID legislation and suppression, stand your ground (Trayvon Martin), privatization of public schools, vouchers and “virtual” education (all of which benefit one or more of ALEC’s corporate members) and tort reforms that limit the ability of consumers to recover damages from malpractice or product related injury (such as cancer and illness from asbestos contamination).

Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy groups have also joined the ranks of those opposing ALEC, calling for Americans to turn-out and protest in Chicago.  Through it all, ALEC has maintained a staunch “fuck you” stance against all who oppose them and their agenda by continuing to advocate for corporate interests over the rights of Americans.  They enlisted the help of other right-wing think tanks in an attempt to deflect some of the bad publicity about them and more recently have attempted to avoid referring to themselves and their members as “ALEC” by requesting that the organization now be called the “Exchange Council” to avoid the stigma that has attached to “ALEC” since 2011.

ALEC decided to hold this bash in Chicago where the IRS Exempt 501 (c)(3) “charity” was born in 1973, formed by several disgruntled conservative Republicans looking for a way to change the course of the Republican party and eventually the path of the United States to one of conservative principles; limited government, free markets, individual liberty and federalism at the state level.  As with most terminology used by ALEC’s wordsmiths, the definition of these terms to ALEC supporters is far different than what one would find in Websters.  By founding ALEC as a “Charity” it has allowed ALEC to amass tens of millions of dollars to use in legislative efforts – without declaring or paying any taxes on those millions.  Further it allows individuals and corporate interests to also deduct their ALEC contributions, given in pursuit of seeking corporate-friendly legislation that fattens their bottom line(s).

Since 2011 there have been three complaints filed with the IRS, asking that agency to investigate ALEC’s use of “charitable” funds to advance legislation and promote lobbying, in violation of the 501 (c)(3) provisions and requesting that the charitable classification be rescinded and the government recover any taxes that should have been paid on money used to lobby and influence legislation.  All of these complaints are now pending and under consideration by the IRS.  VLTP is a complainant in one of those whistleblower complaints and awaits a determination by the IRS on the documents provided in that complaint.

To ALEC, limited government is defined as limiting the government’s ability to regulate actions of corporations, manufacturers or businesses that may cause harm to Americans. Individual liberty is seen as corporate liberty…the ability to operate without government interference at the sacrifice of true individual liberties of Americans.

Free-Markets are those markets controlled by ALEC’s more than 350 large, multinational companies that control specific markets by limiting the abilities of true small businesses to break into existing markets.

Federalism is perceived by ALEC as: “a government closest to the people is fundamentally more effective, more just, and a better guarantor of freedom than the distant, bloated federal government in Washington, D.C.”  In other words, since ALEC has a vast influence over state legislatures through membership and control of governor’s mansions in many states, turn over federal control to the states (and through them, ALEC) to run our country.

ALEC has been hugely successful in many of their hidden initiatives designed to meet their twisted definitions of such terms as federalism and free markets.  As an example we have only to look to the ongoing battles in Wisconsin (Governor Walker, an ALEC alum), Arizona (Governor Brewer and ALEC Alum), Ohio (Governor Kasich an ALEC alum) and South Carolina (Governor Haley another ALEC alum).  In each of these – and several other – states, the ALEC agenda has been pushed down the throat of voters by legislatures controlled by ALEC members and Governors who are members of ALEC’s large alumni pool; repeal of clean energy regulations, eliminating worker rights, lowering wages and attempting to abolish minimum wage, ending collective bargaining, privatizing our schools, prisons and government institutions, making it more difficult for minorities to vote and restricting women’s rights.

For all these reasons, ALEC must be pursued and abolished before our country can begin to heal and return to a form of democratic government on behalf of the people rather than the corporate interests and elite business owners.  Chicago next month is only the “next step” in the process of returning state governments to the will of the people and wrenching power from those who get such power by doing the bidding of their corporate masters through ALEC.

We hope that many readers will turn out for the various rallies and protests in Chicago (Unions planning a large event on August 8th at ALEC’s Palmer House Hotel).  If you are unable to attend, please consider contributing to the efforts of those organizations participating; VLTP, CMD, Common Cause, AFLCIO, AFSCME, PFAW, etc.  Your dollar may be the one that finally breaks ALEC’s stranglehold on our nation…

National Corporate Attack on Public Education

Why is a Kindergarten teacher in Nevada so interested in what is going on in Chicago?

Thousands of mile away – teachers are under attack by the same groups using the same legislative language.  I hear a very familiar argument – and it’s coming from Chicago!  I feel your pain – sisters and brothers in another city.  #Solidarity

Does this sound familiar Chicago?  In Nevada trusted government officials gave away my pay and benefits by implementing Student First/ALEC legislation, they busted my contract as Koch Brother Think Tanks told them to, they destroyed my working conditions while I watched billionaires cart off the Nevada gold, they replaced classroom instruction with testing provided by some very wealthy test-makers, and the unemployed tell me to be happy I have a job because theirs was taken by a crisis created by billionaires who were under-regulated.  Teachers are experiencing the same or similar – all over the nation.

It is a slap in the face to teachers in every city.  So you see Chicago – your issues are my issues.   #Solidarity

Privatizing schools is the new rage.  Teachers are an easy target – compliant, rule-oriented, and orderly.  As a good friend once told me – teachers are the low-lying fruit – easy to pick off.  Both sides seem to be participating in the tirades.  Both sides are involved in privatizing scams and creating hybrids to replace real public schools to make stockholders and/or themselves money.  It is necessary to fail our public schools, to get at the money.  The bullies are succeeding because teachers haven’t fought back on a national level- YET.

Big money looks at the education portion of the general funds in every state and just itches to get their greedy, little fingers into that pie.  CHARTERS!  VOUCHERS!  CORPORATE HYBRIDS!  Business knows how to run schools better than a teacher – and they promise to make extra money to boot!  Really?  Does that make sense?  Do you go to the dentist to buy groceries?  Why would you go to a corporation to teach kids to read?  And you are going to MAKE money teaching kids to read?  Really?

Vegas has its share of touted charters of supposed high scores and fame.  More costly and with little or no real improvement.  Charters cost.  Without the regulations and rules, these charters often go in directions that are scary to watch.  Yep, charters are costly with usually little to show for it.  They are a FAD.

How to do it?  How to convince the general public to actually pay MORE to privatize schools?  How to win hearts and influence people to give their own school buildings away and fund someone’s private school ideas?

ATTACK THE TEACHERS

1.  Publish teacher’s salaries.  Skew the data.  Make the average salary appear to be twice as large as most teachers make.  Include money that teachers will never see in hand – pump up the numbers.  Make it seem like the educators are on the government dole – taking money for nothing.  If public school teachers are lousy – no one will want to fund their schools. Win the public relations campaign by smearing costly educators.

2.  Starve the resources.  Repeat after me – the answer is NOT money.  Keep saying this over and over and over until you believe it.  Even though it’s a lie.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Common sense tells us that.  Teachers make head way with even limited supplies. Imagine what teachers would do if adequately supplied and funded.  The goal is to plead poverty.  It’s an elaborate shell game.  Hide, hoard, and stash the resources.

3.  Publish scores and declare failure.  Standardized testing is a snapshot in time – not an accurate reflection of the whole person.  Standardized testing is racially and culturally biased.  Research has shown that it is NOT a true reflection or authentic when used as a sole measure.  BUT, multi-choice tests are easy to grade.  AND, we have some test making corporations standing by to sell tests by the dozens to districts.  The real winner in the testing frenzy is the test maker – it has never been the failing students or the teachers who are trying to teach to the test.  Failing schools are easy to “take-over”.  If not failing – just make the test more difficult.  Everyone fails at some point.  Corporations are great at inventing numbers and data to reflect information that supports their own argument – an argument that leads to improvement in their own bottom line, which is not really the same as improving a student’s life, right?  Test to fail, not to improve.

4.  Blame.  Place the blame on teachers.  Nothing else could be affecting students of poverty or in need of additional support – it must be the teachers who are holding students back?  Really?  Teachers are the ones who have sole control over each student’s learning, right?  If you want to blame a teacher and you really believe that line – I have a bridge to sell you and I’m sure you will buy that too.  Pass the buck, distract from the real class and poverty issues in the fabric of America.

Chicago!  The whole world is watching.  I feel your pain.  Brothers and sisters, let’s fight for our schools and our students.  This battle is fierce.  This war is necessary.  Let’s right the wrongs.  Enough is enough.

The corporations have lied.  The bankers have cheated.  The politicians have sold us for 30 pieces of silver.  Our cause is just.  The billionaires cannot win.

Let’s do it not for ourselves – but for our students.  We are American.  We are all better than this.  #Solidarity