The union movement's ground zero is California

United Teachers Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District, at loggerheads over a contract for a year and a half, are now in 11th-hour state-run mediation talks. The teachers’ union deems insulting the latest offer by Superintendent Austin Beutner, so it seems increasingly likely that 33,000 L.A. educators may make good on their threat to strike.

Cue the critics: A teacher’s strike will just hurt the kids. See? Unions are too radical and corrupt and do more harm than good.

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Balderdash. Unions aren’t perfect, but the monotonous smear campaign against them shows how out-of-touch haters are. Especially in this era of Trump, unions offer working class America a competing vision of prosperity and protection. Unlike the California quitters who leave the state complaining that the dream is over for the middle class, labor argues that solutions start with good jobs and management that takes care of more than quarterly earnings.

And in recent years, unions across the state, across different industries, have made their case to the public.

In Kingsburg, more than 500 Sun-Maid workers went on strike for two weeks in September over reduced healthcare coverage; the raisin giant eventually offered a better contract. At Keck Medical Center of USC, the National Union of Healthcare Workers picketed this month to argue that workers at USC-run health clinics should receive the same fully paid health insurance enjoyed by their colleagues at USC hospitals.

Continue reading on The LA Times

With 8 Years of Job Gains, Unemployment Is Lowest Since 1969 Image

The unemployment rate fell to a nearly five-decade low in September, punctuating a remarkable rebound in the 10 years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers set off a global financial crisis.

By almost any measure, the American economy is humming. Gross domestic product is on pace for its best year since the housing bubble of the mid-2000s. Consumers and businesses are the most confident they have been in years, if not decades. Stock market indexes are near record highs.

The latest milestone came in a Friday report from the Labor Department: The unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent last month, the lowest since December 1969, when hundreds of thousands of working-age Americans were serving in Vietnam.

“I view this as the strongest labor market in a generation,” said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at the career site Glassdoor. “These really are the good times.”

The turnaround from a decade ago is hard to overstate. In September 2008, American employers cut 443,000 jobs as the financial system collapsed around them. More than seven million more jobs evaporated in the months that followed. Even when the hemorrhaging stopped, shellshocked executives were slow to bring back laid-off workers, sparking fears of a “jobless recovery.”

But when the hiring engine finally kicked back into gear, it did so in historic fashion. The 134,000 jobs added in September made it the 96th consecutive month of growth — eight full years, double the previous record. Employers have added close to 20 million jobs during that streak. (September’s growth, a modest slowdown from August, would probably have been stronger absent the effects of Hurricane Florence, which struck the Carolinas in the middle of the month.)

Continue reading on The New York Times.

The new NAFTA isn’t done yet

The newly drafted trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada still has multiple details that need to be worked out and includes a provision aimed directly at China that has angered leadership in Beijing.

On the latest POLITICO Money podcast, POLITICO Pro Canada’s Alexander Panetta breaks down exactly what is in the revamped NAFTA deal, known as the “U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement,” and the legislative and political challenges it still faces.

Continue reading on Politico

The Uber strike is just the start, if unions learn how to mobilise millennials

The Uber action and McStrike suggest young people are increasingly seeing the benefits of fighting for their rights.

A a semi-regular Uber user, I listened to calls by drivers on Tuesday not to cross a digital picket line during their 24-hour strike – the latest attempt to unionise the gig economy. Members of United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD), a branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, are campaigning for a higher rate per mile, an end to what they claim are unfair deactivations, and a reduction in the commission that they have to pay. Drivers staged rallies outside Uber offices in London, Birmingham and Nottingham, and many logged off the app and stayed home.

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I support the Uber drivers on principle, but I also have a personal affection for the service. During a period of illness, Uber drivers kept me out and about. If you are ill, disabled or a woman on her own late at night in a dodgy part of town, an Uber can mean freedom. Over this time, I spent weeks talking to the drivers, about their jobs, their lives and their politics (many were Jeremy Corbyn supporters). Though often horribly demonised by black-cab drivers – one of whom handed me a card that said I would be raped if I used Uber – they are, like you and me, just people trying to make a decent living. Some have escaped untold horror, such as the man who dropped me at Euston station in central London one December morning and told of the drone attack he had witnessed. Others are born in Britain and simply prefer it to the monotony of the daily office grind.

Most people I know who use Uber, generally in their 20s and 30s, feel the same affection. What’s needed is some way of channelling that affection into support. Most people I spoke to on Tuesday about the strike were unaware that it was happening. Recruiting and galvanising younger adults – whether as members or supportive customers – was always going to be a challenge for unions. Most of us have never known the pressures of the physical picket line. A sense of collective industrial struggle is more challenging to convey in the maelstrom of social media, a clarion call so often drowned out by all the chatter. Digital nomadism and the gig economy mean that communities exist more and more online. People are more atomised. It’s a world away from the strikes of the past; there isn’t often someone a couple

Continue reading on The Guardian

New Nafta Shows Trump’s Trade Strategy for Balancing Labor, Business Interests

WASHINGTON—The Teamsters have nice things to say about the new North American Free Trade Agreement. Big banks can also claim a victory.

Continue reading on The Wall Street Journal

The U.S. House of Representatives passes legislation to unlock our energy potential, create jobs, and grow our economy

The U.S. House of Representatives took a major step yesterday towards modernizing the nation’s energy policy with the passage of the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act (H.R. 8). This legislation, which was the result of a broader energy vision constructed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee entitled “Architecture of Abundance,” has a goal of ensuring America’s ability to take full advantage of its energy potential and leverage it to bring about clean, affordable, and reliable energy while also stimulating job growth and reducing America’s dependence on foreign sources for energy. It does this by addressing the regulatory red tape that has existed for decades in four main areas: modern infrastructure, a 21st Century energy workforce, energy diplomacy, and efficiency and accountability. yes2energy

The bipartisan passage of H.R. 8 signifies a necessary and overdue step in solidifying America’s top spot on the world’s energy producing stage. One important provision contained in this bill is the lifting of the ban on crude oil exports. This is an issue of great importance to labor and the manufacturing industry due to the opportunity it presents for spurring jobs and economic growth from the added domestic production. However, the removal of the longtime export ban is unpopular with the Administration and could spark a veto threat in the end. H.R. 8 also contains key provisions for improving energy efficiency for new and renovated federal buildings by allowing utilities to provide them fossil-fuel generated electricity, and for speeding up the siting and permitting process for infrastructure projects. All of this plays a major role in job creation.

The Senate is expected to reconcile H.R. 8 with the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee’s version of energy reform sometime in 2016. Strong support is needed in order to protect those job growth and affordable energy provisions in H.R. 8 that are important to the American people. A collective voice to your Senators as they work to come up with compromise language will help ensure that these provisions remain in the final version of energy reform legislation.

Given the change in the nature and needs of the general energy framework, it is past time for America to unhinge itself from the outdated energy policies of yesterday and move towards a regulatory scheme that will allow America’s domestic energy sources, production, and innovation to thrive. H.R. 8 does just that.

Excessive EPA regulations are killing middle-class jobs

While some regulation is good and obviously necessary for the economic and social health of our country, too much regulation often has a cost associated with it.  More likely than not, that cost ends up creating a dangerous debt on society.

Although there are a number of federal agencies that may occasionally publish a new rule or regulation to address some facet affecting our lives, there is one agency in particular that has served as the lone outlier as of late when it comes to breaking this standard of uniformity: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Since 2009, the start of President Obama’s first term in office, the EPA has proposed and promulgated an absurd number of regulations, and at a dizzying pace.  States and industry are not even being given the time allotted under previously-issued EPA rules with which to comply before being hit with an onslaught of new crippling regulations, requirements, and attainment levels.  The EPA has promulgated close to 30 rules in a six year time span that were major or controversial, with 10 of those rules pertaining to climate change, ambient air quality, and electric generating units.

The number of layoffs, bankruptcy filings of major coal companies, idled mines and coal-fired generation plants, coupled with the litany of congressional legislative proposals, letters to EPA, and state-initiated lawsuits are all clear evidence of the huge economic damage the EPA is single-handedly placing on the industry. This also illustrates the clear dissatisfaction among the growing number of people and families suffering as a result of the EPA’s actions.  There is a vocal faction of Congressional officials doing what they can to keep the issue in the forefront – the most recent being the introduction of the Congressional Review Act resolutions earlier this month, which are designed to block the Clean Power Plan rule.  Though the outcome of these resolutions is not likely to be successful, the point behind them is in the message to the EPA and President on behalf of the American people.

The challenges to excessive regulation and government overreach are giving a voice to those working class families whose voices are not often heard, and who will be bearing the full brunt of the EPA’s actions.  These extreme power moves by the government will have an adverse ripple effect across society that will be felt for generations to come.  That is the message to be conveyed.  Any potential gain in the fight against the EPA will have to come from litigation.  The courts will be the place where these families can only hope to have their voices finally heard in this effort to save the country and society from further damage.

 

The “War on Coal” has killed over 900 mining jobs in Alabama

Coal-MinersIn the past six months, over 900 Alabama coal miners have lost heir jobs as the result of a depressed coal market and the uncertainty created by a litany of new EPA regulations targeting the coal industry. For these hardworking men and women, coal mining is not just a job, it’s a path to financial security and a better quality of life for their family. Coal miners typically earn an annual salary with benefits totaling over $100,000 and this level of income cannot be replaced by similar jobs in other industries. The ripple effect caused by these layoffs will hurt the local economy in the communities these miners call home.

ARA & BWRk protest (with text)The coal industry has been under attack across the country by the Obama Administration and locally by a coalition of radical environmental groups. In 2013, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SECL), Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), Alabama Environmental Council (AEC), and GASP intervened in hearings held by the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) in a covert effort to fight against the use of coal for power generation. While these groups claimed their intervention was about utility rates, public records proved they were each being paid big bucks by the San Francisco based Energy Foundation to fight against low-cost traditional energy in an effort to advance more expensive renewable power sources.

In another front in the war on Alabama’s coal industry, Black Warrior Riverkeeper and SELC are litigating a case in the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which if successful, will shutdown most of the state’s coal mines. The environmental groups claim the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers erred when issuing permits required by the Clean Water Act for 41 mining operations. In spite of their arguments being rejected by a federal district judge multiple times, the anti-coal groups refuse to drop their lawsuit. For these radical environmentalists, the prospect of shutting down 41 mining operations in one fell swoop is too great of a victory for them to concede.

While this small but vocal cadre of environmental activists might consider the woes of Alabama’s coal industry a victory, it is anything but that for the affected miners and their families. It’s hard to imagine the angst these recently laid-off miners are feeling as a result of losing their livelihood. The “War on Coal” is not a political or philosophical debate, it’s a man-made catastrophe. At it’s core is a lack of empathy for these hardworking men and women trying to provide a better life for their families.

With Christmas just around the corner, a Go Fund Me account has been established by Stephanie Tingle, to help the families of miners who’ve lost their job purchase Christmas presents for their children. Tingle, whose husband recently lost his mining job, exemplifies the kindness and compassion that exists in tight-knit coal mining communities by focusing her attention on the well-being of others impacted by the layoffs, rather than her own.

Please consider making a donation to help these families have a good Christmas this year and ask your co-workers, family, and friends to support them as well.

Brent Bailey’s concerning connection to the UN Foundation


Brent Bailey, a candidate for the Mississippi Public Service Commission, recently urged the Commission to support subsidies for solar energy; but it’s what he didn’t say that should concern Mississippians who oppose President Obama and the United Nations’ radical climate change agenda.

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What is Brent Bailey hiding?

The United Nations Foundation is the “primary sponsor” of Bailey’s environmental group called the 25×25 Alliance. Bailey’s group actually goes out of their way to conceal their connection to the UN. For example, the 25×25 website never mentions their connection to the UN, even though 25×25.org is actually owned by the UN Foundation.

What is the agenda of the United Nations Foundation?

The UN Foundation is an NGO that was created in 1998 with a $1 billion dollar donation from Ted Turner. Their mission is to “build support for United Nations causes and to make sure that the United States honors its commitments to the United Nations.”

The UN Foundation supports President Obama’s Climate Agenda and is working with the UN to implement global limits on greenhouse gases as part of the UN’s “Post-2015 Development Agenda.”

What does this mean for Mississippi families?

President Obama’s climate change agenda will kill jobs and cause energy costs to skyrocket. The UN climate agenda could impose even more costly carbon limits on US energy consumers. The UN Foundation would not be the “primary sponsor” of Bailey’s 25×25 Alliance if his group were not supporting their climate agenda.

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Shocking ‘Secret Plan’ to Bankrupt Mississippi Power Plan Will Kill Jobs, Hurt Mississippi Families, Damage State

Earlier this morning, JobKeeper received a stunning email that reveals a secret plan by extremist environmentalists to bankrupt and destroy the Mississippi Power Company, a bankruptcy that will harm consumers, kill jobs and damage the state.

Thomas BlantonThe email, sent by blogger Eddie Curran of Mobile, focused on comments made by Thomas Blanton, a candidate for Mississippi Public Service Commission and outspoken critic of the Kemper project, a new power plant that gasifies lignite coal to generate electricity.

Blanton reveals a long-term plan to manipulate the value of Mississippi Power, shove the company into bankruptcy, then swoop in and buy the weakened company at a much lower cost, all at the expense of Mississippi working families.

Blanton said plans are underway for parties to buy Mississippi Power’s assets, such as at auction or out of bankruptcy court.

Blanton revealed that he has “lined up a $600 million payment-to-arbitrage loan” as part of a secret plan to “take over Mississippi Power.” According to the email, Blanton stated that the Public Service Commission has the authority to revoke Mississippi Power’s “certificate” to operate in the state.

“Alternatives include removing their certification to operate the utility (and to) take the company away from them,” Blanton told Curran, adding that another option would be to turn the company assets into an electric cooperative. Keep in mind that Mississippi Power has operated for nearly a hundred years, has about 1,250 employees, and serves more than 180,000 customers. This is no minor undertaking.

“I don’t need to be blowing a bugle before anything happens,” Blanton explained, telling Curran that the secret plan for parties to take over Mississippi Power is planned for next summer.

Kemper-ConstructionClearly, these extremists care more about their own political agenda than they do about the future of Mississippi, an agenda and plan that will have a devastating impact on Mississippi families, who will be the most hurt if the Mississippi Power Company is destroyed.

Once candidate Blanton realized that blogger Curran planned to write about the secret plan to destroy Mississippi Power, Blanton immediately tried to cover up the disclosure, asking Curran not to report on the conversation.

It is completely fair to have disagreements and lively debate on energy and public policy. Such debate is both expected and needed. But in this case, Blanton and his extremists friends have crossed an important line, working methodically to destroy Mississippi Power for political gain, and perhaps, even personal gain.

Blanton personally filed a lawsuit that resulted in Mississippi Power being forced to refund $350 million to the company’s customers. It is worth noting that both Blanton and Curran disagree with JobKeeper’s position on the Kemper plant.

Blanton’s comments are truly shocking and raise a number of questions about opposition to Kemper by him and others.

Did Thomas Blanton file his lawsuit just to devalue Mississippi Power so it could be bought cheaply?

What is Blanton’s personal stake in the planned takeover of the company?

If he had an interest, is that legal?

Should his actions preclude him from serving on the Public Service Commission?

Who else is involved in this conspiracy to destroy one of Mississippi’s largest companies and employers? Who are the “buyers” working with Blanton?

Where do other PSC candidates stand on this matter, and will they vote to rescind Mississippi Power’s certification to operate?

Aside from Blanton, the most active voice in opposition has been a group called Bigger Pie Forum. Are they connected to the effort to buy out Mississippi Power? Are their questionable ties to the natural gas industry part of the secret plan?

Mississippi voters, and particularly customers of Mississippi Power, are entitled to answers to these questions. Candidate Blanton and his allies need to fully disclose the elements of the plan and every interest involved in the conspiracy to bankrupt Mississippi Power.

The people of the state have the right to know the names of those conspiring to manipulate the value of Mississippi Power, bankrupt the company and then make illegal profits at the expense of Mississippi and its families. Thomas Blanton is one of those people. Who else is working with him?

Hopefully state authorities will give Blanton’s comments the scrutiny they deserve and provide some answers.