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Category Archives: Uncategorized

Edward Snowden and the disaster of privatization

The Great Debate By Donald Cohen – REUTERS

In May, computer analyst Edward Snowden flew to China, handed over volumes of National Security Agency surveillance data to a reporter, and launched a heated national conversation about our nation’s surveillance state. Underscoring that conversation was the fact that Snowden was a private contractor, given access to a vast store of information despite having virtually no track record with the NSA or the private firm with which he was employed.

Snowden’s leaks exposed a widespread lack of oversight of the contractors working at every level of our government; outsourcing can be nearly as damaging at the state and local levels as it is for federal contracts. The same lack of transparency, accountability and oversight threatening our national security threatens public services provided each day across the country. Cash-strapped mayors and governors are handing over control of critical public services and assets to for-profit corporations and Wall Street investment banks that promise to handle them better, faster and cheaper. Too often, such deals entirely undermine transparency, accountability, shared prosperity and competition — the very underpinnings of democracy.

In fact, the fine print in these outsourcing deals often gives corporations the power to make public decisions for decades to come. It also often guarantees profits even when getting them conflicts with what was a bedrock value of America: public service provided for the public good.

In Chicago, a Morgan Stanley-backed consortium took control of 36,000 public parking meters in a 75-year lease. Taxpayers must reimburse the private company when spaces are closed for street fairs or emergency weather conditions. The contract also prohibits the city from operating or permitting operation of a competing public parking facility. Even more outrageous, the city cannot make improvements to streets that contain parking meters, such as adding bicycle lanes or expanding the sidewalk.

In Denver, the private, foreign consortium that operates the Northwest Parkway can prevent any public road improvements near their toll road because they “might hurt the parkway financially” by providing an alternative route for drivers. Taxpayers are stuck with that contract for 99 years.

In 2012, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the country, sent a letter to 48 states offering to buy public prisons in exchange for a promise to keep the prisons 90 percent filled for 20 years. While the letter was a public relations fiasco for CCA, it turns out that many existing private prison contracts actually include “occupancy guarantees” of 90 percent and even 100 percent. Governments must keep prison beds filled or taxpayers have to pay the prison company for empty beds.

Preventing horror stories like the above is precisely why my organization, In the Public Interest, developed the Taxpayer Empowerment Agenda – a series of state and local proposals to restore transparency, accountability, shared prosperity and competition. These common sense reforms are as basic as requiring any company paid with tax dollars to open its books and meetings to the public (just as public agencies do); requiring companies that receive public contracts to pay a living wage with reasonable benefits; and banning language that promises profits even if public services are no longer needed.

These reforms couldn’t come fast enough. As veteran newsman Ted Koppel recently said on National Public Radio, “We are privatizing ourselves into one disaster after another. We’ve privatized a lot of what our military is doing. We’ve privatized a lot of what our intelligence agencies are doing. We’ve privatized our very prison system in many parts of the country. We’re privatizing the health system within those prisons. And it’s not working well.”

Indeed, whether it’s outsourced security or schools, it’s not working well at all. And it’s time for taxpayers to reclaim control.

Go To: http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2013/07/11/edward-snowden-and-the-disaster-of-privatization/

District Council 33 President issues negotiations challenge to Mayor Nutter: Show up, in person, and let’s bargain in public

For Immediate Release

Dateline: Philadelphia, PA

Friday, July 12, 2013, 1:00 pm

Contact: Bob Wolper, 215-896-2970

Sources: AFSCME District Council 33

Philadelphia, PA – Pete Matthews, the President of AFSCME District Council 33, took to the airwaves today on talk radio station WURD-900 AM and issued a challenge to Mayor Mike Nutter to hold public negotiations with District Council 33 at the time and place of the Mayor’s choosing.

“The Mayor has not attended even one negotiating session for over five years and he has never acknowledged that our union has saved the City hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Matthews. “Now that he has gone public with his side of the story on this radio station and in other media, District Council 33 would like to issue this challenge to Mayor Nutter: Show up, in person, and let’s bargain in public so that the citizens and taxpayers of the City can get the whole story.”

“A recent study showed that every day this mayor fails to do his job, more people in our City are ending up in poverty, including the hard working women and men of District Council 33 who keep this city running,” said Matthews

The report, by Temple Associate Professor of Economics Michael Bognanno, indicated that since taking office and as a direct result of Mayor Michael Nutter’s refusal to negotiate fairly with the city worker unions AFSCME District Councils 33 and 47, the number of city workers living below the poverty line has doubled.

In 2007, 20.7% of city workers earned below the poverty rate, adjusted for the cost of living in Philadelphia. In 2013, more than 41.9% of District Council 33 and District Council 47 members now live below the poverty rate. Even more alarming, the study shows that fully 58% of District Council 33 members are working below the poverty line.

“We have been ready and willing to negotiate with this mayor, contrary to what he tells the media,” said Matthews. “He is the one who has refused to come back to the table, instead falsely claiming we are at an impasse and going to the PA State Supreme court to overturn collective bargaining rights for all public sector workers so he could impose contract terms on our union.”

“Now that the PA Supreme Court has turned down his union-busting request, it is time for our transparency mayor to do his job,” continued Matthews. “We think it is far past the time for him to show up in person at negotiations. Mayor Nutter can then tell our bargaining committee why he thinks the hundreds of millions of dollars we have saved the City don’t matter and why he thinks we don’t deserve a fair contract. We are willing to continue negotiations at any place open to the public of his choosing as long as he shows up in person and allows the media to cover the negotiations from start to finish. ”

Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO Hosts 26th Annual Tri-State Labor Day Parade and Family Celebration

The Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO’s 26th annual Tri-State Labor Day Parade and Family Celebration will take place on Monday, September 2nd. We will gather at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 union hall (1301 S. Columbus Blvd at Washington) starting at 8:30, with a rally to follow and the parade up to Penn’s Landing kicking off at 10:00 AM.

The Family Celebration at Penn’s Landing will start at 11:00 AM, featuring food, make-and-take crafts, live music, games, kids activities, and more!

Go To: http://pa.aflcio.org/philaflcio/?action=article&articleid=ccd16257-08f4-44df-ae22-e5d3a4e65a49

Take Action! Voting Rights Under Attack

By The PA. AFL-CIO

Sign The Petition Now At: http://act.aflcio.org/c/236/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=6838
And Tell Pennsylvania’s Lawmakers And Judges To Protect Our Right To Vote!

On Monday, July 15, voting rights advocates and injured parties are getting their day in court, with the trial set to begin which will determine the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s voter ID law.  The timing of this trial will surely add to the national attention that it receives, just weeks after the US Supreme Court’s decision to gut the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Under the protections of the Voting Rights Act, Federal Courts had recently struck down voter ID laws in Texas, Mississippi and Alabama, because they would have disproportionately denied voting rights to minority voters.  Mere hours after the US Supreme Court rulings, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama all declared that they would immediately begin enforcement of their voter ID laws.  The laws in these states are substantially similar to our own voter ID law.  The fact that Pennsylvania did not require pre-clearance from the Federal Government to make changes to our voting laws, in no way mitigates the fact that our voter ID law would have exactly the same impact, of suppressing the votes of minorities.

And it is not just African Americans and Latinos who will be disenfranchised if this law were to survive a legal challenge in Pennsylvania; the elderly, including elderly veterans, young voters, the poor, and urban voters who rely on public transportation, are all less likely to possess a photo ID that would meet the State’s strict guidelines.

“The entire roll-out of the voter ID law in Pennsylvania has been marked with distortions and misinformation from this administration,” said Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale.  “The Governor’s office initially claimed that only 1% of Pennsylvanians lacked appropriate photo identification.  After passage of the bill, the Secretary of State revised that number upward by 800%, declaring that 758,000 registered voters do not have PennDOT IDs.  Our own analysis last summer proved that the real number was closer to 1.6 million, or nearly 20% of the voting population in the Commonwealth.”

These legitimate voters who are at risk of having their right to vote taken away are highly concentrated in urban areas, college towns, and in areas of high poverty.

“Nearly half the voting population of Philadelphia, 427,000 voters, could lose their right to vote under this law unless they spend time and money which they may not have, to obtain a new photo identification card that they may not know they need,” said Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Snyder.  “The motivations for this law could not be more obviously political.  Advocates for this photo ID voting requirements have been unable to identify a single case of voter fraud in Pennsylvania that could have been prevented by this law.”

Sign The Petition Now At: http://act.aflcio.org/c/236/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=6838
And Tell Pennsylvania’s Lawmakers And Judges To Protect Our Right To Vote!

Here is why liquor privatization failed: Wendell Young IV

By Wendell W. Young IV

Having lived through the liquor wars for better than 30 years now, a handful of constants persist, most notably the Capitol’s late night equivalent of k-rations: greasy pizza and cold coffee.

Privatization produced plenty of tired sport clichés and countless rumors of deals for votes, some of which were actually true. And, once again, after the smoke cleared, a few interest groups promised that the “fight is not over.”

But this go round was different. For the most part, lawmakers waged more of a debate and less of a battle. Those who paid attention learned some valuable lessons about the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the potential impact of privatization.

I believe that, this year, lawmakers can build on the work that has been done and make some important and lasting changes for consumers and all Pennsylvanians.

We learned that privatization will not deliver a huge windfall, as was promised by some proponents, who promised that an auction of the licenses was going to generate between $2 billion and $6 billion.

Those rosy estimates dropped and dropped to $800 million before ultimately disappearing entirely. Any ‘”windfall”’ will not make up for the lost revenue provided each year by the LCB.

In the fiscal year that just ended, the agency transferred more than $700 million in profit, taxes and other transfers, including, for instance, funding for the PA State Police Bureau of Liquor Enforcement, to the state.

The Liquor Control Board is too valuable to auction off in pieces, which is why a majority of the state Senate opposed dismantling the agency’s wholesale operations.

We learned that privatization will not ensure lower prices, greater selection and more convenience. Lawmakers from Pennsylvania’s rural areas are now keenly aware of what happened to consumers in West Virginia and Washington State after privatization.

Prices increased across the board, but especially so in rural areas, where few retailers purchased liquor licenses.

We learned that there is no single definition of privatization. The House and Senate considered two radically different pieces of legislation – both dressed up as privatization.

The chambers were not close to agreement – and for good reason. For some, privatization would force hundreds and hundreds of family-owned beer distributors out of business. Thousands of employees who work for these family businesses would land on unemployment, as well.

Dozens of lawmakers agreed that crippling small businesses makes no sense.

We learned that Pennsylvanians are paying attention. Throughout the debate, after each legislative hearing and debate about what privatization would actually do to our state, support plummeted.

Today, more Pennsylvanians support proposals to modernize the agency and/or keeping our current system intact than privatization, according to polling.

Modernization is not complicated – and it’s not ideological. It’s just common sense and, at one point in time, the Corbett administration agreed that it makes sense to improve the system we have in place.

Consumers have every right to demand direct shipment of wine to their homes – and we can give it to them. Sunday stores are a welcome improvement. We should have more stores open seven days a week and we should be able to expand Sunday hours.

Consumers want more convenience, and we can give it to them by having stores inside and next to grocery stores and beer distributors.

Many Pennsylvanians play the lottery, so why wouldn’t we offer self-service lottery ticket sales in our stores?

The Liquor Control Board should be allowed to take advantage of the same flexible pricing that virtually every other retailer uses to price goods based on consumer demand. The agency’s procurement guidelines need to be updated, as well, to generate more savings.

These are just a few of the many common sense and bipartisan proposals that were floated in recent months.

I am not naïve enough to believe there is universal agreement on what to do with the Liquor Control Board; or how beer, wine and spirits are sold in our Commonwealth. We barely have consensus on what day of the week it is.

On behalf of the 3,500 United Food and Commercial Workers union members who work in the wine and spirits shops, I am hoping that this year ends differently. Consumers and all Pennsylvanians deserve as much.

Wendell W. Young IV is the chairman of Local 1776 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Go To: http://www.pennlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/07/heres_why_liquor_privatization_failed_wendell_young_iv.html

Austerity Discredited, Not Defeated. Time to Fight for Jobs and Growth

By Roger Hickey – (Huffington Post)

For four long years after the recession officially ended, conservative austerity policies have sabotaged America’s economic recovery, condemning millions of Americans to unemployment and poverty.  And in Europe, the same policy regime of spending cuts aimed at deficit reduction has thrown most of the continent back into recession.

Austerity has been intellectually discredited in recent months.  But conservative spending cuts still dominate policy.  And last week’s jobs report shows public sector layoffs are still a serious drag on the US economy.

Economists at the Political Economy Research Institute found fundamental flaws in the work of Harvard’s Reinhart and Rogoff — up until then conservatives’ best case for austerity.  But, despite this intellectual victory, sequestration still cripples our recovery.

Officials at the IMF and the World Bank admitted their demands for more austerity in Europe had been misguided.  But German bankers are still imposing severe budget cuts as the price for financing the debts of southern European countries.

The Center for American Progress, previously strong supporters of President Obama’s search for a deficit reduction “grand bargain,” came out against austerity as having harmed US and European growth and called for a policy “reset” rejecting further spending cuts.  But in September or October, conservatives in Congress are getting ready to hold the world economy for ransom by (once again) refusing to raise America’s debt limit until the President agrees to another round of damaging spending cuts.

Americans have a choice:

We can pretend that the economy is recovering.  We can try to convince ourselves and our neighbors that job creation that leaves more than 23 million people in permanent unemployment or underemployment represents the best we can do.

Or we can take action to achieve full employment soon – not by the end of the decade.

Step One: we need to break the grip of conservative austerity policies.

Cong. John Conyers and colleagues have introduced a simple bill that would get rid of the sequester.  Conservative economists a Macroeconomic Advisers estimate that would prevent the eradication of at least 700,000 jobs and allow the economy to grow by close to 1 percentage point faster.  So, let’s convince Congress to act.

Another debt ceiling fight is looming. President Obama has promised that this time (in September or October), he won’t give in to conservatives demands for job-killing conditions. Let’s back him up:  No more damage to our fragile recovery.

Step Two:  Stopping austerity would take the conservative foot off the brakes.  But that’s not enough.  We also need to step on the jobs accelerator.
The Back to Work Budgetof theCongressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) is the best plan to spur jobs and growth. The Economic Policy Institute describes its impact:

Promoting job creation and economic recovery. The Back to Work budget would sharply accelerate economic and employment growth; it would boost gross domestic product (GDP) by 5.7 percent and employment by 6.9 million jobs at its peak level of effectiveness (within one year of implementation).

Targeting a full-employment economy. The budget would rapidly restore the unemployment rate near to pre-recession levels of 5 percent.

Restoring full economic health. U.S. economic output is currently $985 billion (5.9 percent) below potential, and the economy is projected to remain 6 percent below potential in 2013 under current law. The budget would effectively use fiscal stimulus to restore actual GDP to potential GDP–the key barometer for restoring full employment in the economy.

Financing job creation and public investments. The budget finances roughly $700 billion in job creation and public investment measures in 2013 alone and $2.1 trillion over 2013-2015. This fiscal expansion is consistent with Economic Policy Institute estimates of the fiscal support needed to rapidly restore the economy to full health (Bivens, Fieldhouse, and Shierholz 2013).

Targeting a sustainable debt level. After increasing near-term borrowing to restore full employment, the budget gradually reduces the debt ratio to a fully sustainable 68.7 percent of GDP by FY2023.

But, wait, you say:  a plan as ambitious and as expensive as the Back to Work budget would never pass – not in this Congress.  And you would be right.  But that is true of any jobs plan, given conservatives’ ability to prevent any bold action.

Should we instead shift from jobs for all to better wages?

Many organizers and groups, feeling full employment is politically impossible, have focused on raising wages and improving job quality, sensibly trying to reverse the decades of dynamics shifting income away from workers and to the rich:  fighting for union rights, raising the minimum wage, for a better trade policy that creates good jobs, and a shift increase wages in the growing service sector.  These campaigns are vital – and to the extent they succeed, higher wages stimulate jobs and economic growth.

But in a paper published by CEPR (Center for Economic and Policy Research), University of Iowa Historian Colin Gordon shows that a big part of the cause of declining wages story over past decades “is simply slack in the labor market.”

“Over the past generation, the only respite from unrelenting downward pressure on wages came during a brief spell of full employment in the late 1990s.  Those years saw wage gains across the board, closely resembling the shared prosperity of the 1947-1973 era.  But on either side of that boom, when high rates of unemployment were the norm, wages (especially for those at the median and below) fell steadily.”

So, while we work to raise wages on the jobs we actually have, we should remind our policy-makers that creating more new jobs has a big impact on achieving higher wages.

Therefore, this may be one of those rare times when boldly telling the truth about what it will take to truly achieve our full employment policy objective represents good politics – because claiming that full employment can be achieved based on momentum alone in the face of serious headwinds (as Democrats argued in the run-up to the disastrous 2010 election) simply won’t work.  Americans, battered by years of slow growth and a bad economy, want the truth.

There are plenty of other plans, each more or less ambitious about job creation and growth:

Economic Policy Institute:  Investing in America’s Economy

Prosperity Economics

Cong John Conyers: Jobs-For-All Bill

Center for American Progress: “300 Million Engines of Growth

Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray’s:  Foundation for Growth: Restoring the Promise of American Opportunity

Perhaps the most cautiously packaged of these jobs proposals is President Obama’s
American Jobs Act, first released and introduced in September 2011 – and then in updated version in early 2013.  The President proposed

Social Security tax cuts and tax reductions for small businesses, a total of $447 billion in spending, including $130 billion in job creation through infrastructure and creation of new jobs, and $65 billion to increase teacher numbers and modernize schools.

Representative Frederica Wilson (D-FL) will soon announce a modified version of that Obama plan, which she calls The American Jobs Act of 2013.  She confronts austerity by ending sequestration.  And, concerned about undermining Social Security, she replaces that tax cut with tax credits to give low- to moderate-income Americans greater purchasing power and offset the impact of the recent reinstatement of the full payroll tax.  It also provides tax credits to small businesses for hiring out-of-work veterans and making new job-creating investments.

The rest of her plan is pretty close to President Obama’s jobs plan.  And she will remind Americans that, according to independent analysis by Moody’s, the Obama plan would have created 1.9 million jobs and boosted growth by two percent if passed when originally introduced.

Some may object that this is pretty small, compared to the Back to Work Budget.  But for that very reason, the American Jobs Act of 2013 could be a good test of which Representatives and Senators are willing to support anything at all to create jobs.

Ask questions and take names:

Who is willing to oppose austerity

By repealing the sequester?

And by raising the debt limit without job-killing conditions?

And who is willing to step on the job creation accelerator by – at the very least — supporting the American Jobs Act of 2013?

Go To: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/roger-hickey/austerity-discredited-not_b_3555967.html

Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO Listening Sessions Provide Ongoing Conversation About Building a Workers’ Movement

The Philadelphia AFL-CIO  Listening Sessions are an ongoing conversation about building a workers’ movement that can win power in a globalized economy, drawing on the strength of every type of organization: including student groups, organized labor, faith-based communities, seniors, community organizations.  Don’t miss out on the conversation!

Next Session:

Tuesday, July 9th

6:00 – 7:30 PM

Transport Workers Union Local 234, 500 N. 2nd St, Philadelphia (1/2 block south of Spring Garden)

TOPIC: Building genuine, durable community partnerships and effective grassroots power

Please email Nick Alpers at: Nalpers@philaflcio.org to RSVP.

An Independence Day Message From PhillyLabor.com

Dear Friends and Family of the Philadelphia Area Labor Movement and Beyond,

As we celebrate Independence day and the independence that our forefathers fought so hard to obtain and maintain for our country, let us also celebrate and remember the forefathers of the labor movement, who also fought hard for our rights as a union movement to organize and bargain collectively so that we may have the opportunity at a living wage, proper working conditions and benefits for our families.

Let us also remember that we face constant attacks on these rights as union members and that our fight is NEVER over. Thus we can use the example set by the forefathers of our country to NEVER give up and ALWAYS fight for what we believe in!

Happy Independence Day In Solidarity!

PhillyLabor.com

Workers Win PA: Governor Goes 0 For 4 On Pensions, Privatization, Lottery, and Prevailing Wage

From PA. AFL-CIO -

Thanks To The Activism Of Workers Across The State Governor’s Anti-Worker Agenda Is Derailed

This year began with the Governor promising an onslaught of anti-worker legislation designed to drive down wages, privatize public institutions, and undermine retirement security.  Many of these initiatives came closer to passing than they ever have before.

- In March the House approved for the first time a plan to expand and privatize liquor sales, a move that would have cost thousands of families their livelihoods.

- Only two years after the major pension reforms of Act 120, and the significant concessions made by workers to speed the recovery of SERS and PSERS, legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate that would further reduce benefits for current employees and eliminate pensions for all new teachers and State workers after 2015.

- A package of right-to-work bills and more than a dozen bills designed to undermine prevailing wage laws were introduced in the House, and two of the prevailing wage bills made it to third consideration and were poised for a full vote in the House, something that has not happened in Pennsylvania for decades.

- And earlier this year, our Attorney General Kathleen Kane was the only thing that stood in the way of a British company taking over the management of the Pennsylvania Lottery.

With the members of the State House now home in their districts until September 23, it is time to declare that, for now, Pennsylvania workers have won on all of these issues!

Over the past several months, and particularly in the past week, we have been encouraging all of you to write and call your legislators in the House and Senate, to urge them to vote in the interest of working families in Pennsylvania, and the response has been overwhelming.

The many thousands of e-mails and phone calls that you made to your Senators and Representatives let them know that working families in Pennsylvania were watching their votes closely, and that you were invested in these fights.  Your calls and e-mails, tweets and Facebook shares complimented the hard work of union members and allies who were in Harrisburg every day, crowding the halls of the Capitol, filling committee meetings, or rallying on the Capitol steps.  You absolutely helped to kill these attacks on workers through your activism and vocal opposition.

These battles are not over.  We expect an even harder fight in the fall to prevent these and other attacks on workers from reaching the Governor’s desk.  But if we remain, as we have been, a united Labor Movement; if we reach out to our fellow workers and encourage them to raise their voices with ours; and if we visit our Representatives and Senators in their district offices over the summer, then we can continue to hold the line on these issues that are so vital to the lives of millions of Pennsylvanians.

Thank you for all you have done this year to stand up for and defend Pennsylvania’s working families; and congratulations for all you achieved!

Go To: http://www.paaflcio.org/?p=2249

Thanks Coach, Now Lets Pay It Forward Philadelphia PA!

I want to give a shout out to my old high school football coaches Bob Wagner, Mike Gibbs, Rocky and company for their commitment to bringing more out of me than I ever thought possible in the days of my youth.

Everyday whether in my family life or my business life, I benefit from running those 100 yd wind sprints and use those lessons you taught me, including to NEVER give up, to work hard as a part of a team, to believe in myself, to have discipline and to get up whenever I get knocked down, in my never ending journey towards success! I CAN NEVER EVER REPAY YOU for the things that you taught me that far exceeded just football that I use EVERYDAY in my life.

I only hope that the Philadelphia School District, The City of Philadelphia and the State of Pennsylvania officials read this and understand what I’m talking about before they discontinue sports, art and music so the school kids of today may continue to have the same opportunities that I had in my life that literally saved my life!

TO WHOM THIS MAY CONCERN, LET’S NOT BE THE ADULT GENERATION THAT FAILS OUR KIDS AND TAKES THEIR HOPES, SELF ESTEEMS AND DREAMS FROM THEM. LET’S GIVE THEM THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES WE ALL HAD AND LET’S STRIVE FOR GREATNESS AND SAVE SOME OTHER KID’S LIVES IN THE MEANTIME!

Joe Dougherty.
Philly Labor