Conservative lawmakers in Virginia's House and Senate are so eager to attack working Virginians, they're throwing smart business protections for taxpayer dollars out the window--and they're doing it with the help of the national, pro-corporate greed group ALEC. Legislation that has been approved by House and Senate committees seeks to prohibit Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), which are actually extremely beneficial to Virginia. Project labor agreements are a market-based tool that sets rules and expectations for management and workers and as a result, projects with PLAs come in on-time and on-budget.
Opposition to a blatantly anti-labor bill is beginning to build in Virginia, and State Senators Dave Marsden and Chap Petersen and Delegate David Englin are among those voicing criticism. House Bill No. 2, introduced by Delegate Bob Marshall, would prohibit Virginia from providing funding for Phase 2 of the Dulles Corridor Metro Project if it is subject to a project labor agreement (PLA).
PLAs don't actually require projects to only hire union workers--they are a tool for taxpayer accountability. PLAs require the use of trained workers and safety standards for contractors, and worked great on Phase 1 of the project, as we pointed out previously. State Senator Dave Marsden said in a statement this week,
"What concerns me is that this bill appears to stem from an anti-union mindset that places ideology over public good and job creation. It could lead to experienced workers who performed well on Phase I being excluded from Phase II, and create the need for the expense of training new workers. Just as importantly, the PLA will create local jobs for a largely local workforce... A PLA is not always necessary on public projects, but I would ask my good friend Delegate Marshall, 'what problem are you trying to solve with this legislation?' It seems that continuing the PLA during Phase II is in keeping with good public policy. Let's not remove what has proven to be successful tool from consideration."
(More below the fold.)
Unions, bruised and battered over the past few years, stand in the middle of a struggle over fundamental American values. Do Americans wish to swing toward a society demarcated by lower and upper classes or a society more equitably constituted by working, middle and upper echelons?
As Verizon would tell it, the decline in revenues over the past few quarters or so justifies an immense reduction in its union employees' health care and pension benefits, affecting nearly 45,000 union employees. All the while, top-level Verizon executives continue to make millions of dollars in annual compensation. Does this sound fair?
Over the last decade, unions in the U.S. have been lambasted as harbingers of entrepreneurial stagnation and economic backwardness. While the assaults on unions in the U.S. are as old as their inception, the precarious position of unions in the 21st Century has led many to question just how long unions can "hang on" in the U.S.
In some cases, union leadership has been unable to distinguish itself from the political players that it proposes to protect its membership against. That is, union corruption throughout some of the highest levels of leadership of disparate unions across the U.S. have left all unions in general with a perceived "legitimacy gap."
This perception has fueled the riotous calls of Republican politicians throughout the U.S. to strip the power of unions. These politicians seem to suggest that unions have become parasites upon the U.S. economy. Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black!
Of course, not all Republican politicians have been so irresponsible in their assessments of unions. That said, it appears that to be a Republican politician in today's political climate, you HAVE to refute the very existence of unions.
But as unions are the bulwarks of the middle class of America, what these Republican politicians are really attacking is the middle class.
Hiding behind their rhetoric of "bureaucratic red tape" and the "entrepreneurial spirit," these demagogues of the super rich claim that unions are an un-American institution, an institution somehow running against the best interests of the country.
What could be more American then the grassroots creation of the various unions throughout the country, however? What could be more American than granting thousands of American citizens the opportunity to live an economically prosperous life, free from the tumultuous tides of an unforgiving global economic structure?
What IS un-American is the attempt by the super rich and their political stooges to concentrate America's wealth and political power into the hands of an elite minority.
Whether or not the power of union's rises or falls, one thing is for certain: unions themselves represent a socially rich country, one that seeks to give its citizens a relatively fruitful standard of living.
For a company that posted revenue of $107.8 billion in 2009, Verizon appears determined to increase their profit margins even further at the expense of its middle and working class employees stretching from Massachusetts and Virginia.
In Virginia, thousands of Verizon employees are set to strike beginning August 7, the day their contract with Verizon expires. The Verizon unions that will be striking consist of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
I stand with my unionized sisters and brothers, especially in Wisconsin, but everywhere where teachers and unions are under attack.
I am the lead union representative for more than 100 teachers in my school.
Today, all across the country, teachers are blogging their support for our unionized sisters and brothers in Wisconsin, and you can follow some of the results of that at EDUSolidarity
Today I want to tell you why I am proud to be a union member as well as a teacher.
I teach my students one period a day. We have 9, since some students take a zero period at 7:15 in the morning to squeeze in an extra course. Most of my students are sophomores, with at least 6 courses besides mine. I am only one of those responsible for helping them learn.
The hound and his masters had an unexpected welcome in Washington. In the lobby of the building where Walker was meeting his appreciative corporate masters, a boisterous crowd gathered to harass the self-satisfied plutocrats. It included not only Wisconsinites but a contingent from the Washington Metro area, in Solidarity. No report on whether or not the Governor and his masters even deigned to notice the protests. So far, anyway.
You've got to hand it to the Repubs - they never miss an opportunity to push their agenda as far as (in)humanly possible. So, no surprise that they are using the current obsession with the deficit to simultaneously turn government workers into scapegoats and crush unions through a divide-and-conquer strategy aimed at creating tensions between public and private sector employees. Strategically brilliant - and utterly callous and cynical - as usual.
One of the many disturbing things about this fight is the fact that neither Repubs or Dems - nor anyone else - is talking about what really needs to be done to make our government work more cost-effectively and efficiently. Based on my own experiences working in government, there are two fundamental, but fixable, problems that cause the most waste in the public sector:
* Spectacularly lousy management, and
* The failure to reward the best performers and get rid of the worst.
So, while the Republican effort to demonize public employees, and take away their rights to defend themselves through collective bargaining, is wrong-headed, verging on evil, the appropriate Democrat response would not be to say that government and such unions, are right on all particulars, and have nothing that needs to be fixed. In my experience, the problem with such unions is that they tend to treat all employees equally and therefore treat proposals for merit pay and attempts to make it easier to get rid of dead wood with undue suspicion.
All of them support the oxymoronic "Right to Work" lobby; a movement rearward to the age of fiefdoms. This is a Virginia issue for any of a number of reasons. Some:
- Our Right to Work Laws foster a hostile environment for labor
- Unions protect a very small portion of the labor force
- Wages for skilled labor are lower than in states without the "Right to Work"
- Skilled labor migrates to higher wages and out of Virginia
- Democratic leadership kowtows to Republican interests above labor's interests
A Daily Kos post this past Sunday laid out an argument that the mega-have's are mounting a final assault on the middle-have's. It wipes away the misconception that the "business-friendly" right-to-work states receive economic benefit in employment growth and economic gains.
But though the middle class will likely diminish as a result of this consolidation of wealth, the attack is not only against it but also against anything of value they can attach; even that of the little-haves. The Republicans have grown as ignorant about production and business as the anti-capitalists they so deride. Two sides of the same coin. They are fostering a soviet style business climate that sees wealth as a zero sum game; the only way to increase it is by taking someone else's. Redistribution of wealth private sector style; today characterized by glossy grift.
Not only for ourselves, but for all who work.
Because we believe in the dignity of work.
Because we both understand something about history, including economic history.
She is Harvard, Junior Phi Beta Kappa, Marshall Scholar, M. Litt. from Oxford, Ph.D. from George Washington.
I am BA from Haverford, two masters degrees, ABD in Educational Administration and Policy Studies.
We both work with our minds.
She is on her local's negotiating team.
I am my building's union representative.
Had we any doubt, two pieces in today's Washington Post might help convince us.