Specter Stumps for Retooled Card Check
At a speech during the AFL-CIO Convention this week in Pittsburgh, Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) unveiled a retooled version of the Employee Free Choice Act that he said, "will be totally satisfactory to labor."
The reworked version of EFCA does not include the card check provision that would abandon secret ballot elections. But it keeps binding arbitration, stiffens penalties on businesses, and would cut the length of time between the call for a union election and the election date.
To read more about the revised bill, check out this Washington Post article.
Baucus Releases Health Care Plan Sans Public Option
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) has released a health care reform bill that he called, "one of the largest pieces of social legislation in American history since the depression." The $856 billion proposal differs from House bills by not including a government run public option. It instead would establish consumer owned co-ops to compete with private insurance.
Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee and leader of the bi-partisan 'Gang of Six,' was unable to secure a public endorsement of this plan from any of this Republican colleagues.
Click to read coverage from the Washington Post.
Click to download text of the Americas Healthy Future Act of 2009
Upstate SC Chambers Join Forces
Ten chambers of commerce from northwest South Carolina region have joined forces and pooled resources for state level advocacy. The Upstate Chamber Coalition will create and advocate for a common legislative agenda when the state legislature reconvenes in January.
"It's a collaborative world, and we need to have business leaders with a common agenda," said David Cordeau, president and CEO of the Spartanburg Chamber. "We are excited about this opportunity to partner with other chambers across the Upstate to bring a brighter future to the area."
Upstate SC isn't the only region where chambers have joined forces for advocacy. 16 chambers in Indiana have formed the Northeast Indiana Chamber Coalition (NEICC) to collaborate on state, local and federal policy advocacy efforts.
TABOR on the Ballot in Washington
"On the west coast we govern by ballot initiative." That's what a chamber exec from Washington State told me during a conversation yesterday. My suspicions were confirmed.
The subject of this particular conversation was Washington Initiative 1033, a taxpayer bill of rights (TABOR) proposal that will be on the state's ballot this November.
TABOR limits growth of a state or municipality's tax revenue and/or expenditure. Under most TABOR laws, growth in tax collection or expenditure is only allowed as a result of inflation and population increase. Colorado was the first state to pass TABOR (1992) and is still the state most closely associated with TABOR. In Colorado, TABOR limits the revenue the state can keep from income, sales or property tax. Limits are based on the previous year's allowed collection plus the combined rates of inflation and population growth. Any revenue collected in excess of the cap must be refunded to taxpayers, usually in the form of a tax refund.
One problem with TABOR is the so-called "ratchet effect" which occurs in years following a recession when the economy recovers but the TABOR revenue caps reflect state tax collection during the downturn. Those caps can hamstring state spending during times of growth for important services and infrastructure improvements.
The push for Initiative 1033 in Washington is being led by three taxpayer advocates through their website - http://www.permanent-offense.org/.
A broad coalition has formed to oppose 1033 - http://no1033.com/ Members of the opposition coalition include groups the SEIU, AARP, and the Greater Seattle Chamber.
For more background and links on TABOR, check out the ACCE Policy Clearinghouse.
Labor Talk on Labor Day
On Labor Day, yesterday, President Obama and Vice President Biden made the rounds talking about labor issues.
At a Labor Day labor rally with Sen. Specter in Pittsburgh, PA, Vice President Biden chose to highlight Card Check. Here is a quote from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
"If you wanted to join a union, you could join a union and not be stopped by employers," Biden said, referring to the Employee Free Choice Act, now under consideration by Congress. "We're going to get that done with the help of Arlen Specter."
Treat this as a reminder that Card Check is still on the administration's ever growing priority list.
Labor Day Holiday Message
Labor (verb, noun, or proper noun): Definitions includes, but not limited to:
- Expenditure of physical or mental effort especially when difficult or compulsory
- To suffer from distress or a disadvantage
Sound like a chamber professional's day?
Of course, there's "labor" and then there's "Labor." When the idea of a day celebrating and recognizing the American worker, the "labor" in Labor Day referred most to the organized, capital "L" meaning of the word. With only 13% of workers employed in union jobs, Americans have understandably turned the first Monday of September into a day for most of us who labor (not retail, entertainment, public safety, military, hospital, parenting) to take an end-of-summer day off. A good thing at the right time in the calendar. As I always say as we start a football season and ACCE program cycle - HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Below: A Labor Day memory for those with too much time on their hands:
My father was a proud "Kennedy Democrat" . . . a Buffalo lawyer/professor/advocate for everyone getting screwed. With a guy like Bob Fleming as my personal hero (always will be) I had what many conservative chamber execs would consider a harrowing upbringing!
One Saturday during my "tween" years, my Dad and I were doing errands and had to drop off some clothes at the cleaners. As we drove past the drycleaner a block away from the house, I asked why we always drove half-way across town with our clothes. He answered quickly. [Paraphrasing] "Because those guys are part of a chain that treats their workers like dirt. The job is hot and dangerous with lousy hours. They're in court accused of shorting paychecks and using illegal tactics to prevent a union. I won't go to that place, ever." Let's just say that statement had an impact on my choice of drycleaners.
Since that time, I've learned a lot more about how business and the employer-employee relationship works. I learned that boycotts can hurt the people you might want to help. I discovered that it's pretty hard to have employment without employers - and the survival of many (most) private-sector employers is very tenuous. I've changed, becoming aware and empathetic toward the people who create jobs and make payroll (like me). I still, however, can't be friendly or knowingly do business with an owner or boss who treats employees badly. Even in my most conservative days, as head of a manufacturers' association, I couldn't do it. Bob wouldn't let me.
Americans remain the most productive workforce in the world. It's not a Labor Day platitude; it's a fact. Remember that it will be our human resources that will craft the next great story of American resiliency. Certainly innovation, calculated investment and inspired leadership will be required, but labor -- "expenditure of physical and mental effort" -- by good people like your staff and your members' employees . . . will make the dreams of recovery a reality.
Welcome to all those who were previously members of the "MICK MET" email group and other ACCE members. See Fleming's "traditional" Quickie Holiday Message on the next posting.
"In This Together" is a commentary site for ACCE President Mick Fleming and those who work closely with ACCE. No real launch or announcement; we'll just begin.
New media sites like Linked In and TypePad are becoming endemic because they actually work. They make my few former broadcast emails seem pretty primitive. In the future, I'll be posting short messages on this narrowly-advertised "In This Together" blog, whenever the spirit moves me -- including holidays. Whenever YOU are moved to experience my razor-sharp wit (???), movingly poignant stories (??????), sage wisdom (??????????) or risky global travel advice (!) just click into this site. For those who are already Linked In or Facebooked, I'll "poke" you to check this blog. For the many who are not -- and the many more who never check the sites they've enrolled in -- I'll nudge you other ways.
Spokane "Neighborhood Bill of Rights"
This November, Spokane voters will decide on a potentially game changing ballot initiative that could raise taxes, inhibit growth and clog courtrooms all at at once.
Proposition 4, also know as the "Neighborhood Bill of Rights," is a collection of nine amendments to the city charter proposed by a group called Envision Spokane. Their website claims the collection of amendments, "seeks to build a healthy, sustainable, and democratic Spokane through the recognition of rights for people, workers, neighborhoods, and the natural environment." Here is a list of the proposed amendments:
- Residents have the right to a locally-based economy
- Residents have the right to affordable preventive health care.
- Residents have the right to affordable and safe housing
- Residents have the right to affordable and renewable energy.
- The natural environment has the right to exist and flourish.
- Residents have the right to determine the future of their neighborhoods.
- Workers have the right to be paid the prevailing wage, and the right to work as apprentices, on certain construction projects.
- Workers have the right to employer neutrality when unionizing, and the right to constitutional protections within the workplace.
- Residents, workers, neighborhoods, neighborhood councils, and the City of Spokane shall have the right to enforce the Community Bill of Rights
The JOBS (Jobs and Opportunities Benefiting Spokane) Coalition, a group which includes Greater Spokane Incorporated, Associated Builders and Contractors; Spokane Realtors, The Spokane Restaurant Association, The Spokane Hotel and Motel Association, disagrees about the impact of Proposition 4. They claim that the amendments, "will cost the city millions of dollars, stifle growth, and drive jobs away from the city." In a one-page critique the JOBS Coalition calls the proposal, "a wish list that includes almost everything – healthcare, affordable housing, protecting the aquifer and higher wages. There’s no way the city could pay for all the things on the list."
Walt Worthy, owner of The Davenport Hotel and a leader of the JOBS Coalition addressed the proposals legal issues saying, "The law is intentionally written in language that is vague and unclear so it will clog up the courts for years with frivolous lawsuits, slowing down job growth and discouraging business in Spokane."
In addition to the scope, cost, and legal concerns about this proposal, Greater Spokane Inc also pointed out that parts are similar to the Hometown Democracy proposal from Florida. In an email to members they wrote, "Proposition 4 would allow an unelected, small group of activists to block any development in any area of the city, even if it complies with zoning and has been approved."
Because of the scope and potential impact of this proposal, and the probability that it could become contagious, you owe it to your community to follow what's happening in Spokane. The ACCE Policy Clearinghouse will be tracking this issue and providing regular updates. Stay tuned.
Not Just Events - More On Chamber Health Care Efforts
My post earlier today - Chambers Host Health Care Debates - left out some of the other great work that local chambers of commerce are doing to keep members well informed about health care. One of the best examples I've seen is the Council of Smaller Enterprise (COSE), part of the Greater Cleveland Partnership.
COSE has set up a webpage dedicated to tracking health care reform efforts. They are also sending in-depth, weekly legislative updates by email to their members.
Here is a link to their Health Reform Webpage.
Here is a link to the most recent Health Care Alert Email.
The attendance local chambers are getting at their events is evidence of the demand for information about this subject. Your organization can provide a real value-add service to members by cutting through the mountains of media coverage and providing them the information they need about health care reform.
Plate Too Crowded for Card Check
Speaking at the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce yesterday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signaled that a vote this year on the Employee Free Choice Act is unlikely. When questioned about Card Check, Sen. Reid is quoted as saying: “We have too many other things on our plate."
The article points out that with universal Republican opposition and several opposed Democrats, EFCA would be unlikely to overcome a filibuster if it were brought to a vote.
Click to read the full article from Roll Call.