By Steve Smith
When AB 880 comes up for a vote this week in the California Assembly, lawmakers will be given a rare (and dare we say golden) opportunity. California has the chance to lead the nation in ensuring that large corporations like Walmart pay their fair share of health care costs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Because of what's known as the "Walmart Loophole," large corporations are able to skirt their responsibility by pushing workers onto taxpayer-funded Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California). Walmart's army of accountants knows exactly how to reduce the company's costs by violating the spirit of the ACA: just cut workers' hours and wages low enough, and taxpayers pick up the tab for health care - while Walmart gets off scot-free.
By Allison Mannos
Walmart's expansion strategy for Los Angeles and other urban areas has been to avoid public oversight by choosing real estate that doesn't require public review - and, where possible, to secure public subsidies, often with little public scrutiny.
By Randy Shaw
In The Unwinding, New Yorker political writer George Packer argues that elite-driven economic policies have negatively "unwound" the lives of millions of Americans. This view is hardly uncommon, yet the June 9, 2013 Sunday New York Times Book Review found a reviewer - Republican and Times columnist David Brooks - to deny that the nation's elite have "failed." Brooks claims the elite "comes from the finest universities" and is the most "diverse" and "equal opportunity" elite in history - a defense of elite rule and polices that could come from a Jon Stewart parody.
By Steve Smith
You've probably seen the stories by now: Enterprise zone tax breaks, which are supposed to provide incentives for good jobs, are instead going to strip clubs and low-wage mega corporations like Walmart.
The current enterprise zone program is shrouded in secrecy, with virtually no accountability or transparency. Study after study shows the program is a massive failure, wasting $750 million a year without doing much of anything to create new jobs.
By Dan Aiello
As more than 100 environmental groups launched a massive anti-fracking campaign yesterday in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento, California Progress Report's review of the agencies charged with oil industry oversight and protecting the state's groundwater supplies has found troubling signs that California is woefully unprepared to manage a proliferation of fracking wells anticipated to tap into the newly discovered Monterey Shale Deposit.
The deposit, stretching along the Golden State's ecologically fragile coastline from Los Angeles to San Francisco and through some of the most densely-populated regions, is said to contain up to 15.4 billion barrels of oil some 11,000 feet deep, and oil companies are keen to exploit the huge deposit in the only state that lacks any kind of oil severance tax.
By Gary Cohn
John Thomas and Hans Burkhardt have a lot in common. For more than 17 years each man had a good paying union job, with health and pension benefits, near San Francisco Bay. Thomas worked as a warehouseman for VWR International, a medical supply company with a warehouse in Brisbane, south of Candlestick Park. Burkhardt also worked as a warehouseman, for BlueLinx, a building products company with a facility across the bay in Newark.
The similarities don't end there. Both Thomas and Burkhardt are now collecting unemployment, having lost their $22-an-hour jobs after their employers moved to take advantage of California's enterprise zone plan, a controversial state program that is supposed to create jobs.
By Dan Aiello
Kern County almond farmer, Fred Starrh, is an unlikely darling of the anti-fracking movement in California.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is an environmentally risky oil production method of pumping under pressure large volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to bubble to the surface heavy tar-like oil left in depleted oil wells and to reach deep deposits of oil and natural gas.
Fracking is the method oil companies seek to employ to proliferate drilling in California where the discovered Monterey Shale Deposit is estimated to contain as many as 15.4 billion barrels of crude 11,000 feet deep.
By Steve Smith
Walmart shoppers probably didn't expect to be greeted Friday morning at 5 AM by a lively group of taxpayers protesting the "Walmart Loophole," which allows large companies like Walmart to avoid their responsibilities to pay their fair share for their workers' health care. But that's exactly what they encountered in West Sacramento.
About 30 demonstrators launched a statewide tour aimed at educating shoppers and the media about Walmart's practice of paying its workers so little that they are pushed into taxpayer-funded programs like Medi-Cal. The group also handed out information about AB 880 (Gomez), which would mandate that the state's largest and most profitable companies pay their fair share when their workers end up on taxpayer-funded Medi-Cal.
By Robert Reich
The West Texas chemical and fertilizer plant where at least 15 were killed and more than 200 injured a few weeks ago hadn't been fully inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 1985. (A partial inspection in 2011 had resulted in $5,250 in fines.)
OSHA and its state partners have a total of 2,200 inspectors charged with ensuring the safety of more than 8 million workplaces employing 130 million workers. That comes to about one inspector for every 59,000 American workers.
There's no way it can do its job with so few resources, but OSHA has been systematically hollowed out for the years under Republican administrations and congresses that have despised the agency since its inception.
By Dan Aiello
A key committee vote on legislation calling for a halt to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in California that would effectively stop out of state oil companies from reaching California's vast Monterey Shale deposit is set for Monday in Sacramento.
The stakes could not be higher for the oil and gas industry as environmentalists embark on their latest David versus Goliath struggle over California's environment before the Assembly's Natural Resources Committee April 29th.