Public Employees


Supreme Court Weighs Unions' Future

By Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi

Springtime is typically emblematic of the birth and growth of new life forms. However, in 2014 this time of year could become a moment of death for the labor movement as we have come to know it.

In the coming weeks the United States Supreme Court will render a decision in the case of Harris v. Quinn that could paralyze labor’s ability to organize workers throughout the country. Despite its major implications, the case remains largely absent from our mainstream discourse or even within discussions among progressive allies.

Can Chuck Reed's Pension-Cutting Campaign Get Off the Ground?

By Steve Mikulan

Late Monday afternoon California Attorney General Kamala Harris released the state’s official title and summary for the ballot initiative promoted by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and others to reduce the retirement benefits of state and municipal workers. Harris’ wording had been anxiously awaited by Reed and his colleagues. In 2012 a different group of pension-cutters abandoned their measure, according to the Sacramento Bee, after they tested Harris’ summary and found it would make their measure radioactive at the polls.

Pension Cutters: Bipartisan Slogans, Right-Wing Money

By Gary Cohn

Last week San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed delivered his usual speech about the benefits of slashing the retirement benefits of his city’s public employees – and why he is now pushing for a statewide ballot measure that could dramatically change the lives of hundreds of thousands of Californians. Reed’s initiative – which he characterizes as a bipartisan effort and which hasn’t yet qualified for the 2014 ballot — would allow the state and local governments to reduce retirement benefits for current employees for the years of work they perform after the measure’s changes go into effect. What was not usual about Reed’s speech was its setting: The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, 3,000 miles from California.

Pension-Cutting Ballot Initiative Revealed

By Gary Cohn

In a move to slash the retirement benefits of public employees in California, a group of mostly conservative policy advocates has been working behind the scenes on a possible 2014 ballot initiative. A copy of the still-secret draft initiative, which could dramatically impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of Californians and send a signal nationwide, has been obtained by Frying Pan News. (See the document’s text by clicking here.)

"Other People's Children": The Corollary of Bad Policy

By Mark Naison

For some time, I have argued that School Reform is the most destructive bi-partisan initiative we have suffered in the United States since the Vietnam War, a policy which has, and will continue to inspire mass movements to limit the damage it inflicts through universal testing of the nation's children, and the humiliation and micro-management of the nation's teachers.

Some have argued, correctly, that people have not lost their lives as a result of School Reform even when schools are closed, teachers are fired, communities destabilized, instruction has been reduced to test prep, and young people's minds have been reduced to mush by relentless testing. That is certainly true. But one thing does seem similar. Both produced PTSD.

The Hollowing Out of Government

Robert ReichBy 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.

Federal Government Runs out of Money to Fight Fires, Pays for It By Cutting Fire Prevention Programs

By David Dayen

Here's a story at the intersection of catastrophic climate change and austerity.

Because of the constant burning of carbon into the atmosphere and the resulting changes to the weather and climate, the US has experienced more and more wildfires over the past several years. In fact, this has been the worst wildfire season on record.

An Education: How Prop 32's Backers Have Tried to Ditch Public Schools

By Matthew Fleischer

The billionaire backers of Proposition 32 are an eclectic bunch–from bow-tied Tory parodies like Charles Munger Jr., to Bible-thumping fire-breathers like Larry T. Smith, to old-fashioned oil tycoons like the Koch brothers. Over the years members of this crew have combined to push a number of conservative pet projects through the halls of Sacramento's Capitol - on every issue from stripping gay rights to dismantling environmental protections.

The Future of Local Government

By Steve Hochstadt

Local government issues may not appear to be on the Presidential ballot this November. But the national elections, for President and Congress, will affect our local governments and our daily lives for years afterward.

Like all governments, local administrations are funded by tax revenues. A small number of municipalities and counties across the US have their own income taxes, usually under 1%, but sometimes higher. Every county in Indiana, Kentucky and Maryland, 560 cities and villages in Ohio, and big cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, Birmingham, and St. Louis receive funds from local income taxes. Most municipal and county governments, however, rely on property and sales taxes.

California Must Resist Anti-Teacher Special Interests

By Duane Campbell
Choosing Democracy

Following assaults on teachers in Tennessee, New Jersey, New York and Florida – among others – the California legislature this week is using the “gut and amend” procedure to change the current teacher evaluation system in the state. The brutal assault in Florida led to the defeat of the moderate governor Christie by Tea Party advocates in 2010.

In California legislators claiming to be responding to a Los Angeles judge’s ruling that Los Angeles was improperly implementing the current law, legislators are trying change the law before Friday using Assembly Bill 5. An active advocate of the yet undefined plan is Michelle Rhee’s organization, so-called “Students First.”