Tag Archives: Jobs

Fast Food Owners and Workers Unite to Strengthen Jobs, Business

By Kathryn Slater-Carter and Jon Youngdahl

News headlines often depict the growing economic divide in our nation as a tug of war between workers and business, but in one critical sector of our economy – franchise enterprises — entrepreneurs and workers are both being pushed into economic peril.  Workers and franchise business owners are both being squeezed by giant corporations like McDonald’s, having critical decisions that affect their livelihoods and their dignity forced on them by a faceless corporate headquarters.  Workers and franchise owners alike face retaliation and the loss of their income if they speak out.  For these reasons, both workers and franchise owners are coming together to fight for AB 525 (Holden), a bill that protects jobs by giving franchisees a fair shake so they can keep and grow the businesses they’ve nurtured.

A generation ago, McDonald’s valued its franchisees as partners who built the strength of the brand in communities across the country.  Now, McDonald’s and other corporations built on the franchising model have gone the way of so many other industries that look to post short-term gains rather than build real value, even if it means driving franchise owners and workers into poverty.

Today, franchise agreements are so one-sided, franchisees have virtually no say in the businesses they’ve risked their life savings and dedicated years of their lives to build.  Corporate headquarters control nearly every aspect of the business, can force new and unexpected costs onto franchise owners, and franchise owners can be punished for speaking out or joining with other franchise owners to improve business conditions.  Franchises can even be shut down for arbitrary reasons, as Kathryn Slater-Carter experienced firsthand after working 30 years to build her Bay Area McDonald’s franchise.  

A survey of 1,100 franchise owners released in April found Kathryn’s case is far from an isolated incident.  Dissatisfaction with franchisors — the parent corporations of franchise businesses – is widespread, and retaliation against franchise owners who speak out about problems is frequent.   More than half of franchisees say they can’t earn a living from their business.  Four in 10 reported threats of having their franchise agreements terminated for taking actions they thought were appropriate for their business, and nearly 20% said their franchisor increased the frequency of inspections after the franchisee raised questions or spoke out about problems.

California franchisees and workers are both striving to be a part of California’s economic future and AB 525 brings us one step closer to stabilizing small businesses so they can continue serving the needs of California’s communities and strengthen the jobs that build our economy and provide for families.  

The bill, the Small Business Investment Protection Act, would significantly expand the rights of franchisees and establish stronger protections against unfair termination or nonrenewal of contracts by franchisors.  California workers support the bill because they know when franchisees can make decisions that are in the best interest of their businesses, they can invest in their employees.

Franchise owners and workers want the same thing – a fair shot at the American Dream.  That’s why we’ve formed an unlikely alliance to support AB 525.  By ensuring franchisees have a fair shot at surviving as corporations squeeze more and more from franchisees and workers, AB 525 protects California small businesses and jobs.

Kathryn Slater-Carter was a McDonald’s franchise owner for more than 30 years.  Jon Youngdahl is the Executive Director of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California, which includes 700,000 private and public sector workers as members.

STUDY: Prevailing Wage Adds 17,500 Jobs to California Economy

Prevailing Wage policies add 17,500 jobs and $1.4 billion in output across California’s economy, according to a new study released by Smart Cities Prevail – a leading construction industry education and research organization.  

Entitled, Building the Golden State-The Economic Impacts of California’s Prevailing Wage Policy, the first-of-its-kind report was co-authored by Colorado State University-Pueblo Economist Dr. Kevin Duncan and Smart Cities Prevail Researcher Alex Lantsberg. The study was conducted using IMPLAN software (the industry standard for analyzing the effects of government policy choices on the economy) to model the impact of eliminating California’s prevailing wage standards.

In addition to measuring the policies’ impact on job creation and overall economic output, the study also concludes that prevailing wage policies facilitate broad improvements to the construction industry as a whole–including substantial reductions in materials waste and dramatic increases in both local hiring and overall workforce productivity.

To Download the Full Report, Click Here.

“While past research has already concluded that prevailing wage promotes workforce development, safer job sites, less dependence on public assistance, and has only negligible impacts on project cost, these new findings show the value of these standards both to the construction industry and our economy as a whole,” said Dr. Kevin Duncan.  “From creating jobs to increasing efficiency, it is clear that prevailing wage policies provide taxpayers with a far better return on investment than the less beneficial alternative.”

While California has recently enacted new legislation (SB 7) to encourage more of its cities to enact prevailing standards, several other states-including Nevada, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan–are either considering or have recently passed laws to weaken prevailing wage requirements on public works.

“This study provides important context for the recent changes to California’s prevailing wage laws, but also for the debates that are happening in other states across our country,” Lantsberg said.  “The data shows that the decision to weaken or eliminate prevailing wage is a choice that can increase poverty, export more tax dollars out of state, and eliminate thousands of jobs in the process.”  

Lantsberg added, “It’s important to note that this study focuses on the benefits of the state prevailing wage policy, but does not analyze the additional positive benefits that come from federal and local policies.  For example, the state and federally funded high speed rail project in California is estimated to create 20,000 prevailing wage construction jobs in the first 5 years of construction, and tens of thousands more in the years that follow.”

Consequences of Prevailing Wage Elimination in California:

– Gross job losses of 48,500 and net job losses of 17,500

– 3%-5.5% increase in out-of-state contracting

– State Economic output reduced by $1.4 billion

– Real income reduced by $1.5 billion

– More construction professionals living at or near the poverty line.

– 12% decline in workforce productivity and 5% increase in materials waste

Kevin Duncan, Ph.D. is a nationally recognized economist specializing in labor and regional economics.  Dr. Duncan currently works as a Professor of Economics in the Hasan School of Business at Colorado State University – Pueblo and Senior Economist at BCD Economics, LLC.  he teaches regional economics where his students learn economic impact analysis.

Alex Lantsberg is a researcher with Smart Cities Prevail specializing in economics, land use, and urban planning.  Mr. Lantsberg holds a Master’s Degree in City Planning from the University of California, Berkeley and an undergraduate degree in finance from Northern Illinois University.

Prevailing Wage is the standard rate paid on publicly funded projects to a worker in a given trade, in a given region.  Prevailing wage laws were first established federally and in some states in the 1930s – and supported by leaders from both political parties – in order to raise the quality of government funded construction projects and encourage more local hiring.  

Smart Cities Prevail is a non-profit 501(c)(4) organization and California’s leading research and informational resource on prevailing wage.   For more information, visit www.smartcitiesprevail.org.

What Color is the Sky in Joel Fox’s Fantasy World?

by Steve Smith

There’s been a lot of attention lately on California’s turnaround. As it turns out, that nonsense about all our jobs moving to Texas was a just Texas-sized whopper. Last year California created about 500,000 jobs to lead the nation in job growth, outpacing the conservative darling Texas.

Basically, the corporate narrative about California has gone up in smoke. In the last several years, California has done a litany of things that the corporate crowd claims kill jobs. We raised the minimum wage. We raised taxes on the rich with Prop 30 to better fund schools and public safety. We guaranteed paid sick days for all workers. We eliminated the wasteful enterprise zone tax credits for big businesses that cost the state nearly $1 billion per year. We got rid of another tax giveaway to business with Prop 39 and instead funneled those funds into clean energy projects that create good jobs. We strengthened regulations that protect workers and the environment. The list goes on and on.

So imagine my surprise when I read Joel Fox’s blog on Fox & Hounds claiming that the Chamber of Commerce was actually responsible for the job growth in California. Oh, ok. Sure. That makes total sense, Joel. The Chamber constantly derides California as the most anti-business state in the country and now wants to claim credit for our success? That makes about as much sense as that idiotic scheme you participated in during the 2012 election to help the Koch Brothers and their rich, out-of-state friends funnel millions into California to help pass the anti-worker Prop 32 and defeat Prop 30. But, I digress.

Hidden at the bottom of Fox’s inane blog is the one line we should all pay attention to in the context of this argument.

The Chamber’s goal is to keep business costs low to improve the economy statewide.

By lowering “business costs” he means eliminating protections for workers and the environment, shrinking wages for workers, while cutting taxes on CEOs and the wealthiest among us. California has roundly rejected this shortsighted notion, unlike, say, Kansas, which is seeing the disastrous effects of implementing the big business plan.

California, under Gov. Jerry Brown, has shown the real path forward.  You can create jobs AND protect workers and the environment. You can put more money in the pockets of those at the bottom while creating shared prosperity that benefits the economy as a whole. You can make the rich pay their fair share to fund our schools, public safety and other important services without hurting job growth. You can protect immigrant workers against exploitation and strengthen the ability for all workers to stand together in unions without hurting competitiveness. In fact, when you do those things, jobs DO grow. Wages DO grow. The economy gets stronger. And most importantly, lives change for the better.

Still, too many workers are struggling today. Now isn’t the time to go backward on workers’ rights. Instead, it’s time to step on the pedal so we raise standards for all workers to combat growing inequality. The last few years we’ve put to rest the narrative that says doing good things for workers and the environment kills jobs.

So let’s not waste time and let’s continue doing more of what we know works. More investment in California’s working people makes California a better place to live and raise a family. More support for workers and their families lowers poverty while creating an economy that works for everyone. And we do this not with the help of the Chamber of Commerce and its corporate CEO funders, we do it in spite of them.  

California Labor Unveils New Policy Platform to Boost Struggling Veterans

by Rebecca Band, California Labor Federation

“Thank you for your service.”

It’s a line we hear and say a lot around Veteran’s Day, especially in California, home to 1.8 million veterans, more than in any other state.

But if we really want to show gratitude for our veterans, then we need to do more than utter a simple “thank you.” We need to help these brave heroes find a middle-class life when they return from serving our country.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs annual survey of veterans, jobs are the biggest concern for our returning veterans, and for good reason — the unemployment rate for veterans of recent conflicts is an unacceptable 10 percent, and 1.5 million young veterans – many with families to support — currently live under the poverty line.

It hasn’t always been like this. According to Nick Berardino, Vietnam Veteran and General Manager of the Orange County Employees Association:

When we came back from Vietnam, they spit on us, but at least we could find a job. Today, veterans get a hand shake and a thank you, but a future that includes unemployment, low wages and no way for them to care for their families. We can and should do much better for our veterans.

Those who serve our country in uniform risk their lives to defend and protect the freedoms we all value. That’s why leaders from the California Labor movement and elected officials joined together with veterans in Sacramento today to unveil a new seven-point plan to put our state’s veterans on the path to good jobs and a middle-class life.

California Labor Federation Executive-Secretary Treasurer Art Pulaski:

Far too often, our nation’s veterans don’t receive the support they’ve earned or the services they need when returning home. California’s labor unions are taking the lead to change that. WWII veterans, along with their unions, helped build our nation’s middle class brick by brick. Veterans and labor unions are poised once again to partner to strengthen our economy and preserve the American Dream.

The seven-point plan focuses on:

1.    Creating and growing good jobs for veterans. Among states that receive grants for vets from the U.S. Department of Labor, California has one of the lowest rates of placing veterans in jobs. We must align our state resources – incentives, contracts, purchasing, hiring – to encourage and reward the hiring of veterans, who represent the best in possible employees.

2.     Matching training and skills to veterans. Veterans come out of active duty with significant skills that can be translated into a variety of careers. Too often, the language used to describe military job duties doesn’t match the language of those hiring in the civilian world. We support policies that capture and maximize the skills vets have acquired to gain them the best jobs in growing fields that pay living wages.

3.     Protecting jobs for veterans. Workers should be rewarded, not disadvantaged, when they go into active or reserve service. Vets should have guarantees that their jobs will be there when they return, that they be able to maintain their health care coverage, and that they will have recall rights should their jobs get eliminated.

4.     Streamlining veteran job services. According to multiple studies, California does not provide a coordinated, integrated system that streamlines employment-related services to veterans, and has failed to meet veteran employment goals set by federal grants. It’s time to streamline the delivery of job services to veterans and that tailor services to the special needs and skill sets of veterans.

5.     Providing more housing for veterans. Vets make up a disproportionate share of the homeless population and are significantly more likely than the general population to become homeless. No one should be forced to live on the street after serving our country, which is why we support policies and funding to build more housing, including rental units, for veterans.

6.     Ensuring veterans receive their benefits. California lags behind other states in the amount of benefits claimed by veterans. Even though veterans are eligible for federal pensions and health benefits, many California vets rely on public state programs rather than collecting the benefits they’ve earned and deserve. A 2013 Little Hoover Commission report estimates that California leaves between $500 million and $1 billion in federal dollars on the table due to veterans not signing up for benefits.  

7.      Providing services for diverse veteran populations. Currently, 70 percent of veterans in California are age 50 or over, but at the same time, large numbers of younger veterans — many of whom are women and minorities — are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Different groups of veterans will need different services for their transition to civilian life, which is why we support tailoring programs and policies to the needs of the diverse veteran populations in the state.

Yvonne Walker, U.S . Marine Corps Veteran and President of SEIU Local 1000:

We owe every man and woman who goes into service for their country a debt of gratitude. But gratitude isn’t enough. At the very least, they have earned the peace of mind that their jobs will be there when they return, that they be able to maintain their health care coverage, and that they will have recall rights should their jobs get eliminated.

In addition to the policy agenda, Labor groups also have identified needed projects and local opportunities where are coming together to provide service for veterans such as renovating, painting or improving the grounds at local VFW or American Legion halls; hosting food and supply donation drive to support veterans in need; and assembling care packages along with letters to be sent overseas.

Orange County unions led by the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA), along with veterans and community leaders, will hold a large Veterans Day special event to pay tribute to Veterans and their families following the “Day of Service” volunteer projects.

For more details on service projects and others actions taking place around the state, go to www.veteransandlabor.com

Why should you take a moment to support CMED?

by Kevin Singer, Communications Coordinator, Californians for Responsible Economic Development

In 2011 alone, California produced a grand total of approximately 200 million barrels of oil and 230 billion cubic feet of natural gas, making our state the fourth largest producer of oil and the tenth largest producer of natural gas in the country. Yet, despite this, California does not get a dime for the resources that are extracted from our state and sold on the global market. This is because, unlike every other major oil and natural gas producing state in the nation, California has not enacted an extraction fee on the energy that is taken right from under our feet.

Let’s think about this for a moment. California, the ninth largest economy in the world, is ranked 43rd in the country in terms of K-12 spending per pupil. The University of California, the flagship public university system of the nation, has seen a 14% decrease in funding since 2010. And at a time when a quality college education has never been more important, tuition is skyrocketing, making a diploma unaffordable for an increasing number of young Californians. Meanwhile, at 9.8% unemployment, even those who have graduated from college find themselves without work or working at jobs they are tremendously over-qualified for. The appalling disrepair of our municipal infrastructure only discourages employers from bringing more jobs to our state. But our state government has its hands tied behind its back. The $250 billion dollar state debt all but assures that there will be no additional funding for education and infrastructure in the near future.

And we are giving away our oil and natural gas. We have the wealth to fund the investments that California needs and deserves and we are giving it away. This is to say nothing of that fact that by not charging an extraction fee on oil and natural gas, our state, which prides itself as a leader of reducing CO2 emissions, is not putting a price on the CO2 that eventually makes its way into the atmosphere. To say this is ridiculous would be an understatement. It is an outrage.

The California Modernization and Economic Development Act (or CMED) would put an end to it. By implementing a modest 9.5% extraction fee on oil and natural gas (Alaska, hardly an enemy of big oil, has implemented a fee of 24% on oil and natural gas that’s extracted from the state), CMED would raise between 2 and 2.5 billion dollars in revenue for California. A little more than half, 1.2 billion dollars, would be allocated in four equal parts for K-12, California Community Colleges, Cal State Universities, and the University of California for the purposes of increasing quality and restoring tuition to 2010 levels. 400 million dollars will be used to support small businesses by aiding their transition to cheaper, carbon-free and carbon-reduced forms of energy, which would in turn empower them to expand, hire additional workers, and reinvest. An additional 300 million dollars would be apportioned to the general funds of California County Governments for the purpose of upgrading and better maintaining municipal infrastructure, funding the conservation of regional park land and providing a multitude of other public services.

These are more than investments, they constitute a complete vision for responsible economic development in California. Making that vision a reality is as easy as ending the giveaway of our oil and natural gas, but it’ll take a popular movement if we truly want to realign the policies in Sacramento with the wishes and desires of Californians. Simply by taking a few moments, right now, and visiting www.cmedact.org, liking our Facebook, following us on Twitter, telling your friends or donating anything you can, even $5, you can provide the crucial grassroots support we need. It’s that easy. You could be the difference between failing to qualify and qualifying CMED on the 2014 ballot, so that Californians can have a chance to pass it democratically.

We can do this California, but not without your support. If you think it’s ridiculous that we are giving away our oil and natural gas at a time when California is more cash-strapped than ever, join our cause. It won’t be easy, but together we will qualify and pass the California Modernization and Economic Development Act and put our state back on the right track.

Rick Perry Goes Home Empty

But he did get a nice vacation in the most beautiful state!

by Brian Leubitz

Rick Perry’s swoop through Southern California appears to be over, and he’s leaving without much other than a few parties to show for it:

On a conference call with reporters from Laguna Beach, the Republican said he spent his four days meeting with entrepreneurs and business leaders and held a reception for more than 200 California companies that have expressed interest in moving to Texas. Such relocations can take time, but Perry also offered no details on prospects, much less concrete announcements. …

Perry said on the call that “this isn’t about bashing California; it’s about promoting Texas.” But he went on to offer a few digs. When asked if Texas’ light regulatory rules have contributed to a high number of worksite deaths, the governor said he thought it had more to do with high-risk oil and gas industry jobs prevalent in his state.

“Y’all in California are not very knowledgeable about the energy industry and that is a fairly dangerous workplace,” Perry said, ignoring California’s green-technology initiatives. (Houston Chronicle)

Not sure what to say here, other than California has plenty of dangerous jobs, yet a much lower incidence of injuries. Surely that couldn’t be the work of workplace safety regulations.

Perry’s little stunt with the $14,000 radio ad got some press, but it also got this clever response from the Lone Star Project. (see right)

Now whether Perry chooses to acknowledge it, California has several major advantages that can’t simply be tossed aside. Silicon Valley is a technology cluster like no other, and Hollywood, is, well, Hollywood. Our renewable energy standards mean that we will be in the middle of the green economy, a ship that Texas is letting sail by.

California remains the home of innovation. Surely every state has its peccadilloes, but our resources are vast and our economy is growing. It’s a great time to be in California.

The Rick Perry Self-Aggrandizement Tour

Texas Governor tours California, but proof jobs actually move is slim

by Brian Leubitz

Texas Governor Rick Perry is set to tour California to poach jobs from the state. But this is more about Rick Perry and his situation at home than actually moving jobs. First, a bit about Perry: Texans are sick of him. I grew up in Texas, and was there during the governorships of Ann Richards, G W Bush, and Perry (plus a few more before Richards). Thing is, Texans tend to really like their Governors. Richards, even when she lost to W, had an approval rating in the 60s.

Bush actually did a fair amount of work with the Democrats in the Legislature, and was generally well regarded. Perry was another beast entirely. He came to power as partisanship was getting worse in the state, and exploited it. He didn’t really need Democratic support, and so, he turned to the right. Perry, a former Democrat who worked on Al Gore’s 1988 campaign, has made Texas government a far less friendly place.

It turns out that Texans don’t really appreciate it, and a recent poll shows they don’t really appreciate Perry anymore:

Fifty-four percent of Lone Star State voters said they disapprove of the job Perry is doing as governor, while 41 percent said they approve. A larger majority, 62 percent, said Perry should not seek re-election next year compared with just 31 percent who said he should.  (TPM)

So, here comes Perry hoping that a few good photo ops of him “poaching” jobs from California, our little slice of heaven that seems to be target #1 for conservatives. Why would that be? Oh, right, we are the center of innovation in the country and the world. But can jobs be actually poached, or is this more Perry posturing?

Only a tiny fraction of California companies move or relocate to other states, and the reasons have little to do with what goodies a visiting governor offers them to relocate – even one like Perry, whose state dishes out $19 billion annually in incentives to lure businesses to Texas.

Kolko’s research found that from 1992 to 2006, the net employment change in California as a result of relocation amounted to a loss of about 9,000 jobs a year – only 0.05 percent of California’s 18 million jobs.

In Silicon Valley, which is experiencing dot-com-boom-level economic growth, only a small percentage of all the companies that are closing or moving are leaving the state, said Doug Henton, CEO of Collaborative Economics, a San Mateo research firm that helped prepare the Silicon Valley Index, a study of the region’s job patterns that was released this month.

“Somebody like Gov. Perry can say, ‘Come to Texas,’ but the amount that do is a minuscule amount” of the valley’s job losses, Henton said.(Joe Garofoli-SF Chronicle)

In the end, many of the jobs that Perry does buy aren’t even a good deal for his state. But, they sure do make for a great photo op with some CEO. And a good soundbite about cutting regulations, business environment, and other nonsense. Perry is out for Perry, he’ll do what he has to do to stay in power. But this little PR stunt amounts to a whole lot of hot air from a politician that seems to have no dearth of it.

Finally, A Real Chance for Public Higher Education Reform in California

As a recent graduate of San Francisco State University, I am thrilled that there is finally momentum gaining in the movement to achieve real public higher education reform in California. In particular, the Middle Class Scholarship Act is an economically feasible way to make public higher education more affordable for all Californians.

While I was a student at SFSU my tuition increased every semester. To make matters worse, I never qualified for financial assistance to help fund my education because the State determined that my parents could afford to pay not only my tuition but also those of both of my sisters.

California’s public college students are continuing to struggle. The CSU Board of Trustees’ recent decision to close Spring 2013 enrollment is just one of the devastating blows that our public higher education students have been forced to endure, with no end in sight.

Luckily, help for California’s public university students and their families could be on the way. The Middle Class Scholarship Act recently proposed by California State Assembly Speaker John A. Perez is exactly the kind of public higher education reform that California’s students and their families need in these difficult financial times.

If it is approved by two-thirds of the California State Legislature, the Middle Class Scholarship Act will provide scholarships to approximately 150,000 CSU students and roughly 42,000 UC students who have family incomes less than $150,000 and whom do not already have their fees covered. These Middle Class Scholarships will slash student fees by two-thirds. Additionally, our California Community Colleges will receive $150 million to address their unique needs. The Middle Class Scholarships will be paid for in full by closing a wasteful corporate loophole that only benefits out-of-state businesses.  

The Middle Class Scholarship is an innovative solution to California’s public higher education crisis that will help students achieve their dreams, while at the same time, ensure that our Golden State has a strong workforce that is prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century economy.

I know that as a student, it is difficult just to make time to study and to work but I strongly urge all of California’s UC, CSU and Community College Students to do whatever they can to help pass the Middle Class Scholarship Act and to fight for the higher education reform they deserve. From signing and sharing this petition and tweeting and posting Facbook messages to your State legislators and Governor Brown (if you don’t know who your State legislators are, you can look them up here) to organizing on campus and gathering signatures, no action is too small or insignificant. Keep the faith and, most importantly, keep making your voices heard.

Please embrace the help of the politicians who want to help The Middle Class Scholarship Act become law. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Speaker Perez, Senators Darrell Steinberg, and Leland Yee and many other State leaders have consistently stood in solidarity with California’s college students and have fought tirelessly against every single higher education budget cut and fee increase. To pass the Middle Class Scholarship Act, the support and expertise of these politicians will be invaluable.    

If California’s public college students continue to come together and rally the support of our State legislators to pass the Middle Class Scholarship Act, I think we will finally see the dawn of real public higher education reform in California.

Efforts to Derail Bullet Train Driven by Politics as Usual

by Steve Smith, California Labor Federation

Among the big political news this week was the release of the Legislative Peer Review Group’s report on the California high-speed rail project. The report recommends that the state freezes the project “at this time” until further assessment is done on its long-term feasibility. Problem is, the report was completed with minimal consultation with the California High-Speed Rail Authority, and ignored many of the details on feasibility included in the Authority’s recent business plan.

Opponents seized on the erroneous report to further their campaign to derail the project. While it might make good politics for some conservatives to oppose a signature program of the Obama White House, it certainly doesn’t make for good policy. Halting the high-speed rail project at this critical stage would jeopardize the entire project. It would put billions in federal funding at risk, and sap the state of an important engine to create desperately needed jobs.

The debate on high-speed rail – like so many other issues these days — has become overly politicized and isn’t on the merits. A group of conservative Republicans wants to put the issue back on the ballot, even though voters have already approved $9 billion in state bonds for high-speed rail. Even the peer review group, which is balanced and supports the concept of high-speed rail, got many pertinent facts wrong in its report.

With respect to the project, it’s time we got back to basics. Many countries around the world, including China, are showing that high-speed rail is an important component to the future of transportation. It’s clean, environmentally friendly, efficient, convenient and affordable. It alleviates traffic and air congestion while giving passengers an important option to meet their travel needs. In California, the project also offers an enormous opportunity to give our struggling economy a boost, especially in areas hard hit by the recession like the Central Valley. Over the life of the project, as many as 750,000 jobs would be created.

The project is supported by Republicans, Democrats and Independents. On its merits, it makes perfect sense. And the California High-Speed Rail Authority (HSRA), after early missteps, now has its act together and has delivered a detailed and transparent plan to bring the project to fruition. Gov. Brown has infused the HSRA board with seasoned experts, like Dan Richard and Mike Rossi, who bring years of experience in transportation planning and finance.

 

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary Treasurer Art Pulaski:

With California facing a jobs crisis and an urgency to upgrade our failing transportation infrastructure, further delay in breaking ground on high-speed rail is neither prudent nor responsible. Any project that’s the size and scope of high-speed rail is bound to encounter difficulties along the way. But rather than working to implement the vision of high-speed rail, the peer review panel suggests derailing the project at a critical stage, which is not a viable solution for California. Under new leadership, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is headed in the right direction. The Authority’s business plan addresses the myriad issues facing high-speed rail in a thoughtful and thorough way.

The main hurdle for high-speed rail right now isn’t the project’s feasibility. It’s that the project has been enveloped in politics as usual. That’s why it’s critical that the legislature take all evidence into account, listen to the experts and carefully analyze the Authority’s business plan, which answers many of the questions raised by the peer review group.

One such expert is the new CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority Roelof van Ark:

It is unfortunate that the Peer Review Committee has delivered a report to the Legislature that is deeply flawed in its understanding of the Authority’s program and the experience around the world in successfully developing high speed rail.   As someone involved in many of the successful high speed rail programs internationally, I can say that the recommendations of this Committee simply do not reflect a real world view of what it takes to bring such projects to fruition.

That’s not to say that ongoing issues, including long-term funding of the project, shouldn’t be addressed. But bowing to political hype to scuttle the project instead of carefully considering issues and finding solutions to work through them, would be a huge mistake.

The California labor movement supports high-speed rail because it holds more promise to transform our state’s economy, protect our environment and create a better quality of life for our families than any public works project in generations.

California was built by visionaries. It’s a proud tradition and important part of our heritage that we, as Californians, collectively embrace. Despite the challenges facing our state, it isn’t the time to shrink from the vision of high-speed rail. The bullet train can and must be built.

Pulaski:

In the short term, the project will create thousands of desperately needed jobs to help lift our state out of economic morass. In the long term, high-speed rail will deliver a world-class, environmentally friendly transportation system that will transform our state. An investment in high-speed rail is an investment in our state’s future. The Legislature must grant voter-approved bonds so that work can begin on the project this year.

On Holding Down The Conversational Fort, Or, Jobs, Republicans, And Hooey


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As the next Congressional fight over payroll tax extensions and unemployment benefits and pipelines gets set up in the next few weeks for either its final chapter or to be kicked down the road a bit farther, one or the other, you’re going to hear a lot from our Republican friends about how much they value work and workers; most especially, they’ll tell you, they value American jobs for American workers.

After all, they’ll say, creating American jobs is the most important thing of all.

But if we were to look back over just the last few months, some would tell us, we could quickly find examples of how Republicans promote ideas that don’t seem to value work or workers at all, much less American jobs.

Well as it turns out, “some” seem to be right; to illustrate one of those examples we’ll look back a month or two or three to a time some Republicans might wish was long, long, ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

A successful comedian usually becomes more megalomaniacal as the success barometer rises. Initial success might be achieved from stand-up but then the comedian envisions a sitcom, then Broadway, albums, extended tours, Europe, and then his or her own production company.  These things are all fine. Don’t do dinner theater. Don’t open stuff, like shopping centers or bowling alleys. Don’t do fairs, especially if you follow the pig contest.

–From the book “How To Be A Stand-Up Comic”, by Richard Belzer

So…the House Republicans went and promoted and passed out their payroll tax cut plan, and within that plan was a demand that the Junkie XL Pipeline – sorry, that should be Keystone XL Pipeline – get special “expedited” approvals, despite the objections of those who are worried about their water supply, and we have to do this, right now, those same House Republicans tell us, in order to put more or less 6500 folks to work getting the thing built.

And as we mentioned above, this is because the House Republicans care about American jobs and American workers.

So…it may strike you as a bit odd that the exact same House Republicans sent to the Senate in September the “Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act” (HR 2587),  which has only one purpose: it tells the National Labor Relations Board (the “NLRB”) that if workers at a company decide to form a union, or the company even thinks a union might be coming, and the company, in retaliation, decides to move work from that plant – or, for that matter, decides to move the entire plant – then neither the NLRB nor the United States Courts shall have the authority to do anything about it.

All of this stems from an effort by Boeing to move work from Washington State to South Carolina in retaliation for union activity by the Puget Sound workforce; the NLRB has ruled that Boeing cannot move the work, and the Company and its friends in Congress have joined forces with other anti-Union Members of Congress to move this legislation.

Need a third-party expert opinion to help make sense of the NLRB’s involvement and remedies? Consider this comment from University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Ellen Dannin, via Dennis Kucinich:

The NLRB has decades of experience with cases of this sort, and the National Labor Relations Act is clear that employer actions like Boeing’s violate the law. If this were a murder case, it would be a case in which the police found a person saying : “I did it,” while standing over a fresh corpse with smoking gun in hand.

Decades of experience, did she say? Yes she did – and she was right. In 1964, the Supreme Court ruled that the NLRB had the power to order remedies that include making companies “bring work back”, the relevant case being Fibreboard Paper Products Corp. v. Labor Board, 379 U.S. 203.

The 250 law professors who wrote a letter explaining why HR 2587 is such a bad idea point out that it’s not just about Boeing: companies will no longer have any reason to even bargain with unionized workers (or those who wish they were) before closing plants and moving work overseas, as they have to do now under the law; again, that’s because no one will have the power of enforcement in these cases anymore.

As you might imagine, that’s going to accelerate the departure of jobs overseas, and it won’t take very long to get to 6500, which makes all that Republican fussin’ and fightin’ and sanctimoneoussin’ about Keystone look a bit hollow, eh?

Let’s jump to the side track, as it were, and take a moment to talk about why the question of which Party controls Congress matters: HR 2587 was introduced into the House, and if the Democrats controlled the Chamber it would have died in Committee, and that would have been that…but they don’t, and it didn’t, so the bill made it to the House floor, where it passed with no Democratic “aye” votes and six Republicans voting “nay”.

Then it went to the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Sometimes Frustrating) has a bit more power than a Speaker of the House to kill any bill before his Chamber, if he’s so inclined; in this case the bill sits on the Senate Legislative Calendar, and unless he says otherwise, that’s where it’ll stay. Of course if Mitch McConnell (R-Hates Obama With The Fire Of A Thousand Suns) were Majority Leader, he would have that bill on the Senate Floor in a heartbeat – and it would pass with a Republican majority, unless Democrats were willing to stand firm and filibuster the thing or the President was willing to use the veto pen, neither of which seems particularly certain.

A companion bill, S 1523, was introduced by Lindsey Graham; it was referred to Committee, possibly to never be seen again – which is also thanks to Harry Reid, with an assist from Tom Harkin, who is the relevant Chair.

At this point I was going to move on to the “what have we learned today” part of the deal, but before I do, I want to take a moment to show you just what kind of legislation our GOP friends will bring to the table, given the chance:

S 1720, the “Put All Your Crazy Eggs In One Basket Act” (not the real bill title, but close enough), was introduced by John McCain just before Halloween (it’s now on the Legislative Calendar, not doing much), and it’s a classic.

This one single bill calls for a Balanced Budget Amendment vote, a semi-flat income tax, repeals “ObamaCare”, repeals Dodd-Frank (Wall Street reform), says you basically can’t sue for medical malpractice anymore, says that if Congress fails to approve any Federal Agency regulation in 90 days, it’s invalid, and then says no Agency can pass any regulation, of any kind, until unemployment hits 7.7%…and there’s a lot more besides, including, I kid you not, forbidding the EPA from regulating the discharge of pesticides into water.

So now let’s get to “what have we learned?”

How about this:

We are going to hear a lot over the next 60 days about how the GOP loves you, the American worker, but at the exact same time they are looking to…well…put all the crazy eggs in one basket, if they can get away with it, and at the same time they’re looking to make it easier and easier to send more jobs to more countries than ever before, even to the point of trying to tell courts and regulators that they can no longer enforce laws Republicans can’t get repealed.

As our GOP friends stand before you, these next couple months, professing their undying love, remind them of this conversation today, and HR 2587, and S 1720, McCain’s “Crazy Egg Basket” bill, and then ask them if they think the GOP really cares about American jobs, or if they’re just getting hustled by slightly-slicker versions of used-car dealership credit managers?

Then you lean in close, look ’em in the eye, smile just a bit, and you say to ’em: “And hey, while you’re here…what do I gotta do to get you into a slightly used 1993 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagontoday?”

Then you can both have a little laugh – while you take their money and run.

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