March 2012


Cesar Chavez: A True American Hero

By Dick Meister

I hope we can all pause and reflect on the extraordinary life of a true American hero on Saturday (March 31). It's Cesar Chavez Day, proclaimed by President Obama and observed throughout the country on the 85th birth date
of the late founder of the United Farm Workers union. In California, it's an official state holiday.

As President Obama noted, Chavez was a leader in launching "one of our nation's most inspiring movements." He taught us, Obama added, "that social justice takes action, selflessness and commitment. As we face the challenges of the day, let us do so with the hope and determination of Cesar Chavez."

Like another American hero, Martin Luther King Jr., Chavez inspired and energized millions of people worldwide to seek and win basic human rights that had long been denied them, and inspired millions of others to join the struggle.

Adhering To a Status Quo City-Development Ideology Is So ‘Last Century’

By Alan Kandel

Over the past dozen or so years, I’ve written on a wide range of topics covering everything from travel, transportation, climate, community and history, to agriculture and the environment. Population and population growth are often topics of discussion in terms of how these relate to community and the environment, for example.

Keeping on point, California and the United States have been undergoing unprecedented and seemingly inexorable growth. It should be understood that development, to meet the needs of an increasing population, and one that is increasingly on the move, must not be pursued in the absence of forethought. To permit growth to occur this way would be both irresponsible and unacceptable. But, I suspect, in some sense in California’s major cities productive, prudent and proper development has been lacking meaning that such hasn’t been quite up to snuff, otherwise why the creation of and passage in 2008 of Senate Bill 375?

SB 375: What is it?

Chilling Impact of Court Rejecting Health Care Law

By Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron

Progressives are surprisingly unconcerned about the Supreme Court’s now likely striking down of the individual mandate and perhaps the entire health care law. To the contrary, articles on sites like Firedoglake.com and TheNation.com argue that striking down the law creates an opening for single-payer, long the preferred progressive health care plan. But while it’s good to find a silver lining in any dark cloud, the negative impacts of the court’s striking down Obamacare go far beyond health care. Suddenly, every progressive reform measure will be charged with being “unconstitutional,” and many activists will figure that as long as the right-wing Supreme Court majority remains, there’s no point working to pass anything. And that’s exactly the attitude that opponents of progressive change hope to foster.

Attorneys Working To Resolve Allegations That State Is In Violation of Settlement Agreement

By Marty Omoto
California Disability Community Action Network

Attorneys with Disability Rights California (DRC), representing over 37,000 people with disabilities and seniors who are recipients of the Adult Day Health Care Medi-Cal benefit and attorneys representing the Brown Administration are meeting to resolve allegations that the State is in violation of the court approved Settlement Agreement that outlined the elimination of the Medi-Cal Adult Day Health benefit and a transition process to a new “Community-Based Adult Services” program benefit.

The Obama Administration’s Correct, But Inconsistent Health Care Decision

By Eric Wooten

Last week, federal health care officials denied California’s request to start charging Medi-Cal patients co-payments on everything from prescriptions to hospital stays. That would have been unprecedented and would have had a detrimental effect on access to health care services for the most vulnerable among us.  For those insured by the state, even a small co-pay would certainly lead to fewer seniors and children receiving services at all.

While the decision was the right thing to do to preserve the safety net for the 7.5 million Californians who rely on the state for health insurance, it was inconsistent with the Obama Administration’s previous damaging decisions, and out of line with California’s routine and unreasonable stance on Medi-Cal reimbursement rates.

Should Be Made In America!

By Dave Johnson

We need to rebuild our country, and we need to do it with steel and supplies that are made in America. It actually costs taxpayers more to "save money" by outsourcing then it saves because of the "safety net" costs from lost jobs and factories. A new campaign launching Monday is going to use billboards to make this point to local officials who might outsource these projects. I attended the launch event.

New Campaign To Fight For Buy American When Using Tax Dollars

Dirty Crude Spells Dirty Air in California

By Ngoc Nguyen
New America Media

California’s long-running campaign to reduce air pollution has indirectly helped create a new problem: its oil refineries now produce more greenhouse gas emissions than refineries anywhere else in the country.

On average, California refineries emit 19 to 33 percent more greenhouse gases per barrel of crude oil when stacked up against comparable gas-producing regions in the United States, according to a recent study commissioned by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The report analyzed national and California-specific refinery data and combined it with data gathered by author Greg Karras, who has been studying and writing about refinery operations since 1989.

Health Reform, The Galatians, and the Moody Blues

Dr. Robert K. Ross
The California Endowment

The fate of the Affordable Care Act represents the most far-reaching legislative “so what” that our nation has seen in the last fifty years. Our Supreme Court has quite a weighty decision on their hands.    

A fair amount has been written, and continues to be written, by legal scholars about the relative constitutionality of the controversial law. I’ll steer clear from engaging in the discourse of constitutional law, particularly since I have zero expertise on that front.

Let’s just say that the support, defense, and implementation of the Affordable Care Act is the right thing to do, and the smart thing to do.

What’s Wrong With Workers’ Comp In America

By Sam Gold

Three words: Money, Power & Politics. Why do they even call it Workers’ Compensation? It’s certainly not about workers, it’s about insurance companies and their financial bottom lines, and the last thing in the world it does is adequately compensate workers for their occupational injuries which in many cases are due to the negligent actions and behavior of their employers. But hey, they have a “Get Out Of Jail FREE” card called the “Exclusive Remedy!"

When a worker can no longer perform his normal job duties, the law says he must be compensated for his inability to compete in the future job market. But what the insurers throw at the injured worker simply amounts to “Chump Change,” wholly inadequate and certainly not enough to make a difference to the worker.  

Celebrating 40 Years of California Coastal Protection this Oceans Day

By Annie Notthoff
Natural Resources Defense Council

This past Oceans Day, as conservationists, fishermen, scientists and beachgoers gathered in Sacramento on Monday on behalf of our coasts and marine life, we have special reason to celebrate California’s leadership in coastal and ocean protection. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the California Coastal Program which has protected our Golden State’s 1,100 miles of beautiful, winding coastline for four decades and for generations to come.

Anyone who has wiggled their toes in the sugar-soft sand of California’s beaches or listened in awe to the waves crashing against our sheer cliffs knows what a special place the California coast is. But with an exploding population and increasing demands on our oceans and coastline, it’s thanks to the bold, determined leadership of the California Coastal Commission that we continue to enjoy the beauty and resources of our coast and ocean.

The Hypocrisy of Allan Mansoor on Campaign Finance Reform

By Steve Smith
California Labor Federation

Assemblymember Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa), elected in 2010, has so far made a career out of demonizing workers and attacking workers’ rights. From collective bargaining to pensions, Mansoor never saw a cherished worker right he didn’t hate. Last year, he even took time to honor anti-union Midwest legislators, whom he calls “courageous” and with whom he stands “in solidarity.”

Why the Supreme Court Will Uphold Health Care Law

By Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron

As the nation focuses on Supreme Court oral arguments on the health care law, the politics of the ruling defy standard assumptions. On the one hand, the most pro-business Court in modern history will decide the case. It has handed huge victories to corporate interests by striking down campaign finance laws, eliminating class action damages in employment discrimination cases, and by issuing several rulings that limit access to the courts. This track record would appear to make the Court’s striking down the health care law a no-brainer. But I see the Court upholding the law for two reasons. First, the health and pharmaceutical industries prefer Obamacare to the status quo, and to potentially more sweeping reforms like single-payer which would emerge if the health care law at issue is struck down. Second, and most importantly, a ruling upholding Obamacare gives the Court even more freedom to pursue its right-wing agenda on other issues.

Tax Initiative Compromise A Victory for Grassroots and California's Future

By Joshua Pechthalt
California Federation of Teachers

As has been reported by the news media, one week ago the Millionaires Tax Coalition came to a negotiated agreement with Governor Brown, Senate President Pro-tem Steinberg, Speaker Pérez, and their allies by setting aside our separate ballot measures and joining forces on a new initiative to raise needed revenue for California public education and social services.

This agreement represents a major victory for the thousands of Californians who have risen up over recent months to demand that the wealthiest Californians start paying their fair share, that low and middle-income families still reeling from the Great Recession be spared undue burdens, and that our state raise sufficient, reliable revenue to restore cuts to education and vital services.

100,000-member Union Coalition 'Strikes' at Major Health Care Foes: Obesity, Chronic Disease

By John August
Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions

Whoever thinks that labor unions are stuck in the past clearly isn’t following the trajectory of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions. Our Coalition, which represents close to 100,000 workers at Kaiser Permanente medical centers, launched a new campaign this week that targets not a health care employer but a different type of foe: obesity and chronic disease. On Friday morning, more than 500 Coalition union members hit the streets of Hollywood with the message that we plan to use union organizing techniques to take aim at the causes of chronic disease. Our members talked to tourists, gave free blood pressure screenings at a senior center, held up signs that read “Health is a Union Issue,” and even danced to a Beyonce “Move Your Body” video in front of Hollywood’s famed Chinese Theater.

Anthem Plans Rate Hikes Up To 20% for Nearly 600,000 Californians

By Carmen Balber
Consumer Watchdog

Anthem Blue Cross will raise health insurance rates for nearly 600,000 Californians by as much as 20% on May 1. A ballot initiative to make health insurance more affordable by regulating premium increases is necessary to protect Californians from excessive rate hikes.

Friday was the 2nd anniversary of the federal health reform law, which will require every American to have health insurance by 2014 but does not control what private health insurance companies can charge. The ballot initiative proposed by Consumer Watchdog Campaign would require health insurance companies to publicly justify rates, under penalty of perjury, and get rate increases approved before they take effect.

California’s Biggest Verdicts Go To Businesses, Not Individuals

By JG Preston
Protect Consumer Justice

The National Law Journal published its list of the nation’s Top 100 Verdicts of 2011 in its print issue of March 12. (The online version of the report is available only to paid subscribers.) Of those Top 100 verdicts, 18 were handed down in California, either in state or federal court; since California has only 12% of the nation’s population, this would seem to fit the notion that California is a “litigious” state. Furthermore, those 18 California verdicts all rank among the 67 highest nationally, making up almost 27% of that total.

But before the “tort reform” crowd gets too carried away with decrying California’s “runaway juries” and “jackpot justice,” they should take a look at who’s winning these cases.

California at Forefront of Implementing Affordable Care Act

By Viji Sundaram
New America Media

As the nation commemorated the second anniversary of the signing of the landmark health care reform law by President Obama last week, California has perhaps more reason to celebrate than most other states for being at the forefront of enacting the law.

But “even though California is clearly the lead car (in implementation), we need to maintain that momentum,” cautioned Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a statewide health care consumer advocacy group, as he released a report jointly co-authored by his and more than half a dozen other health advocacy groups here in the Capitol building on March 20.

Highlights of the benefits Californians are already enjoying from the provisions launched so far, the report points out, include:

That Tax Plan: Can’t We Do Better Than The Status Quo?

By Peter Schrag

The convoluted jockeying among the proponents of California’s various ballot-box tax measures and the incessant lip flapping about which has the best chance with voters must make citizens of any normal democracy think we’re nuts. Which has the best shot? The Jerry Brown version (of a four-year increase in sales tax rates and five years in upper-bracket marginal income tax rates) vs. the millionaires’ tax increase proposed by the California Federation of Teachers (for schools) vs. millionaire lawyer Molly Munger’s progressively-scaled 12-year across-the-board income tax increase? What screwy system brought us to this?

Brown and the CFT have now “compromised” on a version not very different from Brown’s original. That brings the number of potential tax measures on the November ballot down to two.

It's Not True, What They Say About Pensions

By Dick Meister

So, what are we going to do about those big fat pensions collected by public employees? You know, those retirement benefits that supposedly are threatening to bankrupt governments in California and just about everywhere else.

What to do? That's easy. We can make that problem disappear quickly just like that! We need only realize that the problem simply does not exist, despite the claims by rabid anti-union forces and the many people who they've duped.

Here's the basic situation: Anti-union forces are attempting to weaken the public employee defined pension plans that  provide employees a specific monthly payment on retirement. The plans cover about five million older Americans, providing money that many drawing benefits very much need to escape poverty and stay off government assistance.

The GOP’s Assault on Labor Rights: What is Happening in the States?

By John Logan
San Francisco State University

The past 15 months have seen a remarkable assault by the GOP on federal labor rights.

Republicans have introduced numerous bills designed to undermine the National Labor Relations Act, all with wonderfully deceptive names suggesting they would strengthen the rights of ordinary workers: Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act, Employee Rights Act, Jobs Protection Act, Employee Workplace Freedom Act, Secret Ballot Protection Act, National Right to Work Act, Truth in Employment Act, National Labor Relations Reorganization Act, and others.